The usurer

The usurer
The usurer

The usurer

O du aller unvormodeste Dot,
Up di en dacht ik klene noch grot.
Ik hebbe al min Gut vorsaden,(1)
Mine Böne sint vul Kornes geladen.
Mot ik nu sterven, dat is mi swar,
Unde latent hir, unde wet nicht war.
Ik en wet nicht, war ik henne mot,
Vorbarme miner Her dor dinen Dot.

Oh, you most unexpected Death,
I have thought [neither] little nor much of you.
I have all my goods to satisfy [me];(1)
my warehouse is full of corn.
Must I die now, that is hard for me,
and leave everything, and know not where.
I don't know where I must go.
Have mercy on me, Lord, by your death!

Death answers the usurer

Vorkerde Dor, olt van Iaren,
Anders hefstu nicht uterkaren,
Den dat Gut up desser Erden,
Ik wet nicht, wat van di sal werden.
Up mi so haddestu klene Acht,
Noch to stervende nicht gedacht.
Nu mustu int ander Lant,
Her Kappelan, lange her de Hant.

Mad fool, old of years.
You have not chosen anything
[else] than the goods of this world.
I know not, what shall become of you.
You payed [too] little heed to me.
and neither did you think of dying.
Now you must into the other land.
Mr Curate, give me the hand!

The red area shows the location in the chapel in Lübeck
The painting in St. Mary's Church in Lübeck.
Lübeck #6

The usurer is a staple character in the dances of death, e.g.: in La Danse Macabre and Doten Dantz mit Figuren. According to the text that Jacob von Melle has left us, and according to the new text from 1701, there should be an usurer at this point in the dance.

But the text does not sound like the traditional usurer, who is normally accused of being godless and blinded by his greed. This man is just chided for having filled his store with grain (but not with gold or silver).

Des Does Dantz, Citizen

This is the sort of thing for which you could accuse any citizen, and as shown by the picture to the right there is in fact a citizen on this location in those books that are based on Lübeck's dance of death, namely: Des Dodes Dantz (1489), Dodendantz (1520) and Copenhagen's Dance of Death (ca. 1550).

The odd part is that Jacob von Melle has left us with two transcriptions of the Low German text, and in one of these Death ends his conversation with the physician by calling the usurer: »Wokerer, volghe van Stunden an« (see the previous page). In the other — and less known — manuscript, Jacob von Melle instead writes: »Borger, volge van Stunden an«.

Read more about the confusion in Jacob von Melle's text.

Fodnoter: (1)

In "Ausführliche Beschreibung" Jacob von Melle and, as a consequence, everybody else, writes "vorsaden" as one word, but in "Lubeca religiosa" he writes it as two.

"vor saden" means "in order to satisfy a hunger / craving".