The Epitaph in Form of a Ballad which Villon Made for Himself and his Comrades, Expecting to be Hanged along with Them

Original Text: 
Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): I, 448-49.
2    Let not your hearts too hard against us be;
3For if some pity of us poor men ye give,
4    The sooner God shall take of you pity.
5    Here are we five or six strung up, you see,
6And here the flesh that all too well we fed
7Bit by bit eaten and rotten, rent and shred,
8    And we the bones grow dust and ash withal;
9Let no man laugh at us discomforted,
10    But pray to God that he forgive us all.
11If we call on you, brothers, to forgive,
12    Ye should not hold our prayer in scorn, though we
13Were slain by law; ye know that all alive
14    Have not wit alway to walk righteously;
15    Make therefore intercession heartily
16With him that of a virgin's womb was bred,
17That his grace be not as a dry well-head
18    For us, nor let hell's thunder on us fall;
19We are dead, let no man harry or vex us dead,
20    But pray to God that he forgive us all.
21The rain has washed and laundered us all five,
22    And the sun dried and blackened; yea, perdie,
23Ravens and pies with beaks that rend and rive
24    Have dug our eyes out, and plucked off for fee
25    Our beards and eyebrows; never are we free,
26Not once, to rest; but here and there still sped,
27Drive at its wild will by the wind's change led,
28    More pecked of birds than fruits on garden-wall;
29Men, for God's love, let no gibe here be said,
30    But pray to God that he forgive us all.
31Prince Jesus, that of all art lord and head,
32Keep us, that hell be not our bitter bed;
33    We have nought to do in such a master's hall.
34Be not ye therefore of our fellowhead,
35    But pray to God that he forgive us all.


1] François Villon, born in 1431, a French autobiographical poet who wrote about his criminal adventures. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Poems and Ballads, second series (1878): 222-24.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO (1999).