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François Villon, the Vagabond King

Updated on August 31, 2011

Life and works of François Villon


Bonnie is visiting Clyde in prison. She has a little present for her sweetheart - a hacksaw. Clyde escapes, is caught again and this time sentenced to fourteen years of imprisonment. He is transferred to the dreaded state prison of Huntsville, Texas.

Bonnie is looking for work in Huntsville. In vain.

Bonnie seeks a refuge in her books and gets possessed by the life and works of the fifteenth century French poet and vagabond François Villon.

In June 1545, after dinner, Villon was sitting on a bench with his girlfriend - Isabeau was her name - near the Rue Saint Jacques. A priest stormed in his direction - he was awfully in love with Isabeau and terribly jealous of François. The priest drew a dagger and tried to stab him in the face. Furious, Villon threw a stone to the head of the priest, who died of his injuries.

Villon fled, and was sentenced to banishment. The sentence was remitted in January 1456 by a pardon from King Charles VII, after he received the second of two petitions from Villon. But as a known murderer Villon could not continue his privileged life as a teacher or get a reputable employment, so he was now forced to sing in inns to survive.

By the end of 1456, he was again in trouble. It is impossible to say if "la femme Isabeau" had again something to do with the quarrel. A certain Catherine de Vaucelles was also named as the cause of a scuffle in which Villon was so severely beaten that he fled to Angers, where he had an uncle who was a monk. Before leaving Paris, he composed what is now known as the Petit Testament, Lais, or the Legacy, which shows little of the profound bitterness and regret for wasted life that can be found in its greater successor, the Grand Testament.

Christmas 1456... The chapel of the Collège de Navarre was broken open and five hundred gold crowns were stolen. The robbery was not discovered until March of the next year, and it was not until May that the police came on the track of a gang of student-robbers. A year more passed, when one of them accused the absent Villon of being the leader of the gang. Villon did not attempt to return to Paris and for four years, he was a wanderer and maybe even a member of a wandering gang of thieves. Nevertheless, he corresponded with Charles, the duke of Orleans, and he resided for some time at his court in the Château Blois. He was also befriended with another prince of the blood, Jean of Bourbon.

Villon spent the summer of 1461 in the bishop's prison at Meung-sur-Loire. He was supposed to have been church-robbing. Villon owed his release to a general jail-delivery at the accession of King Louis XI. Only thirty years old, he wrote his masterpiece, the Grand Testament. But in the autumn of 1462, he was once more imprisoned, for theft, in a Paris fortress. Bail was accepted, but Villon fell promptly into a new street quarrel, was arrested, tortured and condemned to be hanged. This time the sentence was commuted to banishment by the parlement on January 5, 1463. And what has become of François Villon since that day, nobody knows, because the poet disappeared from history...

Bonnie notes in the margin of her biography of François Villon: "Maybe François is reborn in Clyde. Am I then Isabeau?"

A very personal interpretation by Bonnie Parker, of a famous ballad of the infamous French dark poet François Villon:

I die of thirst at te fountain

I die of thirst at the fountain.

I'm sitting by the fire but I'm having cold.

I'm a satyr made of satin,

I'll die young ‘cause I was born old.

I call it out loud and I'm so quiet

about my biggest enemy who is my best friend.

I do not worry, I have no regret

for the money and the goods I have lent.

I'm a white raven, a black swan

and every morning I whish you a good night.

I am sad, but I shed no tears

in the dark where I hide from the light.

I laugh, but I do not know joy.

I find comfort in my grief.

I am innocent, I am suspect,

I am holy and I am a thief.

(Huntsville, BP 1931)

The Beloved Rogue (a Hollywood Classic, 1927)

In 1432, while François Villon is still an infant, his father dies as a martyr to his devotion to France. François grows up to be a renowned poet, an ardent patriot, and a notorious carouser who is not above criminal acts. During the revels of All Fools Day, he insults Duke Charles of Burgundy, for which King Louis XI, who is afraid of Charles, banishes Villon from Paris. In exile outside the city walls, François looks for ways to protect France from Burgundy's plots. When Charles plans to have one of his associates marry the king's ward Charlotte, Villon successfully disrupts the engagement, but for so doing is sentenced to death. But Villon finds a way to exploit Louis's superstitious nature long enough to give him another chance to serve France, while at the same time seeking the hand of Charlotte.

Bonnie and Clyde

A letter from Bonnie to Clyde:

My dearest darling,

Imagine fourteen long years of forced labour. You would leave prison as a prematurely old man, without the will to live. Everyone would have forgotten who you once were. Everyone, except me. But I probably would have died by then, of grief.

You would have spent the best years of your life in solitude, cut off from the outside world, tucked away for me. How awful can life be?

The judges think that you're a despicable guy, but I know you are not. You have to convince them that you are a good man, my love. That you do not deserve this harsh sentence. That you have to leave prison still young, so we can be together again and be happy and...

Your Bonnie


(at my dearest birthday)

In his dreams

he is the Titanic,

hit midships

by an iceberg

and sinking.

She says they're better off

dead than living

this life and he laughs

while he is drowning:

'If I only could be reborn

in your Pacific Ocean

as a baby

of twenty-one years.'

And again

she is in tears.

(BP, Huntsville - March 21, 1931)

Clyde Barrow has declared war on the world and its laws:

December 21, 1931... The punishment of Clyde Barrow is reduced to two years.

February 2, 1932... Clyde returns to his Bonnie. He still makes a boyish impression, but he has learned a lot in jail. He now knows the names and addresses of healers, discrete doctors, lawyers and tailors specialised in the manufacture of revolver holsters.

April 27, 1932. Clyde Barrow and Raymond Hamilton - a former inmate he has met in Huntsville - are going to a music store in Hillsboro, Texas. Clyde orders new strings for his guitar. Raymond demands the money in the cash register. The shopkeeper refuses to give them the money, there are some shots and the following moment the shopkeeper is bleeding to death on the floor. Clyde and his friend Raymond are a new set of strings and 40 dollars richer.

Five months later, in an Oklahoma ballroom, sheriff C.G. Maxwell gets a bullet in the heart and his deputy is seriously injured. There is talk about a Prohibition of all alcolhol and these two guys were drinking definitely too much whisky.

A few days later Clyde and Raymond together with several accomplices attack the railway station of Great Prairie, Texas. The loot? $ 3500.

October 11. Clyde and Raymond are robbing a butcher. He gets two bullets in the abdomen.


Love is criminal:

you are on a hold up

of his heart as he

is on yours.

He is kidnapping you,

hijaking you, bringing you

in all kind of states

of America.

He's making up alibis

in your hiding place, dividing

the loot: a few stolen moments

in a cross-fire of bad omens.

‘You can have your fair share

of me,' he says,

'while I'll having my fair share

of you.

And let this be the only rule

in our gang of two.'

Jay-Z feat. Beyonce - '03 Bonnie & Clyde


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    • Chad A Taylor profile image

      Chad Taylor 

      9 years ago from Somewhere in Seattle...

      A gem of history!

    • RKHenry profile image


      9 years ago from Neighborhood museum in Somewhere, USA

      "I'll die young because I was born old" awesome verbiage. Very well written and put together hub. I enjoyed it very much. Thanks

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 

      10 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Aah, Love... Isn't it grand? Fun stuff, Dutchman.


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