Original text Arthur Rimbaud, 1870
Adapted words and music © copyright 2000 Holly Tannen
"These poets, you see, are not from here below. Let them live their crazy life. Let them have their cold and hunger, let them run and love, and sing. They are rich, these children, for their souls are full of rhymes, rhymes which laugh and cry. Let them live: God have mercy on the poor, and the world will bless the poet."
- Arthur Rimbaud
O good my lord come to the greenwood
The skies have dropped all their cloak of rain
Come bring your lady to sport and dally
And hear the sweet songs of love again.
But Sire when you have heard my story
He lies on straw, fed on bread and water
Now he regrets all those moonlit evenings
Perhaps he quarreled with a dozen doxies
Perhaps he sang of the dumpy chaplain
The student cold in his lonely garret
So leave the poet his crazy laughter
So leave the poet his cold and hunger
This song was inspired by the "Lettre de Charles d'Orléans à Louis XI pour solliciter la grâce de Francois Villon, menacé de la Potence," by Arthur Rimbaud (age 15).
Most of what we know about François Villon comes from the records of the police. He was born in Paris in 1431 and received his master's degree from the University of Paris around 1450. But instead of settling down to a secure teaching position, Villon preferred to hang out in the taverns writing satirical songs and poems. For some reason he was never able to make a living at this, so he supported his poetry habit through his skill in burglary, until they caught him at it and he was sentenced to be hanged. However, Charles, the Duke of Orléans, was himself an amateur poet and an admirer of Villon. He wrote a letter to the king asking for Villon's release.
The letter has not survived. So it came to pass in the spring of 1870 that a young schoolteacher, George Izambard, on his first teaching assignment in the provincial French city of Charleville, set his prize student an assignment: write the letter that should have been written.
|updated 29 March 2002 : 10:29 Caspar (Pacific) time|
copyright © 2002 by Holly Tannen