Thursday, April 28, 2022


Flies in Milk

François Villon (1431-c. 1463), "Ballade des menus propos" (tr. Galway Kinnell):
I know flies in milk
I know the man by his clothes
I know fair weather from foul
I know the apple by the tree
I know the tree when I see the sap        5
I know when all is one
I know who labors and who loafs
I know everything but myself

I know the coat by the collar
I know the monk by the cowl        10
I know the master by the servant
I know the nun by the veil
I know when a hustler rattles on
I know fools raised on whipped cream
I know the wine by the barrel        15
I know everything but myself

I know the horse and the mule
I know their loads and their limits
I know Beatrice and Belle
I know the beads that count and add        20
I know nightmare and sleep
I know the Bohemians' error
I know the power of Rome
I know everything but myself

Prince I know all things        25
I know the rosy-cheeked and the pale
I know death who devours all
I know everything but myself

Je congnois bien mouches en let,
Je congnois a la robe l'homme,
Je congnois le beau temps du let,
Je congnois au pommier la pomme,
Je congnois l'arbre a veoir la gomme,        5
Je congnois quant tout est de mesmes,
Je congnois qui besongne ou chomme,
Je congnois tout, fors que moy mesmes.
Je congnois pourpoint au colet,
Je congnois le moyne a la gonne,        10
Je congnois le maistre au varlet,
Je congnois au voille la nonne,
Je congnois quant pipeur jargonne,
Je congnois fols nourris de cresmes,
Je congnois le vin a la tonne,        15
Je congnois tout, fors que moy mesmes.

Je congnois cheval et mulet,
Je congnois leur charge et leur somme,
Je congnois Bietris et Belet,
Je congnois get qui nombre et somme,        20
Je congnois vision et somme,
Je congnois la faulte des Boesmes,
Je congnois le povoir de Romme,
Je congnois tout, fors que moy mesmes.

Prince, je congnois tout en somme,        25
Je congnois coulourez et blesmes,
Je congnois Mort qui tout consomme,
Je congnois tout, fors que moy mesmes.
On the first line see Samuel Singer, ed., Thesaurus Proverbiorum Medii Aevi. Lexikon der Sprichwörter des romanisch-germanischen Mittelalters, Band 3: Erbe — freuen (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1996), p. 296 (under FLIEGE / mouche / fly):
G. DE DEGUILEVILLE 5319 is Guillaume De Guileville (c. 1295-1380), Le Pèlerinage de la Vie Humaine, line 5319. Cf. the very loose translation of De Guileville by John Lydgate (1370-1451), The Pilgrimage of the Life of Man, ed. F.J. Furnivall (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Limited, 1899, 1901, 1904 = Early English Text Society: Extra Series, LXXVII, LXXXIII, XCII), pp. 292-293 (lines 10677-10688):
I knowe kanvas, I knowe sylk,
I knowe the flye dreynt in the mylk,
I knowe A mesour, fful & halff,
I knowe the kowh & ek the kalff,        10680
Affter that men by name hem calle,
And dyfference off bestys alle.
I knowe the name off thys & that,
I knowe an hound, I knowe a caat,
And off bothe I knowë how,        10685
That nouther off hem ys calff nor kow:
I knowe ther namys eterychon:
Ther namys & they ben al on.
Stephanie A. Viereck Gibbs Kamath, Authorship and First-Person Allegory in Late Medieval France and England (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2012), pp. 173 ff., juxtaposed the passages from Villon and Lydgate. On Villon's ballad see Gertrude Schoepperle, "Pour le commentaire de Villon: note sur la Ballade des menus propos," Romania 49 (1923) 113-117.

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