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Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

A Ballad of François Villon, Prince of All Ballad-Makers


              1Bird of the bitter bright grey golden morn
              2    Scarce risen upon the dusk of dolorous years,
              3First of us all and sweetest singer born
              4    Whose far shrill note the world of new men hears
              5    Cleave the cold shuddering shade as twilight clears;
              6When song new-born put off the old world's attire
              7And felt its tune on her changed lips expire,
              8    Writ foremost on the roll of them that came
              9Fresh girt for service of the latter lyre,
            10    Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother's name!

            11Alas the joy, the sorrow, and the scorn,
            12    That clothed thy life with hopes and sins and fears,
            13And gave thee stones for bread and tares for corn
            14    And plume-plucked gaol-birds for thy starveling peers
            15    Till death clipt close their flight with shameful shears;
            16Till shifts came short and loves were hard to hire,
            17When lilt of song nor twitch of twangling wire
            18    Could buy thee bread or kisses; when light fame
            19Spurned like a ball and haled through brake and briar,
            20    Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother's name!

            21Poor splendid wings so frayed and soiled and torn!
            22    Poor kind wild eyes so dashed with light quick tears!
            23Poor perfect voice, most blithe when most forlorn,
            24    That rings athwart the sea whence no man steers
            25    Like joy-bells crossed with death-bells in our ears!
            26What far delight has cooled the fierce desire
            27That like some ravenous bird was strong to tire
            28    On that frail flesh and soul consumed with flame,
            29But left more sweet than roses to respire,
            30    Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother's name?

ENVOI

            31Prince of sweet songs made out of tears and fire,
            32A harlot was thy nurse, a God thy sire;
            33    Shame soiled thy song, and song assoiled thy shame.
            34But from thy feet now death has washed the mire,
            35Love reads out first at head of all our quire,
            36    Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother's name.

Notes

10] Villon:


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): I, 384-85.
First publication date: 15 September 1877
Publication date note: Athenaeum (Sept. 15, 1877): 337; then Poems and Ballads, 2nd ser. (London: Chatto and Windus, 1878): 126-28.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO (1999).
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/2

Rhyme: ababbccdcd


Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne