Archive for the ‘paul zech’ Category

bonus: francois villon

July 4, 2008

i knew it existed – it just took me a while to come acrosss it. between 1974 and 1983 there existed a project called poesie und musik, publishing records that combined – right: poetry and music. based on texts by heinrich heine, pablo neruda, the (west-)indian chief seattle (and another record with northamerican-indian texts). and one with texts by francois villon. more precise: with the texts of paul zech, based on the poetry of francois villon. (for an explanation you might want to visit my earlier villon post).

this project was headed by the swiss musician rené bardet – for the first three records (the two heine records and the villon record) he worked together with orlando valentini and a certain andreas vollenweider. not much i know about orlando valentini – he seems to have played with various musicians over the time. he passed away a couple of years ago – as did rené bardet, who quit being a musician in the 80s and started to work in the media industry. but as all you (new agers) know, andreas vollenweider rose to international fame during the 1980s and is known now for his solowork as well as for his many collaborations. i have to admit that i always found it amazing the every household in california seemed to have at least one of his cd’s (and one of kitaro, of course)…

but back to 1976, when the three of them published the francois villon record.

i have to admit i was first a little bit disappointed – it starts with an instrumental in the medieval-folks-y style – and it continues to have that kind of style – sometimes more jazzy – for the first couple of songs. well, of course my expectations have been high, since i was on the lookout for this record for a while. but this kind of updated medieval sounding style is just not my cup of tea… first it seems to me like the poetry and the music are rather parallel then together – not unlike the the villon record by richard lauffen i posted earlier (and that is still up). but somehow the poetry of villon seems even further away by trying to put it in a musical context that refers to a time very long gone. somehow it is like seeing shakespeare in an “authentic” performance and then seeing the movie romeo and juliet from 1996 (yep, the one with leonardo di caprio), where the original text (and consequently the play) suddenly makes sense again by moving the visual to the now. or to try to explain it differently: the first couple of songs / ballads seem to be made too obviously like “one sould make it” but seem like not…hm…to have been appropriated enough. but in a way it is interesting to note that the music refers to a time before the texts by paul zech were created… but then comes the last song on the first side – and suddenly it works. it is kind of a romantic, (pop-)ballad flavoured with a spanish guitar. and although rené bardet still declames the text, it is suddenly really poetry and music, together. and the same is true for the second side: it starts with a more blues-y number – which fits the words perfectly and continues to the most amazing track, sommerballade von der armen louise, which is…heartrending.

so – starting at the end of the first side and for the full second side the music and the words re-inforce each other – it’s not just the music giving a nice background… but as usual i think you should listen to it for yourself. poesie und musik: francois villon, ripped from vinyl, including the coverscans (on the back-cover you see the three of them young and cute) you can get here. wikipedia informs me that there is a re-issue of this record planned, but i could not find any other source confirming this information, and andreas vollenweider does not even list this record in his discography on his website. and now make yourself a stiff drink and enjoy mister villons prose!

real gangsta: francois villon

December 11, 2007

hm, maybe not a gangster, but a thief, a thug, a vagabond… and a poet.

it was clear that after hadcore hip hop i had to post something, well, strong. so i thought it might would be interesting to go back in time a little bit and introduce you to someone who lived his live in disrespect of authority and the law. and made ballads, telling about it.

curtain up for: francois villon. “a little bit back” means actually 15th century. yep, and already then poets sung of the life in prisons, of way too much wine, of the pleasures to be found through fornication, of whores (and pimping them), and – translated into today’s language – of “fuck the police”. of death (through hanging), of the sorrow of the easy ladies that age and lose their beauty and drie up and of the corrupted powerful. in short about the lowlife.

Ballade de Bonne Doctrine (1461)
“Tout aux tavernes et aux filles…”

See Notes below for translation of the translation!


Suppose you screeve, or go cheap-jack ?
Or fake the broads ? or fig a nag ?
Or thimble-rig ? or knap a yack ?
Or pitch a snide ? or smash a rag ?
Suppose you duff ? or nose and lag ?
Or get the straight, and land your pot ?
How do you melt the multy swag ?
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.


Fiddle, or fence, or mace, or mack;
Or moskeneer, or flash the drag;
Dead-lurk a crib, or do a crack;
Pad with a slang, or chuck a fag;
Bonnet, or tout, or mump and gag;
Rattle the tats, or mark the spot
You cannot bank a single stag:
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.


Suppose you try a different tack,
And on the square you flash your flag ?
At penny-a-lining make your whack,
Or with the mummers mug and gag ?
For nix, for nix the dibbs you bag
At any graft, no matter what!
Your merry goblins soon stravag:
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.

The Moral

It’s up-the-spout and Charley-Wag
With wipes and tickers and what not!
Until the squeezer nips your scrag,
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.


Stanza I, line I. Screeve = provide (or work with) begging-letters.
Line 2. Fake the broads = pack the cards.
Fig a nag
= make an old horse seem lively with a fig stuffed with ginger stuck up its arse.

Line 3. Knap a yack = steal a watch.
Line 4. Pitch a snide = pass a false coin. Smash a rag = change a false note.
Line 5. Duff = sell sham smugglings. Nose and lag = collect evidence for the police.
Line 6. Get the straight = get the office, and back a winner.
Line 7. Multy (expletive) = bloody.
Line 8. Booze and the blowens cop the lot = drink and debauchery (i.e. syphilis) will kill you off.

Stanza II, line 1. Fiddle = swindle. Fence = deal in stolen goods. Mace = welsh. Mack = pimp.
Line 2. Moskeneer = to pawn for more than the pledge is worth.
Flash the drag
= wear women’s clothes for an improper purpose.
Line 3. Dead-lurk a crib = house-break in church time. Do a crack -burgle with violence.
Line 4. Pad with a slang = tramp with a show.
Line 5. Mump and gag = beg and talk.
Line 6. Tats = dice. Spot, (at billiards).
Line 7. Stag = shilling.

Stanza III, line 2. Flash your flag = sport your apron.
Line 4. Mug = make faces.
Line 5. Nix = nothing.
Line 6. Graft = trade.
Line 7. Goblins = sovereigns. Stravag = go astray.

The Moral: Up the spout and Charley Wag = expressions of dispersal.
Line 2. Wipes = handkerchiefs. Tickers = watches.
Line 3. Squeezer = halter or hangman’s noose. Scrag = neck.

SOURCE – link

i definitly love his poetry – very strong – sometimes very dark, sometimes very ironic it is amazing that it still survives to this day – and seems to keep its strength. as with many artists, his popularity actually rised after his death – never forgotten, he was seemingly rather popular in the 16th century and then again in the 19th century with poets like verlain, rimbaud and baudelaire seeing themselves in this tradition of the poète maudit.

and up to this day for me his poems echo in many works – relating to works presented on this blog i would like to mention jean genet and marc almond. and although linking it to gangsta hip hop might be a little bit far fetched, it does remind me of the more interesting hard hip hop, the one that is not primarily interested in asserting some enormously blown up ego and blagging about how bling bling one’s life is, but describing this gangster life, maybe even glorifying it – but with the right dose of humour and awarness that there is a gritty side to it, too (i am thinking for example of hell hath no fury by clipse – definitly gritty. and an excellent production by mister pharell. if you want a listen, here a link. thanks to the original uploader!)

so if you want to get started with francois villon – there are a couple of english translations around – yep, time to visit your bookstore. for an introduction to his life, wikipedia is a good starting point – there you’ll also find some interesting links.

another good starting point is la société villon – a collection of links to his work in french, translations in other languages, and more.

if you would like his complete poems in french, you can visit the project gutenberg.

and now we come to villon in german – after all that was how i first read his poems. but in germany the poetry of francois villon has a somewhat different story and their popularity is closely linked to two names: klaus kinski and paul zech. yeah, klaus kinski, the mad one of the great german actors. a great actor and – truly mad. he actually recorded some poems by francois villon (in their german translation) and made them hugely popular – the most famous might be “dein roter erdbeermund”. and here we come to the special twist in the german reception of francois villon. the most popular translation is by the german author paul zech. he lived in the first half of the 20th century and is basically known for his translation of francois villon. the twist in the story is: he less translated then re-created francois villon’s poems – and some, that in this form have not been written by monsieur villon – ironically enough dein roter erbeermund seems to be pure paul zech… of course this has been critisized many times – another critisism has been that his translations have taken out some of the lewdness of the original poems. on the other hand paul zech’s poems have a beautiful strong language to it. a language that made them certainly (also for me) very accessible and powerfull. and there remains the question how poems can be translated at all? so francois villon is in the german speaking countries filtered through paul zech. if you would like to read his nachdichtungen nach francois villon you can either get the paperback or do so online – here. one of these i am especially fond of – it has been the ballad of villon that i’ve read first, my introduction to his work – is die ballade von den vogelfreien – kinski recorded it under the title of verehrt und angespien:

Die Ballade von den Vogelfreien
Autor: François Villon

Vor vollen Schüsseln muss ich Hungers sterben,
am heissen Ofen frier ich mich zu Tod,
wohin ich greife fallen nichts als Scherben,
bis zu den Zähnen geht mir schon der Kot.
Und wenn ich lache, habe ich geweint,
und wenn ich weine, bin ich froh,
dass mir zuweilen auch die Sonne scheint,
als könnte ich im Leben ebenso
zerknirscht wie in der Kirche niederknien…
ich, überall verehrt und angespien.

Nichts scheint mir sichrer als das nie Gewisse,
nichts sonnenklarer als die schwarze Nacht.
Nur das ist mein, was ich betrübt vermisse,
und was ich liebte, hab ich umgebracht.
Selbst wenn ich denk, dass ich schon gestern war,
bin ich erst heute abend zugereist.
Von meinem Schädel ist das letzte Haar
zu einem blanken Mond vereist.
Ich habe kaum ein Feigenblatt, es anzuziehn…
ich, überall verehrt und angespien.

Ich habe dennoch soviel Mut zu hoffen,
dass mir sehr bald die ganze Welt gehört,
und stehn mir wirklich alle Türen offen,
schlag ich sie wieder zu, weil es mich stört,
dass ich aus goldnen Schüsseln fressen soll.
Die Würmer sind schon toll nach meinem Bauch,
ich bin mit Unglück bis zum Halse voll
und bleibe unter dem Holunderstrauch,
auf den noch nie ein Stern herunterschien,
François Villon, verehrt und angespien.

and if you would like to listen to a collection of francois villon’s / paul zech’s poems, i ripped you lasterhafte lieder / jazz und francois villon spoken by the german actor richard lauffen over jazz fragments (by charlie parker, george gershwin, django reinhardt, sergio mihanovich, benny goodman, john lewis, dizzy gillespie and milt jackson).


ripped from vinyl@224 as two mp3-tracks (side a / side b) you can get it here. enjoy!

according to the liner notes, the underlying of these ballads and poems with jazz was to demonstrate the still contemporary character of villon’s texts – rightly so, i think. and here we can close the circle again – to my knowledge a couple of other musicians have taken to the task to combine villon’s words with music – but wouldn’ it be time for hip hop to acknowledge one of its less obvious sources?


You bible-sharps that thump on tubs, false clerics
You lurkers on the Abram-sham, beggar feigning sickness
You sponges miking round the pubs, cadgers loafing
You flymy titters fond of flam, saucy girls; trivial things
You judes that clobber for the stramm, women dress; game
You ponces good at talking tall,
With fawneys on your dexter famm – rings; right hand
A mot’s good-night to one and all! whore’s


Likewise you molls that flash your bubs whores
For swells to spot and stand you sam, pay for
You bleeding bonnets, pugs, and subs, gamblers’ decoys; boxers
You swatchel-coves that pitch and slam. Punch-and-Judy-men
You magsmen bold that work the cram, pattering tradesman; crowd
You flats and joskins great and small, marsh-dwellers & country bumpkins
Gay grass-widows and lawful-jam – wife
A mot’s good-night to one and all!


For you, you coppers, narks, and dubs, police-informers; warders
Who pinched me when upon the snam, when I was thieving
And gave me mumps and mulligrubs “the blues”
With skilly and swill that made me clam, refuse food
At you I merely lift my gam – leg
I drink your health against the wall! piss
That is the sort of man I am,
A mot’s good-night to one and all!

The Farewell

Paste ’em, and larrup ’em, and lamm!
Give Kennedy, and make ’em crawl! thrash them and make them stir
I do not care one bleeding damn,
A mot’s good-night to one and all!

SOURCE – link