Ik hadde wol Vordrach, mochte it wesen.
I would like postponement, if it might be;
|Death answers the physician|
Recht Ordel schaltu entfan,
You shall receive a just sentence
The physician seems to break the over-all sequence with alternating clergy and laity. This is because the physician is considered a cleric — having studied at the university — and in contrast to the "lowly" barber-surgeon / bonesetter who is regarded as a craftsman. The same thing holds true in Des Dodes Dantz for the physician and the student, and in Paris and London for the astronomer, the physician and the lawyer.
The distinction is even clearer in Berlin's dance of death. All the 14 clerics are placed to the left of Christ and here we find the doctor with the urine glass among priests and monks.
Notice the three small figures at the extreme right in the black and white picture. In contrast to the rest of the painting, these persons are not dressed in medieval costumes. Apparently they were added by Anton Wortmann when he copied the painting in 1701.
The physician commits himself to the pain. Here we presume that "bevole" corresponds to High German "befehlen". Like it does for the physician in Des Dodes Dantz, who commits "all these things" to God: »Hir vmme ik god alle desse sake beuele«.
People in the dances of death often commit, commend or entrust themselves to God. In the same way as the physician, the king in Des Dodes Dantz also commends "all these things to the Lord: »O here, alle desse sake ik di bevele!«, and so does the wet-nurse: »O here Got, desse sake bevele ik di!«. The hermit commends his soul into Gods hands: »Mine sele bevele ik in dine hende«, thus echoing Jesus' last words on the cross: »Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit« (Luke 23:46). So does the beguine: »Hîrumme, leve Jesus, ik bevele mi di in dine hende«. So does the hermit in Dodendantz: »Myne sele bevele ick in dyne hende«, while the wet-nurse in Copenhagen's dance of death commits herself: »Thi wil ieg mig nu Gud befale«.
Baethcke agreed with this translation, and he referenced Reyneke de Vos line 370, 1354 and 4375.
There is the technical problem that the word "pin" should be in dative: "der Pin", but Baethcke explains that this was normal in the 15th century, and in his "reorganized" text he writes: »Nu bevele ik mi sulven der pin«.(3)
A bigger problem in my un-German eyes is that when you commit, commend or entrust something to someone, you hand over the responsibility. Typically, people commit their soul to God, however there are other variants: For instance line 370, where Reyneke de Vos no longer eats meat, and therefore commits thee (i.e. the rooster) to God: »Gode, deme heren, bevele ik di« (image to the left), and in line 1354, where Reyneke must leave his wife and therefore entrusts her with their children.
Therefore it could be argued that it doesn't make sense to "hand over the responsibility to the pain", even if "Pain" may here be understood as a theological concept along with "Sin" and "Evil."
The other option is to translate "bevole" as "to feel" (modern German: befühlen). All his life the physician has felt the pain of his patients, but now he feels it himself.
This interpretation is chosen by Freytag,(4) but without giving any particular reason. On the contrary he quotes Luke 23:46: »Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit«.
This translation I think is even worse. "Befühlen" means, "to run one's hands over and examine (possibly in a sexual way)". A physician can "Befühl" a patient for broken bones and abscesses, but he can not "Befühl" a pain.
Moreover, as we have already mentioned, this doctor is a learned person as can be seen from his position in the dance, between the two lay persons mayor and usurer. He wouldn't dream of "feeling" his patients; this kind of menial work was best left to the low-class bone-setter / sawbones / barber-surgeon, who is considered a mere craftsman.
The physician's modus operandi is to inspect the patient's urine (pictured right), and then write a prescription for some herbs. As he says in Dodendantz: »Up der appoteken is nicht eyn krud, Dat jegen den doet kan wesen gud — In the pharmacy there is no medical herb, that can do any good against Death.
The plague doctors of the era wore a beak-like FFP2 face mask (pictured left). The stick in his hand was to poke the patients so he didn't have to "Befühl" them. The physicians of that time were almost as hysterical as they are today over covid-19.
Footnotes: (1) (2) (3) (4)
The physician has been "looked at" by Death, as he himself is used to look at his patients, and is now waiting to hear the verdict, i.e. the "prognosis" from the "doctor".
In the next verse, Death reminds him that the right judgment, "Recht Ordel", is the judgment of Christ.
Wokerer / Usurer . . . : Jacob von Melle gives us two versions of the text, and in the less known version this dancer is not an usurer but a citizen.
For more details, see the following page.
Hermann Baethcke, Der Lübecker Todtentanz: ein Versuch zur Herstellung des alten niederdeutschen Textes. 1873, page 68. His solution for the text is at the bottom of page 49.
Hartmut Freytag, Der Totentanz Der Marienkirche in Lubeck und der Nikolaikirche in Reval, 1993, page 232