Lübeck's Dance of Death

The Cardinal and the Bishop

De Cardinal

Deus meus, God, wes
myner jo nu dechtich.
Al byn ick in stathe
hoch unde mechtich
Gheholden, de stede
der hilgen apostel,
Werdich geachtet ja
ach so kostel,
De doet wyl my dyt
gantz vorderven.
God gnade my, wen-
te nu moth ick sterven.

The cardinal

De bisschop.

Pax Domini unde syne
grote barmherticheyt
Mothe my nu jo syn
Wo eyn recht bisschop
schal leven,
Dat heft Paulus tho
Thimotheo schreven.
Dat bedencke ick nu in
myneme lesten.
O God, ghetruwe her,
de föge yd tome besten.

The bishop
Death with spade

De dot tome cardinal

Her Cardinal, tret her
an mynen dantz,
Ick mene dy ernstlyk,
heel unde gantz.
Dyn apostelyke staeth
unde werdicheyt
Wert nu gantz unde
heel nedder gheleyt,
Jo hogher stath di God
heft ghegeven,
Jo grotter rekenschop:
dyt merke even.

Death with scythe

De dot tome bisschop

Her bisschop, du werst
nu geföget to der erde.
Eyn bisschop is eyn
gheystlik herde.
Hefstu de schape Cristi
gheholden in acht,
Nicht vorstroyet, men
men ghevödet unde wacht
Dar suss alle prelaten
synt to vorplicht:
Bystu so, dantze vort,
fruchte nicht.

N.B.: The book should be read from right to left: First Death's admonition, then the answer of the dying person. The translation below is presented in the proper (logical) sequence. The Low German text in the "book" above has been modernized to make it more readable. Click here to read the original text.

Death to the cardinal

Mr Cardinal, step here to my dance.
I mean you - earnestly, wholly and fully.
Your apostle-like state and dignity
will now be fully and wholly put down.
The higher station God has given you -
the greater reckoning: notice this carefully.

Death to the bishop

Mr. Bishop, you will now be added to the earth.
A bishop is an ecclesiastical shepherd.
Have you paid attention to the sheep of Christ,
not scattered, but fed and watched(1) [them]
as all prelates(2) are required to:
Are you so, dance forth - fear not.

The cardinal

Deus meus - remember me now, God.
Though I am, in rank, high and mighty
holding the place of the holy apostles,
worthily esteemed, yes, oh so dear -
Death will spoil it all for me.
God have mercy on me - for now I must die.

The bishop

God's peace and his great mercy.
Might I now be prepared
like a real bishop shall live;
This has Paul written to Timothy.(3)
This I consider now in my last [moment].
Oh God, loyal Lord, the addition(4) it [is] for the best.

Speygel der Leyen, Bishop
Mohnkopf, Speygel, Bishop
Speygel der Leyen, Bishop #2
Mohnkopf, Speygel, Bishop #2

Oddly, the Mohnkopf-printery had one more picture of the bishop - complete with wall and hilly landscape.

The Mohnkopf-printery used the woodcut in Euangelia from 1492 and in Speygel der leyen, where it was supposed to depict the holy Augustin.

Hans Tausen's answer to the bishop of Odense

At any rate, the Danish printer Hans Vingaard used the picture in 1529 in the Danish Reformer, Hans Tausen's, answer to the bishop of Odense, where the picture was supposed to resemble the said bishop of Odense.

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

The sheep are the congregation that should be fed with the words of God ("Our daily Bread").
Prelate. . .: Ecclesiastical of high rank.
St. Paul's 1st letter to Timothy 3, 2-7: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; [...]
The addition . . .: Compare with Death's words: "you will now be added to the earth".