L' Ecritoire

Location: Sacramento, California

I am a retired lawyer and administrative law judge, aged but active, with a variety of interests.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Adieu, an Imagined Letter from François Villon


5 January 1463

Dr. Guillaume de Villon
Église de Saint-Benoît-le-Bétourné
Rue Saint-Jacques

Most Revered Father,

You will have heard from your sources of the mitigation
of my sentence of death by the gibbet to exile from the City,
equivalent to my demise by inches. That judgement, although
rendered by a secular court I had hoped would be more just
than the known venality of the chancellery of your friend the
Bishop, has proved to me - again - the folly of expecting that
anything but injustice will be meted to the likes of your
adopted son. I am no criminal, despite the law’s success in
showing otherwise. You know well the catalog of crimes which
society has visited upon me, beginning with the prejudices
which I have suffered of the Church and its offices, the law
and its institutions, and the well-born and their minions, because
I am base-born, although possessed of the degree of master of
arts and undeniable genius. Those religious who knew me best,
and you are in that company, although recognizing my worth,
proved friends of fair weather, failing to understand the
temptations to which a student at the Sorbonne was exposed,
companions who proved to be bad, and women of the street.
That I killed a priest is a fact, but that he invited his own death
is equally true. The matter of the theft, so-called, of the five
hundred gold écus of the College of Navarre was vastly overblown,
and I had agreed to repay the faculty, as you well know. As to
the Coquillards, I became associated with them only by chance,
which would not have offered but for the necessity of fleeing the
City to escape the Provost’s officers in the matter of the aforesaid
Père Sermaise. But I have written nothing not known to you.

Know this, however: you, who failed to understand my needs,
and Thibault d’Aussigny, the tyrant Bishop of Orléans, who
imprisoned me in Meung-sur-Loire with scant cause, and Robert
d’Estouteville, the corrupt Provost of Paris, who persecuted me,
share equally in the crime of destroying one who, believing in his
merit, aspired to nothing but the pleasures which come to you by
virtue of your birth.

Having set the record right, I bid thee adieu.

François Villon, né Montcorbier

-James M. Moose

Poem, Swells


With feudal roots, from a time
before the Conquest,
the landed aristocracy in 1880
was still God's elect,

the wealthiest, and most powerful
segment of the population
of the British Isles,
owned four-fifths of the land,

dominated government
at all levels, controlled
the House of Commons
as well as the House of Lords.

Their offspring filled
the upper ranks of
the Army, the Church and
the Civil Service.

But the electorate
was enlarged,
landowners were taxed,
financial pressures grew.

The landed classes
‘proved themselves’
in the Great War, but
‘vanished in blood and fire.’

The honors system changed:
in London, one could not
‘throw a stone at a dog
and fail to hit a knight.’

Lloyd George, aristocracy’s
implacable enemy,
remarked that its place
in history will be

‘like the scent on a
pocket handkerchief,’
but its history is largely
Great Britain’s history.

-James M. Moose

Poem, Cape Horn Incident

Cape Horn Incident

The Grace Harwar, short-handed, full-rigged ship,
sunk scupper-deep with Aussie grain, had borne
a weight of storm so wroth we scarcely knew
that she would live, as we approached Cape Horn.
A dame of forty years, with only hand
machinery, she had no steam or heat.
A falling spar had killed a man two days
before, and made our misery complete.

As night was coming on, a heavy sea
swept youthful Jaakko Sjöberg overboard.
The helmsman threw the wheel hard down, and brought
the vessel, shiv’ring, to the wind and toward
the place the boy was seen to grasp the ring
thrown out thereat his parting shriek was heard.
We would not yield Cape Horn another man,
and all our vessel’s meager crew bestirred!

We’d lashed our boats against the stormy sea,
with davit tackle blocks unroved, so straight
with frenzied speed we rove new rope, and set
a boat afloat, six oarsmen and the mate,
the Frenchman in his underwear and John
still stiff and sick, and all in train to freeze.
We dropped astern, and presently we lost
the ship in failing light and roiling seas.

We feared to lose ourselves, as happened in
a case we knew, but pulled about and guessed
where he’d be found. At length, a miracle!
When we had thought to quit, atop a crest
three troughs away we saw his bobbing head.
The while, it seems, the ship had us in sight,
and now ran slowly down as we retrieved
a living boy, and foiled Cape Horn aright!

-James M. Moose

Poem, The Eviction of the Copahs

The Eviction of the Copahs

the heading of an article in the June 14,
1903 edition of the New York Times.

“No more pathetic scenes
have been witnessed anywhere,”
the piece begins, describing

the eviction of the Copah band
“who, from time immemorial,
had dwelt on Warner’s Ranch,”

an Eden blessed with thermal
springs and advertised today
to be “a legendary resort.”

Their removal flowed
from the order of
our nation’s highest court

affirming swindles wrought
upon these guileless Indians
by scheming Mexicans, sly Yankees

and Holy Mother Church,
strong adherents all
to the icon Rule of Law.

–James M. Moose