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  4. The Ballad of Villon and Fat Madge by François Villon
The Ballad of Villon and Fat Madge

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‘’Tis no sin for a man to labour in his vocation.’ -Falstaff
‘The night cometh, when no man can work.’

What though the beauty I love and serve be cheap,
Ought you to take me for a beast or fool?
All things a man could wish are in her keep;
For her I turn swashbuckler in love’s school.
When folk drop in, I take my pot and stool
And fall to drinking with no more ado.
I fetch them bread, fruit, cheese, and water, too;
I say all’s right so long as I’m well paid;
‘Look in again when your flesh troubles you,
Inside this brothel where we drive our trade.’

But soon the devil’s among us flesh and fell,
When penniless to bed comes Madge my whore;
I loathe the very sight of her like hell.
I snatch gown, girdle, surcoat, all she wore,
And tell her, these shall stand against her score.
She grips her hips with both hands, cursing God,
Swearing by Jesus’ body, bones, and blood,
That they shall not. Then I, no whit dismayed,
Cross her cracked nose with some stray shiver of wood
Inside this brothel where we drive our trade.

When all’s made up she drops me a windy word,
Bloat like a beetle puffed and poisonous:
Grins, thumps my pate, and calls me dickey-bird,
And cuffs me with a fist that’s ponderous.
We sleep like logs, being drunken both of us;
Then when we wake her womb begins to stir;
To save her seed she gets me under her
Wheezing and whining, flat as planks are laid:
And thus she spoils me for a whoremonger
Inside this brothel where we drive our trade.

Blow, hail or freeze, I’ve bread here baked rent free!
Whoring’s my trade, and my whore pleases me;
Bad cat, bad rat; we’re just the same if weighed.
We that love filth, filth follows us, you see;
Honour flies from us, as from her we flee
Inside this brothel where we drive our trade.

I bequeath likewise to fat Madge
This little song to learn and study;
By god’s head she’s a sweet fat fadge,
Devout and soft of flesh and ruddy;
I love her with my soul and body,
So doth she me, sweet dainty thing.
If you fall in with such a lady,
Read it, and give it her to sing.



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The Ballad of Villon and Fat Madge

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  • Although his verse gained him little or no financial success during his life, Francois Villon is today perhaps the best-known French poet of the Middle Ages. His works surfaced in several manuscripts shortly after his disappearance in 1463, and the first printed collection of his poetry—the Levet edition—came out as early as 1489. More than one hundred printed editions followed, and Villon’s poetry has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. At the request of King Francis I, the poet Clément Marot prepared the first critical edition of Villon’s work in 1533. Basing his edition on previous printed editions, Marot supplemented it “avecques l’ayde de bons vieillards qui en savent par cueur” (with the aid of good old men who know it by heart). That old men had learned Villon’s work by heart and that Marot’s edition went through fifteen reprintings from 1533 to 1542 attest to the poet’s popularity....

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