The authority / preacher introduces the dance.
O creatures ȝe / that ben resonable
The life desiringe / whiche is eternal
Ȝe mai sene here / doctryne ful notable
Ȝowre life to lede / whiche that ys mortal
Ther bi to lerne / in [e]special
How ȝe schulle trace the daunce of machabre
To man and woman / yliche natural
For dethe ne spareth / hye ne lowe degre.
Oh creatures, you who are rational
and desire the eternal life.(1)
Here you may see a very striking doctrine
on how to lead your mortal life
in order to learn in particular
how you should dance the danse macabre
It's natural to man and woman alike
for Death spares neither high nor low rank.
In this myrrow[r]e / eueri wight mai fynde
That hym behoueth / to go vpon this daunce
Who gothe to-forne / or who schal go be-hynde
All dependeth / in goddes ordynaunce
Where-fore eche man / lowely take his chaunce
Deth spareth not / pore ne blode royal
Eche man ther-fore / haue yn remembraunce
Of oo matier / god hathe forged al.
In this mirror(2)
every person may find
the he needs to join this dance.
Who goes in front - and who goes behind
all depends on God's arrangement,
which is why each man lowly accepts his fate.
Death spares neither poor [people] nor royal blood.
Each man should therefore remember
that God has forged all of one matter.
Fictional portrait of John Lydgate
The dance of death starts with "Verba auctoris" - i.e. the words of the author or authority.
The text on this page and the following are illustrated with woodcuts from the Danse Macabre in Paris.
On the picture to the right, John Lydgate is
portrayed in the same position under an arch.