Lübeck: The merchant

The merchant
The merchant

The merchant

It is mi verne, bereit to sin,
Na Gude hebbe ik gehat Pin,
To Lande unde tor See,
Dor Wind, Regen unde Snee,
Na Reise wart mi so swar,
Mine Rekenscop is nicht klar.
Hadde ik mine Rekenscop ghedan,
So mochte ik vrolik mede ghan.

It's far from me to be prepared.(1)
I have had great pains [to obtain] goods.
By land and by water
trough wind, rain and snow.
No travel has been so hard for me
my reckoning(2) is not ready.
Had I done my reckoning
then I would gladly go with you.

Death answers the merchant

Hefstu anders nicht bedreven,
In Kopenscop, alse di was gheven,
It sal di [_ _ _ _ _] enheit,(3)
Wen alle Dink to richten steit.
Hefstu di so vorwart,
Unde din Dink gans wol geklart,
Westu anders, dat is nicht gut,
Koster, kum, it wesen mot.

Have you done nothing else,
in business, than what you were given,
[then] it shall be counted to you for righteousness,(3)
when all things come before the court,
if you have kept safe [against evil]
and your business totally in order.
Were you different, that isn't good.
Parish clerk, come, it must happen.

The "Amtmann" in Lübeck is really a merchant with cloak and spurs.
The merchant with spurs
The merchant (with cloak and spurs) from Des dodes dantz.
The merchant with spurs

That's another fine mess. Both the text of Jacob von Melle and the High German text from 1701 change the merchant and the craftsman about.

The error is probably caused by the fact that in old Low German "Amtman" meant "craftsman". (for the same reason Copenhagen's dance of death features an "embitzmand" and an "embitzsuend").

When replacing the painting in 1701 he was interpreted as a High German "Amtmann" (civil servant) and was placed before the merchant in order to keep the hierarchical order. 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.

Notice that it is only the text that is shuffled. The picture to the left is subtitled "Der Amptman" but still shows a merchant wearing spurs and with his ships in the background - ready to travel "To Lande unde tor See". The picture to the right is from Des dodes dantz and here too the travelling merchant is wearing spurs and a cloak to protect him from "Wind, Regen unde Snee". Compare with Berlin's dance of death, where the merchant is told to take off his spurs.

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

So to sum up: Jakob von Melle and the High German text below the painting put civil servant before merchant. The Low German text on these pages has been restored to follow the painting and puts merchant before craftsman.

Footnotes: (1) (2) (3)

It's far from me to be prepared . . .: As a reply to Death's call (on the previous page): »Merchant, will you too prepare yourself«

reckoning . . .: The dead were expected to present a factual report of their life, works, duty, actions, & accomplishments. Compare with Romans 14:12: "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" and 1st Peter 4:5: "Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead".

The merchant is troubled that he hasn't finished his accounts — and a very similar concern was voiced by the merchant in Berlin.

Mantels suggests that the sentence has been: »It sal di wesen Rechtferdicheit«. I.e.: if the merchant has not strayed from the narrow path, then the judge (God) will give him a fair (lenient) judgment.

Seelmann argues against this: Whether the merchant has been good or bad, God will always be a just judge. What the merchant can hope for is not justice, but justification. Sellmann instead suggest: »wesen tor vromicheit«, "be for the benefit".

Stammler prefers: »wesen vullkomenheit«.