Tuesday, February 21, 2006

first thug

I’m a thug fan. I’m a Villon fan. Villon was the first thug I ever knew. The first thug I got to know in a field like many outsiders I thought was genteel, girly even. Villon was in that field and different. He was a superb poet and not just that, he was roistering drunk and not just that, he was a thief and not just that, he was a murderer and true to Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Suicidal thoughts’ said, “Fuck that” to things I had never heard anyone suggest could be said “Fuck that” to.

Villon was learned; he had gone to University and in medieval France qualified in the most coveted field open to the un-aristocratic with brains, to be a priest. Priest, I had urgh (!) feelings about that but still I could see how that appealed to him. It was the best and like I, he had to have the best, be the best.

I did not know it then but Villon meant a great deal to me too because after getting it all he said, “Fuck that shit” and walked away. That took more than guts and I was always wondering whether I could have such guts to do something like that. Maugham (that secret preacher of pleasure with stories culled from lived lives) in The Lotus Eater had suggested that but I had not tested my courage yet. Villon had.

Villon was also a lesson. He was my teacher about the costs, the penalties to be paid for refusing to conform.

BALLADE OF THE MEN WHO WERE HANGED

Brother men who come along now, we
Are gone; don't let your feelings petrify
Against us. For if you show some sympathy,
God; grace to you can only magnify
Five of us up here - or is it six? We fly
By means of ropes the flesh that once was sound
And sleek but now is mere half-eaten rind,
And only we, the bones, left to discuss
Our rotten luck. Don't laugh, but be chagrined -
And pray to God that He show grace to us.

We call you brothers, and we hope you'll see
Our side of things, although our fate came by
Edict of law. You surely must agree
That all men don't possess an equal high
Intelligence. And now that we draw nigh,
Ask of the Virgin's Son that He be kind
And, never stinting mercy, will befriend
And keep us from that Hell so thunderous.
We're dead-and none need pay us any mind,
But pray to God that He show grace to us.

The rain has washed us clean as clean can be;
The sun has blackened us and burnt us dry:
Eyebrows and beards the crows have carried away
And, helped by magpies, dug out every eye.
Nor are we tranquil as the hours go by
But always we drift restless in the wind
That gaily neglects to keep a steady mind.
We've got more holes than a tailor's thimble has.

Don't do our deeds; do just the other kind-
And pray to God that He show grace to us.
Jesus, to Whose domain we're all assigned
Let Hell not hold us eternally confined,
For that; one place we've got no business
And brothers, your sneering jokes are quite unkind;
O pray to God that lie show grace to us.

Villon was not super human. He had a weakness. Mine was my father. Villon’s was his mother… (a sample)…

Le Testament: Ballade: ‘Item: Donne A Ma Povre Mere’

This I give to my poor mother
As a prayer now, to our Mistress
– She who bore bitter pain for me,
God knows, and also much sadness –
I’ve no other castle or fortress,
That my body and soul can summon,
When I’m faced with life’s distress,
Nor has my mother, poor woman:

I was 16 when I read my first Villon. I was in a new school. I wanted to be left alone but my reputation had preceded me. Then I made a friend, Kalungi Martin, who one Saturday evening when the school was silent, empty and we were the only two left took me by the hand to a secret store, opened and showed me a new world. A world of dusty books and the pungent smell of ageing pages. Books the school library did not want anymore on its shelves. Old books out of fashion but not wisdom. Writers never heard of in ordinary discourse.

The door locked behind me, alone, I squatted and gingerly lifted the dust coated blue covered book nearest to my shoe. It was an anthology of Western greats and the first page I opened was on a writer called Francois Villon (1435-- 1465). At 6:40pm I began reading. I have not stopped reading since.

3 comments:

Lovely Amphibian said...

ah...what? dude, sometimes you wax too philosophical.

Just Rich said...

My first thug was Fagin from Oliver Twist. That was a crook. Eventually, i realised my rebel icon would be Bantu Steve Biko cos he wasnt just rebelling, he was kicking knowledge: "Being black is not a matter of pigmentation- being black is a refelction of a mental attitude."

Degstar said...

umph...me thinks now would be a good time to update, wouldnt you say?