What follows is the text from the manuscript B.M. Lansdowne 699. This manuscript is one of the so-called B-texts that deviate in many ways from the Parisian Danse Macabre, both as regards the participants and their sequence.
The text was transcribed by Florence Warren in the book "The dance of death : edited from Mss. Ellesmere 26/A.13 and B.M. Lansdowne 699, collated with the other extant Mss" from 1931.
As the title implies, the text has been collated with other manuscripts from the B-text family, and in a number of cases Warren has chosen another variant than the one in the Lansdowne manuscript. These deviations have been marked with square brackets. In others cases Warren has decided to leave out words and letters present in the Lansdowne manuscript. These places have been marked with a †.
If we compare this manuscript with the Ellesmere manuscript, which belongs to the A-text family, there are big differences.
John Lydgate had added five verses at the beginning for the translator's prologue, and two verses for the translator at the end. These seven verses are not included in the Lansdowne manuscript.
John Lydgate had added six new participants: princess, abbess, juror, noblewoman, conjuror and (maybe) empress. Three of these, princess, noblewomen and conjurer, are not found in the Landsdowne manuscript.
Many of the participants from the Danse Macabre of Paris have been excluded too. These are: the citizen, the usurer and his client, the suitor, the lawyer, the parish priest and the clerk. Besides this, Death's answer back to the Hermit is missing, and in the authority's concluding speech, one verse (»ȝitte ther be folke / mo than sixe or seuene«) has been replaced by a new one: »Be nat a-fferd / this scriptur in tyme of pley«.
The text is altered in many places. Some of these changes are so extensive that it can be hard to determine, whether we are dealing with a new person, or whether it's just the title and dialogue that have been altered.
The sequence is also different. In particular many of the dancers have been transposed two by two, so that the ecclesiastical comes before the lay man. This prompted Warren to describe a hypothesis by Mabel Day, speculating that the scribe had looked in a manuscript that had been misbound. This hypothesis is quite complicated and involves lacking pages as well, so it takes almost two pages for Warren to explain it.
A much simpler explanation is that an empress has been added to the dancers, so maybe the scribe simply wanted to preserve the alternation between ecclesiastic and worldly dancers.
All the participants have Latin titles with the exception of the "Sergeant in lawe" and the "Iurour". The second verse in the introduction is spoken by an angel, angelus, just like the Latin texts in la Danse Macabre of Paris.
The text is presented here in the sequence prescribed by the manuscript. To the extent that the dancers appear in the Ellesmere manuscript there are hyper-links to the relevant page.
In this myrrour / euery man may fynde
That hym behouyth / to goon vpon this daunce
Whoo goth before / or who goth behynde
All dependith / in goddis ordynaunce
Wher-fore eche man / lowly take his chaunce
Deth spareth nothir / poore nor blood roiall
Eche man ther-fore / have this in remembraunce
Off oon mateer / god hath Forgid all.
First me bi-houyth / this daunce with deth to leede
Wich sat in Erthe / hihest in my see
Thestat [ful] per[il]ous / who so takith heede
To occupie / seynt Petris dignyte
But for al that / fro deth I may nat flee
Vpon this daunce / with othir for to trace
For sich honour / who prudently can see
Is litel worthe / that doth so soone passe.
Sir Emperour / lord of all the ground
Most souereyn prynce / surmountyng of noblesse
Ye must forsake / of gold your appill round
Septre & swerd / & all your hih prowesse.
Behynde yow / lat tresour & richesse
And with othir / to my daunce obeye
Ageyn [my] myth / vaileth non hardynesse
Adamis children / all thei must deye.
I not to whom / I may appele
Whan deth me sailith / that doth me constreyn
Ther is no gynne / to socour my quarele
But spade & picois / my grave to atteyne
A symple shete / ther is no more to seyn
To wrappen in / my body & † visage
Wher-vpon sore / I me compleyn
That lordis grete / have litel avauntage.
I have gret cause / trewly it is no faile
To been a-baissht / & gr[ete]ly to dreede me
Sith deth is come / me sodeynly tassaile
That [I] shal nevir / [here] aftir clothid be
In grise nor Ermyn / lik to my degre
Myn hat of red / levyn heer in distresse
By which † I have / lernyd weel & see
How that al ioie / eendith in hevynesse.
Lat se your hand / my lady dame Empresse
Have no disdeyn / with me for to daunce
Ye may a-side / leyn al your richesse
Your fresh attyres / devises of plesaunce
Your soleyn cheeris / your strange countenaunce
Your clothis of gold / most vncouthly wrouht
Hauyng of deth / ful litel remembrance
But now [ye] se weel al is come to nouht.
What availeth / gold richesse o[r] perre
Or what availeth / hih blood or Ientylnesse
Or what availeth / freshnesse or beaute
Or what is worth / hih porte o[r] strangenesse
Deth seith chek-mat / to al sich veyn noblesse
All worldly power / now may me nat availe
Raunsoun kyndrede / frenship nor worthynesse
Syn deth is come / myn hih estat tassaile.
Wordly honour / [grete] tresour & richesse
Ha[ue] me disseyved / sothfastly in deede
My ioies old / be turned to distresse
What availeth [it] / sich honour to possede
Hih clymbyng vp / a fall hath to his meed
Gret estat / folk waste out of noumbre
Who so montith hihest / stondith most in drede
Such heuy berden / cloth hem ofte † encoumbre.
Right noble kyng / most worthi of renon
Cum forth anon / for al your worthynesse
That som-tyme had / so gret possession
Rewmys obeyng / vn-to your hih noblesse
Ye most of nature / to this daunce yow dresse
& Fynally your crounne / & sceptre leete
For who-so most haboundith in gret rychesse
Shal bere with hym, but a sengle sheete.
I have nat lernyd / heer-afforn to daunce
No daunce in soth / of Fotyng so savage
Wher-bi I see I ful cleerly in substaunce
What pride is worth / force or hih parage
Deth all for-doth / this is his vsage
Gret & smal / that in this world soiourne
Who that is most meek / hath most avauntage
For we shul all / to dede asshis torne.
Allas I wot nat / what partye for to flee
For dreede of deth / I stonde in sich distresse
Tescape his power / I can no refute see
But who that † knewe / his constreynt & duresse
He wolde take reson / to maistresse
And seyn A-dieu / pompe and pride also
My peynted paleys / [my] tresour & richesse
Thyng that be-houyth / nedis must be do.
Riht myhty prynce / be rith weell certeyn
This daunce to yow / is [not eschewable]
For more myhty / than euer was Carlemayn
Or worthy Arthour / of prowes ful notable
With al his knyhtes / [of] the rounde table
What did ther platis / ther armour or ther maile
Ther strong corage / ther sheeldes defensable
A-geyns deth [availe] / whan he hem dide assaile.
My purpos was / & myn entencion
To assege † castellis / & myhti [f]orterresses
Rebellis to bryng / vn-to subieccion
To seeke worship † / fame & [grete rychesses]
But I se weel / that al wordly prowess[e]s
Deth can abate / wher-of I have despite
To hym allon sorwe / & [eke] swetnesses
For ageyns deth / is founde no respite.
Of these tidynges / I am no thyng glaad
Which deth to me / so sodeynly doth bryng
It makith my face / & countenaunce ful saad
That for discomfort / me lyst no thyng to syng
The wor[l]d contrary / to me in werkyng
Which al estatis / can so disherite
And needis we must / on-to our departyng
And al shal passe / save oonly our merite.
Comes & Baro
Erl or Baron / which that thourh regiouns
Have sore laboured / for worship & renon
Forget your trompetis / & your clariouns
[This] is no dreem / nor symulacion
Som-tyme your custom / & your entencon
Was in estat / & wordly wurship to glade
But often tyme / it happith in conclusion
Oo man brekyth / that a-nothir made.
Ful often tyme / I have ben auttorised
To hih empryse / & thyng of gret Fame
Of gret estates / my thank also devised
Cher[i]shid with princes / & lordis hih of name
Nor neuyr on me / was put no diffame
In roial courtes / which that weer notable
But deth vnwarly / al power makith lame
And vndir heuene / in erthe is no thyng stable
Of thy manace / I haue no gret envye
That I shal leve / al maner governaunce
But that I shal / as a cloistrer die
This doth to me / somwhat the lesse grevaunce
My libertes / nor my gret aboundaunce
What may thei availe / in any maner wise
Yit aske I mercy / with devoute repentaunce
Thouh to-forn deth / to late men them avise.
And ye my lady / gentyl dame Abbesse
With your mantyl / furryd large & wide
Your veile your wympill / your ryng of gret richesse
And beddis softe / ye must now leyne a-side
For to this daunce / I must be your gyde
Thouh ye be tendre / born of gentil blood
Whil that ye live / your silf provide
For aftir deth / no man hath [no] good.
Allas that deth / hath [so for me] ordeyned
That in no wise / I may nat hym eschewe
Vnto this [daunce] / of riht I am constreyned
That heer with othir / I must his trace sewe
This pilgrymage / to every man is dewe
An ernest mateer / a mateer of no iape
Who that is alwey redy / shal nevir rewe
The hour abydyng / that god hath for hym shape.
That hand of youres / my lord Iustice
That have rewlid / so lang the lawe
Weel may men holde / yow war & wise
So that this drauht / be weel drawe
Escape shal ye nat / wold ye neuer so fawe
Sich dome to have / as ye have youen in soth
Wher-fore men seyn / of an old sawe
Weel is hym / that alwey weel doth.
Allas ne were / that myn entent
Was weele dressid / thouh I othir-while erryd
Now shuld I vttrely / be shamyd & shent
For many causes / that I have oftyn d[e]ferrid
Sauff mercy oonly / now were I marrid
Blissid ther-fore / is euery wiht
As bi holy scriptur / may ben averrid
That in all tyme / doth lawe & kepith riht.
Doctor vtriusque Juris
Com forth doctour / of Canon & Cyvile
In bothe these lawis / of long contynuaunce
Your tyme hath spent / bewar ye did no gile
In your mateers / for to han fortheraunce
Now must ye lerne / with me for to daunce
All your lawe / may yow nat a-vaile
Giff me your hand / & make no perturbaunce
Your hour is come / this is withouten faile.
A mercy Ihesu / whow mankynde is freele
And litel tyme / in this worlde abydyng
No man of his liff / hath charter nor seele
Ther-fore it may / be likned in all thyng
Vnto a Flour / so amorously floorsshyng
Which with a Froste / bi-gynneth riht sone to fade
Whan cruell deth / his massage list to bryng
Al liffly thyng / he bryngeth in the s[h]ade.
Miles & Armiger
Knyht or scwyer / riht fressh of your aray
That can of daunses al the newe gise †
Thouh ye bare armes wele horsid yisterday
With speere & sheeld / at your vncouth devise †
And took upon yow / many strange emprise †
Dansith with vs / it wole no bettir be
Ther is no socour / in no maner wise
For no man may / from dethis power flee.
Sith that deth / me holdith in his lace
Yit shal I speke a woord / or I pace
Adieu al myrthe / adieu now al solace
Adieu my ladies / som-tyme so fresshe of face
Adieu beaute / that lastith but short space
Of dethis chaunge / euery day is pryme
Thynk on your sowlis / or that deth manace
For al shal rote / & no man † wot what tyme.
Com forth sir Mayr / which had gouernaunce
Bi pollicie / to rewle this cite
Thouh your power / were notable in substaunce
To flee my daunce / ye have no liberte
Estate is noon / nor wordly dygnyte
That may escape / out of my daungeris
To fynde rescew / exaumple ye may se
Nouthir bi richesse / nor force of officeres.
What helpith now / thestat in which I stood
To rewle Cites / or Comouns to gouerne
Plente of richesse / or increce of good
Or olde wynnyng / that cometh to me so yerne
Deth al defaceth / who so list to lerne
Me for tareste / he comyth on so faste
Eche man ther-fore / shold a-fore discerne
Prudently / to thynk vpon his laste.
Lat see your hand / sir chanon Reguler
Som-tyme [y]sworn / to religion
As humble soget / & obedienceer
Chastly to live / lik your profession
But ther may be / no consolacion
Ageyn my sawes / sodeyn & cruell
Except oonly / for short conclusion
Who liveth in vertu / mot nedis der weel.
Whi shulde I grutche / or disobeye
The thyng [to] which / of verrey kyndly riht
Was I ordeyned / & born for to deye
As in this world / is ordeyned euery wiht
Which to remembre / is no thyng liht
Prayng the lord / that was sprad on the roode
To medle mercy / with his eternal myht
And save the sowles / that he bouht with his blood.
My divers cures / my riche personages
Allas ful litel / thei may me now comforte
Deth vpon me / hath geten his avantages
All my richesse / can make me now no sporte
Amys of grey / thei must a-geyn resorte
Vnto the world / with many a gret prebende
For which trewly / as clerkis can reporte
To deye weel, eche man sholde entende.
It helpith nat / to stryve a-geyn nature
Namely whan deth / bi-gynneth tassaile
Wher-fore I counseill euery creature
To been redy / a-geyn this fel batayle
Vertu is sewrer / than othir plate or maile
Also no thyng / may helpe [more] at sich a nede
Than to provide / a sur acquytaile
With the hand of almesse / to love god & drede.
Vn-to this world / I was de[d] ago ful longe
Bi myn ordre / & my professioun
[Thowgh] euery man / be he neuyr so strong
Dredith † to deye / bi naturall mocion
Afftyr his Flesshly / inclynacion
Plese it [the] lorde / my sowle for to borwe
Fro feendis myht / & fro dampnacion
Sam arn to-day / that shal nat be to-morwe.
Sergeant in lawe
Come neer sir Sergeant / short processe for to make
Ye must cum pleete / afore the Iu[ge] on hihe
Many a quarell / thouh ye have vndir-take
And for lucre / doon folk gret remedie
Ther shal your sotil wittis / be deemyd [foly]
Yiff sleathe / & covetise be nat exiled
Be war bi-tymes / & labour for mercy
For thei that trust most them silff / ar sonnest bigiled
Of riht & reson / bi natures † lawe
I can alleggen / nor make no diffence
Nor bi sleihte / nor statute me with-drawe
Tescape a-way / from this dreedful sentence
For al my witt / nor gret prudence
No thyng [i]n erthe / may no man preserve
A-geyns his myht / to make resistence
[God qwyteth al men / lyke as they deserve.]
Com forth maistresse / of yeeres yong & grene
Which hold your silff / of beaute sovereyn
As-fair as [ye was] / whilom Pollixene
Penolope / [and] the queen Eleyn
Yit on this daunce / [thei went] bothe tweyn
And so shal ye for al your strangenesse
Thouh deynous daungeer / longe hath lad your reyn
Vnto this daunce / ye mote your fotyng dresse.
O cruel deth / that sparist non estat
To old & yong / thou art indifferent
To my beaute thou hast seyd chek-mat
So hasty is / thi mortall jugement
For in my youthe / this was myn entent
To my servise / many a man to have lurid
But she is a fool / shortly in sentement
That in her beaute / is to myche assurid.
For al my craft / connyng or science
I can fynde / no provision
Nor in [the] sterris / serche out no difference
Bi domofyeng / [n]or calculacion
Sauff fynaly / in conclusion
For to descrive † / our connyng euery deel
Ther is no more / bi sentence of reson
[Who livith a-ryght] / most nedis deye weel.
What may this be / that in this world no man
Heer for tabide / may have no surete
Strengthe † richesse / nor what [so] that he can
O[f] wordly wisdam / al is but vanite
In gret estate / nor in poverte
Is no thyng founde / that may fro deth deffende
For which I sei / to hih & lowe degre
Wis is the synner / that cloth his liff amende.
Com forth [thou] sergeant / with thi stately maas
Make no deffence / nor no rebellion
Nouht may availe / to grotchen in this caas
Thouh thou be deynous / of condicion
For nouthir appele / nor protection
May the franchise / to do nature wrong
For thar is non / so sturdi a champion
Thouh he be myhty / deth is yit mor strong.
Howe darst thou deth / set on me arrest
Which am the kyngis / chosen officeer
And yistirday / waIkyng est & west
Myn office did / with ful dispitous cheere
But now this day / I am arrest[ed] heere
And may nat flee / thouh I hadde it sworn
Eche man is loth / to deie ferr or neer
That hath nat lernyd / [for] to deie afforn
Maister Iurour / which that at assises
And at shiris / questis didist embrace
Departist lond / aftir thi devises
And who most gaff / most stood in thi grace
The poore man / lost bothe lond & place
For gold thou coudist / folk disherite
But lat se now / that withynne so short a space
Before the Iuge / how thow canst the acquyte.
Som tyme I was callid / in my contre
The bellewedir / & that was nat a lite
Nat lovid but drad / of hih & lowe degre
For [whom] me list bi craft / I coude endite
Hang the trewe / & the theeff acquyte
Al the contre / bi my woord was lad
But I dar say / shortly for to write
Of my deth / many oon wole be ful glad.
Gentil menstral / shewe [me] now thi witt
How thou canst pleye / or foote ariht this daunce
I dar weel sei / that an harder fitt
Than this / fil neuyr [vn]to thi chaunce
Look ther-fore / what may best avaunce
Thi sowle as now / & vse that I reede
Refuse nyce play / & veyn plesaunce
Bettir late / than neuyr to do good deede.
Ey benedicite / this world is freele
Now glad / now sory / what shal men vse
Harpe lute phidil / pipe farwell
Sautry Sithol / & Shalmuse
Al wordly myrthe / I here refuse
God graunte me grace / of sich penaunce
As may myn old / synnes excuse
For alle be nat mery / that othir whyle daunce.
Seruant or officer / in thyn office
Yiff thou hast ben / as god wold & riht
To pore & riche / doon pleyn Iustice
Fled extorcioun / with al thy myht
Than maist thou / in this daunce go liht
Or elles ful hevy / shalt thou be thanne
Whan alle domys / shal fynaly be diht
Go we hens / the tyde a-bidith no man.
Shal I so sone / to dethis daunce
That wend / to have lyved yeeris many mo
And sodeynly / forsake al my plesaunce
Of offices / & profites [that] long ther-to
Yit oon thyng / I consel or I go
In office lat no man doon outrage
For dreede of god / & peyn also
Also service / is noon heritage.
Allas to long / and to myche in phisik
For lucre / plye[d] / al my bisynesse
Bothe in speclacion / & in practik
To knowe & konne / al bodely siknesse
But of gostly helthe / I was reklesse
Wher-fore shal helpe nother herbe nor roote
Nor no medicyne / sauff goddis goodnesse
For a-geyns deth / is fynaly no boote.
Come riche marchant / & looke hidirward
Which hast passid / (thorow] many dyvers lond
On hors on foote / havyng most reward
To lucre & wynnyng / as I vndirstonde
But now to daunce / thou most yeve me thyn hond
Al thyn old labour / wher is it be-come now
A-dieu veynglorie / bothe of fre & bonde
Non more coveitith / than he that hath I-now.
Bi many an hille & many a strong[e] vale
I have travailid / with [my] marchaundise
Bi straunge seeis / carried many a bale
To sondri Iles / more than I can devise
Myn hert in-ward / evir frett with covetise
But al for nouht / deth doth me constreyne
For which I sei / bi record of the wise
Who al enbracith / he lityl shal restreyn
Yeve hidir thyn hand / thou Artificeer
For ther is founde / no subtilite
Bi witt of man / that fro my daungeer
To save hym silff / can have no liberte
My strook is sodeyn / fro which no man may flee
Bi coriouste / nor cunnyng of fressh devise
Kynde hath ordeyned / it will non othir be
Eche man mote passe / whan deth settith assise.
Ther is no craft / serchid out nor souht
Cast nor compassid / bi old nor newe entaile
I se ful weel / withynne myn owen thouht
A-geyns deth / [whiche that may] availe
She pershith sheeldis / she pershith plate & maile
A-geyns her strok / cunnyng nor science
Whan that hir list / mortally to assaile
Allas allas / ther may be no deffence.
Thou labourer / which in sorwe & peyn
Hast lad thi liff / & in gret travaile
Thou must here daunce / & ther-fore nat disdeyn
For thouh thou do / it may the nat availe
And cause whi / that I the assaile
Is oonly [fro] the / for to dissevire
This fals world / that causith folk to faile
For he is a foole / that wenyth to liven evir
I have wisshid / aftir dethe ful oft
Al-thouh I wold / have fleed hym now
I had levir / to ha leyn vnsofft
In wynde & reyn / & go[n] forth at [the] plouh
With spade & picoys / laboured for my prouh
Dolvyn & dikid / & atte cart goon
For I may seyn / & pleynly avow
In this world here / rest is ther noon.
Litil child / that were but late born
Shape in this word / to have no plesaunce
Thou must with othir / that goon her to-forn
Be lad with hem / with sotyl ordynaunce
Lerne of newe to [gon] / on this daunce
Ther may non age / in soth skape ther-fro
Lat euery wiht / have this in remembraunce
Who † lengest levith / most shal sofren woo.
A. A. A. o worde I can nat speke
I am ful yong / I was born † yisterday
Deth is ful hasty / on me to been wreke
And of his strok / list make no delay
I cam but now / & now I go my way
O[f] me [no] more / no tale shal be tolde
The will of god / no man withstond may
For as sone deieth a yong sheep / as an olde.
Ye that have lived / long in wildirnesse
And contynued / long in abstynence
Tyme is come / that ye m[o]te yow dresse
Of my daunce / to have thexperience
For ther a-geyns / is no resistence
Take now leve / of thyn her[m]itage
Wher-fore eche man / advertise this sentence
That this liff heer / is but a pylgrymage.
Liff in deserte / callid solitarye
May a-geyns deth / have no respite nor [sp]ace
At vnsett howr / his comyng doth nat tarye
And for my part / welcom be goddis grace
Thankyng my lord / with humble cheer & face
Off his yiftis / such as I have assayed
Fynally / affermyng in this place
No man is riche / but he that halt hym payed.
What is mannys liff / but a countenaunce
Or [as] a puff of wynde / that is transitorie
As may be weel / perceived bi this daunce
Ther-fore ye / that reden this storye
Keepe thentent / in your memorye
And it shal steer yow / in-to gostly liff
Teschewe peyn / & come vnto glorie
And be your socour / in al gostly stryff.
Be nat a-fferd / this scriptur in tyme of pley
In your mynde / to revolve & reede
For trust trewly / ye shal nevir the sonner deye
But it shal cause yow / synne for to dreede
The which refusid / ye shal have gret meede
Ther-fore a-mong / have mynde on this lettir
And vse vertu / prayer & almesse deede
And than I dar sey / ye shal doon the bettir.