Copenhagen's Dance of Death, Part 26

we dig ath du til verden kom

Borgemesteren Suarer.

Ach Gud, huor skal ieg det forstaa
ath ieg saa snart aff verden skal gaa
Ieg mente ieg skulle end bliffue sparit
til ieg finge flere sager forklarit
Disse borgere kunde mig icke ombære
de haffue aff mig stor heder och ære
Nogen stund haffuer ieg borgemester værit
i gode dage mit leffnit fortærit
Eya, huor stinger nu døden mig
O Gud altmectigste ieg flyer til dig

Døden Suarer

Kom nu met mig Borgemester bold
Her er alt ende paa dit vold

FlowerDøden til Nunnen

Kloster Nunne du edel pige
Iomfru Alhed du skalt nu vere min lige
Din viiel oc kuuiil(4) oc rosenkrantz skøn
der faare for du icke mere løn
(Ey heller for faste och læsning din)
End du haffde gangit och voctet suind

The Nun

Flower Nunnen Suarer

Hielp Maria, mig er saare mødigt
skal ieg nu dø det gør ieg nødigt
Ieg hører nu ath det duer ey
ath tiæne Gud met Klosterey

… woe unto you for coming into existence.

The Mayor Answers.

Alas God, how shall I understand this?
That I so soon must go from this world.
I thought I would yet be spared
until I had arranged more things.
These citizens cannot do without me(1)
they have great honour and glory from me.
I have been a major for some time;
spent my life in good days.
Eya(2), how Death now stabs me
Oh God, most almighty I flee to you.

Death Answers

Come now with me, bold mayor.
Here is an end to your power.

Death to the Nun

Convent Nun, you noble girl,
Maid Alhed,(3) you shall now be my equal.
Your veil and cowl(4) and lovely rosary
for that you won't receive more wages
(neither for your fasting and reading)
than if you had been herding pigs.

The Nun Answers

Help Mary, I am very tired.
Shall I die now? I do this unwillingly.
I hear now that it won't do
to serve God with monastic life.

Death to the mayor The nun Click the little pictures to see the original pages.

Sunte Birgitten Openbaringe The woodcut of the nun wasn't only used in the dances of death. The picture to the right is from another book by the Mohnkopf printery, Sunte Birgitten Openbaringe ("Revelations of Saint Birgitta"), 1496. The woodcut is supposed to portray "Sunte Katharina van watzsteyn" — i.e. Saint Catherine of Vadstena, the daughter of Birgitta. At the bottom of the frame one can see the Mohnkopf printery's two characteristic escutcheons: three poppy fruits and a capital T with a cross.

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

these citizens . . .: Meyer points out a subtle difference: In Des dodes dantz the text goes »de mênheit kan miner noch gans ovel entberen« and in Dodendantz it goes »De borgers konen my nicht wol entberen«.

The Danish version employs the demonstrative pronoun, i.e. "these citizens" instead of "the citizens". One might imagine a theatre play, with the actor playing the part of the mayor gesturing dramatically towards the audience who are thus involved in the play as "these citizens".

Eya . . .: exclamation of surprise.
Alhed . . .: apparently the name of the nun.
viiel oc kuuiil / veil and cowl . . .: It's interesting how the old Danish words are much closer to English than modern Danish "Slør og hætte".

In Dødedantz the word used is »Kiortel« i.e. coat.


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