contributor.author: Ann Tukey Harrison, Michigan State University

title.none: Sargent-Baur (ed.), François Villon: Complete Poems

identifier.other: baj9928.9611.011 96.11.11

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Ann Tukey Harrison, Michigan State University, HARRIS10@pilot.msu.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1996

identifier.citation: Barbara N. Sargent-Baur, editor and translator. Francois Villon: Complete Poems. Toronto \ Buffalo \ London: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Pp. xii, 346. $65.00/L42.00 (hb), $19.95 (pb). ISBN: ISBN 0-8020-7192-9 (paperback) \ 0-8020-2946-9 (hardback).

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 96.11.11

Barbara N. Sargent-Baur, editor and translator. Francois Villon: Complete Poems. Toronto \ Buffalo \ London: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Pp. xii, 346. $65.00/L42.00 (hb), $19.95 (pb). ISBN: ISBN 0-8020-7192-9 (paperback) \ 0-8020-2946-9 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Ann Tukey Harrison, Michigan State University
HARRIS10@pilot.msu.edu

The appearance of this definitive edition of the complete works of Francois Villon by a reputable, distinguished medievalist is a remarkable event, and happily, Professor Sargent-Baur has fulfilled the promise of her undertaking in every way. She has provided a thoughtful general introduction, each of the four components of Villon's writings (Lais, Testament, Poemes varies, and Ballades en jargon) with facing page English, commentary and notes, a workable glossary, a modest bibliography, and a list of proper names. Her book is an erudite, usable volume which will serve as the primary referent for the next set of readers and scholars. Its strengths are many and its weaknesses very minor indeed.

Like her scholarly predecessors, Sargent-Baur relies primarily on manuscript C (BN fr. 20041), but uses other manuscripts for parts of the Lais and for all of the Poemes varies as well as the Ballades en jargon which are not found in C. In these editorial decisions she does not break new ground; however, in the combination of this original text with an English translation that is "at once metrical, scholarly, annotated, and (except for the Jargon) complete" she has identified and attempted to fill a broader niche.

Often when translators impose formal constraints on their verses, the sense may be distorted and comprehensibility lost to verbal virtuosity. By concentrating on meter, converting octosyllabic into four-beat lines and decasyllabic into five- beat, Sargent-Baur has given her translation a very pleasing cadence and movement. A comparison of the opening stanza of the Testament by Galway Kinell and Sargent-Baur may illustrate the merits (and potential pitfalls) of her approach:

Original Text:

En l'an de mon trentiesme aage / Que toutes mes hontes j'euz beues, / Ne du tout fol, ne du tout saige, / Non obstant maintes peines eues, / Lesquelles j'ay toutes receues / Soubz la main Thibault d'Aucigny ... / S'esvesque il est, signant les rues, / Qu'il soit le mien je le regny;

Kinnell:

In my thirtieth year of life / When I had drunk down all my disgrace / Neither altogether a fool nor altogether wise / Despite the many blows I had / Every one of which I took / At Thibault d'Aussigny's hand / Bishop he may be as he signs the cross / Through the streets, but I deny he is mine.

Sargent-Baur:

In this my thirtieth year of life / When I had drunk down all my shames / While compos mentis (more or less) / Notwithstanding many pains, / Every one of which I've had / Under Thibault d'Aussingny - / If he's a bishop, blessing streets, / That he is mine, this I deny;

On the other hand, her choice of the word "Englishing" (putting into English) is less than felicitous. I find it awkward and no contribution to communication or clarity.

Villon remains one of the most consistently studied medieval authors, at every level of instruction and in nearly every disposition of the canon. That Sargent-Baur herself has mastered the vast body of Villon studies is certain; her bibliography is just as surely not comprehensive but rather somewhat eclectic. Mildred Pope, Viollet-le-Duc, Edmond Faral, Edgar de Bruyne are honored and reputable, but is the list of "critical studies and reference works" necessary enough to have displaced other particular Villon pieces? I would have preferred an exclusively Villon bibliography for this edition. But all in all, the accompanying editorial apparatus is sound and unobtrusive. Students who need to learn the basic facts of Villon's life, achievements, sources, and influences will be able to do so; scholars in search of manuscript variants will also be able to access them readily. And for both, to be able to examine the complete works of this major figure in reliable, portable form is a very welcome prize.