Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LAST BALLADE; MASTER FRANCOIS VILLON LOQUITUR, by THOMAS BEER



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THE LAST BALLADE; MASTER FRANCOIS VILLON LOQUITUR, by            
First Line: Snow -- and still snow -- and is night coming, sister
Last Line: One earthly thought -- now comes the last envoi.
Subject(s): Villon, Francois (1431-1463); Yale University


SNOW -- and still snow -- and is night coming, Sister,
Or just my eyesight failing? You have sent
For the last unction? Set the casement wide
That I may hear the tinkling of the bell
When the good father comes along the street
And all the people reverence the Christ.
Come nearer, Sister, sit you by my side.
I am afraid of Fear. You do not know,
Wrapped in your cloistered peace and sanctity,
What Fear is -- the gray awful thing that comes comes
And clutches you all soundless from behind
(When you are hot and full of meat or lust),
To point the way that all men have to go.
Death is not dreadful to a soul like yours,
For you have known God's pity and God's love.
So have not I. Ever my joy hath cranked
And twisted. Whirling in drunken dance
At best I only caught a feverish glimpse
Of that high, blinding light they tell me gleams
From the half-open gates of Paradise --
My Katharine -- but she never understood.
I could not make her see -- she only laughed
Her beautiful bright laugh -- and passed me by.
Oh, Sister, if the kind good Christ will take
All that I meant, all that I had in mind
To do and say. But that, too, is my curse,
Ever to promise, never to fulfill --
Christ, Christ, how can I die? What should I do
In your fair mother's garden where the Saints
Do walk in order, and the holy maids
Cecily, Rosalys, and the rest? They'd stare
To see poor light-pate Villon in their midst.
Besides, there's no stewed tripe in Heav'n, I fear,
Nor Beaune wine. There I'd have naught to say.
You see I only know the kind of life
Where sinning men and women sweat and eat
And laugh to hear the idle songs I make.
All that I've done has borne its taint of sin.
Myself alone I served -- myself betrayed.
Have mercy then; and thou, O Holy Queen,
My last ballade to thee I here indite.
(Help me up, Sister.) I will kneel to thee.
Do thou enthroned hear and plead for one
Poor Francois Villon, poet, lover, thief,
Take all my life and read it as a prayer
Crying thee mercy. Pity a poor scribe
Who has writ ill, nor matched his meter well.
But here the song ends. Only do thou smile
In kindness on me, and the awful things
That creep and cling about me must take flight,
Leaving my soul free, then, at last to climb
Unto that Heaven I saw in my love's eyes.
* * * * * * *
Enne, how cold it is! The bones will creak
On Mont Faucon to-night. Call in the priest
To give me bread and wine -- my last on earth.
Katharine -- not here -- pardon my folly, father;
One earthly thought -- now comes the last envoi.





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