Friday, March 18, 2011

Francois Villon - Written for a Bridegroom

One of my all time favorite films is "The Petrified Forest" with Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard. The scenes in which Leslie Howard trades his views on life, and love, with Bette Davis are the meat of the film. For years I have watched this movie time and again, always awed by the scene in which Bette Davis reads Francois Villon's "Ballad for a Bridegroom." It's a beautiful poem, one that speaks of true love and the protections and responsibilities that come with it. It is, I believe, one of the most beautiful sentiments ever put to pen.

This woodcarving is one of Villon done in the mid 15th century, upon the publication of one his books of poetry. Here is the translation from the French by the English poet and author Algernon Charles Swinburne.

"Ballad Written For A Bridegroom" by Francois Villon
(translated by Algernon Charles Swinburne)

At daybreak, when the falcon claps his wings,
No whit for grief, but noble heart and high,
With loud glad noise he stirs himself and springs,
And takes his meat and toward his lure draws nigh;
Such good I wish you! Yea, and heartily
I am fired with hope of true love's meed to get;
Know that Love writes it in his book; for why,
This is the end for which we twain are met.

Mine own heart's lady with no gainsayings
You shall be always wholly till I die;
And in my fight against all bitter things
Sweet laurel with fresh rose its force shall try;
Seeing reason wills not that I cast love by
(Nor here with reason shall I chide or fret)
Nor cease to serve, but serve more constantly;
This is the end for which we twain are met.

And, which is more, when grief about me clings
Through Fortune's fit or fume of jealousy,
Your sweet kind eye beats down her threatenings
As wind doth smoke; such power sits in your eye.
Thus in your field my seed of harvestry
Thrives, for the fruit is like me that I set;
God bids me tend it with good husbandry;
This is the end for which we twain are met.

Princess, give ear to this my summary;
That heart of mine your heart's love should forget
Shall never be: like trust in you put I:
This is the end for which we twain are met.

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