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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

BALLAD FOR FAT MARGOT, by                 Poet's Biography


François Villon's "Ballad for Fat Margot" offers a raw, unromanticized portrayal of love and life in the underbelly of society. The setting is a brothel, far from the lofty palaces and landscapes of traditional love poetry. Here, Villon doesn't sing of ethereal beauties or high-minded ideals; instead, he tells a tale of a deeply flawed yet human love between two misfits.

The narrator loves Margot for all she is-"She has in her all that a man could want," he says, providing a perspective contrary to conventional ideas of beauty and femininity. Margot isn't an idyllic muse but a very real woman, possessing attributes traditionally seen as unsightly or undesirable-her fatness and her flatulence, for instance. Yet she is loved wholly, and in turn, she loves with an equal absence of artifice.

Their love, though unconventional, serves them both well: "Come wind, hail, or frost, my bread is won. / I'm a lecher, she's a lecherous one." They are compatible in their mutual depravity, a partnership of equals sustained by their parallel appetites for earthly pleasures. Villon presents their flawed relationship without judgment, suggesting that love in its many forms-even in a brothel-is valid and should be acknowledged for its ability to provide companionship and livelihood.

However, the relationship is not without its complications. Money and material possessions underscore the conflicts between them, as exemplified when the narrator snatches Margot's clothes in lieu of cash payment. The pair's volatile dynamic-marked by arguments and physical fights-mirrors the chaos of the environment they inhabit. Their love is tough and hardened, forged by the harsh realities of a life lived on society's fringes.

The poem also addresses the fluidity of love and hate within their relationship. After an altercation, "we make up, and she lets out a fart." There's humor and humanity here, further demystifying the notions of romantic love. Theirs is a relationship grounded in bodily functions, physicality, and the grit of everyday existence.

The recurring phrase, "Here in this brothel where we hold our court," serves as a poignant reminder of their microcosm of society-a court with its own rules, hierarchy, and complexities. The poem is a subversion, not just of romantic ideals, but also of social hierarchies. Margot and the narrator hold "court" in a space deemed sinful and corrupt, yet it is their home, their domain, and the seat of their reign, however inglorious it may be.

"Ballad for Fat Margot" provides a stark commentary on the complexities of love and the unglamorous realities of human relationships. It's a poignant portrayal of lives led beyond the margins of polite society, told without sentimentality or sanctimony. Villon's unflinching gaze into this dark corner of human experience challenges our perceptions of love, forcing us to confront and perhaps reassess our definitions of beauty, virtue, and affection. Through the harsh lens of life in a brothel, Villon compels us to see the universal struggles for love, respect, and survival that define the human condition.


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