Basel: The Councilman

The Councilman
Basel's dance of death, The councilman

Todt zum Rathsherrn:
SInd jhr ein Herr g'wesen der Statt,
   Den man im Rath gebrauchet hatt:
Habt jhrs wol g'rathen, ists Euch gut,
   Wird Euch auch abziehen den Hut.

Death to The Councilman
Have you been a master of the city,
who has been used in the council,
[and] have you ruled well, [then] it is good for you.
I also take the hat off you.

Der Rathsherr:
ICh hab mich g'flissen Tag vnd Nacht,
   Daß der Ghmein Nutz werd betracht:
Sucht Reich vnd Armer Nutz vnd Ehr,
   Was mich gut dunckt, macht ich das mehr.

The Councilman.
I've made an effort, day and night,
that the common good was considered.
I sought benefit and honour for rich and poor;
what I thought good, I increased.
Kleinbasel, Juror
Büchel, Juror

In Kleinbasel on this place there's not a councilman, but a juror (Fürsprecher). If one compares the picture of the lawyer (to the left) with Merian's copperplate of the councilman above, one can see that Death has the same posture and is in the act of tearing the hat off the lawyer / councilman.

The lawyer / councilman is the only added participant in the first half of the dance when compared to the 24 staple characters in the Oberdeutscher vierzeiliger Totentanz (in the second half there are 14 new ones).

The juror was changed into a councilman and this probably happened when the mural was renovated by Hans Kluber. Kluber must have taken a peek at Bern's dance of death, because Kluber's text is reminiscent of the citizen in Bern:

The Councilman in Basel:
Sucht Reich und Armer Nutz und Ehr,
Was mich gut dunckt, macht ich das mehr.
The Citizen in Bern:
Jch suocht stätts der Statt nutz und Eer,
was mich guotts duecht, da macht Jchs meer.

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

Have you been long a city-lord
And had your seat at council board?
And giv'n good judgment? Well's your hap!
Still I must now remove your cap.

Both day and night I've laboured much
That none the common good might touch;
Of rich and poor the welfare sought,
And still the best to pass I brought.

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

Have you been of the town a lord,
Who in the senate had his worth
Have you well adwised is good for you
Your hat now drawing off I do.

I have endeavoured day and night
That the best of the common considered be might,
Search't the glory and profit of poor and rich,
What I fancied be good for majority I wish'd.


Various Artists

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