The Cripple

The Cripple
Basel's dance of death, cripple

Todt zum Krüppel:
HIncke auch her mit deiner Krucken,
   Der Todt wil dich jetzund hinzucken:
Du bist der Welt gantz vnwerth sehr,
   Komm auch an meinen Tantz hieher.

Death to The Cripple
You too, hobble over here with your crutch;.
Death will now snatch you away.(1)
You have been wholly unworthy to the world.
Come to my dance here, you too.

Der Krüppel:
EIn armer Krüppel hie auff Erd,
   Zu einem Freund ist niemand werth:
Der Todt aber wil sein Freund syn,
   Er nimpt jhn mit dem Reichen hin.

The Cripple.
A poor cripple here on Earth.
Not worthy of being anybody's friend.
But Death will be his friend,
he takes him away [along] with the rich.
Kleinbasel, Cripple.
Büchel, Cripple

Death heartlessly mocks the cripple by imitating his primitive prosthetic leg. Has it been like that since the mural was created around 1440? Or is it a newer element from a later renovation?

That's hard to answer because if we look at the same scene in Kleinbasel, it's impossible to see if the cripple has lost a leg — because the painting is interrupted here by a doorway at the end of the western wall. It's also impossible to tell whether Death has "dropped a leg" owing to the deteriorated condition of the mural.

The dialogue is reminiscent of Heidelberg's block book and other versions of the high German dance of death.

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

Limp this way now with thy old crutch,
Death will relieve thee very much;
Unworthy of the world thou art
So come and in my dance take part.

A poor and lame man here on earth
Is for no man a friend of worth;
But death will prove his friend one day,
And take him with the rich away.

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

Upon your cruch, hopple this way,
For death now will draw you away,
As unworthy of the world thou be
Still let me have a dance with thee.

A poor cripple upon this earth
For a friend, is nobody worth,
But death now his friend will be
And take him like the rich you see.


Various Artists

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

Footnotes: (1)

snatch away. . .: The word "hinzucken" is also used in old German Bibles in 1st Thessalonians 4,17: »darnach wir, die wir leben und uberbleiben, werden zu gleich mit demselbigen hin gezuckt werden in den wolken […]«.
King James renders it as »Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.«.