Villon, Francois (1432–1463), translated by Kline, A. S. (contact-email)

Open Access logo

François Villon, also known as François de Montcorbier, was a poet of the late Middle Ages, whose lifetime spanned the mid-15th century. Educated at the University of Paris, he earned a Bachelor of Arts by age 21. Initially, Villon enjoyed the carefree life of a bohemian student in the Latin Quarter. However, at 24, he killed a priest in a brawl and had to flee the city. He was granted amnesty but faced exile again following a theft at the College of Navarre. His subsequent attempt to establish himself at Charles of Orléans’ court in Blois was unsuccessful, leading to a vagrant and impoverished existence. Villon was later imprisoned in Meung-sur-Loire and released upon Louis XI’s rise to power. After another arrest and a death sentence that was commuted to exile, he disappeared from the historical record.

This edition principally concerns The Testament and The Ballad of Hanged Men. The former begins as a mock-will that evolves into deep reflections on social injustices and the transient nature of life and death. The work is laced with Villon’s trademark dark and incisive humour, and was potentially crafted to secure patronage. The latter, Villon’s most acclaimed poem, incorrectly referred to as his epitaph, is unique in its narration from the perspective of the executed, seeking compassion and divine mercy. The poem was purportedly written whilst Villon was detained following the Ferrebouc affair.

Author Details

cover image

Kline, A. S.

Support Open-Access:

Your contribution keeps our classical translations available to all. Every dollar helps support classics education and funds the expansion of our catalogue. Value what we do? Donate now.

© Copyright, All Rights Reserved. This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.