Francois Villon's The Legacy & The Testament by Louis Simpson

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Louis Simpson's translation of Francois Villon's The Legacy & The Testament has achieved the impossible, as Simpson has created the definitive translation of the life work of France's greatest poet of the 15th century. Abandoned by his parents at an early age and raised by a foster father, later imprisoned, chained and tortured, somehow Villon survived to write one of the most enduring epics ever.

Louis Simpson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, is the author of several books of poetry and criticism. He has received a number of prestigious awards throughout his career, including the Prix de Rome, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Columbia Medal for Excellence. Louis Simpson lives in Setauket, New York.

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Villon is one of the first great French lyric poets and one of the greatest French poets of any age. His "testaments" are mock wills, written in a racy blend of French and underworld slang. Scattered here and there among the ironic items of bequest are exquisite ballads and lyrics, some crystallizing classic themes of medieval literature. Villon's poetry uses traditional forms to create a powerful poetic personality during a period in which poetic individualism was rare. Indeed, his exquisite "Ballad of the Hanged Men" ("Ballade des Pendus") (1489) offers one of the most immediate depictions of death in Western poetry. Moreover, his dissolute life, lived among thieves and prostitutes, makes him a prototype of later decadent or bohemian poets. He was at various times arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and nearly put to death; his final sentence was commuted to exile by King Louis XI on accession to the throne, when he declared amnesties of all sorts, according to the usual practice of the time. It is not known how Villon spent his last years, after his release from prison. Villon's poetry has been translated by Rossetti (see Vol. 1), Synge (see Vol. 1), and Swinburne (see Vol. 1).
Published September 1, 2000 by Story Line Press. 256 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Villon, the enfant terrible of medieval France, is best known for The Legacy and The Testament, two long lyrics that he completed just before being exiled from Paris in 1462 for stabbing an attorney.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Francois Villon's The Legacy ...

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