The Dance of St. Paul's, Princess

The empress from Lübeck.
The empress

Dethe to the Lady of gret astate

Come forth a-noon / my lady & Princesse
Ȝe most al-so / go vp-on this daunce
Nowt mai a-vaile / ȝowre grete straungenesse
Nowther ȝowre beaute / ne ȝowre grete plesaunce
Ȝowre riche a-rai / ne ȝowre daliaunce
That somme-tyme cowde / so many holde on honde
In loue / for al ȝowre dowble variaunce
Ȝe mote as now / this foting vnderstonde.
a-noon: at once

ȝowre grete straungenesse: your great reserve

A-rai: array, clothing, daliaunce: frivolous conversation
somme-tyme cowde: formerly could

The Lady answereth

Allas I see / ther is noon other bote
Dethe hathe yn erthe / no ladi ne maiestresse
And on his daunce / ȝitte moste I nedes fote
For ther [n]is quene / Countesse ne duchesse
Flouryng in beaute / ne yn feirnesse
That she of dethe / mote dethes trace sewe
For to ȝowre beaute / & counterfete fresshnesse
Owre rympled age / seithe farewel adiewe.
Allas: Alas, bote: remedy

ȝitte: yet


That: But that, sewe: follow

rympled: wrinkled

Variants

There were no women in the Danse Macabre in Paris, so the lady of great estate (in some books known as the princess) was added by Lydgate.

It has been suggested that the reason that we don't see a empress or queen in the English dance of death is that back in 1425, Henry VI was only 4 years old and not yet "betrothed". On the other hand Lydgate didn't have any qualms about letting a king appear, even though this person is clearly an adult male and not a 4 years old infant.


Up to the Dance of Death in London