Ballade [I die of thirst beside the fountain]
I die of thirst beside the fountain I'm hot as fire, I'm shaking tooth on tooth In my own country I'm in a distant land Beside the blaze I'm shivering in flames Naked as a worm, dressed like a president I laugh in tears and hope in despair I cheer up in sad hopelessness I'm joyful and no pleasure's anywhere I'm powerful and lack all force and strength Warmly welcomed, always turned away. I'm sure of nothing but what is uncertain Find nothing obscure but the obvious Doubt nothing but the certainties Knowledge to me is mere accident I keep winning and remain the loser At dawn I say "I bid you good night" Lying down I'm afraid of falling I'm so rich I haven't a penny I await an inheritance and am no one's heir Warmly welcomed, always turned away. I never work and yet I labor To acquire goods I don't even want Kind words irritate me most He who speaks true deceives me worst A friend is someone who makes me think A white swan is a black crow The people who harm me think they help Lies and truth today I see they're one I remember everything, my mind's a blank Warmly welcomed, always turned away. Merciful Prince may it please you to know I understand much and have no wit or learning I'm biased against all laws impartially What's next to do? Redeem my pawned goods again! Warmly welcomed, always turned away.
From The Poems of François Villon translated by Galway Kinnell, published by Houghton Mifflin, © 1965. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.