Marginal thinking: Thielman Kerver

Pope & emperor
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Bigot woman & fool
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver

The Parisian printed books of hours at the beginning of the 16th century were richly decorated with all kinds of figures, who populated the margins. The most popular books were by Simon Vostre and Philippe Pigouchet, who created a sequence of 66 dancers: The 30 men from la Danse Macabre and the 36 women from the printed editions of La danse macabre des femmes. It is these marginals that adorn the left side of each and every page on this website.

About a decade later, another publisher, Thielman Kerver, published his own version. On 33 pages of the Office of the Dead he presented the same 66 dancers with two per page. All the way from Pope and Emperor (left) to bigoted woman and jester (right). The order is not quite the same as with Vostre and Pigouchet, e.g. four of the men appear among the women.

Under each dancer was a couplet (a distich). The most popular version (judging by the number of issues and copies) was in Latin, but it was also published in Dutch and Spanish.

Very few editions were in French, but even if there were only a few it was on the other hand the only time that the dance was advertised on the front page: »Heures a lusaige de Romme novellement imprimees, esquelles a plusieurs belles hystoires de la bible avec les figures de lapocalipse, la dance macabre & plusieurs autres«. As far as I know, nobody else than Thielman Kerver — and later his widow — has ever advertised La Danse Macabre on the cover of these prayer books.

But even though Kerver called the 33 marginals "la dance macabre", his couplets have not much in common with the real la Danse Macabre.

There are a few echoes when the priest says: »I ate the living and the dead«, by which he probably means that he earned his living by ministering to the living as well as the dead.

There are also echoes of La Vie de l'Homme, when Death "stabs and bites" the Carthusian: »Tout à mon aise je mords et aiguillonne«.

Apart from these few and faint echoes, the text must be described as original, and moreover it does not seem that the text has much to do with Kerver's Latin, Dutch or Spanish publications.

Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Pope

    Le pape.
Non ostant que soie dieu en terre.
La mort massault & me fait guerre

    The Pope.
Notwithstanding if I were God on earth.
Death assaults me and makes war on me

Iay pouoir sur tous les humains
Et si mort met sur moy les mains

    The Emperor.
I have power over all humans,
and still Death lays hands on me.

Thielmann Kerver F, Emperor
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Cardinal

    Le cardinal.
Lesser me fault ma dignite
Deuant dieu suis par mort cite.

    The Cardinal.
I must leave my dignity;
I am summoned before God by Death.

    Le roy.
Iabandonne sceptre et couronne
puis que mort son assault me donne

    The King.
I abandon scepter and crown
since Death assaults me.

Thielmann Kerver F, King
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Patriarch

    Le patriarche.
Iay eu dignite et honneur
Et mort me monstre sa fureur.

    The Patriarch.
I have had dignity and honor
and Death shows me his fury.

    Le connestable.
Iay rase mainte forteresse
Contre mort peu me vault prouesse.

    The Connétabel.
I have razed many a fortress;
against Death I have little prowess.

Thielmann Kerver F, Connétabel
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Archbishop

Je lesse estat de prelature
Mort fait de moy aux vers pasture.

    The Archbishop.
I leave the state of prelature;
Death makes me a pasture for worms.

    Le cheualier.
Iay eu bruit: renon & puissance:
& si mort me met en souffrance.

    The Knight.
I had reputation, renown and power:
and yet Death takes me into suffering.

Thielmann Kerver F, Knight
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Bishop

A dieu command crosse et mittre
puis que mort ainsi me chapittre.

    The Bishop.
To God I commend crosier and miter
since Death has thus reprimanded me.

Chiens: oiseaulx me fault laisser
puis que mort me vient abaisser.

    The Nobleman.
Dogs and birds I must leave
since Death comes to abase me.

Thielmann Kerver F, Nobleman
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Abbot

Crosse et froc laisser me fault
puis que mort me liure lassault.

    The Abbot.
Crosier and frock I must leave,
since Death delivers the assault to me.

    Le preuost.
Sur iuges ay eu preminence
et mort me met en decadence.

    The Provost / Bailiff.
Over judges I had preeminence
and Death puts me in decline.

Thielmann Kerver F, Bailiff
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Astrologer

Les haulx faitz de dieu ay compris.
et si ie suis par la mort pris.

    The Astrologer.
The high deeds of God I understand;
and yet I am taken by Death.

    Le bourgoys
Tropt ay ayme le mondain bien
quant on meurt on nemporte rien.

    The Citizen.
I loved the worldly good too much.
When we die we take nothing away.

Thielmann Kerver F, Citizen
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Canon

    Le chanoine.(1)
Plus nay dignite ne prebende
puis que mort contre moy se bende

    The Canon.(1)
I no longer have dignity, no prebends,(2)
since Death make himself hard against me.

    Le marchant.
Marchandise / richesse lesse
puis que la mort vers moy sadresse.

    The Merchant.
Goods / wealth I leave
since Death addresses me.

Thielmann Kerver F, Merchant
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Carthusian

    Le chartreux.
Au monde suys mort / & la mort
de son dart mes guillonne & mort

    The Carthusian.
To the world I am dead, and Death
with his dart goads and bites(3) me.

    Le sergent.
Iay fait bons et mauuais exploix
mort sur moy exploite sa fois

    The Sergeant.
I have done good and bad deeds;
Death exploits me one [single] time.

Thielmann Kerver F, Sergeant
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Monk

    Le moyne.
Iabandonne psaultier et clouestre
puis que des mors me conuient estre.

    The Monk.
I abandon psalter and cloister
since Death is my convent.(4)

Bien doy mauldire mon vsure
quant mors suis de telle morsure

    The Usurer.
You may well curse my usury
when I am dead from such a bite.

Thielmann Kerver F, Usurer
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Lawyer

Plet: proces: sacz(5) et escripture
lesse / car mort me desnature.

    The Lawyer.
Pleading, process, bags(5) and writings
I leave, because Death destroys my nature.

    Le menestrier.
Las moy qui fais dancer en feste
la mort de mourir mamonneste.

    The Minstrel.
Alas, I who makes people dance at fairs;
Death admonishes me of dying.

Thielmann Kerver F, Minstrel
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Priest

    Le cure.
Iay mange du vif et du mort
et la mort me mort sans confort.

    The Parish priest.
I ate the living and the dead(6)
and Death kills me without comfort.

    Le laboureur.
en labourant iay prins grant peine
apres pine vient mort soudaine.

    The Peasant / laborer.
While plowing I took great pains;
after pain comes sudden death.

Thielmann Kerver F, Peasant
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Clerk

    Le clerc.
Clerc suis / & ne paruiendray point
a estre prestre / mort me point.

    The Clerk.
Clerk I am, and will not achieve
to be priest. Death points at me.

Se iay mene vie solitaire
La mort nonobstant mest contraire.

    The Hermit.
Even if I led a solitary life
Death nevertheless is against me.

Thielmann Kerver F, Hermit
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Queen

    La royne.
Triumphe / pompe / dignite
La mort met en decrepite

    The Queen.
Triumph, pomp, dignity.
Death puts [me] in decrepitude.

    La duchesse.
Pourtant se suis ieune duchesse
La mort a prendre ne me lesse.

    The Duchess.
Although I am a young duchess
Death puts me in decrepitude.

Thielmann Kerver F, Duchess
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Regent

    La regente.
Iay regente mort me regente
Et si force est que me contente.

    The Regent.
I ruled; Death rules me
even if power is what makes me happy.

Amours & plaisance mondaine
iabandonne / car mort me maine

    The Suitor.
Loves and worldly pleasures
I abandon, because Death takes me.

Thielmann Kerver F, Suitor
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Physician

    Le medecin.
Plus ne fault que gens medecine
puis que mort sur moy senracine.

    The Physician.
I don't need to medicate people anymore
since Death takes root on me.

    La cheualiere.
Moy qui suis de cheualier femme
Mort me separe du corps lame.

    The Knight's wife.
I who am a knight's wife;
Death separates my body from the soul.

Knight's wife
Thielmann Kerver F, Knight's wife
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Abbess

Helas ie suis dame & abbesse
Et la mort mon renom rabesse.

    The Abbess.
Alas, I am lady and abbess;
and Death denigrates my reputation.

Escuyere suys et gentille
Qui treuue la mort difficile

    The Noblewoman.
I am a noblewoman and of noble birth,
who finds Death difficult.

Thielmann Kerver F, Noblewoman
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Prioress

    La prieuze.
Prieuze suis religieuse
Qui deveoir mort suis peu ioyeuse.

    The Prioress.
Prioress I am, a nun,
who must die. I am not very happy.

    La damoiselle.
Ie suis gorriere damoiselle
Pompes lesse quant mort mappelle.

    The Young woman.
I'm an elegant lady
I leave pomp when death calls me.

Young woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Young woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Citizeness

    La bourgoise.
Se iay hante la bourgoisie
mort ne me fait pas courtoisie.

    The Citizeness.
Even if I frequented the bourgeoisie,
Death does not do me courtesy.

Au nombre suis des innocens
et si le goust de la mort sens.

    The Child.
I am among the innocent,
and yet I sense the taste of Death.

Thielmann Kerver F, Child
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Nun

    La religieuse.
En deuocion continente
Iay vescu / et mort men absente.

    The Nun.
In chaste devotion
I lived, and Death makes me leave.

    La femme veufue
Long temps vescu ay en veufuage
& mort me fiert par son oultrage.

    The Widow.
I have lived long in widowhood,
and Death strikes me with his onslaught.

Thielmann Kerver F, Widow
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Franciscan

    Le cordelier.
Les faultes ie remonstre et preche
et en preschant la mort mempesche

    The Franciscan.
I point out the faults and preach;
and Death prevents me from preaching.

    La cordeliere.
Se ay vescu en deuocion
Mort me met a destruction.

    The Franciscan nun.
Even though I lived in devotion
Death puts me to destruction.

Franciscan nun
Thielmann Kerver F, Franciscan nun
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Merchant's wife
Thielmann Kerver F, Merchant's wife

    La marchande.
Ie fais marchandise publique
Et si mort massault et me picque.

    The Merchant's wife.
I make public goods,
and still Death attacks me and stings me.

    La bailliue.
Or suis ie femme dung baillif.
Et mort contre moy prent estrif

    The Bailiff's wife.
Now - I am the wife of a bailiff;
and Death takes up quarrel against me.

Bailiff's wife
Thielmann Kerver F, Bailiff's wife
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Theologian

    la theologienne.
Diuinite cuide comprendre
Estudiant mort me vient prendre.

    The Theologian.
I think I understand divinity;
While studying Death comes to take me.

    [La] nouelle mariee
Mariee suys nouuellement
Et mort massault soudainement.

    The Newly-wed.
I am newly married
and Death attacks me suddenly.

Thielmann Kerver F, Newly-wed
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Spinster maid
Thielmann Kerver F, Spinster maid

    La vieille dame
Abit: atour fait au vieil temps
fault lesser mort car tu matens.

    The Spinster maid.
Clothing, attire, made in the old days;
I must leave it, Death!, because you hold me.

    La bergiere.
Prez / pastiz / et toute verdure
lesse pour endurer mort dure.

    The Shepherdess.
Meadows, pasture, and all greenery
I leave to endure harsh Death.

Thielmann Kerver F, Shepherdess
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Suitoress

Iay deceu(7) gens on lappercoit
Et ie voy que mort me decoit

    The Suitor.
I deceived(7) people, you notice that;
and I see that Death deceives me.

En lit pare coucher cuydoye
Et mort me priue de ma ioye.

    The Bride.
In a bed to lay down, I thought.
And Death deprives me of my joy.

Thielmann Kerver F, Bride
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Darling wife
Thielmann Kerver F, Darling wife

    La mignote.
Ie suis gente propre et mignote
et la mort de ce monde me oste

    The Darling wife.
I'm pretty, clean and cute
and Death removes me from this world.

    La fille pucelle
Suppose que ie soys pucelle
il fault mourir / mort si mapelle

    The Virgin.
Suppose I were a virgin;
you have to die / Death calls me.

Thielmann Kerver F, Virgin
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Hospitable woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Hospitable woman

    La femme dacueil.
Par mon beau parler / et ma pompe
iay trompe gens & mort me trompe.

    The Hospitable woman.
By my beautiful speech / and my pomp
I have deceived people & Death deceived me.

    La nourrice.
Plus ne feray de nourriture
Puis que la mort me desnature.

    The Wet nurse.
I won't make any more nourishment
since Death destroys my nature.

Wet nurse
Thielmann Kerver F, Wet nurse
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Old woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Old woman

    La vieille.
Vieille suis plus ne puis rien faire
et si la mort me vient deffaire.

    The Old woman.
I am old, I can't do anything anymore
and still Death comes to defeat me.

    la reuenderresse.
Ie suis iolie des biens dautruy
Et la mort me prent au iourdui

    The Resales woman.
I am pretty with other people's goods
And Death takes me today.

Resales woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Resales woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Woman with crutches
Thielmann Kerver F, Woman with crutches

    la femme aux po[tences].
Ie ne puis plus marcher sur terre
Et si mort me maine grant erre

    The Woman with crutches.
I can no longer walk on earth
and still Death leads me on a great voyage.

    [la] femme de village
Iay nourry bestes et volaille
Et la mort de son croq me baille.

    The Village woman.
I fed animals and poultry;
and Death's crook delivers me.

Village woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Village woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Chambermaid

    La chamberiere.
Iay seruy et la mort me sert
En fin on a ce quon desert.

    The Chambermaid.
I have served and Death serves me.
In the end you have what you deserve.

    [La] recommanderresse
Femmes / filles / loue et desloue(8)
Et mort a me happer se ioue.

    The Housekeeper.
Women, girls, rent and check out,(8)
and Death is playing to catch me.

Thielmann Kerver F, Housekeeper
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Thielmann Kerver F, Midwife

    [La] Gardedacou[chees].
Iay eu de mainte dame garde
mais mort par sa fureur me larde

    The Midwife.
I have stood guard for many a lady;
but Death by his fury stings me.

    La ieune fille
Moy quon appelle ieune fille
treuue la mort fort difficile.

    The Young girl.
I, who is called a young girl,
find Death very difficult.

Young girl
Thielmann Kerver F, Young girl
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Pregnant woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Pregnant woman

    La femme grosse
De mon enfant nauray lyesse
mourir conuient en ma grossesse

    The Pregnant woman.
I will have no joy from my child;
I must die in my pregnancy.

    La sorciere.
De lart de sort me suis meslee
Et par mort suys anichilee.

    The Witch.
I am involved in the art of magic;
and I am annihilated by Death.

Thielmann Kerver F, Witch
Thielmann Kerver F, Kerver
Bigot woman
Thielmann Kerver F, Bigot woman

    La bigote.
En bigotant bien et mal songe
Et la mort moccist & me ronge

    The Bigot woman.
In bigotry I had good and bad dreams
and Death kills me and gnaws at me.

    La sote.
Sote suys par nom par vsaige
non obstant mort ne me soullaige

    The Fool.
Fool I am by name and from habit;
notwithstanding Death does not soothe me.

Thielmann Kerver F, Fool

External links

Further information:

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

Canon . . .: a priest attached to a cathedral. The canons are so called because they lead a rule bound life, "vita canonica".
Prebend . . .: A stipend allotted from the revenues of a cathedral or a collegiate church to a canon or a member of the chapter.
I am guessing that the last word should be "mors" rather than to have three "mort"s in this short verse. Compare with: »Tout à mon aise je mords et aiguillonne« in La Vie de l'Homme.
I assume that "côuiêt" should have been "couuent" (i.e. convent). "conuient" (fitting, appropriate) doesn't make sense. I also assume that "mors" should have been "mort".
A Sac à procès was a sack / bag where the lawyer collected all the documents of a case. When the lawyer presented his case, he "emptied his bag", and when the case was closed, it was "in the bag".
In La Danse Macabre Death says to the priest: »Le vif le mort solies menger«. Presumably the meaning is that the priest has earned his bread from the living and the dead.
Nowadays, the French word "décevoir" means to disappoint, and "decevoir" and the English "deceive" is a classic example of "false friends": Two words in two languages that resemble each other, but still do not mean the same thing.

However, in Middle French "decevoir" meant the same as "deceive" does today. Back then, the two words were true friends.

In Middle French "lo[u]er" and "deslo[u]er" could also mean to praise and to criticize, but that doesn't seem to make sense here.