Lbeck's Dance of Death

The Physician

Translations and notes are to be found below.

The physician

    De arste
Se ik myn water rechte an
So is myne kunst altomalen ghedaen(1)
De doet wil my nu alsus lonen
He dencket myner nicht lenger to schonen
Mannighem hebbe ick gheholpen myt myner kunst
Eyn deel vmme gelt eyn deel vmme god. eyn deel vmme gunst
Nu kan ik my suluen nicht lenger redden dat leuen:
Worde my ok eyne halue appoteken gheuen
Eyn rike man hadde my boden ghesant
He gaf my eynen nobelen(2) in de hant
Dat ick em guden raed mochte gheuen
Sus hebbe ik em vp de appoteken gheschreuen
Noch ock eyn ander de is mede in dem rade
Dar queme my ok noch af eyne vette brade
Myt velen krancken de eren trost vp my setten
Men de doet en wil myner nicht vorgetten
De sake wyl kort so myt my werden
Dat myn licham wert tho ghevoeget der erden
Hir vmme ik god alle desse sake beuele
Vnde ick bydde em dat he wylle entfangen myne sele
Cosma vnde damian(3) gy hylgen arsten vnde merteler beyde
Vorweruet my io nu to gode gud gheleyde.

Death with scythe

    De doet
Her doctor vele hefstu ghesecht van dynen kranken
Nu beghinnestu suluen ok sere tho ancken.
God is de hogeste arste vnde de beste(4)
He helpet erst vnde ok in dat leste
He sleyt vnde maket wedder ghesunt alle daghe
An sele an liue na synem behaghe.
Men schal den arsten eren so heft salomon gheschreuen
Hir vmme en schal syk dyn herte nicht vorheuen.
Wente suluen kanstu dy nicht gehelpen klein noch groet
Men god mach dy helpen vth aller noet
Dat deyt he gerne wente he is vul gnaden
So vern du de armen nicht hefst so seer beladen
Vnde hefst to vele geldes van en ghenomen
Al was en dat ok weynich tho hulpe komen
So we dat wil dat syk god siner schal erbarmen
De schal ok barmhertich wesen ouer de notroftigen armen
De hylgen arsten vnde merteler cosma vnde damian
De hebben dyt alsus myt vlyt ghedaen
De mynschen arstedyeden se an sele. an lyue vth rechter myldicheyt
Dar to leten se sik mertelen dorch den louen der cristenheit
Dyner mesterschop en schal allene nicht tohoren
Dattu alle tyt scholest gelt vpboren
Men meyst vmme leue dyne kunst dorch god bewisen
Nicht du allene men al de syk an kunst der arstedie prisen
Dat sy in dem houede. in den benen. efte in dem maghen
Den krancken to gode reysen dat belonet god to ewyggen daghen

Baethcke's transcription and translation:

735 Se ik mn water rechte an,
So is mine kunst altomalen gedn.
De dt wil mi nu alsus lonen;
He denket miner nicht lenger to schonen.
Mannigem hebbe ik geholpen mit miner kunst,
740 Ein dl umme gelt, ein dl umme Got, ein dl umme gunst.
Nu kan ik mi sulven nicht lenger redden dat leven,
Worde mi k eine halve appoteken geven.
Ein rike man hadde mi boden gesant,
He gaf mi einen nobelen in de hant,
745 Dat ik em guden rt mochte geven;
Sus hebbe ik em up de appoteken geschreven.
Noch k ein ander, de is mede in dem rade,
Dr queme mi k noch af eine vette brade,
Mit velen kranken, de eren trst up mi setten,
750 Men de dt en wil miner nicht vorgetten.
De sake wil kort so mit mi werden,
Dat mn lcham wert togevoget der erden.
Hrumme ik Gode alle desse sake bevele
Unde ik bidde em, dat he wille entvangen mine sele.
755 Cosma unde Damin, gi hilgen arsten unde mertelr beide,
Vorwervet mi jo nu to Gode gt geleide.

The Physician.
If I see my water correctly,(1)
then my [medical] art is completely done.
Death will now reward me thus.
He no longer means to spare me.
I have helped many people with my [medical] art.
Some for money, some for God, some to be in good graces.
Now I can no longer save my own life,
even if I were given half a pharmacy.
A rich man had sent for me;
he gave me a noble(2) in my hand
that I might give him good advice.
Thus I wrote him [a prescription] for the pharmacy.
Furthermore another person, who is in the city council;
there I also received a fat roast [as payment].
There are many ill people who put their trust in me
but Death will not forget me.
It will shortly happen to me
that my corpse will be added to the earth.
Therefore I commit all these things to God
and I pray to him that he will receive my soul.
Cosmas and Damian(3), both of you holy physicians and martyrs,
now give me good escort to God.

Her doctor, vele hefstu gesecht van dinen kranken,
Nu beginnestu sulven k sere to anken.
Got is de hogeste arste unde de beste,
760 He helpet rst unde k in dat leste.
He sleit unde maket wedder gesund alle dage
An sele, an live na sinem behage.
Men schal den arsten eren, so heft Salomon geschreven;
Hrumme en schal sik dn herte nicht vorheven.
765 Wente sulven kanstu di nicht gehelpen klein noch grt,
Men Got mach di helpen t aller nt.
Dat deit he gerne, wente he is vul gnaden,
So vern du de armen nicht hefst so sr beladen
Unde hefst to vele geldes van en genomen,
770 Al was en dat k weinich to hulpe komen.
So we dat wil, dat sik Got siner schal vorbarmen,
De schal k barmhertich wesen over de nttroftigen armen.
De hilgen arsten unde mertelr Cosma unde Damin,
De hebben dit alsus mit vlite gedn.
775 De minschen arstedieden se an sele, an live t rechter mildicheit,
Drto leten se sik mertelen dorch den loven der cristenheit.
Diner msterschop en schal allene nicht tohoren,
Dattu alle tt scholest gelt upboren,
Men meist umme leve dine kunst dorch Got bewisen;
780 Nicht du allene, men al de sik an kunst der arstedie prisen,
Dat si in dem hovede, in den benen, efte in dem magen;
Den kranken to Gode reisen, dat belonet Got to ewigen dagen.

Mr. Doctor, you have said much about your sick [patients];
now you also begin to complain much yourself.
God is the highest physician and the best;(4)
he helps first - and also in the last.
He strikes [with illness] and makes healthy again all days.
In soul, in body, as he pleases.
You shall honour the physician - thus has Solomon written(5)
but still your heart shouldn't raise itself too high
since you cannot help yourself [neither] little nor great.
But God can help you out of all distress;
he does this readily because he is full of mercy
insofar as you haven't strained the poor too much,
and have taken too much money from him,
even when it [the cure] didn't help him much.
So he who wishes that God should have mercy upon him,
he must also [himself] be merciful towards the needy poor.
The holy physicians and martyrs Cosmas and Damian(3) -
they have done it thus with diligence:
They cured people in soul, in body, out of real charity,
furthermore they let themselves suffer martyrdom through love for Christianity.
Your mastery should not only mean,
that you should always earn money,
but rather prove your love for your [medical] art through God.
Not you alone, but all those who take pride in their medical art -
be that in the head, in the leg or in the stomach.
To rouse the sick to God - that will God reward until eternal days.(6)

The physician Death to the physician Click the small pictures to see the original pages.

See the page about the Black Death.

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)

Water...: Urine glass. Indispensable part of medieval medical science. Notice the flask in the physician's hand.
noble...: a former gold coin of England, first issued in 1346 by Edward III, equal to half a mark or 6s. 8d., replaced in 1464 under Edward IV by the rose noble (thank you Mr. Webster).
Cosmas and Damian...: Patron saints of physicians and surgeons. The two twins practised their healing for free, but were tortured and decapitated under Emperor Diocletian - presumably in 287.
God is the highest physician and the best? I thought God was responsible for the plague, as a punishment upon humanity.

I wonder whom Death considers the second best physician. Typhoid Mary?

Sirach 38:1, Honour a physician with the honour due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him: for the Lord hath created him.
to rouse the sick to God... It is strange that the physician suddenly is requested to perform clerical work. It should be noted that the physician is regarded as ecclesiastical because he has studied - in contrast to the barber-surgeon or sawbones who is regarded as a craftsman.

This explains why the physician appears between 2 lay people, the mayor and the nobleman. You might see this note about the overall sequence.

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