Villon's Last Will: Language and Authority in the Testament

By Tony Hunt | Go to book overview

3
Love's Martyrs

Sachiez qu'Amour l'escript en sa volume.1 [And know that Love inscribed it in her book]

THE references we have seen to the Roman de la Rose may serve as a reminder of the power which this work exercised on subsequent writers in respect of both the subject of love and the production of literature as a distinct cultural phenomenon. The Testament exhibits a reaction against both features. The great tradition of glossing and commenting which the work provoked2 is playfully reflected in the editorial carte blanche which 'povre Villon' gives to Jean de Calais (stanzas 174 and 175) with an insouciance which implies detachment from the fate of his work (see above pp. 32-3). So far as love is concerned, the whole courtly tradition is banished from the Testament as if it were completely irrelevant. The authority of the Roman de la Rose and of the theoreticians of amour courtois is undermined and the instability of love is reflected in a linguistic instability enshrined in the notion of 'love's martyr' adopted by the testator for distinctly ironic purposes.

The theme of love is first introduced in a mood of despondency as the testator reflects on his desertion by his friends because he has no money ('par faulte d'un peu de chevance', 184), which provokes the protest that he has never squandered money on high or loose living:

Si ne crains avoir despendu
Par friander ne par lescher,
Par trop amer n'ay riens vendu
Qu'amis me peussent reprouchier, (var. Que nulz me puisse]
Au moins qui leur couste moult cher. (185-9)

[There's no danger of my having squandered money on gourmandizing, nor for love have I sold anything for which I could be reproached by my friends,

____________________
1
Testament, 1384.
2
See Sylvia Huot, The Romance of the Rose and its Medieval Readers: Interpretation, Reception, Manuscript Transmission ( Cambridge, 1993).

-50-

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Villon's Last Will: Language and Authority in the Testament
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Writing and the Fragmentation of Authority 13
  • 2- Praise and Blame 34
  • 3- Love's Martyrs 50
  • 4- The Voice of Morality 72
  • 5- Dialogue 82
  • 6- Rhetoric and Irony 97
  • 7- The Indeterminate Author 125
  • Appendix 1 Villon and the Mendicants 143
  • Appendix 2 Glossary of Rhetorical Terms 146
  • Appendix 3 The Use of Anadiplosis in The Introduction to the Testament 149
  • Appendix 4 Binomial Expressions in the Testament 151
  • Bibliography 154
  • Index of Rhetorical Terms (see Also Appendix 2) 157
  • Index of Persons 158
  • Index of Lines Cited 160
  • Index of Subjects 165
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