Dead Men's Music

Dead men's music

Dead Men's Music

Naar du en fuld Musik af Folk dig forestiller;
Tænk da, at Dødninger for deres Lige spiller.
    Paa Klokken klingrer een, een stryger flink paa Bas,
    I Valthorn blæser een, og viser Time-Glas.
Eens Gaver lystelig vi her på Fløyten hører.
Een anden Spillemand sin Tromme hurtigt rører.
    Saaledes Dødninge opfører den Musik,
    Hvorefter alle Folk igiennem Verden gik.
Lad dig, o Menneske! saaledes ey indtage
Af kort Forlystelse i Livets usle Dage,
    At du forglemmer det, som allervigtigst er,
    At, nemlig: Døden dig er allevegne nær.
Du i det beste Lav for ham er ikke sikker.
Vel den , som her betids sit Huus saa vel skikker,
    At han kand dandse med, naar Døden komme vil,
    Og ubesmittet gaae fra Verdens Spøg og Spil.
Af disse Spillemænd du maae den Lærdom drage,
At naar dig Verden vil ved Tidsfordriv indtage:
    Saa maae du tænke paa det dødelige Leer,
    Hvori du Sielen her i Verden iklædt seer.
Du af dit Legem dig aldeles ey maae bryste;
Thi kand en Dødning-Rad dit Øyesyn forlyste:
    Så speyl dig kun i dem, som her afbildte staaer.
    See saa, hvad Lystighed og Skiønhed vel formaar.
When you imagine a symphony made by people;
Consider then, that dead men play for their peers.
    On the bell chimes one, one fiddles skilfully on his bass,
    In the French horn blows one, and shows an hourglass.
Ones talents merrily we hear on the flute.
Another player quickly touches his drum.
    So do dead men make the music
    That everybody followed through the world.
Let yourself, oh Man! not endear in this way
By short merriment in the wretched days of life,
    That you forget that which is most important,
    That, namely: Death is close to you everywhere.
You are not safe from him in the best company.
It's good for man in time to set his house in order(1),
    So he can dance along, when Death wants to come,
    And untainted leave the world's jests and games.
From these musicians you must learn,
That when the world wants to endear you with pastimes:
    Then you must think of the mortal clay,
    That you see the soul wearing in this world.
You must not be proud of your body;
Because if a skeleton can amuse your eyes:
    Then mirror yourself(2) in those who stand portrayed here.
    See then, what merriment and beauty are capable of.

Footnotes: (1) (2)

put his house in order . . .: Isaiah says to king Hezekiah both in 2nd Lings 20:1 and in Isaiah 38:1, "Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live".

Also 2nd Samuel 17:23, "And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, […]".

See this page about the dance of death as a mirror.

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