Vermessener! du seyest
auch wer du seyest
der du durch manch
diesen heiligen Ort
Hier findest du keine
sondern im Todten
Tanz deine gewisse
Still demnach, still!
Laß das Mahlwerck
stummer Wände mit
und wo möglich vor
dem Ende dich über-
reden, daß der Mensch
sey und werde
Px. Ho. 1463 Renov.
ult. Ao 1701.
Ye mortals, up! your glass is out,
Both high and low; for do not doubt,
But tyrant kings, at my command,
Shall take a beggar by the hand.
I'll tune my pipe, as they advance,
And make them partners in a dance.
Come, hoary father, you must know,
When death doth call 'tis time to go;
Your robes and triple crown forsake,(3)
Instead of them this coffin take;
This coffin, which is far too small
To hold the least gew-gaw at all.
Talk so to me! I greatly wonder,
You think so little of my thunder.
Can't holy water, holy tapers,
Stand me in stead against thy vapours.
Me, who have power to release,
Or bind, those sinners whom I please.(4)
'Twere passing strange, were I to die
Without the keys of heav'n, not I.
Monarch august, arise, and pay
The debt you owe, nor make delay;
Be quick, I'll not compound for all
Your claims to this terrestrial ball.
Nor shall thy mound, or sword, or power,
Ward off my scythe a single hour.
For Death I am, I'll be obey'd;
None but the wicked are afraid.
Ah! ruthless Death! with iron hand
Dost thou, at last, before me stand?
Thou need'st not tell me, fiend, for, oh !
Thy power is absolute, I know;
But when my soul is on the wing,
May mercy save me from thy sting!
Cease, cease, those pearly tears, me fair;
I'll ease your heart, and soothe your care.
See yonder multitude appear,
Behold with them thy lord, thy dear:
You soon must join him hand-in-hand,
And life resign at my command.
The English translations are those of Thomas Nugent.
Apparently the texts vary a bit. The picture to the left is a photo of the painting, and on the right picture I have marked those words that have been added by Suhl.
There's also a lot of variation towards the end of the introduction. In his book Eine Hand-voll Poetischer Blätter (1702)
Nathanael Schlott let the introduction end like this:
»und wo möglich vor dem Ende dich überreden / daß der Mensch sey und werde Erde«.
In his book Gründliche Nachricht from 1713 Jakob von Melle gives precisely the same text —
except that he ends it with "N.S.", which presumably stands for "Nathanael Schlott".
»und wo möglich vor dem Ende dich überreden / daß der Mensch sey und werde Erde. N.S«.
In contrast, Suhl (picture to the right) adds the mysterious "Px. Ho. 1463", which started the rumour that the painting
had been created by Hans Holbein ("Pinxit Holbein"):
»und wo möglich vor dem Ende dich überreden / daß der Mensch sey und werde Erde. Px. Ho. 1463. Renov. ult. Ao 1701«.
The "Px. Ho. 1463" later disappeared again, as if it had never existed(!) Suhl is the only person to ever have reported it.
As the photo to the left shows, the words "wo möglich" have also been removed, while a new word has been added: »und vor dem Ende dich über reden, daß der Mensch sey und seyn werde Erde. Anno 1701«.
Footnotes: (1) (2) (3) (4)
"To bind" means to make unlawful, and "to loose" means to make lawful. The pope is a successor of Peter the Apostle, so what it means, in effect, is that whatsoever rules the pope maketh up shall receive the Divine rubberstamp of instant approval.