People of Former Times


Queen Blanche sweet as a lily
Who sang with the voice of a nightingale,-
Bertha Bigfoot, Beatrice, Alice,
Lady Arembourg who ruled in Maine,-
And Joan the good of Lorraine
Burned by the English at Rouen,-
Where are they now, oh Heavenly Queen?
And where are the snows of yesteryear?

(“A Ballad of Ladies of Former Times”(stanza 3))

This stanza written by Francois Villon in 15th century French has always reminde
d me of the refrain in the 1968 pop song “Abraham, Martin and John”:

Has anybody here, seen my old friend Abraham –
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good, they die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

More poetry

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