Adapted from the Renaissance French of Francois Villon (b. 1431) & the Hungarian of György Faludy (1910-2006)
Villon the vagabond was one of Europe’s first modern poets. Faludy, a Jewish-Hungarian master, spent some of his best writing years in exile or political imprisonment. This poem about the massive Westward flow of abused stateless migrants that characterises the 21st century is dedicated to The Exiled Writers Ink! organization of London.
I’ve proudly wrapped my dazzling sky around me
yet I have found one faithful friend: the fog.
In banquet halls I’ve heard my hunger howling.
By fires, I have endured the test of frost.
I am a prince of human kind: I’ve reached out
and to my thirsty lips, the mud has swelled –
My paths are marked by wilting wildflowers: even
the festive seasons wither from our breath.
I stare surprised in disbelief when genial
warm sunshine holds my frame in calm caress.
And thus across three continents I’ve traveled
and been despised and welcomed everywhere.
I’ve wrestled with the storms on shriveled wastelands.
My dress: a leaf that graced a bygone tree.
And nothing’s clearer to me than night’s fragrance
and nothing darker than high noontide’s blaze.
My rising sobs have burst in wary taverns
but in the graveyards I have laughed my fill,
and all I own are things I’ve long discarded
and thus I’ve come to value everything.
Upon my stubborn curls, the spell of autumn
collects its silver while, a child at heart,
I cross this freezing landscape never pausing,
and live despised and welcomed everywhere.
Triumphant stars erect their vast cathedral
above me, and dew calms my feet below
as I pursue my fleeing god in sorrow
and sense my world through every pore in joy.
I’ve rested on the peaks of many mountains.
I’ve sweltered with the captive quarry-slaves.
And at my cost, I’ve learned to shun the towers
of state and curse our rulers’ power games.
My share: the worst and best in every bargain,
and thus I’ve come to find an equal ease
in squalor and beneath the whitest pillars,
a guest despised and welcomed everywhere.
I have no state, no home – nor choice but freedom.
Between my legs, the playful wind alone
performs a merry duet with my arse-hole.
I wish that I could quell the foolish fears
of local folks, that they would see the person
I am, beyond my status, and receive
my gift of words I’ve brought to share with them.
The time may come when all my words will rhyme
and I will dip my pen in molten gold
…before I find a restful spot beneath
some wizened thicket, and remain forever
a voice: despised and welcomed, everywhere.