The nobleman / Mayor

The nobleman / Mayor
The nobleman

The nobleman

Dot, ik bidde di umme Respijt;
Late mi vorhalen, mine Tijt
Ik hebbe ovel overbracht,
Sterven hadde ik klene geacht.
Mine Gedancken weren, to vullenbringen,
To Lust(3) in idelen Dingen,
Minen Undersaten was ik swar,
Nu mot ik reisen, unde wet nicht war.

Death, I beg you for respite.(1)
Let me tell:(2) My time
I have used badly.
I paid [too] little heed to dying.
My thoughts were to satisfy -
to lust(3) for idle things.
I was hard on my peasants.
Now I must travel and know not where.

Death answers the nobleman

Haddestu gedelt van dinem Gode
Den Armen, so were di wol to Mode,
De klegeliken klagen er Gebreken,
Nuwerle mochtestu se horen spreken.
Dines Pachtes werstu gewert,
Na mi haddestu ninen Begert,
Dat ik ens ummekame to Hants,
Kannonik, tret her an den Dans.

Had you shared your goods
with the poor then you would be at ease now.
The complainers complained their need,
never would you hear them speak.
You were paid your farm rent(4).
You did not desire me,
that I once suddenly came here.
Canon, come here to the dance.

The red area shows the location in the chapel in Lübeck
The painting in St. Mary's Church in Lübeck.
Lübeck #4

There's a big confusion concerning the order of the verses. The painting (which is a copy from 1701) shows the next 3 persons as mayor, canon and nobleman - and this is the order, in which Jacob von Melle wrote them down.

However, the text that Jakob von Melle left us makes no sense. For instance Wilhelm Mantels pointed out that the nobleman is the one who has lived most against the overall moral — having exploited his hardworking subjects in order to obtain money for idle pleasures, and yet Death answers: "Great wages shall you receive. For your work that you have done, God will reward you thousandfold".

Mantels instead suggested that the order should rather be nobleman, canon and mayor. This solution is universally accepted and is being applied on these pages. For lots of details about this puzzle, see the pages about von Melle who wrote down the verses and Mantels who made sense of it.

To sum up: The painting, the High German text and von Melle's text has mayor, canon and nobleman. The text on these pages follows the original sequence, which is nobleman, canon and mayor.

This means that the character showed at the top of this page is the mayor of Lübeck.

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

respit de la mort Respite . . .: The word gets a special sound when one remembers that the painting is from 1463 when the burghers of Lübeck where anticipating the plague epidemic that arrived in the town in the summer of 1464.

The word "respit" also gives associations to Jehan le Fèvre's book "Le Respit de la mort" from 1376. This was the first book ever to mention the phrase "danse macabre".

I'm guessing a bit here. "Verhalen" in Low Germana means to drag, including using ropes to drag a boat.

In Dutch, "verhalen" has the same meanings, but also means "to tell/relate".

But maybe the nobleman just wanted to drag out time?

to vullenbringen - To Lust . . .: Baethcke thinks the second "To" is superfluous and should be dropped. Mantels replaces the second "To" with "De" without explanation. Seelmann and Stammler replace "To" with "Jutto" whatever that's supposed to mean.

I prefer to treat the structure as an apposition: "to satisfy - to lust".

You were paid your farm rent . . .: Namely by the (hardworking) peasant.