Initial Sermon
Heidelberg's block book, Preacher Heidelberg's block book, Sermon

Initial Sermon

O deser werlde weysheit kint
Alle die noch ym leben sint
Setzt yn ewr hercze czwey wort
Die von cristo sint gehort
Das eyne komet her das ander gehet hyn
Dach des ersten die guten haben gewyn
So sie yn den hymmel komen
Do nemen sie des guten fromen
Das ander die bözen weyzet yn peyn
Der hellen. dy ouch ewig wirt seyn
Dorvm ich euch getrewlich rathe
Tut euch abe oppiger thate
Wenne dy czeit yst korcz yn desem leben
Dor noch wirt ach vnd we gegeben
Dorch den czwefechegen tod
Der die oppigen brengit yn not
Wenne mit seyner pfeyfen geschrey
Brengt her sie alle an seynen reyn
Doran dy weyzen czu den sprungen
Mit den toren werden gecwungen
Als dezes gemeldis figuren
Synt eyn eben bilde czu trawren

Oh, Children of the wisdom of this world,(1)
all who are still alive.
Put two words in your heart
that were heard from Christ.
The one is "come here", the other "go away"(2)
Thanks to the first, the good [people] have advantage
so they come into Heaven.
There they'll receive benefit for their good [deeds]
The other leads the evil [people] to the torment,
Hell, which will also last forever.
Therefore I advice you earnestly
that you avoid idle deeds.
For time is short in this life
then there'll be "alas and alack"
through the double Death(3)
that brings the idle [people] in distress
when - with the screeches of his fife -
he brings all into his dance.
Then the wise [men] will be forced
to spring with the fools.
Like these painted figures,
are a perfect image to mourn over.

I have moved the preacher in the pulpit to the beginning of the dance — because this is where he's placed in other versions of the Oberdeutscher vierzeiliger Totentanz.

In the book he's placed at the end of the dance — but this is probably an error that happened when the 7 booklets were bound into one volume. On the other hand, Susanne Warda points out (page 213) that the preacher is looking to the left. If he was meant to be the preacher at the beginning, he ought to look to the right.

The speech scroll says »dy gnade unsers«, and Hammerstein (page 190) believes this to be a quote from 2 Corinthians 13,13: "The grace of our [Lord Jesus Christ]". Combined with the chalice standing behind the priest, Hammerstein concludes that this picture was produced after the Reformation and thus must be newer than the rest of the series.

One might argue whether the object behind the preacher is a chalice or an hourglass, but it's hard to see why a chalice should characterize the priest as a Protestant. It is also hard to see why the three words, »dy gnade unsers«, should point to 2 Corinthians 13,13 and not to the ca. 10 other places where the phrase is employed. In particular because the word »unsers« / "our" doesn't even appear in 2 Corinthians 13,13 (Martin Luther added the word, but it's not in the Greek text). Hammerstein also fails to explain why a pre-Reformatory priest would be unable to quote 2 Corinthians 13,13.

2 Corinthians 13:13, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
(King James Bible)

As with the apothecary I also have a hard time agreeing with Hammerstein here: A woodcut is used for mass-production of images, but demands great work, especially when cutting the letters. If an owner felt his book was lacking a proper image of a preacher, it would be far easier to make a drawing and add a handwritten text instead of cutting a block.

The final proof against Hammerstein's theory, however, is that ten of the pages have watermark with the head of an ox, and two of these ten pages are 141v, the preacher, and 142r, the sermon.(4)

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

children of the wisdom of this world. . .: is a reference to 1stCorinthians 1:20 where the wisdom of this world is false wisdom as compared to the superior Christian wisdom: Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

The allusion is clearer in the Latin text, where Cpg 314 has »huius mundi sapientes«, the same three words that end 1 Corinthians 1:20 in the Vulgate: »Ubi sapiens? ubi scriba? ubi conquisitor hujus sæculi? Nonne stultam fecit Deus sapientiam hujus mundi?«

The dances of death in Lübeck, Paris and London also started with an allusion to wisdom and eternal life.

Come here / go away. . . The preacher refers to Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus talks about separating the sheep from the goats:
Matthew 25:34: Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Matthew 25:41: Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

The Double Death. . . reference to Judgement day and the eternal torment:
Revelation 2,11: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Revelation 20,6: Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Revelation 20,14: And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Revelation 21,8: But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

In the next line, The Double Death becomes personified.

»Die Vermutung, daß es sich bei den Bll. 141v/142r um Ergänzungen des 16. Jhs. handelt (so u.a. Hammerstein, s. Lit., S. 190), ist aufgrund der einheitlichen Wz. widerlegt«.
(Dr. Karin Zimmermann, Cod. Pal. germ. 438, page 4).

For a list of the watermarks, see Wilfried Werner's »Die Zehn Gebote. Faks. eines Blockbuchs von 1455/1458 aus dem Codex Palatinus Germanicus 438 […]«, page 32.