The Dance of St. Paul's, Selden Supra 53

What follows is the text from the manuscript Selden Supra 53. This manuscript is one of the so-called A-texts and contains the same 84 verses as the Ellesmere manuscript. The manuscript is from ca. 1430.

The manuscript uses a letter that looks like this: ȝ. Hopefully your browser is able to support it. The letter is called Yogh and is a mixture of G and Y. It is used for instance in ȝonge (modern English: "young"), ȝoure ("your"), briȝt ("bright") and ȝeuen ("given").

Another letter is named Thorn, þ. This should simply be read as "th". I.e.: þe becomes "the", þat becomes "that", and so on.

The text was transcribed by Eleanor Prescott Hammond in the book "English verse between Chaucer and Surrey" from 1927. In a number of cases letters or words (and in the case of the abbess: almost three lines) have been supplied from another manuscript: Harley 116. These additions are enclosed in parentheses.



Verba translatoris
O ȝee folkes / harde hertid as a stone
Wich to þe worlde / haue al ȝour aduertence
Liche as it shulde / laste euere in oone
Where is ȝour witt / wher is ȝour prudence
To se aforn / the sodeine violence
Of cruel dethe / þat be so wis and sage
Wiche sleeth allas / by stroke of pestilence
Boþe ȝong and olde / of lowe & hy parage

Deeth sparith not / lowe ne hy degre
Popes kynges ne worthy Emperours
Whan þei shyne / most in felicite
He can abate / þe fresshnes of her flours
The briȝt sonne / clipsen with his shours
Make hem plunge / from her sees lowe
Magre þe myȝt / of alle these conquerours
ffortune hath hem / from her whele ythrowe

Considerith þis / ȝe folkes that be wys
And it enprentith / in ȝoure memorial
Like þensaumple / wiche þat at Parys
I fonde depict / oones in a wal
fful notably / as I reherce shal
Ther of frensshe clerkis / takyng aqueintaunce
I toke on me / to translatyn al
Oute of þe frensshe / machabres daunce

By whos avys / and counceil atte þe leste
Thoruȝ her steryng /and her mocioun
I obeide / vn to her requeste
Ther of to make / a playn translacioun
In englissh tonge / of entencioun
That proude folkes / wiche þat be stout & bold
As in a mirrour / to for in her resoun
Her ougly fine / may cleerly ther bihold

By exaumple / þat þei in her ententis
Amende her lif / in euery manere age
The wiche daunce / at seint Innocentis
Portreied is / with al þe surpluage
To shewe þis worlde / is but a pilgrimage
Ȝove vn to vs / our lyves to correcte
And to declare / the fyne of oure passage
Riȝt anoon / my stile I wole directe

The authority
The authority

The authority

Verba auctoris
O creatures / ȝe that be reasonable
The lyf desiring / wiche is eternal
Ȝe may se here doctrine ful notable
Ȝoure lif to lede / wiche þat is mortal
Ther by to lerne / in especial
Howe ȝe shul trace / þe daunce of Machabre
To man & womman / yliche natural
ffor deth ne spareth / hy ne lowe degre

In þis mirrour / euery wiȝt may finde
That him bihoveth / to goo vpon þis daunce
Who goth to forn / or who shal goo behinde
Al dependith / in goddis ordinaunce
Wherfore eche man / lowly take his chaunce
Deeth spareth not / pore ne blood royal
Eche man þerfore / haue in remembraunce
Of o mater / god hath forged al

Death to the pope
Death to the pope

Death to the pope

Deeth to the Pope
O ȝee þat be set / most hie in dignite
Of alle estatis / in erthe spiritual
And like as Petir had þe souereinte
Overe þe chirche / and statis temporal
Vpon þis daunce / ȝe firste begyn shal
As moste worthy lorde / and gouernour
ffor al þe worship / of ȝoure astate papal
And of lordship / to god is the honour

The pope

The Pope aunswerith
First me bihoueth / þis daunce for to lede
Wich sat in erþe / hiest in my see
The state ful perillous / ho so takith hede
To occupie / Petris dignite
But al for that / deth I may not fle
On his daunce / with other for to trace
ffor wich / al honour / who prudently can se
Is litel worth / that doþe so sone pace

Death to the emperor

Deeth to the Emperour
Sir Emperour / lorde of al the ground
Souerein prince / and hiest of noblesse
Ȝe must forsake / of golde ȝour appil round
Septre and swerd / and al ȝoure hy prowesse
Behinde leve / ȝour tresour and ricchesse
And with othir / to my daunce obeie
Aȝein my myȝt / is worth noon hardinesse
Adamis children / alle þei moste deie

The emperor

The Emperour answerith
I note to whom / þat I may (me) apele
Touching deth / wiche doth me so constreine
There is no gein / to helpe my querele
But spade / and pikois / my graue to ateyne
A simple shete / ther is no more to seyne
To wrappe in my body / and visage
Ther vpon sore / I may compleine
That lordis grete / haue litel avauntage

Death to the cardinal
Death to the cardinal

Death to the cardinal

Deeth to þe cardinal
Ȝe be abaisshid / it semeth and in drede
Sir cardinal / it shewith by ȝoure chere
But ȝit for thy / ȝe folowe shulle in dede
With oþir folke / my daunce for to lere
Ȝoure grete aray / al shal bileven here
Ȝoure hatte of reed / ȝoure vesture of grete cost
Alle these þingis / rekenyd wele y fere
In greet honour / good avis is lost

The cardinal

The cardinal answerith
I haue grete cause / certis this is no faille
To bene abaisshid / and greetly drede me
Seth deeth is come / me sodeinly to assaille
That I shal neuere / her aftir clothed be
In grys ne ermyn / like to my degre
My hatte of reed / leue eke in distresse
By wiche I haue / lyved wel and see
Howe þat al Ioie / endith in heuynesse

Death to the king

Deeth to the kyng
O noble kyng / moste worþi of renoun
Come forþe anone / for al ȝoure worþinesse
That somtyme had / aboute ȝow enviroun
Greet rialte / and passing hy noblesse
But riȝt anoone / (for) al ȝoure grete hynes
Sool fro ȝoure men / in hast ȝe shul it lete
Who moste aboundiþ / here in greet ricches
Shal bere with hym / but a sengle shete

The king

The kyng answeriþ
I haue not lernyd / here a forn to daunce
No daunce in sooth / of footyng so sauage
Wherfore I see / by clere demonstraunce
What pride is worth / force or hy lynage
Deeth al fordoþe / this is his vsage
Greet and smale / þat in þis worlde soiourne
Ho is most meke / I hold he is most sage
ffor he shal al to dede asshes tourne

Death to the patriarch
Death to the patriarch

Death to the patriarch

Deeth to þe Patriarke
Sir Patriarke / alle ȝoure humble chere
Ne quite ȝow not / ne ȝoure humilite
Ȝoure double crosse / of gold and stones clere
Ȝoure power hoole / and al ȝoure dignite
Some othir shal / of verrey equite
Possede anoone / as I reherce can
Trustiþ neuere / that ȝe shulle pope be
ffor foly hope / deceiveth many a man

The patriarch

The Patriarke aunsweriþ
Worldly honour / greet tresour & richesse
Han me deceivid / sothfastly in dede
Myn olde Ioies / be turned to tristesse
What vailith it / suche tresour to possede
Hy clymbyng vp / a falle hath for his mede
Grete estates / folke wasten oute of noumbre
Who mountith hy / it is sure and no drede
Greet berthen / doþe hym ofte encombre

Death to the constable

Deeth to þe constable
It is my riȝt / to reste and ȝow constreine
With vs to daunce / my maister sir Constable
ffor more strong / þan euere was Charlemayne
Deeth hath aforced / and more worshipable
ffor hardines / ne knyȝthood / þis is no fable
Ne stronge armvre / of plates ne of mayle
What geyneth armes / of folkes moste notable
Whan cruel deeth / lest hem to assaille

The constable

The constable answeriþ
My purpos was / and hool entencioun
To assaille castelles / and miȝty forteresses
And bringe folke / vn to subieccioun
To seke honour & fame / and grete richesses
But I se wel / þat al worldly prowesses
Deeth can abate / wich is a grete dispite
To him al oone / sorwe and eke swetnesses
ffor aȝein deeth / is founden no respite

Death to the archbishop
Death to the archbishop

Death to the archbishop

Deeth to þe Archebisshop
Sir Archebisshoppe / whi do ȝe ȝow withdrawe
So frowardly / as it were by disdeyn
Ȝe muste aproche / to my mortel lawe
It to contrarie / it nere not but in veyn
ffor day by day / þere is noon othir geyn
Deeth at þe hande / pursueth euery coost
Prest and dette / mote be ȝolde aȝein
And at o day / men counten wiþ her oost

The archbishop

The Archebisshoppe answerith
Allas I woote not / what partie for to flee
ffor drede of dethe / I haue so grete distresse
To ascape his myȝt / I can no refute se
That who so knewe / his constreint and duresse
He wolde take resoun to maistresse
A dewe my tresour / my pompe and pride also
peintid chaumbres / my port & my fresshnesse
ffor thing that bihoveth / nedes must be do

Death to the baron/knight

Deth to þe Baroun
Ȝe þat amonge lordis / and barouns
Han had so longe / worship and renoun
fforȝete ȝoure trumpetis / and ȝoure clariouns
This is no dreme / ne simulacioun
Somtime ȝoure custome / and entencioun
Was with ladies / to daunce in þe shade
But ofte it happith / in conclusioun
That o man brekith / þat a noþir made

The baron/knight

The Baroun or the knyȝt answerith
Ful ofte siþe / I haue bene auctorised
To hie emprises / and þinges of greet fame
Of hie and lowe / my thanke also deuised
Cherisshed wiþ ladies / and wymwen hie of name
Ne neuere on me / was put no defame
In lordis court / wiche þat was notable
But deeþis strook / hath made me so lame
Vndre heuene / in erþe / is no thing stable

Death to the princess

Deeth to þe lady of grete astate
Come forþe anone / my lady and Princesse
Ȝe muste also / goo vp on this daunce
Not may availle / ȝoure grete straungenesse
Nooþer ȝoure beute / ne ȝoure greet plesaunce
Ȝoure riche aray / ne ȝoure daliaunce
That svmtyme / cowde so many holde an honde
In loue for al / ȝoure double variaunce
Ye mote as nowe / þis footing vndirstonde

The princess

The lady answerith
Allas I see / ther is none othir boote
Deeth hath in erthe / no lady ne maistresse
And on his daunce / ȝit muste (I) nedis foote
ffor þere nys qwene contesse ne duchesse
fflouringe in bounte / ne in fairnesse
That she of deeth / mote deþes trace sewe
ffor to (oure) bewte / and countirfeet fresshnesse
(Oure) rympled age / seith fare wele a dewe

Death to the bishop
Death to the bishop

Death to the bishop

Deeth to þe Bisshoppe
My lorde sir Bisshoppe / with ȝoure mytre & croos
ffor al ȝoure ricchesse / sothly I ensure
ffor al ȝoure tresour / so longe kept in cloos
Ȝoure worldly goodes / and goodes of nature
And of ȝoure sheep / þe dredly goostly cure
With charge committid / to ȝoure prelacie
ffor to acounte / ȝe shulle be brouȝte to lure
No wiȝt is sure / þat clymbeth ouere hie

The bishop

The Bisshoppe answeriþ
My herte truly / is nouþer glad ne myrie
Of sodein tidinges / wiche þat ȝe bring
My fest is turned / in to a simple ferye
That for discomfort / me list no þing syng
The worlde contrarie nowe / vn to me in workyng
That alle folkes / can so disherite
He þat al withhalt / allas at oure parting
And al shal passe / saue only oure merite

Death to the nobleman

Deeth to þe Squier
Come forth sir Squier / riȝt fresshe of ȝoure aray
That can of daunces / al þe newe gise
Thouȝ ȝe bare armes / fressh horsed ȝisterday
With spere and shelde / at ȝoure vnkouþe deuise
And toke on ȝow / so many hy emprise
Daunceth with vs / it wil no bettir be
Ther is no socour / in no manere wise
ffor no man may / fro deþes stroke fle

The nobleman

The Squier aunswerith
Siþen þat deþe / me holdith in his lace
Ȝet shal y speke / o worde or y pase
A dieu al myrþe / a dieu nowe al solace
A dieu my ladies / somtime so fressh of face
A dieu beute / plesaunce and solace
Of deþes chaunge / euery day is prime
Thinkeþ on ȝoure soules / or þat deth manace
ffor al shal rote / and no man wote what tyme

Death to the abbot
Death to the abbot

Death to the abbot

Deeth to þe Abbot
Come forth sir Abbot / wiþ ȝoure brood hatte
Beeth not abaisshed / þouȝ ȝe haue riȝt
Greet is ȝour hood / ȝour bely large & fatte
Ȝe mote come daunce / þouȝ ȝe be no þing liȝt
Leve vp ȝoure abbey / to some othir wiȝt
Ȝoure eir is of age / ȝoure state to occupie
Who þat is fattest / I haue hym behiȝt
In his graue / shal sonnest putrefie

The abbot

The Abbot answeriþ
Of thi þretis / haue I noon envie
That I shal nowe / leve al gouernaunce
But þat I shal / as a cloistrer dye
This doth to me / passinge grete grevaunce
Mi liberte / nor my greet habondaunce
What may availe / in any manere wise
Ȝit axe I mercy / with hertly repentaunce
Thouȝ in diynge / to late men hem avise

Death to the abbess

Deeth to the Abbesse
And ȝe my lady / gentil dame Abbesse
Wiþ ȝoure mantels / furred large and wide
Ȝoure veile ȝoure wymple / passinge of greet richesse
And beddis softe / ȝe mote nowe leie a side
ffor to þis daunce / I shal be ȝoure guyde
Thouȝ ȝe be tendre / and born of gentil blood
While þat ȝe lyve / for ȝoure silfe prouide
ffor aftir deeth / no man hath no good

The abbess

The Abbesse answerith
Allas that deeth / hath þus for me ordeined
That in no wise / I may it not declyne
Thouȝ it so be / ful ofte I haue constreyned
Brest and throte / my notes out to twyne
My chekes round / vernysshed for to shyne
Vngirt ful ofte (to walke at þe large
Thus cruell deth doth all estates fyne
Who hath no chippe muste rowe in bote or barge)

Death to the bailiff

Deeth to þe Bally
Come forþe sir bailly / that knowen al þe gise
By ȝoure office / of trouþe and riȝtwisnes
Ȝe must come / to a newe assise
Extorciouns / and wronges to redres
Ȝe be somonyd / as lawe bit expres
To ȝelde acountes / þe luge wole ȝow charge
Wiche hath ordeyned / to exclude al falsnes
That euery man / shal bere his owne charge

The bailiff

The Bayly answerith
O þou lorde god / this is an hard iourne
To suche a fourme / I tooke but litel hede
Mi chaunge is turned / and þat forthinkiþ me
Sumtyme wiþ luges / what me list to spede
Lay in my myȝt / by fauour or for mede
But sithen þere is / no rescws by bataille
I holde hym wys / þat cowde see in dede
Aȝein deeth / þat none apele may vaille

Death to the astrologer
Death to the astrologer

Death to the astrologer

Deeth to þe Astronomere
Come forþe maister / þat loken vp so ferre
With Instruments / of Astronomy
To take þe grees / and heiȝte of euery sterre
What may availe / al ȝoure astrologie
Sethen Adam and / alle the Genolagie
Made ferst of god / to walke vppon þe grounde
Deeth dooth areste / þus seith The(o)logie
And al shal die / for an appil round

The astrologer

The Astronomere answerith
For al my craft / kunnynge or science
I can not finde / no prouisioun
Ne in the sterris / serche oute no defence
By domefiynge / ne calculacioun
Safe finally / in conclusioun
ffor to discrive / oure kunnynge euerydele
Ther is no more / by sentence of resoun
Who lyueth ariȝt / mote nedis dye wele

Death to the citizen

Deeth to þe Burgeys
Sir burgeis / what do ȝe lenger tarie
ffor al ȝoure aver / and ȝoure greet ricchesse
Thouȝ ȝe be straunge / deynous & contrarie
To this daunce / ȝe mote ȝow nedis dresse
ffor ȝoure tresour / plente and largesse
ffrom oþere it cam / and shal vnto straungers
He is a fool / that in suche bysynes
Woot not for whom / he stuffith his garners

The citizen

The Burgeis aunswerith
Certis to me / it is greet displesaunce
To leve al this / and may it not assure
Houses rentes / tresour and substaunce
Deeth al fordoþe / suche is his nature
Therfore / wys is no creature
That set his herte / on good þat moot disseuere
The worlde it lente / and he mot it (recure)
And who most hath / loþest dieth euere

Death to the canon
Death to the canon

Death to the canon

Deeth to þe Chanoun
And ȝe sir Chanoun / with many grete prebende
Ȝe may no lenger / haue distribucioun
Of golde and siluer / largely to dispende
ffor þere is nowe / no consolacioun
But daunce with vs / for al ȝoure hie renoun
ffor ȝe of deeth / stonde vppon þe brink
Ȝe may ther of / haue no dilacioun
Deeth comyth ay / whan men lest on him þink

The canon

The Chanoun answeriþ
My benefices / with many personage
God wote ful lite / may me nowe comforte
Deeth hath of me / so grete avauntage
Al my ricches / may me not disporte
Amys of grys / þei wole aȝein resorte
Vn to þe worlde / surplys and prebende
Al is veinglorie / truly to reporte
To die wel / eche man shulde entende

Death to the merchant

Deeth to þe Marchaunt
Ȝe riche Marchaunt / ȝe mote loke hiderwarde
That passid haue / many diuers londe
On hors on foot / hauynge moste reward
To lucre and wynnyng / as I vndirstond
But nowe to daunce / ȝe mote ȝeue me ȝoure honde
ffor al ȝoure labour / ful litel availeth ȝow
A dieu veinglorie / boþe of free and bonde
No more coueite þan þei þat haue ynow

The merchant

The Marchaunt answeriþ
By manie an hil / and many a straunge vale
I haue traueilid / with my marchandise
Ouere þe see / do carie many a bale
To sundry Iles / mo þan I can deuise
My herte Inwarde / ay fret with couetise
But al for nouȝt / nowe deeth doiþ me constreine
By wiche I seie / by recorde of the wise
Who al embraceth / litel shal restreine

Death to the Carthusian
Death to the Carthusian

Death to the Carthusian

Deeth to þe Chartereux
Ȝeue me ȝoure hond / wiþ chekis dede & pale
Causid of wacche / and longe abstinence
Sir chartereux / and ȝoure silfe avale
Vn to this daunce / with humble pacience
To stryve aȝein / may be no resistence
Lenger to lyve / set not ȝoure memorie
Thouȝ I be lothsom / as in apparence
Aboue alle men / deth hath þe victorie

The Carthusian monk

The Chartereux aunswerith
Unto þe worlde / I was dede longe agone
By my ordre / and my professioun
Thouȝ euery man / be he neuere so stronge
Dredith to die / by kindly mocioun
Aftir his flesshly Inclinacioun
But plese it to god / my soule for to borowe
ffrom fendis myȝt / and from dampnacioun
Some bene to day / þat shulle not be to morwe

Death to the sergeant

Deeth to þe Seriaunt
Come forþe sir Sergant / with ȝoure statly mace
Make no defence / ne no rebellioun
Not may availe / to grucche in þis cace
Thouȝ ȝe be deynous / of condicioun
ffor nouther pele / ne proteccioun
May ȝow fraunchise / to do nature wrong
ffor þere is noone / so sturdy champioun
Thouȝ he be myȝty / anoþer is as stronge

The sergeant

The Sergant answerith
Howe dare þis deþe / sette on me areste
That am þe kinges chosen officere
Wiche ȝisterday / boþe west and este
Min office dide / ful surquidous of chere
But nowe þis day / I am arestid here
And may not flee / þouȝ I hadde it sworn
Eche man is lothe / to die ferre and nere
That hath not lerned / for to die aforn

Death to the monk
Death to the monk

Death to the monk

Deeth to þe Monke
Sir monke also / with ȝoure blak habite
Ȝe may no lenger / holde here soiour
Ther is no þing / þat may ȝow here respite
Aȝein my myȝt / ȝow for to socour
Ȝe mote acounte / touching ȝoure labour
Howe ȝe haue spent it / in dede worde & þouȝt
To erþe and asshes / turneth euery flour
The life of man / is but a þing of nouȝt

The monk

The monke answerith
I hadde leuere / in þe cloistre be
At my book / and studie my seruice
Wiche is a place / contemplatif to se
But I haue spent / my life in many vice
Liche as a fool / dissolut and nyce
God of his mercy / graunt me repentaunce
By chere outwarde / harde (is) to deuise
Alle be not mery / wich þat men se daunce

Death to the usurer

Deeth to þe vsurere
Thou vsurer / loke vp and biholde
Vn to wynnygne / þou settist al þi peine
Whos couetise / wexiþ neuere colde
Thy gredy þrust / so sore þe doth constreine
But þou shalt neuere / þi desire ateyne
Such an etik / thin herte frete shal
That but of pite / god his hande refreine
O perillous strook / shal make þe lese al

The usurer

The vsurere answerith
Nowe me bihoueth / sodeinly to dey
Wiche is to me / grete peine & greet grevaunce
Socour to finde / I see no maner wey
Of golde ne siluer / by no chevesaunce
Deeth þoruȝ his haste / abit no purveaunce
Of folkes blinde / þat can not look wel
fful ofte happith / by kinde or fatal chaunce
Some haue faire eyȝen / þat see neuere a dele

The poor man

The pore man to þe vsurere
Vsure to god / is ful grete offence
And in his siȝt / a grete abusioun
The pore borwith / par cas for indigence
The riche lent / by fals collucioun
Only for lucre in his entencioun
Deeth shal hem boþe / to acountes fette
To make rekenynge by computacioun
No man is quit / þat is bihinde of dette

Death to the physician
Death to the physician

Death to the physician

Deeth to þe ffisician
Maister of phisik / wiche on ȝoure vryne
So loke and gase / and stare aȝein þe sonne
ffor al ȝoure craft / and studie of medicine
Al þe practyk / and sience þat ȝe konne
Ȝour lyves cours / so ferforþe is Ironne
Aȝein my myȝt / ȝoure craft may not endure
ffor al þe golde / þat ȝe ther by haue wonne
Good leche is he / þat can him silfe recure

The physician

The ffisician answerith
fful longe a goo / that I vn to phisik
Sette my witt / and my dilligence
In speculatif / and also in practik
To gete a name / þoruȝ myn excellence
To finde oute / aȝens pestilence
Preseruatives / to staunche it and to fine
But I dar seie / shortly in sentence
Aȝens deeth / is worth no medicine

Death to the suitor

Deeth to þe Amerous Squier
Ȝe þat be gentil / so fresshe and amerous
Of ȝeres ȝonge / flouringe in ȝoure grene age
Lusty free / of herte eke desirous
fful of devises / and chaunge in ȝoure corage
Plesaunt of port / of look and of visage
But al shal turne / in to asshes dede
ffor al bewte / is but a feint ymage
Wiche steliþ a weye / or folkes can take hede

The suitor

The Squier answeriþ
Allas allas / I can nowe no socour
Aȝens dethe / for my silfe provide
A dieu of ȝouþe / þe lusty fresshe flour
A dieu veinglorie / of bewte and of pride
A dieu al seruice / of þe god Cupide
A dieu my ladies / so fressh so wel be sein
ffor aȝein dethe / no þing may abide
And windes grete / goo doun with litil reyn

Death to the gentlewoman

Deeth to þe gentil womman amerous
Come forþe maistresse / of ȝeris ȝonge and grene
Wiche holde ȝoure silfe / of bewte souereyne
As faire as ȝee / was somtyme Polycene
Penolope / and the quene Eleyne
Ȝit on þis daunce / þei wente boþe tweine
And so shulle ȝe / for al ȝoure straungenesse
Thouȝ daunger longe / in loue haþ lad ȝoure reine
Arestid is / ȝoure chaunge of doubilnesse

The gentlewoman

The gentil womman answerith
O cruel deeth / þat sparest none estate
To old and ȝonge / þou art indifferent
To my bewte / þou hast yseide chekmate
So hasty is / thi mortal Iugement
ffor in my ȝouþe / this was myn entent
To my seruice / many a man to haue lured
But she is a fool / shortly in sentement
That in hir bewte / is to moche assurid

Death to the lawyer
Death to the lawyer

Death to the lawyer

Deeth to the man of lawe
Sir aduocate / short processe for to make
Ȝe mote come plete / afore þe hiȝe luge
Many a quarel / ȝe haue vndirtake
And for lucre / to do folke refuge
But my fraunchise / is so large & huge
That Counceile none / availe may but trouþe
He skapiþ wisely / of deeth þe greet deluge
To fore þe doom / who is not teint wiþ slouþe

The lawyer

The man of lawe answerith
Of riȝt and resoun / by naturis lawe
I can not putte / aȝein deeth no defence
Ne by no sleiȝte / me kepe ne wiþdrawe
ffor al my wit / and my greet prudence
To make apele / from this dredful sentence
No þing in erthe / may a man preserve
Aȝeins his myȝt / to make resistence
God quite al men / like as þei deserve

Death to the juror

Deeth to þe Iourrour
Maister Iurrour / wiche þat at assise
And atte Shires / questes doste embrace
Departist londe / like to þi deuise
And who most ȝaf / moste stode in þi grace
The pore man / lost londe and place
ffor golde þou cowdest / folkes disherite
But nowe lete se / with þi teint face
To fore þe luge / howe þou canst þe quite

The juror

The Iourour answerith
Somtyme I was clepid / in my cuntre
The belle wedir / and þat was nat a lite
Nouȝt loued / but drad / of lowe and hie degre
ffor whom me list / by craft I coude endite
And hange the trewe / and þe theef respite
Al þe cuntre / by my worde was lad
But I dar sey / shortly for to write
Of my dethe / many a man is glad

Death to the minstrel

Deeth to þe Minstral
O thou mynstral / þat canst so note and pipe
Vnto folkes / for to do plesaunce
By þe riȝt honde / I shal anoone þe gripe
these other / to goo vp on my daunce
There is no scape / neiþer avoidaunce
On no side / to contrarie my sentence
ffor in Musik / by craft and acordaunce
Who maister is / shewe his (science)

The minstrel

The minstral answeriþ
This newe daunce / is to me so straunge
Wondir diuerse / and passingly contrarie
The dredful fotyng / doth so ofte chaunge
And þe mesures / so ofte sithes varie
Wiche nowe to me / is no þing necessarie
If it were so / þat I myȝt asterte
But many a man / if I shal not tarie
Ofte daunceth / but no thing of herte

Death to the conjuror

Deeth to þe Tregetour
Maistir Iohn Rikele / some tyme Tregetour
Of noble Harry / kyng of Engelond
And of ffraunce / þe miȝty conquerour
ffor alle þe sleiȝtes / and turnyng of þin hond
Thou must come ner / this daunce to vndirstond
Nouȝt may auaile / al thi conclusions
ffor deeth shortly / nouþer on see ne lond
Is nouȝt deceivid / by none illusions

The conjuror

The Tregetour answerith
What may availe / magik natural
Or any craft / shewid by apparence
Or cours of sterres / aboue celestial
Or of þe heuene / al the influence
Aȝeins deeth / to stonde at defence
Legerdemeyn / nowe helpiþ me riȝt nouȝt
ffarewel my craft / and al suche sapience
ffor deth moo maistris / ȝit þan I hath wrouȝt

Death to the priest
Death to the priest

Death to the priest

Deeth to / þe Persoun
O sir curat / þat bene nowe here present
That had ȝoure worldly Inclinacioun
Ȝoure herte entire / ȝoure studie and entent
Moste on ȝoure tithes / and oblacioun
Wiche shulde haue bene /of conuersacioun
Mirrour vn to othir / liȝt and exaumplarie
Like ȝoure desert / shal be ȝoure guerdoun
And to eche labour / dewe is þe salarie

The parish priest

The Persoun answerith
Maugre my wille / I must condiscende
ffor deeth assailiþ / euery lifly thing
Here in þis worlde / who can comprehende
His sodein stroke / and his vnware comyng
ffarewele tithis / and farewel myn offryng
I mote goo counte / in ordre by and by
And for my shepe / make a iust rekenyng
Whom he aquyteth / I holde he is happy

Death to the peasant

Deeth to þe laborer
Thou laborer / wiche in sorwe and peine
Hast lad þi life / in ful greet trauaile
Thou moste eke daunce / and þerfore not disdeyne
ffor if þou do / it may þee not auaile
And cause why / þat I þee assaile
Is oonly þis / from þee to disseuere
The fals worlde / þat can so folke faile
He is a fool / þat weneth to lyne euere

The peasant / labourer

The laborer answerith
I haue wisshed / aftir deeth ful ofte
Al be þat I wolde haue fled hym now
I had leuere / to haue leyn vnsofte
In winde and reyn / & haue gone at plow
With spade & pikoys / and labourid for my prow
Dolve and diched / and at þe carte goone
ffor I may seie / and telle pleinly howe
In þis worlde here / ther is reste none

Death to the Franciscan
Death to the Franciscan

Death to the Franciscan

Deeth to þe frere menour
Sir cordeler / to ȝow myn hand is rauȝt
To þis daunce / ȝow to conveie and lede
Wiche in ȝoure preching / haue ful ofte Itauȝt
Howe þat I am / moste gastful for to drede
Al be þat folke / take þerof noon hede
Ȝit is þer noon / so stronge ne so hardy
But deth dare reste / and let for no mede
ffor deeth eche hour / is present and redy

The Franciscan monk

The frere answeriþ
What may þis be / þat in þis world no man
Here to abide / may haue no surete
Strengþe ricchesse / ne what so þat he can
Worldly wisdom / al is but vanite
In grete astate / ne in pouerte
Is no þing found / þat may fro deþe defende
ffor wiche I seie / to hie and lowe degre
Wys is þat synner / þat dooth his life amende

Death to the child

Deeth to the childe
Litel enfante / þat were but late yborn
Shape in þis worlde / to haue no plesaunce
Thou must with other / þat goone here to forn
Be lad in haste / by fatal ordinaunce
Lerne of newe / to goo on my daunce
Ther may noon age / escape in soth þerfroo
Lete euery wiȝt / haue þis in remembraunce
Who lengest lyveth / moost shal suffre woo

The child

The childe answerip
A A A o worde I can not speke
I am so ȝonge / I was bore ȝisterday
Deeth is so hasty / on me to be wreke
And list no lenger / to make no delay
I cam but nowe / and nowe I goo my way
Of me no more / no tale shal be told
The wil of god / no man with stonde may
As sone dieth / a ȝonge man as an old

Death to the clerk
Death to the clerk

Death to the clerk

Deeth to the Clerke
O ȝe sir clerke / suppose ȝe to be free
ffro my daunce / or ȝoure selfe defende
That wende haue rysen / vn to hie degre
Of benefices / or some greet prebende
Who clymbeth hiest / some tyme shal dissende
Lat no man grucche / aȝens his fortune
But take in gree / what euere god hym sende
Wiche ponissheth al / whan tyme is oportune

The clerk

The clerke aunswerith
Shal I þat am / so ȝonge a clerke nowe deye
ffro my seruice / and haue no bettir guerdoun
Is ther no geyn / ne no bettir weye
No sure fraunchise / ne proteccioun
Deeth makith alweie / a short conclusioun
To late ware / whan men bene on þe brinke
The worlde shal faile / and al possessioun
ffor moche faileth / of þing þat foles thinke

Death to the hermit

Deeth to þe Hermyte
Ȝe þat haue lived / longe in wildernesse
And þere contynued longe in abstinence
At þe laste / ȝet ȝe mote ȝow dresse
Of my daunce / to haue experience
ffor þere aȝein / is no recistence
Take nowe leue / of þin Ermytage
Wherfore eche man / aduerte this sentence
That þis life here / is no sure heritage

The hermit

The Hermite answeriþ
Life in desert / callid solitarie
May aȝein deþe / haue no respite ne space
At vnset our / his comyng doth not tarie
And for my part / welcome be goddes grace
Thonkyng hym / with humble chere and face
Of al his ȝiftes / and greet habondaunce
ffynally / affermynge in this place
No man is riche / þat lackith suffisaunce


Deeth aȝein to þe Hermite
That is wel seide / and þus shulde euery wiȝt
Thanke his god / and alle his wittis dresse
To loue and drede hym / with al his herte & myȝt
Seth deeth to ascape / may be no sikernesse
As men deserue / god quit of riȝtwisnesse
To riche and pore / vppon euery side
A bettir lessoun. / þer can no clerke expresse
Than til to morwe / is no man sure to abide

The dead king
The dead king

The dead king

The kyng ligging dede and eten of wormes
Ȝe folke þat lokyn / vpon this portrature
Biholdyng here / alle the states daunce
Seeth what ȝe bene / and what is ȝoure nature
Mete vn to wormes / not ellis in substaunce
And haue þis mirrour euere in remembraunce
Howe (I) lie here / somtyme crownyd kyng
To alle estates a trewe resemblaunce
That wormes food / is fyne of oure lyuyng

The authority

Machabre þe doctour
Man is not ellis / platly for to thinke
But as a winde / wiche is transitorie
Passinge ay forþe / wheþer he wake or winke
Towarde þis daunce / haue þis in memorie
Remembringe ay / þer is no bet victorie
In þis life here / þan fle synne at þe leste
Than shul ȝe regne / in paradys with glorie
Happy is he / þat maketh in heuene his feste

Ȝit ther be folke / mo þan six or sevene
Reckles of lyf / in many maner wise
Like as þer were / helle none nor heuene
Suche false errour / lete euery man dispice
ffor hooly seintis / and oolde clerkis wise
Writen contrarie / her falsnes to deface
To lyue wel / take this for best emprice
Is moche worth / whan men shul hens pace

The translator
The translator

The translator

Lenvoye de Translatour
O ȝe my lordis / and maistres alle in fere
Of auenture / þat shal þis daunce rede
Lowly I preie / with al myn herte entere
To correcte / where as ȝe see nede
ffor nouȝt ellis / I axe for my mede
But goodly support / of this translacioun
And with fauour / to sowponaile drede
Benignely / in ȝoure correccioun

Out of þe frensshe / I drewe it of entente
Not worde by worde / but folwynge þe substaunce
And fro Paris / to Engelonde it sente
Oonly of purpos / ȝow to do plesaunce
Rude of langage / I was not born in fraunce
Haue me excusid / my name is Iohn Lidgate
Of her tunge / I haue no suffisaunce
Her corious metris / in englisshe to translate

Here endith the daunce of Deeth


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