Lübeck's Dance of Death

The Peasant and the Rider

De bure

Neyntwar, wo schol-
de ik so alrede sterven!
Ick wyl noch bynden
mannyghe gerwen,
Mochte ik leven wen-
te in de arne,
Myn wyff heft ock
vefteyn stucke garne.
Nicht ein schyte scha-
det my, mochte ik leven,
Ok wolde ik minem junk-
eren de pacht wol geven.

The peasant

De rüter

Wol umme, wol heer
myt lichten synnen!
De nicht en waget, de
kan nicht wynnen.
De doth maket my
halff den schrul,
My duncket, he is al-
der dynge dul,
He begynnet my hir
unde dar to plücken,
He menet my vorwar
eyn fel to rücken.

The rider
Death with spade

De doth to deme buren

Tytke burkerl, holth
an myt der hast,
Wen ik angrype, den
holde ick fast.
Hefstu den hilgen
teyn boden horsam wesen,
De dyn kerkhere dy
plach vortolesen,
So wert dy nu scha-
den nicht eyn stucke,
Unde kumpt dy to seer
grotem lucke.

Death on the lion

De doth to dem rüter

Du rüter, woldest ger-
ne juncher heten,
Dantze vort, laet dy
nicht vordreten.
Ik wyl myt dy fechten
in dessen dagen,
Gewynnestu, so wer-
stu nu to rytter slagen.
Ik wil dyn overdaet
nicht lenger schonen,
Dyne groten word hel-
pen dy nicht eyne bonen.

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 peasant

Tytke,(1) peasant, halt quickly;
I hold on to those whom I grasp.
Have you been obedient to the ten holy commandments
that your vicar used to read for you
then you won't be harmed a bit now
and you will come to very great happiness.

Death to the rider(3)

You rider would like to be called nobleman,
dance forth - don't let yourself be depressed.
I will fight with you on this day,
if you win you'll be knighted.
I will no longer spare your violence -
your big words don't help you a bean.(4)

The peasant

No really! How shall I already die like that!
I still want to bind many sheaves.
Might I live until harvest -
my wife also has fifteen pieces of yarn.
Not a bit(2) ails me - might I live.
I would also like to give my nobleman the farm rent.

The rider

Well then, well then, with an easy mind.
He, who doesn't dare, cannot win.
Death makes me half-crazy,
I think he is completely mad.
He is starting to pick me here and there -
He truly intends to tear the skin of me.

Tytke Druckeworst

The peasant is named Tytke both here and in Des Dodes Dantz; in Copenhagen's Dance of Death he is called Tidicke. The name is a diminutive of the same name as German Dietrich and Tidemann.

The same woodcut was also used in the book Henselyns boek from ca. 1498, where the peasant was called "Tytke drucke worst", »Tytke Druckeworst is myn name / Der olden kledynge ik my nicht enscame«, presumably as a reference to the comical figure Hanswurst.

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

Tytke...: The peasant's name.
not a bit...: Truth to tell, the coarse peasant's actual words are "not a sh!t".
rider...: In Des dodes dantz he is called "hoveruter". Baethcke explains the word as a rider working at a prince's court or as a mounted warrior.
not a bean...: Very little - as in "doesn't matter a bean", "I haven't a bean" or "he doesn't know beans about".