Berlin's Dance of Death and Dodendantz
Dodendantz is from 1520 and thus almost 30 years
younger than Berlin's dance of death. The author of Dodendantz must have
visited Berlin because his dance of death has several similarities with Berlin's:
- Both dances of death include official, parish priest and fool. These characters do not
appear in any other Low German dance of death.
- Both dances of death have six-lined verses.
- Both have a crucifixion scene in the middle of the dance (see
- Death speaks first and then the humans answer him (in St. Mary's and Des dodes dantz it's the other way around).
- The word "dodendantz" appears 6 times in Berlin's text.
In the beginning of Dodendantz, the sequence of dancers deviate markedly from that of the painting in Lübeck
and from Des Dodes Dantz,
since the latter two follow a strict hierarchical order with an alternation of clergy and laity.
See a comparison here.
This too seems to be inspired by Berlin's dance of death: In the middle of Berlin's dance of death there's a crucifixion scene.
The fourteen participants to the left of Jesus are all clergy - starting with
The fourteen participants to the right are secular - starting with
And that's the order in Dodendantz, namely
There are many parallels in the texts. This is particularly true for
the conclusion of Dodendantz,
where Death lists his 3 songs:
Alsus heth de sanck, den ick meen:
Bytterlyken sterven is de erste sanck,
De ander is der klocken klanck,
Der drydde is, in korter stunden
Werstu vorgetten van dynen frunden,
Umme dyn tydlyke gud ghan se to deele,
De worme umme dat flesz, de düvel umme de sele.
Such is the name of the song that I mean:
Bitterly dying is the first song,
the second is the bells ringing,
The third is [that] in short time
you'll be forgotten by your friends,
they go to share your temporal belongings,
the flesh to the worms, the soul to the Devil.
The start of the dance of death.
Even though a lot of letters are missing in
Berlin's introduction (see picture to the right),
it's easy to recognise the text:
[Bytterlyken s]terve[n] ys dy [er]ste sanck
[Dy ande]r alzo dy klokkenklanck.
[Dy drudde van] frunden syn vorgeten
[Al]tydes, dat svlle gy weten
Another parallel is
physician in Dodendantz
who's looking at his own(?) urine glass:
Ach God, hir is gantz klene rath,
Dyt water is vorware gantz quath,
De ferwe is swarth, grön unde roth,
Ick see dar in den bytteren doth.
Up der appoteken is nicht eyn krud,
Dat jegen den doet kan wesen gud.
Alas God, here is very little remedy,
the water is still totally bad,
The colour is black, green and red
I see therein the bitter death.
In the pharmacy there is no [medical] herb,
that can do any good against Death.
The physician in Berlin
Och almechtige god gef du my nu rath,
Wente dat water is utermaten quat
Ik solde wol up dy abbeteken ghan
[Wente i]k sie den dot harde vor my stan
[Dar jeg]en wasset keyn krut in den garden
[Her j]hesu, woldestu myner warten
Oh almighty God, give you me now a remedy
for the water is exceedingly bad.
I suppose I should go to the pharmacy
for I see Death standing close in front of me.
Against this grows no herb in the garden(1).
Lord Jesus, will you wait for me!
"Contra vim mortis, non est medicamen in hortis."
- Against the power of death there is no remedy in the garden.