Copenhagen's Dance of Death, Part 16

Death with scythe

Før du kunde din Regel lære
Men, huad som der staar screffuit vdi
det lader ieg denne tid gaa forbi
Kloster haffuer du giffuit dig i
for du ville vere for arbeyde fri

Du vilde aldrig noget gaat lære
huor Guds ord lærdis ville du ey være
Tenck huor det vil met dig gaa
her seer du Døden for dig staa
Ieg gaar nu icke fra dig før
End du kommer igennem denne trange dør

FlowerHer Abbet

Hielp Gud oc maria huor er ieg kranck
skal ieg nu dø wden min danck(1)
I viii Capitteler vor ieg vdi
Før ieg kunde bliffue i Orden fri
Der til meget studeret och lest
om Ordens begyndelsse altsommest
Huor det er skicket aff første tid
at haffue der lærde mend at gøre deris flid
Met vnge drenge i gode lærdomme
ath de kunde der aff bliffue fromme
Oc der optuctis i ære och dygd
dem sielff til gaffn oc euig frygd
Oc vere dem lydige i alle maade
huad deris læremestere monne dem raade
Saa lenge til de kunde duelig vere
selff vel ath leffue, och andre lere

… before you could learn your rule(2).
But what is written in it
I'll skip at the moment
You have entered convent
because you wanted to be free from work.

You never wanted to learn anything good;
where God's word was taught you didn't want to be.
Think what will become of you.
Here you see Death standing before you.
I will not leave you now before
you're coming through that narrow door.

Mr Abbot

Help God and Mary, how I am kranck
shall I now die without my danck(1)
I was in viii chapters(2)
before I could become free in the order(3).
Furthermore I have studied and read much,
mostly about the order's beginning:
How is was arranged from early times
to have learned men there to work diligently
with young boys in good teachings
that they could become pious from this
and there be brought up in honour and virtue
to their own benefit and for eternal delight
and be obedient in every manner
whatever their teachers might advise them
as long as they could be capable
to live well themselves, and to teach others.

Death with scythe The abbot Click the little pictures to see the original pages.

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3)

kranck / danck . . .: These words are copied untranslated from the Low German original to retain the rhyme. In Des Dodes Dantz the text sounds:

Help Got unde Maria, ik bin ganz krank;
Schal ik alrede sterven, dat schût ân minen dank.

The expression "without my thanks" means "whether I want to or not". Notice that the physician says »wden min tack« i.e. in this case the German »danck« is translated into (old) Danish »tack«.

rule / chapter . . .: Chapter (Latin capitulum) designates certain corporate ecclesiastical bodies in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Nordic Lutheran churches.

The word is said to be derived from the chapter of the rule book: it is a custom under the Rule of Saint Benedict that monks gather daily for a meeting to discuss monastery business, hear a sermon or lecture, or receive instructions from the abbot, and as the meeting begins with a reading of a chapter from the Rule, the meeting itself acquired the name "chapter," and the place where it is held, "chapter house" or "chapter room." (from WikiPedia).

order . . .: Religious orders ('Religious Institutes', cf. canons 573-746) are the major form of consecrated life in the Catholic Church. They are organisations of laity and/or clergy who live a common life following a religious rule under the leadership of a religious superior. Many of these are enclosed monastic orders, others are not. (from WikiPedia).

It's less than clear what it means to "become free in the order". Meyer suggests that maybe a monk became free in the order, once he had learned the rule.