Basel: The Nobleman

The Nobleman
Basel's dance of death, The nobleman

Todt zum Edelmann:
NVn kommet her jhr Edlen Degen,
   Ihr müsset hie der Mannheit pflegen:
Mit dem Todt, der niemand verschont,
   Gesegnet euch, so wird euch g'lont.

Death to The nobleman
Now come here, you noble warrior.
You must nurse your manliness here
with Death, who spares no man.
Take leave, then you'll be rewarded.

Der Edelmann:
ICh hab gar manchen Mann erschreckt,
   Der mit dem Harnisch war bedeckt:
Nun ficht mit mir der grimme Todt,
   Vnd bringt mich gar in grosse Noth.

The Nobleman.
I have terrified quite many men.
who were covered by armour.
Now the ugly Death fights with me
and really brings me in great distress.
Hieronymus Hess provides Death with a fantastic moustache..
Hess: nobleman

Death's last line, »Take leave, then you'll be rewarded« demands some explanation.

If we take a look at other variants of Oberdeutscher vierzeiliger Totentanz, the text says something rather different: »Ligt ir im ob, euch wirt gelont«, »Ir ligt iv im ob ewch wiert gelont« or »vnd ligent ir om ob uch wirt gelont«. In Heidelberg's block book, Death says »Legit ir nw oben euch wirt gelont«. So the nobleman would have been rewarded for "lying on top" — i.e. winning the duel against Death.

In Kleinbasel, "ligent" has become "seligent", and the line sounds: »Seligent uch wurtht geloht«, which doesn't make sense.

In Großbasel "seligent" has therefore been rectified to "Gesegnet" (probably during a restoration of the mural). »Gesegnet euch« means "make the sign of the cross", but Mischa von Perger suggests that »Gesegnet euch« should be read as »Gesegnet euch mit/von der Welt« or »Gesegnet euch mit/von deinen Freunden« — i.e. a request for the nobleman to take leave of the world, friends, etc.

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

Come hither now, and play the man,
You noble warrior, if you can;
If death, who spares none, be your friend,
You'll be rewarded in the end.

Many a man I've made turn pale
Though cased in a coat of mail;
Now comes grim death to fight with me,
And brings me to extremity.

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

Come here now you noble sword,
Manhood to attend upon my word,
With death who has no regard,
Bless you this is your reward.

I have frightned many a chap,
Who was covered with an iron cap;
Now furious death fight's with me,
And brings me in great need you see.


Various Artists

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