Basel: The Merchant

The Merchant
Basel's dance of death, The merchant

Todt zum Kauffmann:
HErr Kauffmann lassen euwer Werben,
   Die Zeit ist hie, jhr müssen sterben:
Der Todt nimpt weder Gelt noch Gut:
   Nun tantzen her mit freyem Muth.

Death to The Merchant
Mr. Merchant, leave your trade.
The time is here that you must die.
Death takes neither money nor goods.
Now dance here in high spirits.

Der Kauffmann:
ICh hat mich zu leben versorgt wol,
   Kysten vnd Kästen waren voll,
Der Todt hat mein Gab verschmacht,
   Vnd mich vmb Leib vnd Leben bracht.

The Merchant.
I had taken good care in life.
Chests and boxes were full.
Death has refused my gift,
and separated me from body and life.
Weighing money and life against each other.
Merian: The merchants weight
Hess replaces the skull with a bone.
Hess: Merchant

The merchant already has his hand in his purse, but "Death takes neither money nor goods", and so the merchant is made to realize that "Death has refused his gift".

The dialogue is reminiscent of Heidelberg's block book and there you can even see the merchant's purse falling to the ground.

The merchant is weighing his money against a skull (above and to the left). In Hess' lithography (to the right) it's not a skull but a bone.

The package
Merian-family's armour

Merian has added a motif from the Merian family's coat of arms on the package: a black saw.

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

Come, Merchant, let your business lie;
Your time is up, you now must die;
Death can't be bribed with goods or gold
So, dance along, as you are told.

To gather gain I've been well skilled,
Chests and strong boxes all are filled;
But death despises all my wealth,
And robs me both of life and health.

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

Mister merchant let your striving
For time is come you must be dying,
Death takes no gold and no cash,
Therefore dance here with free courage.

I for to life, provided well,
My chests and boxes were all full,
Death my fine gift has despis'd,
And me of body and life depriv'd.


Various Artists

Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Merchant
Merian (1700)
Merian 1700: Merchant
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Merchant
Büchel (1768)
Büchel 1768: Merchant
Büchel (1773)
Büchel 1773: Merchant
Fragment (1805)
Fragment 1805: Merchant
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Merchant
Hess (1841)
Hess 1841: Merchant
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Merchant
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Merchant