Copenhagen's Dance of Death, Part 8

Mr Emperor, you are a great man
chosen to rule many countries
To improve the entire Christianity
and to debase God's adversaries.
With the sword in justice
to keep the Christians together.
This was part of your job to make perfect,
that would both benefit and help you.
But whether it is or not,
go with me and don't say no.
I will throw you into my castle.
there you shall cry and howl and fast.
All of your teeth shall chatter.(1)
This will happen to you without happiness.

The Emperor answers.

Help me now God, and all the saints.
It appears to me Death won't spare me.
I have so much pain as if my heart would break.
Therefore I cannot do without medicine.
If all the physicians in Greece
were with me, to inspect my water(2)
and I could eat up a farmacy
it still wouldn't help my sick body.

The Emperor

Death is hurrying up
and disease is fastening in my heart.
I was ordered by my lord and God
that I should have lived after his command.
Many grievances were brought before me.

Death speaks to the emperor The emperor Click the little pictures to see the original pages.

If you want to read the page in the original medieval Danish, select the Danish section by clicking the red-and-white flag at the top right corner of this page.

Footnotes: (1) (2)

In her book, Memento mori: Bild und Text in Totentänzen des Spätmittelalters, Susanne Warda makes the point that Death's castle seems to have attributes that normally are associated with Hell and the damned. She suggests that the lines are an allusion to Matthew 8:12.

In fact Matthew uses the phrase "gnashing of teeth" six times, but Luke (who only uses this phrase once) may be a even better match: »There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out« (Luke 13:28).

Physician with a urine glass from Lübeck's dance of death.
Physician with a urine glass
Inspect my water . . .: Urine glass. Indispensable part of medical science in the Middle ages.

Check the physician or see the picture to the right.


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