The Count

The Count
Basel's dance of death, The count

Todt zum Graffen:
HErr Graff gebt mir das Bottenbrodt,
   Es zeucht euch hin der bitter Todt:
Lasst euch nicht rewen Weib vnd Kind,
   Ihr müsst tantzen mit diesem G'sind.

Death to The Count
Mr. Count, give me the messenger's bread.(1)
The bitter Death pulls you away.
Don't mourn over wife and child.,
You must dance with these servants.

Der Graff:
IN dieser Welt war ich bekannt,
   Darzu ein Edler Graff genannt:
Nun bin ich von dem Todt gefellt,
   Vnd her an diesen Tantz gestellt.

The Count.
In this world I was [well] known,
and also called a noble Count.
Now I'm felled by Death,
and placed here in this dance.

The count with the correct year: 1512
Büchel, Count 1512

In Kleinbasel a year was painted above the count. Our only witness to this painting, Emanuel Büchel, read the year as 1312.

Unfortunately, this misinformation has spread to much of the literature on dances of death, because that would clearly make this mural the oldest dance of death in the whole world — even older than the very wall it was painted on. Thus it was this dance that had inspired, not just the more famous dance in Basel, but every dance of death in the whole world.

Later, Büchel tried to moisten the wall with a damp cloth and could now read the year as "1512". This was apparently not the year of the creation of the mural, but of a renovation of the west wing.

English translation from Beck, 1852
Death to the Earl.The Earl's reply.

Sir Earl, give me the runner's fee;
Most bitter news Death brings to thee;
For wife and child do not complain,
You now must dance with vulgar men.

Throughout the world I was well famed
And noble Earl was always named,
Now Death has struck me down at once
And borne me off to join his dance.

Translation from Hess, 1841
Death to the Count.Answer of the Count.

Lord count give me the messengers fee,
Bitter death draw's you away you see;
Do not repine at your wife and cattle,
You must dance now with this rabble.

In this world I was well renoun'd,
And even cal'd a noble count;
Now am I slain by death at once,
And placed here in to his dance.


Various Artists

Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Count
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Count
Büchel (1768)
Büchel 1768: Count
Büchel (1768)
Büchel 1768: Count 1512
Büchel (1773)
Büchel 1773: Count
Fragment (1805)
Fragment 1805: Count
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Count
Hess (1841)
Hess 1841: Count
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Count
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Count

Footnotes: (1)

messenger's bread. . .: a Botenbrot is a reward given to the messenger for bringing good(!) news. Maybe it's an allusion to Death acting as God's messenger.