by François Villon (1431 - 1463)
Translation © by Laura Prichard

Faulse beauté, qui tant me couste cher
Language: French (Français) 
Available translation(s): ENG
Faulse beauté, qui tant me couste cher,
Rude en effect, hypocrite doulceur,
Amour dure, plus que fer, à mascher;
Nommer que puis de ma deffaçon seur.
Charme felon, la mort d'ung povre cueur,
Orgueil mussé, qui gens met au mourir,
Yeulx sans pitié! ne veult Droict de Rigueur
Sans empirer, ung povre secourir?

Mieulx m'eust valu avoir esté crier
Ailleurs secours, c'eust esté mon bonheur:
Rien ne m'eust sceu de ce fait arracher;
Trotter m'en fault en fuyte à deshonneur.
Haro, haro, le grand et le mineur!
Et qu'est cecy? mourray sans coup ferir,
Ou pitié peult, selon ceste teneur,
Sans empirer, ung povre secourir.

Ung temps viendra, qui fera desseicher,
Jaulnir, flestrir, vostre espanie fleur:
J'en risse lors, se tant peusse marcher,
Mais las! nenny: ce seroit donc foleur,
Vieil je seray; vous, laide et sans couleur.
Or, beuvez, fort, tant que ru peult courir.
Ne donnez pas à tous ceste douleur
Sans empirer, ung povre secourir.

Prince amoureux, des amans le greigneur,
Vostre mal gré ne vouldroye encourir;
Mais tout franc cueur doit, par Nostre Seigneur,
Sans empirer, ung povre secourir.

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)
Modernized spelling provided by Laura Prichard (not used by Debussy):
Fausse beauté, qui tant me coûte cher,	
Rude en effet, hypocrite douceur,
Amour dure plus que fer à mâcher,	
Nommer te puis, de ma défaçon1 sur.	
Charme félon, la mort d'un pauvre cœur,	
Orgueil mussé qui gens met au mourir,	
Yeux sans pitié, ne veux Droit de Rigueur,
Sans empirer, un pauvre secourir?

Mieux m'eût valu avoir été crier
Ailleurs secours: c'eût été mon bonheur;
Rien ne m'eût su de ce fait arracher.
Trotter m'en faut en fuite à déshonneur.
Haro, haro, le grand et le mineur!
Et qu’est-ce? Mourrai sans coup férir?
Ou pitié peut, selon cette teneur,	
Sans empirer, un pauvre secourir?	

Un temps viendra qui fera dessécher,	
Jaunir, flétrir, votre épanie fleur;	
J'en risse lors*, se tant peusse marcher,
Mais las! nenny; Ce serait donc foleur,
Vieil je serai; vous, laide, et sans couleur;	
Or buvez fort, tant que ru peut courir;	
Ne donnez pas à tous cette douleur,	
Sans empirer, un pauvre secourir.	

Prince amoureux, des amants le greigneur,	
Votre mal gré ne voudrais encourir,	
Mais tout franc cœur doit, par Notre Seigneur,
Sans empirer, un pauvre secourir.
1 a word in Old French, similar to the modern “qualités défectueuses” or défectuosité


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Another version of this text exists in the database.

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Laura Prichard) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 29
Word count: 184

False beauty, who costs me so dearly
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
False beauty, who costs me so dearly,
Harsh indeed, hypocritical sweetness1,
[Your] love lasts longer than [it takes] to chew iron;
And [I’m] naming2 you, [the] top [cause of] my ruin. 
Treacherous enchantment, death to a poor heart, 
Hidden pride that puts people to death, 
Eyes without pity, can’t the rights I am entitled to 
Without worsening [my lot], help a poor [soul]? 
It would’ve been better for me to cry
Elsewhere [for] help: it would’ve been my good fortune;	
Nothing would’ve been able to tear me away from that.	
I pick up a trot3 in [my] flight from dishonor.	
Help4, help, [I call both] urgently and beseechingly!
And what’s this? Should I die without a shot being fired?	
Or can pity, given this situation,	
Without worsening [my lot], help a poor [soul]?	

[Your] time will come: your blossoming flower
Will dessicate, turn yellow, and wilt;	
I’ll laugh then, if I can still chew5,	
But alas! nay; It would be folly,	
I’ll be old; you, ugly, and without color;	
So drink deep, while the river still runs;	
Don’t inflict on anyone [else] this pain,	
[Don't] worsen [my lot, and] help a poor [soul]. 

Prince of love7, the greatest of lovers,
Your disfavor I don’t wish to incur,
But every honest heart must, by Our Lord8,
Without worsening [my lot], help a poor [soul].

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)
Translation of title "Ballade de Villon a s'amye" = "Villon’s Ballade to His Mistress"
1 of manner, also “agreeableness”
2 The poet not only “names” her, he spells the lovers’ names in an acrostic.
The first letters of each line in the first stanza (the full octave) spell “Francoys” (the poet’s first name).
The first letters of the second stanza (only the first five lines) spell “Marthe”.
A form of the poet’s last name is also hidden in the first letters of the 5th-7th lines of the third stanza: vi[ei]l + o + n.
3 to speed up from a walk, while riding a horse.
4 “Clameur de haro” was a French legal formula once pronounced in cases of emergency, to stop an attack upon the person or property.
5 Some sources say "mâcher" (to chew), and others say marcher (to walk or march)
6 An “envoi” or “envoy” is a shorter stanza at the end of a poem used to directly address someone (the beloved object of the poem or the poet’s patron). Fourteenth-century French poetry uses the word “Prince” to address authority figures and actual royalty.
7 This envoi may be addressed to King Charles VII, who remitted Villon’s sentence of banishment in 1456 for killing a priest in a 1455 street brawl, or to King Louis XI, since Villon was released from the Bishop Thibault d’Aussigny’s prison at Meung-sur-Loire in celebration of Louis XI's succession to the throne in 1461.
8 i.e., Jesus Christ


  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2016 by Laura Prichard, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

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This text was added to the website: 2016-01-04
Line count: 29
Word count: 224