The Cardinal

The Cardinal
Figuren, Figuren: Cardinal

    Der doit
HErr Cardinal nü springet an dißen reyen
Mytt uwerm mantell hant yrr gain meyen
Mych duncket üch verwünder dyß fart
Nü komet vnd offenbart
Uwer sund dye yr haint begangen
Groiß ere hait uch vmbfangen
Uwer mantell vnd roder hůdt
Kleyn hůlffe geyn myr nü dut.

Mr. Cardinal, jump into this row now.
You have played around(1) in your coat
It seems you are puzzled about this journey.
Come now, and reveal
your sins that you have committed.
You have received great honour.
Your coat and red hat
will help [you] little against me now.


    Der Cardinal.
MAntell vnd hůt sollent mir nit schaden
Ich han mych sost vijl vberladen
Mit gierheit in tzijtlichem gůt
Glych als der straißenrauber dut
Mocht ich des noch quidt werden
Dwill ich noch byn off erden
Ich hoffte goit sollt myr gnedig syn
Vnd erloisen üß ewiger pyn.

    The cardinal
Coat and hat will not hurt me.(2)
I have otherwise often gorged myself
with greed after earthly goods,
like the highway robber does.
If only I could let go of it,
while I am still on earth,
[then] I could hope that God would show me mercy
and save [me] from eternal torment.

It seems tbat Death accuses the Cardinal for having "gone Maying". Originally the word, "meyen" meant to "make oneself like the month of May" i.e. dressing up with green leaves and flowers — just like the young man and the maid have done.

Later on, it meant "to dress up". We have the same word in Danish in "at maje sig ud" and "udmajet" (i.e.: dolled up).

To "go Maying" could mean to pick the first flowers of May, or just enjoying the spring in general. Robert Herrick (1591-1674) wrote: »Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying«, while Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) wrote: »May Day Will you go a-maying, a-maying, a-maying, Come and be my Queen of May and pluck the may with me?«

According to Grimm's dictionary, "maien gehen" had more specific meanings locally — such as »minnen oder freien gehen« (go loving and wooing), and at the river Rhine (where this dance takes place) it may simply mean to visit a friend to have a chat: »rheinisch ist davon noch übrig maien, einen freund besuchen, um mit ihm zu plaudern«

In Elsass / Alsace (at the bank of the Rhine) "meien gehen" also meant to pay a visit, and apparently this wasn't restricted to the merry month of May. There was an expression, "Maiengänger", which meant: »Frau, die immer in anderen Häusern auf Besuch ist«, i.e. a woman who is always on a visit in other houses. Just like the citizeness is.

Whatever of these meanings Death has in mind, none of them falls under the job description of a cardinal.

Strictly speaking, "Meyen" could also have something to do with mowing (modern German: Mähen), but that would be an odd thing to say to the cardinal, particularly since it's normally Death who goes around mowing with his scythe. As Death says in beginning of Des Dodes Dantz: »Ick wyl iw alle myt desser setzen vmme meyen«, "with this scythe I will mow you all down".

Footnotes: (1) (2)

This translation is uncertain. "Meyen" in Old German could mean to "make oneself like May" i.e. dressing up with green leaves, and later just to dress up.

See the discussion at the bottom of the page.

Lemmer interprets this as "Coat and hat should have protected me from being hurt".