The Nobleman
Heidelberg's dance of death, Nobleman

Death to The Nobleman

Komet her ir edlerman
Ir must der sterke pflegen an
Mit deme tode der nymandis schont
Legit ir nw oben euch wirt gelont
Come here, you nobleman;
You must nurse your strength
with Death, who spares no man.
If you win you'll be rewarded.
 
Ich habe manchen man dirschreckit
Der wol was mit harnisch bedeckit
Nun irschreckit mich hie der tod
Vnd brengit yn die engistliche not
I have frightened many men,
who were well covered by armour.
Now Death is frightening me here
and brings on the apprehensive distress.

Death has been equipped with a pair of sagging breasts. If nothing else, it goes to show that Death isn't one single character. In Lübeck's dance of death one might imagine that Death was the same figure, who were skipping around in the dance, but not so in Heidelberg. This is not Death's dance, but a line of the dead.

Holbein, Letter I, The Duke I does lend some weird under-tones to the text when Death comes in the figure of a woman. It's not unusual in the dances of death for Death to challenge a warrior to "the final fight", but here the nobleman has to "nurse his strength" with her, "who spares no man", and he'll be "rewarded if he lies on top".

A little less than hundred years later, Hans Holbein copied the idea of showing how Death in the form of a frail woman has power over even the strongest warrior (see the letter I).


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