Basel: The Fool

The Fool
Basel's dance of death, The fool

Todt zum Narren:
WOlauff Heyne du must jetzt springen,
   Schürtze dich auff vnd laß dir lingen:
Dein Kolben magst jetzt wol lan bleiben,
   Mein Tantz wird dir den Schweiß außtreiben.

Death to The Fool
Well then Heyne, you must now dance.
Prepare yourself, and hurry up.
You may now leave your fool's bauble behind.
My dance will drive the sweat out of you.

Der Narr:
O Weh ich wolt gern Holtz aufftragen,
   Vnd all Tag viermahl werden g'schlagen:
Vom Herren mein vnd seinen Knechten,
   So muß ich mit dem Dürrling fechten.

The Fool.
Oh woe. I would rather carry firewood
and be beaten up four times a day
by my lord and his servants.
Yet I must fight with this dry man.
Holbein, Death drags the queen away.
Holbein, The queen
Kleinbasel, Fool.
Büchel, Fool

Death fetching the fool was obviously inspired by Holbein's dance of death, where Death drags the queen away (picture to the left). Death's clothes as well as his posture are copied from Holbein.

This has probably happened when Hans Kluber renovated the mural in 1568. If we compare with the mural in Kleinbasel (picture to the right), the figures are standing stiff and motionless, and neither the fool nor Death are "specially" dressed. The only thing that distinguishes the fool from all other dancers was originally just his bauble, which had a bladder attached at the end.

English translation from Beck, 1852
Death to the Jester.The Jesters reply.

Come Hal, dance now without a jest,
Gird up your loins and do your best;
Your club you may leave on the ground
My dance will sweat you, I'll be bound.

Woe's me! I'd carry wood or clay,
And blows endure four times a day;
From Master and from servants all,
Rather than hear this dry man's call.

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

Well harry, jump up with speed,
Tuck thy self up, let thee succeed,
Thy club, thou mayts quit at once,
Drive out thy sweat that will my dance.

O woe! I would rather carry woud,
And four times a day be beaten I should,
Of my master and his men,
Than to fight with this meager man.


Various Artists

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