Villon (1431- c1463) Je crie a toutes gens mercis, Ballade de merci

The "Excuse Me" Ballade

To Célestínes and monks Carthus-
ian, Mendicants, and Elvis fans,
to dealers, dreamers, foxy flooz-
ies flaunting ass in tight short pants,
to ancient gigolos, who jog
in multicolored running shoes,
and cloppers in designer clogs,
I ask that they my sins excuse.

To acrobats with apes in tow,
to bikers looking for a brawl,
to tourists coming from a show:
whistling, six wide wall-to-wall.
To teenage pros who bare their boobs
and so entice the johns to call,
to tiny hipsters with tattoos,
I beg forgiveness of them all.

Except those vicious carrion birds
by whom I marbles shat and gnawed
on crusts for many an eve and dawn,
and whom I value not three turds.
For them I'd gladly make a fart,
but can't because I'm sitting down,
and just so they won't feel left out,
I cry excuse me everyone.

May men their fifteen ribs destroy
by mighty hammers swung with joy
and also by a wrecking ball:
I shout so sorry to them all.


translation © 2001 Leonard Cottrell. All rights reserved

rhymed translations index

The people he's angry with are the jailers at Meung-sur-Loire. He spent the summer of 1461 in the Bishop's prison there. THE BALLADE form has 28 LINES ON ONLY 3 RHYMES. VILLON AND HIS FRIEND CHARLES D'ORLEANS USED TO HAVE BALLADE-WRITING COMPETITIONS on set themes. This is the next to the last ballade in Villon's big work, the Testament, which develops along a backbone of ballades.

Ballade de merci

A Chartreux et a Celestins
A Mendians et a Devotes
A musars et a claquepetins
A servans et filles mignottes
Portans surcotz et justes cotes
A cuidereaux d'amours transis
Chaussans sans meshaing fauves botes
Je crie a toutes gens mercis.

A filletes monstrans tetins
Pour avoir plus largement hostes
A ribleurs, mouveurs de hutins
A bateleurs, traynans marmotes
A folz, folles, a sotz et sotes
Qui s'en vont sifflant six a six
A marmosetz et mariotes
Je crie a toutes gens mercis.

Sinon aux traistres chiens matins
Qui m'ont fait chier dur et crotes
Maschier mains soirs et mains matins
Qu'oses je ne crains pas trois crotes
Je feisse pour eulx petz et rotes
Je ne puis car je suis assis
Au fort, pour eviter riotes
Je crie a toutes gens mercis.

Qu'on leur froisse les quinze costes
De gros mailletz fors et massis
De plombes et telz pelotes
Je crie a toutes gens mercis.


scrap literal

All except for those treacherous bastards
who made me shit marbles and gnaw
hard crusts for many a dawn and eventide
and for whom I do not give three turds.
I would make for them farts and belches,
however I cannot because I am sitting down.
And so, just to avoid a riot,
I beg forgiveness of them all.