| Le mort
Vous qui vivez: certainnement
Hee: fault il que la dance mainne
Now Death starts the dance of death proper. Strictly speaking it is not Death, ("la Mort"), but a dead man ("le Mort"), but one should not necessarily pay to much attention to this, because it can vary between the various editions (see: Death's Dance, or Line of the Dead?).
Death starts by addressing the living (i.e., those who contemplate the mural): »Vous qui vivez«. You who live shall certainly dance in the same manner later, but when is only known by God.
Then the Pope is called to the dance (the publisher ought to have indented the line that starts »Dam pape«). As the highest lord (»le plus digne seigneur«) he is honoured at this point: »En ce point honore seres«.
The Pope is less than pleased. He had sovereign power in the church as St. Peter (»dignite souverainne / En leglise comme saint pierre«). Now he must die like everybody else, for Death wages war against all.
| Le mort
Et vous le non pareil du monde
Ie ne scay devant qui iapelle
The dance alternates between ecclesiastical and secular persons, so after the world's most powerful cleric, the Pope, comes the mightiest secular, the Emperor.
The emperor is told to leave behind his round apple of gold (orb), arms, sceptre etc. »la pomme dor ronde: / Armes: ceptre«.
The emperor realizes that he must now arm himself with a pick, shovel and shroud (»Arme me fault de pic. de pelle / Et dun linseul«). This is a very fitting description of the cadaver he is looking at. The dance of death functions as a mirror. What the emperor is, the cadaver used to be; what the cadaver is, the emperor soon will become.