Berlin's Dance of Death, Part 7

Berlin's dance of death, part 7
Young nobleman, merchant and craftsman

Young Nobleman

Her juncker med jwen haweke fyn
gy wolden alle tied die schoneste syn
mennigen hebbe gy gebracht tho valle
vppe den doeth dachte gy nicht mid alle
wedewerken howiren was jwe art
volget nhu desseme dantze mede der fart

Och liue doeth beide noch eyne stunde
ik wolde gerne lewen wen ik konde
alzo muchte ik myne sunde bichten
vnde my med gades licham borichten
sunder dhu wilt dar leider nicht nha beidin
o criste laeth my van dy nummer scheidin
Mr Nobleman with your fine hawk,(1)
you always wanted to be the prettiest.
Many have you brought to a fall.
You did not think about Death at all.
Hunting and merrymaking was your way.
Follow now this dance speedily.

Oh dear Death - wait yet a moment,
I would like to live - if I could.
Then I could confess my sins
and make an arrangement with God's body.
But you will, sadly, not wait for it.
Oh Christ - let me never separate from you.


Her kopman wat gy ghvmmen nu hastych synt
gy sparet noch reghenweder edder wynt
de market ys doch seker hier all gedan
gy muthen enquantzwys met my dantzen gan
vorueret jw nicht legget aff dy sparen
wente sterven is jw ok an ghebaren

Och gude doet wu kome gy my dus hastich an
wol dat ik byn ghewesen eyn thur kopman
doch is myne rekenschop noch gar unclar
dat klaghe ik dy criste al apenbar
wultu se nu clar maken des hefst du macht
ik hebb seker nicht vele up dy dacht
Mr Merchant, goodman, how hasty you are now.
You don't spare [yourself for] rainy weather nor wind.
Still, the market here is certainly all done.
You must, for the sake of appearances(?) go dancing with me.
Do not be terrified; lay off the spurs
because you were also born to die.

Oh good Death, why are you coming so hastily to me?
Though I have been an expensive merchant -
yet my reckoning(2) is still totally unfinished.
This I lament to you, Christ, quite openly.
Will you now finish it - you have the power for that.
I certainly haven't thought much about you.


Her amptman ghut van banstes(3) wol ghebaren
gy synt wesen eyn warkman wol voruaren
dar kunde gy vore behende lyden
gy muthen bet an den dodendantz glyden
sprynghet vp ik wyl jw vore synghen
synt gy wesen ghut so mach jw ghelynghen

Och mechtyghe got wat is myne kunst
synt ik hebbe ghekreghen gades ungunst
den hilghen dach hebbe ik nicht ghevyret
sunder in deme kroghe rvseleret
och criste woldestu my dat vorgheven
so muthe ik myt dy nu ewich leuen
Mr Craftsman good (....?)(3) wellborn,
you have been a very experienced craftsman.
Therefore you could deftly lead [the dance].
You must glide better in the dance of death.
Spring up, I will sing for you.
Have you been good, then you will do well.

Oh mighty God - what is my craft [worth]
since I have obtained God's disfavour.
The Sabbath day have I not kept holy,
but rather celebrated at the inn.
Oh Christ - will you forgive me that,
then I might now live forever with you.

Lübke, 1861. The red lines indicate the damaged parts
Lübke, Berlin
The merchant without spurs
The merchant without spurs, Berlin

Because of the beams from a stair (that was later removed), parts of the mural was damaged here. The drawing of Lübke from 1861 shows the damaged area. The area includes the young nobleman's arm, and according to Lübke there were no traces that there had been a hawk here.

In Lübeck the merchant and craftsman has swapped positions in the dance. This is probably because craftsman is "Amptman" in Low German, while High German "Amtmann" means civil servant. See the notes for Lübeck.

In Berlin, the sequence is intact, and Kopman comes before Amptman. There's also a confirmation, that it's the merchant who's wearing the spurs. Death tells the merchant "legget aff dy sparen".

Judging from the picture to the right, the merchant has already laid off his spurs, but the fresco doesn't always follow the text as explained in this footnote (1)

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3)

Nobleman with a fine hawk
The nobleman with his hawk, Berlin
with your fine hawk . . .: It's not certain whether the nobleman originally had a hawk. The picture to the right is from the concertina-folder for sale in St. Mary's Church, and the publisher only informs us that it's a "reconstructing drawing" from after the First World War. Here the nobleman has a hawk on his arm, but this must have been added during a restoration in the 19th Century. In Prüfer's drawing from 1883 (top of this page) the nobleman is portrayed without a hawk on his hand, and the same is true for Lübke's drawing from 1861. Lübke tells us this area was damaged (see the drawing at the bottom of this page) and there were no traces of there ever having been a hawk here.

Notice, that there's no hard and fast rule that text and painting must reflect each other. As we've just seen, the merchant doesn't have spurs - even though he should have according to the text (see picture above). In the same manner the monk doesn't have a white biretta, the usurer doesn't have a blue sack, and the landlady doesn't have a "false measure" in her hand.

reckoning...: The dead were expected to present a factual report of their life, works, duty, actions, & accomplishments. Compare with Romans 14:12: "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" and 1st Peter 4:5: "Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead".

The merchant is troubled that he hasn't finished his accounts and a very similar concern was voiced by the merchant in Lübeck.

banstes...: This word doesn't make any sense. Seelmann suggests the word might have been »duytzen« - a local variant of »dudeschen« (i.e. German), since all members of the guild had to be German.

Up to Berlin's dance of death