Lübeck's Dance of Death

The Citizen, the Beguine and the Fool

De borger

Ach Got, wat hebbe ik
dar vele umme dan,
Dath ick mach heten
eyn erbar man.
Unde ock vele geldes
mochte werven,
Dat sulve to laten my-
nen kynderen unde erven.
Hadde ik den armen
ghegeven myt flyd!
Ach de dot nympt my
dat levent unde tyd.

The Burgher

De baghyne.

Do men my nicht kon-
de ryke beraden,
Moste ick werden ba-
gyne draden
Ik hebbe geknuttet,
geneyet unde gewracht,
Myt kleynen sorgen
myn levent henne bracht,
Ock hebbe ick my erne-
ret myt der spyllen.
O dot, schone myner
noch umme Jhesus willen.

The Beguine

De doet to deme borger

Du borger, lechst grote sorge dar an,
Dattu mogest heten eyn ryke man.
De tytlik gud wyl sammelen ane sunde,
Unde Gode dar by wyl hebben to frunde,
Der synt manckt vyven nauwe twey.
Dede socht ewich gut, selich is de.

De dot to der bagynen

Vorveer dy nicht, kornute, suster bagynken,
Id is all eyns, eft du hetest Wobbeke efte Kristinken,
Krichstu wat to wetten gysteren efte hüde,
Wo draden kumpt dat manckt de lüde.
Neen dinck hyndert dy nu so sere,
Alse vele unnutte tydynge unde nye mere.

De dot tom doren

Hyntze Sychelenfyst van Geckeshusen,
Du hefst lange noch gan in deme susen,
Du dorest fuste an, lest ock nicht aff
Unde blyfst eyn narre wente in dat graff.
Dantze vort, ick wyl di vore syngen,
Du must nu na myner pypen springen.

De dor efte geck

The Fool

Al wor, ik weet de fetten slöke,
Dar gha ick hen manckt de köke,
Ick ethe unde dryncke myt den heren,
Eyn ander betalet, ick helpet vorteren
Myt lichten synnen, bungen unde pipen.
Nu kumpt de dot unde wyl my grypen.

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 citizen

You citizen are taking great care
that you might be called a rich man
who wants to gather temporal goods without sins
and furthermore wants to have God as a friend.
There are among five hardly two
who seek [the] eternal good - blessed be they.

Death to the beguine

Do not terrify, friend, little sister beguine,(1)
It's the same whether you're named Wobbeke or Kristinken.
If you are told something yesterday or today -
how soon will it come [out] among people?
Nothing hinders you now as much
as many useless tidings and new stories.

Death to the fool

Hyntze Dripfart from Fool's House(3)
You have long enough walked in a whirl of pleasures.
You are fooling constantly - [you] never leave off either
and remain a fool until in the grave.
Dance forth - I will sing for you,
You must now dance to my pipe.

The citizen

Alas God, much have I done so
that I could be called a decent man
and also could earn much money
for my self to leave to my children and heirs.
Had I given to the poor with diligence!
Alas, Death takes the life and time from me.

The beguine

Since I could not be richly equipped(2)
I had to become a beguine at once.
I have knitted, sewn and worked -
with [only] small sorrows spent my life.
I have also sustained myself with the spindle.
Oh Death, spare me for Christ's sake.

The fool or dupe

Wherever I know the fat bites [are]
there I go to among the cooks.
I eat and drink with the masters,
another one pays - I help consuming,
with light spirits, drums and fifes.
Now comes Death and wants to grab me.

Kuntze van Geckeshusen and Hyntze van Narrenberg from "Dat Narren schyp".
Dat Narren Schyp

The fool did not appear in Des Dodes Dantz so there's no wall-and-hilly-landscape-picture of him.

Instead the Mohnkopf printery recycled a picture from a Low German version of Sebastian Brant's "Dat Narrenschyp" (the ship of fools, Lübeck 1497). The front page of this book sported two fools named Kuntze Apenslechte van Geckeshusen and Hyntze van Narrenberg. The printer of Dodendantz used the woodcut and last name of van Geckeshusen, but with van Narrenberg's first name.

It wasn't only the woodcut of the fool that was taken from Dat Narrenschyp. The same thing was true for the fool's remark about the cooks and the fat bites, (fetten slöke, de köke):

Mannich holt fruntschop myt deme koke,
Up dat he moghe hebben vette sloke

(Dat Narrenschyp, leaf 206a, chapter 100,35-36)

The woodcut of Hyntze van Narrenberg (the one who didn't appear in Dodendantz) was later used by Hans Vingaard in a Danish translation of Bruder Rausch / Friar Rush.

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3)

Beguine...: A member of one of various ascetic and philanthropic communities of women not under vows founded chiefly in the Netherlands in the 13th century
(Merriam Webster)
beraden...: The word specifically means equipping a daughter/ bride (to equip a son is called "van sik setten").
Hyntze is a boy's name (=Henry). The rest is an ironical sobriquet. See the notes about the image.