The first time all the verses of the dance of death from the cloister of St. Paul's Cathedral were printed, was in 1554. The publisher was Richard Tottel, who reproduced another and much longer text by Lydgate, The Fall of Princes. Tottel included The Daunce of Machabree at the end of the book (picture to the right).
The text is one of the so-called A-texts that consist of:
All in all 84 verses.
These A-texts follow the same order as the Parisian Danse Macabre, but Tottel's text, just as the manuscript Cambridge Trinity R.3.21, deviate a little from this sequence towards the end, not just for two of the persons added by Lydgate, but also for two of the regular participants from La Danse Macabre.
|Danse Macabre||Ellesmere /
|Peasant / labourer||Peasant / labourer||Peasant / labourer|
Today Tottel's books are hidden behind pay-walls, but in 1923-27 Henry Bergen published a critical version of "The Fall of Princes", and he included The Daunce of Machabree as well.
Bergen has collated Tottel's text with two manuscripts: Harley 116 and to a lesser degree with the B-text in Lansdowne 669. Additions from these two manuscripts are enclosed in square brackets. Deviations, where words have been changed, deleted or moved around, are marked with asterisks.
A quick enumeration shows that there are 103 of these additions and 128 deviations. Some of the changes are quite big, for instance: Tottel had transposed 3 of the lawyer's lines and the last four lines of the epilogue. Thus the text that is presented here is a bit removed from Tottel's original.
For details, see the individual footnotes in the external link.
wherin is liuely expressed and shewed the state of
manne, and howe he is called at vncertaine tymes by
death, and when he thinketh least thereon: made
by thaforesayde Dan John Lydgate
Monke of Burye.
Death spareth nought low ne high degre,
Popes, kynges, ne worthye Emperours;
Whan they shine most in felicite.
He can abate the freshnes of her flours,
Her bright[e] sunne clipsen with his shours,
Make them plunge fro her sees lowe; --
Mauger the might of al these conquerours,
Fortune hath them from her whele ythrow.
Considereth this, ye folkes that been wyse,
And it emprinteth in your memoriall,
Like thensample which that at Parise
I fonde depict ones vppon* a wal
Full notably, as I rehearse shall.
Of a Frenche clarke takyng acquaintaunce,
I toke on me to translaten all
Out of the Frenche Machabrees daunce.
By whose aduise and counsayle at the lest,
Through her stieryng and her mocion,
I obeyed vnto her request,
Therof to make a playn translacion
In English tonge, of entencion
That proud[e] folkes that bene stout and bolde,
As in a mirrour toforne in her reason
Her vgly fine there clearely may beholde.
By [this] ensample, that thei in her ententes
Amend her life in euery maner age.
The which[e] daunce at Sainct Innocentes
Portrayed is, with all the surplusage,
Youen vnto vs our liues to correct
And to declare the fine of our passage, --
Right anone my stile I wil direct
To shewe this worlde is but a pilgrimage.
¶ The ende of the Prologe.
In this myrour euery wight may fynde,
That him behoueth to gone vpon this daunce.
Who goeth toforne or who shall go behynde,
All dependeth in Goddes ordinaunce.
Wherfore eche man lowly take* his chaunce;
Death spareth nouther poore ne* bloud royall:
Eche* man therfore haue this in remembraunce.
Of oo matter God hath yforged all.
The Pope maketh aunswere.
FYRST me behoueth this daunce for to lede,
Which sat in earth[e] highest in my see.
The state ful perilous, whoso taketh hede.
To occupie Seynt Petris* dignitee;
But for al that [fro] Death I may not flee,
Vpon* this daunce with other for to trace;
For which al honor, who prudently can see.
Is litle worth that doth so soone passe.
Death speaketh to the Emperour.
SYR Emperour, lord of al the grounde,
[Most] souereine prince, surmountyng* of noblesse,
Ye mot forsake of gold your apple round.
Scepter and swerde, & al your high prowesse;
Behind you leue* your treasour and* riches,
And with other to my daunce obey:
Against my might is worth none hardines,
Adams children al they must[e] deye.
The Emperour maketh aunswer.
I NOTE to whom that I may [me] appeale
Touching death, which doth me so constrein;
There is no gin to helpen my querel,
But spade and pickoys my graue to atteyne, --
A simple shete, there is nomore to seyn,
To wrappen in my body and visage:
And therupon I may me sore* compleyne,
That lordes great haue litle auauntage.
The Cardinall maketh aunswere.
I HAUE great cause, certes this is no faile
To be abashed and greatly dread[e] me,
Sith Death is come me sodainly tassaile,*
That I shall neuer hereafter clothed be
In grise nor ermine like vnto my degree,
Mine hat of red leuen eke in distresse, --
By which I haue conceyued* wel and see
That worldly* ioye endeth in heauines.
Death speaketh to the Kyng.
O NOBLE Kyng, most worthy of renoun,
Come foorth anone, for al your worthines
That whylom had about you enuiron
Great royaltie and passing hye noblesse.
But right anon [for] al your great highnes,
Sole from your men in hast ye shall it lete,
Who most aboundeth here in great riches,
Shall beare with hym but a [single] shete.
The Kyng maketh aunswere.
I HAUE nought learned here-toforn to daunce
No daunce in sooth of footyng so sauage,
Where-through I se by clere demonstraunce,
What pride is worth or force of high linage!
Death all fordo[e]th, this is his vsage,
Great and smal that in this world soiourne:
Who is most meke, I hold[e] hym most sage;
For we shall all to dede* ashes tourne.
The Patriarche maketh aunswere.
WORLDLY honour, gret treasour & riches
Haue me deceiued soothfastly in dede;
Mine old[e] ioyes been turned to* tristesse!
What auayleth such treasours to possede?
Hie clymbyng* vp a fall hath for his mede.
Great estates folke wasten out of number;
Who mounteth high, it is sure and no drede,
Great[e] burden doth hym oft encomber.
Death speaketh to the Cunstable.
IT is my ryght to arest you and constreyne
With vs to daunce, my mayster Sir Cunstable!
For more stronger than euer was Charlemain,
Death hath afforced, and more worshipable;
For hardines ne knighthode, this no* fable.
Nor strong armure of plates ne* of maile, --
What gayneth armes of folkes most notable,
Whan cruell death list hem* to assayle?
The Cunstable maketh aunswere.
MY purpose was and whole entencion
To assail castel[le]s & mighty fortresses.
And bryng[e] folke vnto subieccion.
To seke honour, fame, and great richesses;
But I see that al worldly prowesse
Death can abate, which is a great despite;
To him alone, sorow and eke swetenes:
For agaynst death is found[e] no respite.
The Archebishop maketh aunswere.
ALAS, I wote not what* partie for to flee,
For drede of death I haue so gret distres!
Tescape* his might I can no refute see;
That who-so knew his constreint and duresse,
He would[e] take reason to maistresse.
Adue my treasour, my pompe & pride also,
My painted chambers, my port & my freshnes, --
Thyng that behoueth nedes mot be do.
Death speaketh to the Barone.
YE that among[es] Lordes and Barons
Haue had so long[e] worship and renoun,
Foryet your trumpetes and your clarions;
This is no dreame nor simulacion.
Whylom your custom and entencion
Was with ladies to daunsen in the shade;
But oft it happeth, in conclusion,
One man breaketh that another made.
The Baron maketh aunswere.
FULL oft[e] sith I haue been auctorised
To high emprises & thinges of gret fame.
Of high & low my thanke also deuised.
Cherished with ladies & women high of name;
Ne neuer on me was put no defame,
In lordes courte,* which that was notable;
But deathes stroke hath made me [so] lame:
Under heauen in earth is nothyng stable.
Death speaketh to the Princesse.
COME forth anon, my Lady good Princesse,
Ye must also gon vpon this daunce.
Nought may auayle your great straungenesse,
Nether your beauty nor your gret pleasaunce,
Your riche aray, nother your daliaunce,
That whylom couth so many holde in hond
In loue, for al your double variaunce.
Ye mot as nowe this footyng vnderstonde.
The Princesse maketh aunswere.
ALAS, I see there is none other boote,
Deth hath in earth no lady nor maistres,
And* on this daunce yet mot I nedes fote:
For there nis quene, countesse ne dutchesse,
Flouring in bountie nor in her fayrenes,
That shode of Death mot passe the passage.
When our beautie and counterfeit fairnes
Dieth, adue then our rimpled age!
The Bishop maketh aunswere.
MINE heart truely is nother glad ne mery.
Of sodein tidinges which that ye [me] bring;
My feast is turned vnto a simple ferye,*
That for discomfort me list nothyng [to] syng.
The world contrarie now to my* werking.
Which al estates* can so disherite;
He al with-halt, alas, at our partyng,
And al* shall passe saue onely our merite.
Death speaketh to the Squyer.
COMMETH forth Syr Squyer, right fresh of your araye,
That conne of daunces al the new[e] guise,
Thoghe ye bare armes, fresshe horsed yesterday,*
With spere & shielde at your vncouth deuise,
And toke on you so many high emprise,
Daunseth with vs; it wyl no better be;
There is no succour in no maner wyse:
For no man may fro Deathes stroke flee.
The Squyer maketh aunswere.
SITHENS that Death me holdeth in his lase,
Yet shal I speake oo worde or that* I passe:
Adue al myrth, adue now al solace,
Adue my ladies whilom so freshe of face,
Adue beautie, pleasaunce, and al solace!
Of Deathes chaunge euery day is prime,
Thinke on your soules or* that Death manace;
For all shal rot, and no man wot what time.
The Abbot maketh aunswere.
OF thy manace I hauen o gret* enuy,
That I shall now leaue al* gouernaunce.
But that I shal as a cloystrer dye;
This Death is to me passing great greuaunce.
My libertie nor my great habundaunce,
What may they vayle* in any maner wyse?
Yet aske I mercy with devoute* repentaunce,
Thogh* in dying to late men them auise.
Death speaketh to the Abbesse.
AND ye my lady, gentle dame Abbesse,
With your mantel[le]s furred large and wyde,
Your veile, your wimple, your ryng* of gret riches,
And bedes, sister, ye mot now leyn a-syde;*
For to this daunce I must be* your guide,
Thogh* ye be tender borne of gentle bloode,
While that ye* liue for your selfe prouide;
For after death[e] no man hath no good.
The Abbesse maketh aunswere.
ALAS that Death hath thus for me ordeined,
That in no wise I maye it nought declyne.
If it so be ful oft I am* constreined,
Brest and throte my notes out to twyne,
My chekes round vernyshed* for to shine,
Ungird ful oft to walken at the large, --
Thus cruel Death with al estates fine,
Who hath no shippe must* rowe in bote or barge.
Death speaketh to the Bayly.
COME forth. Sir Bayly, that knowen all the guise,
By your office of trouth & rightwisnes,
Ye must come to a newe assyse,
Extorcions and wronges to redresse;
Ye be somned, as lawe biddeth expresse,
To yeue accomptes the* Iudge wil you charge,
Which hath ordeined to excluden al falsnes,
That euery man shal beare his own[e] charge.
The Bayly maketh aunswere.
O THOU Lord God this is a hard iourney,
To which aforne I toke but litle hede;
My chaunce is turned, & that forthinketh me,
Whilom with iudges what me list to spede
Lay in my might, by labour oft for mede.
But sith there is no rescus by battayle,
I hold him wise that couth wel seen in dede,
Again[es] Death that none apel may vayle.
The Astronomer maketh aunswere.
FOR all my craft, cunnyng and* science,
I can nought find[e] no prouision,
Ne* in the starres seke* no difference
By domifying nor calculacion,
Saue finally, in conclusion,
For to descriue our cunnyng euery dele:
There is no more by sentence of reason,
Who liueth aryght mot nedes dye well.
Death speaketh to the Burgis.
SYR Burgis, what doe ye lenger* tarye?
For all your auoyre and youre great riches,
Thoghe* ye be strong, deinous and contrary.
Toward this daunce ye mot you nedes dresse;
For your* treasour, plentie and largesse.
From other it came and shall vnto strangers.
He is a foole that in such busines,
Wot nought for whom he stuffeth his garners!
The Burgis maketh aunswere.
CERTES to me it is great displeasaunce,
To leaue al this & mai it nought assure:
Howses,* rentes, treasor & substaunce, --
Death al fordoth, suche is his nature.
Therfore wise is no creature.
That set his heart on good that moste* disseuer;
The world it lent, the worlde wil it recure;
And who most hath, lothest dyeth euer.
The Chanon maketh aunswere.
MY benefice with mony personage,
God wot ful lite may me now comfort.
Death hath of me so great auauntage,
That al my riches may me nought disport, --
Amisse of gris, they wyl ayein resorte,
Vnto the world a surples and prebende.
Al is vainglory, truely to reporte,
To dyen well eche man should entende.
Death speaketh to the Marchaunte.
YE rich Marchant, ye mot looke hitherwarde,
That passed haue ful many diuers lond
On horse, on foote, hauing most regard
To lucre & winnyng, as I vnderstond.
But now to daunce ye mot geue me your hond;
For al your labour ful litle auayleth nowe.
Adue vaynglory, both of free and bonde,
None more coueit then thei that haue ynow.
The Marchaunt maketh aunswere.
BY many an hyll and many a strong[e] vale
I haue trauailed with many marchandise;
Ouer the sea downe cary many a bale
To sondrye Iles, more than I can deuyse,
Mine heart inward ay fret* with couetise,
But al for nought, now Deth me doth* constrein:
For which I se, by record of the wyse.
Who al embraceth litle shall restrayne.*
The Chartreux maketh aunswere.
VNTO this* world I was dead long agon
By mine order and my profession;
And eueryman, be he neuer so strong,
Dreadeth to dye by kindly mocion
After his fleshly inclinacion.
But please to God my soule [for] to borowe
Fro Fiendes myght and fro damnacion:
Some arne to-day that shal nought be to-morow.
Death speaketh to the Sargeaunte.
COME foorth Sir Sargeaunt, with your stately mase.
Make no defence nor rebellion.
Nought may* auaile to grutchen in this case,
Thogh* ye be deyners of condicion:
For neyther [ap]pele nor proteccion
May you fraunchise to doe nature wrong;
For there is none so sturdy chaumpion,
Thogh* he be mightie, another is also strong.
The Sargeaunt maketh aunswere.
HOWE durste thou* Death set on me arest,
That am the kynges chosen officer,
Which yesterday, both[en] east and west,
Mine office dyd, ful surquedous of chere;
But now this day I am arested here,
And can nought flee, thoh* I had it sworne.
Eche* man is loth to die, both farre & nere.
That hath nought learned for to dye* aforne.
The Monke maketh aunswere.
I HAD leauer in the cloyster be.
At my booke and study my seruice,
Which is a place contemplatife to see;
But I haue spent my life in mony wyse,
Like as a foole dissolute and nice.
God of his mercy graunt me repentaunce.
By chere outward hard is to deuise,
Al be not merye which that men seen daunce.
Death speaketh to the Usurer.
THOU Vsurer, looke vp and beholde,
Unto wynnyng that settest al* thy payne,
Whose couetise waxeth neuer colde,
Thy gredy thrust so sore the doth constraine.
But thou shalt neuer to thy desyre attayne,
Suche an etike thyne heart[e] freten shall.
But that of pitie God his honde refraine,
One perilous stroke shal make thee losen al.
The Usurer maketh aunswere.
NOW [me] behoueth sodeinly to dye,
Which is to me great paine & eke greuance.
Succour to fynde I see no maner way
Of golde nor siluer by none cheuisance;
Death through his hast abideth no purueiance
Of folkes blynde that can nought loke wel:
Full oft happeth by kynde of fatall chaunce,
Some haue fayre eyen that seen neuer adel.
The Poore Man boroweth of the Usurer.
VSURER to God is full great offence,
And in his syght a great abusion;
The poore boroweth percase for indigence.
The riche lent by false collusion,
Onely for lucre in his entencion.
Death shal both[e] to accoumptes fette.
To make reconing by computacion:
No man is quit that is behynd of dette.
The Phisicien maketh aunswer.
FULL long agon that I vnto Phisike
Set my wit and eke my diligence.
In speculatife and also in practike,*
To geat a name through mine excellence,
To fynd out agaynes* pestilence
Preseruatifes to staunche it and to fine:
But I dare [say] shortly in sentence,
Againes* Death is worth no medicine.
Death speaketh to the Amerous Squyre.
YE that be gentle, so fresh & amerous.
Of yeres yong flouring in your grene age.
Lusty [and] fre, of hert eke* desirous,
Ful of deuises & chaunge in your courage,
Pleasaunt of port, of loke and of visage:
But al shal turne into ashes dead;
For al beautie is but a faynt ymage,
Which stealeth away or folkes can take hede.
The Squyer maketh aunswer.
ALAS, alas, I can nowe no succour
Agaynes* Death[e] for myselfe prouide!
A-due of youth the lusty fresh[e] flower,
Adue vainglory of beautie and of pride,*
Adue all seruice of the god Cupide,
Adue my Ladies, so fresh so wel beseyn:
For agayn[s] Death nothyng may abyde,
And windes great gon doun with litle rein.
Death speaketh to the Gentlewoman.
COME forth Maistresse, of yeres yonge and grene,
Which hold your selfe of beautie souereyn,
As fayre as ye was whilom Pollixene,
Penelope and the quene Helein.
Yet on this daunce thei went[e] both[e] tweyne,
And so shall ye, for al your straungenesse;
Thogh* daunger long in loue hath lad your rein,
Arested is your chaunge of doublenes.
The Gentlewoman maketh aunswer.
O CRUEL Death, that spareth none estate,
To old and yong thou art indifferent;
To my beautie thou hast said checkmate,
So hasty is thy mortail iudgement.
For in my youth[e] this was mine entent,
To my seruice many man to haue lured;
But she is a foole, shortly in sent[e]ment.
That in her beautie is to muche assured.
The Man of Law maketh aunswer.
OF right & reason by Natures law,
I can nought putte against Deth no defence,
Ne by my* sleight me kepen or withdraw,
For al my wit and al* my gret prudence,*
To [make] appeale from his dredful sentence;
Nor nothyng in earth may a man preserue,
Agayn his might to make resistence:
God quiteth all men like as they deserue.
Death speaketh to Maister John Rikil Tregetour.
MASTER John Rikil, whilom Tregetour
Of noble Henry king of Eng[e]lond,
And of Fraunce the mightie conquerour, --
For al the sleightes and turning of thine hond,
Thou must come nere my daunce to vnderstond.
Nought may auayle al thy conclusions;
For Death, shortly, nother on sea ne lond.
Is not deceiued by none illusions.
The Tregetour maketh aunswer.
WHAT may auayle magike naturall
Or any craft shewed by apparence,
Or course of starres aboue celestiall.
Or of the heauens al the influence
Ageynes* Death to stonde at defence?
Legerdmain now helpeth me right nought.
Fare wel my craft and [al] such sapience;
For Death hath mo maistries than I haue wrought.*
The Person maketh aunswere.
MAUGER my wil I must[e] condescende;
For death assaileth euery liuely thing
Here in this world[e], who can comprehend
His sodein stroke and his vnware commyng.*
Fare wel [my] tithes, and fare wel mine offring, --
I mot go coumpten in* order by and by.
And for my shepe make a iust reckonyng:
Whom he acquiteth* I hold he is happye.
Death speaketh to the Iurrour.
MAISTER Iurrour, which that at assises
And at sheres questes dydst embrace,
Departist* lond like to thy deuises,
And who most gaue most stode in thy grace:
The poore man lost both[e] land and place;
For golde thou couldest folke disherite.
But now let se, with thy teynt[e] face
Tofore the Iudge how [thou] canst thee quite!
The Iurrour maketh aunswere.
WHILOM I was cleped in my countrey
The belweather, and that was not alite.
Nought loued but drad of high & low degree;
For whom me list by craft I could endite, --
Hongen the true and the thefe respite:
Al the countrey by my worde was lad.
But I dare sein, shortly for to write,
Of my death many a man is glad.
Death speaketh to the Minstral.
O THOU Minstrall, that can so note and pipe
Unto folke[s] for to done pleasaunce,
By thi* ryght honde anone I shall the gripe,
With these other to gone vpon my daunce;
There is no scape nother auoydaunce,
On no syde to contraire* my sentence:
For in musike by craft and accordaunce
Who maister is [shal] shewen his science.*
The Minstrall maketh aunswere.
THIS new[e] daunce is to me so straunge,
Wonder diuers and passingly contrarye;
The dredefull footyng doth so oft[e] chaunge
And the measures so oft[e] tymes* varye,
Which now to me is nothyng* necessarye.
If it wer so that I might asterte!
But many a man, if I shal nought tary.
Oft [tyme] daunseth, but nothyng of hert.
Death speaketh to the Labourer.
THOU Labourer, which in sorowe and peyn
Hast lad thy life in [ful] great trauayle.
Ye must eke daunce and therfore nought disdein;
For if thou do, it may the nought auayle.
And cause why that I thee assayle
Is onely this: from thee to disceuer
The false world that can so folkes fayle;
He is a foole that weneth to liuen euer.
The Labourer maketh aunswere.
I HAUE wished after Death ful oft,
Albe that I would haue fled him nowe.
I had leauer to haue lyen vnsoft,
In wind & rain to haue gon at the plowe,
With spade & pikoys labored for my prowe,
Doluen and ditched and at the cart[e] gone:
For I may say and tell[e] platlye howe,
In this worlde there is rest[e] none.
The Frere maketh aunswere.
WHAT may this be, that in this world no man
Here to abide may haue no suretie?
Strength, riches, nor what so that he can
Of worldly wisedom; all is but vanitie!
In great estate nor in pouertie
Is nothing founde that may from* death defend;
For which I saye to high and low degree,
Wise is the* sinner that doth his lyfe amend.
Death speaketh to the Chylde.
LITLE Faunte, that were but late borne,
Shape in this worlde to haue no pleasaunce,
Ye must with other, that gone here beforne.
Be lad in hast by fatall ordinaunce.
Learne ouer* new to gone [up]on my daunce:
There may none age escape in soth therefro.
Let euery wight haue this in remembraunce.
Who lengest liueth most shal suffer woe,
The Yong Childe maketh aunswer.
A A a, a woorde I cannot speake;
I am so yonge; I was borne yesterday.
Death is so hasty on me to be wreake,
And list no lenger to make no delaie.
I come but now,* and now I go my way;
Of me no more tale* shall [ye] be told.
The wyll of God no man withstonde maye;
As soone dyeth a yong [man] as an olde.
The Clerke maketh aunswere.
SHALL [I] that am so yong a clerke now die,
Fro* my seruice & haue no bet guerdon?
Is there no gayn[e] ne no better way,
No seurer* fraunchise nor proteccion?
Death maketh alway a short conclusion;
To late ware, when men been on the brynke:
The world shall fayle and all possession;
For much faileth of thing that foles* thinke.
Death speaketh to the Hermite.
YE that haue liued long in wildernes
And there continued long in abstinence,
At the last[e] yet ye mot you dresse.
Of my daunce to haue experience;
For there against may be* no resistence.
Take now leaue of thyne hermitage:
W[h]erfore yche* man aduert to this sentence.
That [in] this life is* no sure heritage.
The Hermite maketh aunswere.
TO liue in desert called solitarie
May again Death haue respite none nor space;
At vnset houre his commyng doth not tary,
And for my part welcom by Goddes grace,
Thankyng hym with humble chere & face
Of al his giftes and great haboundaunce,
Finally affirmyng in this place,
No man is riche that lacketh suffraunce.
Death speaketh agayn to the Hermite.
THAT is wel sayd, and thus should euery wight
Thanken his God & al his wittes dresse
To loue & dread him with all his heart & might,
Sith Death to escape maye be no sikernes.
As men deserue, God quiteth of rightwisnes
To riche and poore vpon euery syde:
A better lesson there can no clerke expresse,
Than til to-morow is no man sure to abide.
¶Machabree the Doctoure.
MANS lyfe* is nought els, platly for to thinke.
But as [a] wind[e] which is transitory,
Passing ay forth, whether he wake or winke.
Toward this daunce, haueth this in memorye,
Remembryng aye there is no better victory
In this life here than fle syn at the least;
Than shal ye reygne in paradise with glorye.
Happy is he that maketh in heauen his feast!
Yet been there folke mo than sixe or seuen,
Recheles of life in many maner wyse.
Like as there were hell[e] none nor heauen.
Such false errour let euery man despise;
For holy saynctes and olde clerkes wyse
Written contrary, her falsenes to deface:*
To liuen wel, take* for the best emprise,
Is much[e] worth when men shall* hence passe.
Out of the French I drough it of entent,
Not word by word but folowing in substaunce,
And from Paris to Eng[e]land it sent,
Only of purpose you to do plesaunce.
Rude of langage, I was not borne in France, --
Haue me excused, my name is Iohn Lidgate;*
Of ther tong I haue no suffisance,
Her curious miters in Englishe to translate.
¶Here endeth the Daunce of Machabree.