Lübeck's Dance of Death

The Young Nobleman and the Maiden

De juncher

Ach neen, leyder, dat
is vorkeret.
Gode to denen hebbe
ick nicht wol gheleret,
Men slomen domen
dryncken unde syngen,
Myt pypen bungen
dantzen spryngen.
Myn vader heft my
vele to hope lacht,
Up den dot hadde ik
noch nicht ghedacht

The young nobleman

De junckfrouwe.

Ach neyn, ick byn yo
noch eyne yunge derne,
Myne elderen behelden
my ock gantz gerne,
Eya, mochte ick behol-
den dat leven.
Dar wolde ik al mine
kleynöde umme geven.
De dot sparet nicht ol-
de efte de nyen,
Ick bevele my deme so-
ne der junckfrowen Marien.

The maiden
Death with spade

De dot tome juncheren

Juncker, wo rechte
fromde is dy by my,
Unde byn doch nu so
na by dy,
Dat schaltu recht
also vorstan:
Dyn levent is nu tho
deme ende ghan.
Hefstu wol ghedenet
Gode, dyneme heren,
So kumpstu nu tho
groten eren.

Death on the lion

De dot tor junckfrowen

Junckfrouwe Gyseltrut,
wo ick dy schal heten,
Dantze vort, laet dy
nicht vordreten,
Du plechst gerne tho
dantzen unde spryngen,
Vele nye leede lerestu
To stervende make dy
hastygen rede,
Dar synt vele achter,
de möten alle mede.

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 young nobleman

Nobleman, what a real stranger you are to me,
and yet I am now so close by you.
This you should rightly understand so:
Your life has now come to the end.
Have you served God - your master - well
then you will now come to great honour.

Death to the maiden

Maid Gyseltrut, [or] what I shall call you.
Dance forth; don't let yourself get depressed.
You usually like to dance and spring -
many new melodies you learn to sing.
Make hastily yourself ready to die -
there are many behind - they must all [go] along.(1)

The nobleman

Alas no, unfortunately, that's wrong -
I have not really learned to serve God
but boozing, gluttony, drinking and singing -
with fifes, drums, dancing, springing.
My father has gathered a heap [of riches] me.
I have not yet thought of Death.

The maiden

Alas no - after all I am still a young girl.
My parents would also quite well like to keep me.
Eya,(2) might I keep the life.
For this I would give all my treasures.
Death spares neither old nor the new [ones].
I surrender myself to the son of the Virgin Mary.

Footnotes: (1) (2)

There are many behind...: Quite an understatement. In Des dodes dantz Death tells the maiden the names of 70 girls who must also join the dance.
Eya...: Exclamation of surprise