Basel: The Peddler

The Peddler
Basel's dance of death, The peddler

Todt zum Krämer:
WOl her Krämer du Groscheneyer,
   Du Leutb'scheisser vnd Gassenschreyer,
Du must jetztmals mit mir darvon,
   Dein Humpelkram eim andern lon.

Death to The Peddler
Well then, peddler, you Gressoneyer,
you people-swindler and street-crier.
You must now with me from here.
Leave your shoddy goods for somebody else.

Der Krämer:
ICh bin gezogen durch die Welt,
   Vnd hab gelößt allerley Gelt,
Viel Thaler, Müntz, Kronen, vnd Gulden:
   O Mord, wer zahlt mir jetzt die Schulden.

The Peddler.
I have passed through the world
and have received all kinds of monies:
Many thalers, coins, crowns and guilders.
Oh murder, who will now pay me the amount owing?
Jobst Amman: peddler
Amman, Peddler

If we look at the dance of death in Kleinbasel, we see that at this point in the dance there was a beguine (beguines were members of various ascetic and philanthropic communities of women not under vows).

In Großbasel the beguine has been replaced by a peddler. This probably happened when Hans Kluber renovated the mural, as part of the endeavor to reduce the number of Catholic ecclesiasticals.

The picture to the left is from Jobst Amman's "Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden". This book is from 1568 — i.e. the same year as Hans Kluber's renovation.

Death calls the peddler a Gressoneyer. Gressoney is the name of two villages in Northern Italy, where the German-speaking citizens primarily make a living from peddling.

Beck 1860, The peddler
Basel, Beck

From Meyers Konversationslexikon 1891-1892: »[…] dem 1637 m ü. M. gelegenen Gressoney la Trinite […] das zweite Kirchdorf Gressoney St. Johann (1305 m), beide zusammen mit 2400 Einw. Als Krämer, Maurer, Steinhauer, Zuckerbäcker ziehen die Einwohner weithin in das deutsche Land, um dort ihr Brot zu suchen. Zahlreiche Gressoneyer sind Besitzer hochangesehener Kaufmannshäuser in Luzern, Zürich, Winterthur, Frauenfeld, St. Gallen, Lindau, Kempten, Augsburg, Offenburg, Konstanz«.

There's probably an extra sarcasm in calling a Gressoneyer a Groscheneyer after the little coin, a Groschen. If we look at the translations below, it's precisely the small coin that's being referred to: »Come hither, Pedlar, Penny snatch / you common cheat and noisy wretch« and »Welcome mercer thou penny friar / People cheater and street crier«.

Maybe that's why the peddler protests and points out that he'll gladly receive all kinds of monies: »I […] have received all kinds of monies:
Many thalers, coins, crowns and guilders

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

Come hither, Pedlar, Penny snatch,
You common cheat and noisy wretch;
Now follow me, some other blade
Will gladly carry on your trade.

Throughout the world I long have ranged,
And money of all sorts exchanged,
Pounds, dollars, crowns and farthings too;
O Death, who'll pay me now what's due?

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

Welcome mercer thou penny friar
People cheater and street crier,
Thou must now go with me away
An other with your wares let play.

Through the world I have been running,
and have taken various money
Many dollars and crowns I say,
O murder who will my debt now pay.


Various Artists

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