O Mensch betracht, Und nicht veracht|
Hie die Figur All Creatur
Die nimpt der Todt, Früh und spot
Gleich wie die Blum Im Feld zergoht.
Oh Man contemplate, and don't despise,|
here this figure of all creatures.
Death takes them, early and late,
just like the flower in the field fades.
The text compares the transitory human life with the flower in the field. This could have been an allusion to several places in the Bible, e.g. Psalm 103:15 or the Book of Job 14:2, but is probably an repetition of Isaiah Chapter 40, which we saw on a previous page: »[…] All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever«.
The text then is a continuation of the slate to the left of the preacher, and it's not the original text, because in the nunnery in Kleinbasel the author instead philosophizes over, how lords and servants look the same in death (incidentally, there's a similar text at the start of the dance in Kienzheim):
Hie richt got noch dem rechten|
Die heren ligen Bi den Knechten
nvn mercket hie Bi
Welger her oder knecht gewesen si
So we have a somewhat paradoxical situation in that the text in the nunnery was addressed to lords and servants, while the publicly accessible dance in Großbasel was about flowers.
The picture of the dance of death starting in the charnel house has inspired Hans Holbein, who used the motive in both his dance of death-alphabet (picture to the right) and his great dance of death (picture above to the right).
|English translation from Beck, 1852|
O man be wise,
|Translation from Hess, 1841|
O man be wise,
Read more about charnel houses / ossuaries.