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Lyr Add: The Ballad of Francois Villon

alexmud1 21 Jul 08 - 04:45 PM
Q 21 Jul 08 - 06:43 PM
Neil D 21 Jul 08 - 09:50 PM
alexmud1 22 Jul 08 - 11:42 AM
Jim Dixon 24 Jul 08 - 10:56 PM
alexmud1 25 Jul 08 - 05:58 AM
GUEST,Neil D 25 Jul 08 - 10:24 AM
M.Ted 06 Aug 08 - 02:51 PM
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Subject: The Ballad of Francois Villon
From: alexmud1
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 04:45 PM

The original song is "Ballade auf den Dichter Francois Villon", by Wolf Biermann. It was translated and covered by Eric Bentley on his album "Bentley on Biermann". Sorry for the mistakes but the song is very fast and also has some German/historical references which I didn't catch.

Please correct me if you can, the lyrics of the original are online but I don't know German and couldn't find this version anywhere.

-------------

My elder brother Frank Villon lives with me as my lodger.
When people come to case the joint Villon the artful dodger
hides in the closet solaced with the wine he loves the most
and waits until the coast is clear but it's an unclear coast.

He stinks. The poet though he must have smelled like rose or dahlia
and like a dog they buried him how many centuries earlier,
and when a "friend's they hang may be" (?) three lovely girls, he'll climb
out of the closet where he hides and booze 'till breakfast time.

And on occasion will sing songs, stories and ballads many,
if he forgets the words I prompt him out of Brecht's Threepenny.

My elder brother Frank Villon suffered much persecution
from cops and church-men who alike desired his execution.
Despite his age he laughs and cries and tells tall tales and "oh" (?)
how he will follow cursing at the "thought of Fatma Goh" (?)

What did she do? I ask but don't press my interrogations,
it's a long time ago and he with all those supplications,
with supplications Villon has quite often wriggled out
of dungeon and of prison time, of that there is no doubt.

With all those supplications V. off-times escaped the noose,
he did not wish his neck to feel his rear end swinging loose.

The vanity of rulers had for him a smell infernal
into some asshole he would creep and then make it eternal.
Oh yes, my room-mate Frank Villon he laid it on the line
so long as he had good fresh air, grub and a glass of wine.

"While stealing or by kissing" (?) he fine shameless songs would sing
as free as burning wood but now he sits there stammering.
The vodka snaps from "outless hove" (?) just bring on his migraine
and "Dee" (?) is hard for him to read, the German gives him pain.

They taught him Latin when he was a child at school but when
Villon got older, he preferred the speech of simple men.

If Marie visits me at night, Frank Villon for our sins
goes strolling on the wall which scares the guards out of their skins.
The bullets pass right through Villon but not a drop of blood
flows from the bullet holes, they make just red wine in a flood.

Then for a joke he makes a harp out of the wall's barbed wire,
the guards accompany the tune and keep time while they fire
and only when I am almost drained dry by good Marie
and she gets up to go to work down in the town does he

return and cough up several pounds of lead with much to do,
he curses yet he's full of understanding for us two.

But nothing here can long be "heard" (?) and out came this whole story
There's order in our land just as in seven-dwarf territory.
There came a bang upon my door one morning around three,
our people's own police had sent three of their men to me.

They said to me Herr Biermann, you are well known to us all,
you are loyal to the DDR, you'll hear your country's call,
is it not true now -don't be scared- that for about one year
there has lived here a certain Frank Villon who's got red hair ?

He's a subversive and at night has offered provocation
to border-guards. At this point I made this mild declaration:

With his fresh songs he's tried to make of me an agitator,
I can tell you in confidence I do not like the traitor,
if I'd not just been reading what Kurella has asserted
of Kafka and "the Bat" (?) I fear I would have been subverted.

I'm glad you came to get this crook, he's hiding in the closet,
I gave up such impertinence "when I was seven. Was it ?" (?)
I am a pious church-goer, a "cusp of milk toast I" (?)
a docile citizen, I sing of flowers and softly sigh.

The cops then trough themselves upon poor Villon's closet door
but all they found was what he'd thrown up on the closet floor.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Francois Villon
From: Q
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 06:43 PM

Bentley has put the poem into English rhyming verses, not an easy task.
"Bentley on Biermann- Songs and Poems of Wolf Biermann," Folkways Records, 2004 cd, originally recorded 1968. Camsco or Amazon can get it.

Some mudcat may have the recording and can help verify your transcription. An interesting poem, new to me.
My sole comment- since it is a German song, I would leave the elder brother as Franz (Harking back to the medieval poet Francois Villon).
In order to make the rhymes in English, Bentley departed from the German in some respects, so it is difficult to arrive at his lyrics from the German original, although, based on my poor German, he preserved the meaning very well.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Francois Villon
From: Neil D
Date: 21 Jul 08 - 09:50 PM

It's been many years since I read Villon but at times the lines above seem reminiscent of Villon's meter, his sense of rhythm.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Francois Villon
From: alexmud1
Date: 22 Jul 08 - 11:42 AM

Yeah, apparently Biermann has Villon as one among his influences.

About Frank vs Franz, I guess Bentley Englishised the nickname.

Love this song, the catchy tune and the surreal, mocking and moving lyrics. I might add a few other lyrics from the album if anyone's interested.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Francois Villon
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 24 Jul 08 - 10:56 PM

Google Book Search finds that the words and music are printed in:

Biermann, Wolf. The Wire Harp; Ballads, Poems, Songs. (Translation by Eric Bentley of Die Drahtharfe.) New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968.

WorldCat might help you find the book in a library near you.

I'm not able to copy the whole song, but I think I can clarify your questionable lines:

Ere like a dog they buried him...
And when a friend's there and maybe three...
How he will fall a-cursing at the thought of Fat Margo!...
With all those supplications he ofttimes escaped the noose,...
"While stealing or while kissing...
As free as bird in wood...
The vodka schnapps from Adlershof...
ND is hard for him to read...
But nothing here can long be hid and out came the whole story...
Of Kafka and the bat I fear...
I gave up such impertinence when I was—seven, was it?...
I am a pious churchgoer, a Caspar Milquetoast I....

I can't explain all these allusions, though!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Francois Villon
From: alexmud1
Date: 25 Jul 08 - 05:58 AM

That's great, thanks for the corrections, makes more sense now !


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Francois Villon
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 25 Jul 08 - 10:24 AM

I can't help with all the illusions but Fat Margo was a Parisian prostitute. Villon was her sometime lover/pimp.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Francois Villon
From: M.Ted
Date: 06 Aug 08 - 02:51 PM

As with all translated verse, it helps to have the original.

Ballade auf den Dichter François Villon

Mein großer Bruder Franz Villon
wohnt bei mir mit auf Zimmer.
Wenn Leute bei mir schnüffeln gehn,
versteckt Villon sich immer.
Dann drückt er sich im in' Kleiderschrank mit einer Flasche Wein
und wartet, bis die Luft rein ist.
Die Luft ist nie ganz rein.
Er stinkt, der Dichter. Blumensüß
muß er gerochen haben,
bevor sie ihn vor Jahr und Tag
wie'n Hund begraben haben.
Wenn mal ein guter Freund da ist,
vielleicht drei schöne Fraun,
dann steigt er aus dem Kleiderschrank
und trinkt bis Morgengraun.

Und singt vielleicht auch mal ein Lied,
Balladen und Geschichten -
Vergißt er seinen Text, soufflier
ich ihm aus Brechts Gedichten.

Mein großer Bruder Franz Villon
war oftmals in den Fängen
der Kirche und der Polizei.
Die wollten aufhängen.
Und er erzählt, er lacht und weint -
Die Dicke Margot dann
bringt jedesmal zum Fluchen
den alten alten Mann.

Ich wüßte gern, was die ihm tat,
doch will ich nicht frauf drängen.
Ist auch schon lange her.
Er hat mit seinen Bittgesängen,
mit seinen Bittgesängen hat
Villon sich oft verdrückt
aus Schuldturm und aus Kerkerhaft.
Das ist ihm gut geglückt.

Mit seinen Bittgesängen zog
er sich oft aus der Schlinge.
Er wollt nichtm daß sein Hinterteil
ihm schwer am Halse hing.

Die Eitelkeit der höchsten Herrn
konnt meilenweit er riechen.
Verewigt hat er manchen Arsch,
in den er mußte kriechen.
Doch scheißfroh war François Villon,
mein großer Zimmergast,
hat er nur freie Luft und roten
Wein geschluckt, gepraßt.

Dann sang er unverschämt und schön,
wie Vogel frei im Wald,
beim Lieben und beim Klauengehn.
Nun sitzt er da und lallt.
Der Wodkaschnaps aus Adlershof,
der drückt ihm aufs Gehirn.
Mühselig liest er das 'ND'
(das Deutsch tut ihn verwirrn).

Zwar hat man ihn als Kind gelehrt
das hohe Schul-Latein,
als Mann jedoch ließ er sich mehr
mit niederm Volke ein

Besucht mich abends mal Marie,
dann geht Villon solang
spazieren auf der Mauer und
macht dort die Posten bang.
Die Kugeln gehen durch ihn durch,
doch aus den Löchern fließt
bei Franz Villon nicht Blut heraus.
Nur Rotwein sich ergießt.

Dann spielt er auf dem Stacheldraht
aus Jux die große Harfe.
Die Grenzer schießen Rhythmus zu,
verschieden nach Bedarfe.

Erst wenn Marie mich gegen früh
fast ausgetrunken hat,
und steht Marie ganz leise auf
zur Arbeit in der Stadt,
dann kommt Villon und hustet wild
drei Pfund Patronenblei.
Und flucht und spuckt und ist doch voll
Verständnis für uns zwei

Natürlich kam die Sache raus.
Es läßt sich nichts verbergen.
In unserem Land ist Ordnung groß
wie bei den sieben Zwergen.
Er schlug gegen meine Tür
am Morgen früh um drei
drei Herren aus dem großen Heer
der Volkspolizei.
"Herr Biermann", sagten sie zu mir -
"Sie sind uns wohl bekannt
als treuer Sohn der DDR.
Es ruft das Vaterland.
Gestehen sie uns ohne Scheu:
Wohnt nicht seinem Jahr
bei ihnen ein gewisser
Franz Fillonk mit rotem Haar?
Ein hetzer, der uns Nacht für Nacht
in provokanter Weise
die Grenzsoldaten bange macht?"
Ich antworte leise:

"Jawohl, er hat mich fast verhext
mit seinen frechen Liedern.
Doch sage ich Ihnen im Vertraun:
Der Schuft tut mich anwidern!
Hätt ich in diesen tagen nicht
Kurellas Schrift gelesen
von Kafka und der Fledermaus,
ich wär verlorn gewesen.

Er sitzt im Schrank, der Hund.
Ein Glück, daß sie ihn endlich hohn.
Ich lief mir seine Frechheit längst
ab von den Kindersohln.
Ich bin ein frommer Kirchensohn.
Ein Lämmerschwänzchen bin ich.
Ein stiller Bürger, Blumen nur
in Liedern sanft besing ich."

Die Herren von der Polizei
erbrachen dann den Schrank.
Sie fanden nur Erbrochens
das mählich niedersank.


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