The Mayor

The Mayor
Basel's dance of death, The mayor

Todt zum Schultheiß:
HErr Schultheiß auff, dann es ist Zeit,
   Daß Leib vnd Seel miteinander streit,
Das thu ich auff der Leyren singen,
   Dem Liedlein mögen jhr nachspringen.

Death to The Mayor
Mr. Mayor, up, for it is time
that body and soul fight each other.
This I'm playing for you on the lyre.
You may dance after this little melody.

Der Schultheiß:
MEin Ampt hab ich mit Fleiß versehen,
   Hoff es sey niemand vnrecht g'schehen:
Am G'richt dem Reichen wie dem Armen,
   O GOtt du wöllst dich mein erbarmen.

The Mayor.
I've attended diligently to my office.
I hope nobody has suffered injustice
in court - the rich as well as the poor.
Oh God, have mercy upon me.
Detail: wheel fiddle
Wheel fiddle

Death says he will play his lyre and the picture does indeed show him turning the handle of his wheel fiddle (German: Drehleier, literally "turn lyre").

The first half of the word "Schultheiß" is schuld - so a Schultheiß is a person who decides what obligations all citizens incur. As his own remark about "injustice in court" shows, a Schultheiß had both executive and judiciary power.

Depending on time and place, Schultheiß can be used about a number of positions ranging from the duke's right hand man to the presiding member of the church board. As to two translations below show, it could also mean judge and bailiff.

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

'Tis time, O Judge, to lay to heart,
That soul and body once must part;
While on my lyre this truth I sing,
Take heed, and to my music spring.

With care I've done my duty long,
And hope that none has suffered wrong;
When rich and poor shall judged be,
O God! have mercy upon me.

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

Up bailiff, this time, is just the right,
That soul and body, together must fight,
This on my lute I do you sing,
and after this song, you may spring.

My charge with diligence I've done
And did I hope to nobody wrong,
At court, the poor as the rich,
O god! have mercy this I wish.


Various Artists

Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Mayor
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Mayor
Girardet (1786)
Girardet 1786: Mayor
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Mayor
Hess (1841)
Hess 1841: Mayor
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Mayor
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Mayor