The Canon

Figuren, Figuren: Canon

    Der doit
HEr fürt dů stoltzer dümherr
Dü besitzest nü vnd nummer mee(1)
Dyn pfrund(2) rent güld vnd gůt
Dar vor hettestu dich nyt behudt.
Troist dich selbst wan du můst sterben
Vnd magst nyt lenger tzijll erwerben
Laiß dyn dedyng(3) vnd kom herfort
Dich bait keyn bede noch suße wort.

Forward here, you proud canon.
You possess now and never more(1)
your prebends,(2) interest, gold and goods.
You haven't guarded yourself against this.
Comfort yourself, for you must die,
and may not gain longer respite.
Leave your negotiations(3) and come forward.
No prayers will help you, nor sweet words.


    Der dumherr
Ach got wie sall ich myr geben droist(4)
In vnserem capitell(5) was ich der boist.
Vijll pfründen(2) vnd groiß gut han ich besesszen.
Nü wirt myn ewicklich vergeßen
Hett ich myn noitdorfft genommen
Geyn goit mocht yß myr nü frommen
Vnd auch myt gedeylt den armen
So wůrde sych goit vber mych erbarmen.

    The Canon.
Alas God, how shall I give myself comfort?(4)
In our chapter(5) I was the worst.
I have owned many prebends,(2) and great goods.
Now I'll be forgotten forever.
Had I taken [only] what was necessary,
it would now benefit me in front of God
and [had I] also shared with the poor,
then God would have mercy on me.

Holbein: Canon
Holbein Proofs, Canon

A canon is a priest who's attached to a cathedral. The word comes from their rule-bound life: "vita canonica".

Canons are always depicted with an almuce, a fur-cloak lined with animals' tails. For more examples, see the picture to the left, Holbein's initial L, and Basel's dance of death.

In Paris' danse macabre, Death mentions the »a[u]musse grise« (grey almuce) of the canon; in London's dance of death it's translated as »Amys of gris«, and in Copenhagen's dance of death, Death makes a comment on the canon's »grey fur cloak« — presumably a cloak that's furred with grey fur.

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

"now and never more" is a bit contradictory. The meaning must be: "only until now".

Rieger claims that the manuscript in Kassel says: »nit vnd nummer mer«, but I don't agree.

Prebends . . .: A stipend allotted from the revenues of a cathedral or a collegiate church to a canon or a member of the chapter (thank you, Mr Webster).

Dedyng . . .: the word is a combination of "day" and "thing" (i.e.: a governing assembly). Originally the word referred to an appointed day at the thing, later it became negotiations / agreements in general, and finally, the word came to mean "talk, chatter".

We see the same word when Death tells the empress in Copenhagen's dance of death: »Du skulde dagtinget de wsle oc arme«: "You should have supported the wretched and poor".

give myself comfort . . .: as a response to Death's suggestion in line 5.

rule / chapter . . .: Chapter (Latin capitulum) designates certain corporate ecclesiastical bodies in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Nordic Lutheran churches.

The word is said to be derived from the chapter of the rule book: it is a custom under the Rule of Saint Benedict that monks gather daily for a meeting to discuss monastery business, hear a sermon or lecture, or receive instructions from the abbot, and as the meeting begins with a reading of a chapter from the Rule, the meeting itself acquired the name "chapter," and the place where it is held, "chapter house" or "chapter room." (from WikiPedia).