The Armour-bearer

Armour-bearer
Figuren, Figuren: Armor-bearer

    Der doit
Kum her nach du wapendreger
Du hast geschlaffen vff hartem leger.
In striden groß arbeit gehabt
Das dich nü gar wenig badt
Dyner glich ist mancher geselle.
Den vijll swerer wyrt dye helle
Dan eynem monich das hymelrich
Yr beyder arbeyt ist gar vnglich

    Death
Follow here, you armour-bearer
You have slept on hard beds;
[you have] had much work in fights.
This helps you very little now.
Many fellows are like you,
who will get it much harsher in hell,
than a monk in the kingdom of heaven.
You two's work are completely different.

 

    Der wapendreger
O Heiliger crist dyn vrteyll ist gerecht.
Were ich biß her gewest eyn(1) knecht.
Vnd dynes lydens wapen getragen
So bedorffte ich nů nyt clagen
Nü han ich gedyenet werntlichen herren
Gestanden nach tzijtlichem güt vnd ere
Was myr ist worden tzü lone
Das hilfft mych nü nyt eyn bone.

    The Armour-bearer.
Oh, Holy Christ, your judgment is fair.
If I had so far been your(1) servant
and carried the weapons of your passion,
then I needn't lament now.
Now I've served worldly masters,
strived for earthly goods and honour.
That, which became my reward,
doesn't help me a bean(2) now.

Holbein: The escutcheon of Death
Holbein Proofs, Escutcheon
The escutcheon of Death by Albrecht Dürer
The escutcheon of Death by Albrecht Dürer

It would have been better for the Armour-bearer's salvation had he been Christ's servant and had carried the Arma Christi (Weapons of Christ), also known as the Instruments of the Passion.

Arms is (also) to be understood in the sense of heraldry, as the above illustration shows (see also Holbein's Escutcheon of Death, Die wapen deß Thotß).

Footnotes: (1) (2)

eyn . . .: the three printed editions all write "eyn", but the manuscript in Kassel says "din" (i.e. your).

This makes much more sense in the context, since the armour-bearer is already a servant.

not a bean . . .: Very little — as in "doesn't matter a bean", "I haven't a bean" or "he doesn't know beans about".

Compare with Death's words to the rider in Des Dodes Dantz: »your big words don't help you a bean«.


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