Would I Be Shrived?
John D. Swain

(Francois Villon, being about to die, a worthy friar would fain have shrived him, and did earnestly exhort that he should confess him at this time of those acts of his life which he did regret. Villon bade him return yet again, that he might have time to think of his sins. Upon the good father's return, Villon was dead; but by his side were the following verses, his last, wherein he set forth things which he did regret. Whereat the friar was sore grieved, and hid them away among the manuscripts of his abbey, showing them to no man; yet they were found in somewise. The name of the friar and the very place where stood the abbey are forgot; but the verses have endured unto this day.)

I, Francois Villon, ta'en at last
To this rude bed where all must lie,
Fain would forget the turbid past
And lay me down in peace to die.
"Would I be shrived?" Ah, can I tell?
My sins but trifles seem to be,
Nor worth the dignity of hell;
If not, then ill avails to me
To name them one and all -- and yet --
There be some things which I regret!

The sack of abbeys, many a brawl,
A score of knife thrusts in the dark,
Forced oft, by Fate, against the wall,
And years in donjons, cold and stark --
These crimes and pains seem far away
Now that I come at length to die;
'Tis idle for the past to pray,
'Tis hopeless for the past to sigh:
These are a troubled dream -- and yet --
For them I have but scant regret!

The toil my mother lived to know,
What years I lay in gyves for debt;
A pretty song heard long ago:
Where, I know not; when, I forget;
The crust I once kept for my own
(Though all too scant for my poor use.)
The friend I left to die alone,
(Pardie! the watchman pressed us close!)
Trifles against my crimes to set!
Yet these are all which I regret.

Captains and cutthroats, not a few,
And maidens fair of many a clime
Have named me friend in the wild past
When as we wallowed in the slime;
Gamblers and rogues and clever thieves,
And unfrocked priests, a sorry crew,
(How stubbornly the memory cleaves
To all who have befriended you!)
I drain a cup to them -- and yet --
'Tis not for such I feel regret!

My floundered horse, who died for me
(Nor whip nor spur was his, I ween!)
That day the hangman looked to see
Poor Villon earth and sky between!
A mongrel cur who shared my lot
Three bitter winters on the Ile:
He held the rabble off, God wot,
One time I cheated in the deal;
'Twas but an instant, while I fled
Down a vile alley, known to me --
Back in the tavern he lay dead;
The gamblers raged -- but I went free!
Humble, poor brutes at best; and yet --
They are the friends whom I regret!

And eke the lilies were a-blow
Through all the sunny fields of France;
I marked one whiter than the snow
And would have gathered it, perchance,
Had not some trifle, I forget,
(A bishop's loot, a cask of wine
Filched from some carbet -- a bet --)
Distracted this wild head of mine.
A childish fancy this, and yet --
It is a thing that I regret!

Again I rode through Picardy
What time the vine was in the bud;
A little maiden smiled on me,
I might have kissed her, and I would!
I've known a thousand maidens since,
And many have been kind to me --
I've never seen one quite so fair
As she, that day in Picardy.
Ashes of roses these -- and yet --
They are the things which I regret!

One perfect lily grew for me,
And blossomed on another's breast;
Others have clasped the little hands
Whose rosy palms I might have pressed;
So, as I die, my wasted youth
Mocks my dim eye and failing breath: --
Still, I have lived! and having lived
That much is mine. I mock at Death!
I should confess, you say? But yet --
For life alone I have regret.


O bubbles of the vanished wine
To which my lips were never set!
O lips that dimpled closed to mine,
Whose ruddy warmth I never met!
Father, but trifles these, and yet --
They are the things which I regret!

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