Initial Sermon
Heidelberg's dance of death, Preacher Heidelberg's dance of death, Sermon

Initial Sermon

O deser werlde weysheit kint
Alle die noch ym leben sint
Setzt yn ewr hercze zwey wort
Die von cristo sind gehort
Daseyne 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 boezen 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 weysen 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 version of the Oberdeutscher vierzeiliger Totentanz. The woodcut of the preacher is much newer than the other woodcuts.

In this booklet 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.

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3)

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.


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