ballade of the women of Paris

Though women skill in speech unfold
’Neath Tuscan or Venetian sky,
Yea, even when they’re waxen old
On confidential errands fly;
Let Roman dames or Lombards try,
Or Genoese, support to draw,
Bring Piedmontese, Savoyards nigh,
There’s none to match a Paris jaw!

The Naples dames, like doctors, hold
Discourses, and are never shy;
The Germans cackle, we are told,
The Prussian women shrilly cry;
But search all Greece or Hungary,
Or Gypsies of no land or law,
Castile, or Spain, and squeeze them dry,
There’s none to match a Paris jaw!

All tongues of Swiss or Breton mould
Or from Toulouse or Gascony,
Two wives of Petit-Pont would scold
Them dumb, and all Lorraine defy
With England, Calais hold thereby,
(Behold this list of names with awe!)
Valenciennes too and Picardy,
There’s none to match a Paris jaw!

Prince, Paris ladies claim the high
Reward of speech without a flaw;
Italian lips in vain may vie
There’s none to match a Paris jaw

François Villon


returning to the village

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?
F. Villon

What are you doing
by the fire, girl,
pale as a sapling
fading in the dusk?
“I’m kindling old sticks.
The smoke rises dark
and tells me the world
I live in is safe.”
But by the sweet-smelling fire
I cannot breathe.
I wish I were the wind
dying down in the village.

My journey is over.
Sweet smell of polenta,
sad lowing of cattle.
My journey is over.
“You’ve come here among us,
but we only live,
live quiet and dead,
like water that trickles
unseen between hedges.”

Midday chimes ring
festive in my village.
Yet what silence the bell
casts over the fields!
You haven’t changed, bell;
in awe I return to your voice.
“Time does not move:
behold the fathers’ smiles
in the children’s eyes
like rain on the branches.”

Pier Paolo Pasolini