The Young Woman

The young woman
The young woman

Ludewig SuhlThomas Nugent

    der Tod
Ich halte wie die Welt von Complimenten nicht,
Muß heißt mein hartes Wort, das Stahl und Eisen bricht,
Und warum wolt ihr mir den letzten Tanz versagen?
Die Iungfern pflegen sonst kein Tänzgen abzuschlagen.

    XLVI. Death to the Maiden.
Come, pretty maid, and dance with me,
I use no compliments, you see;
I say, I hate your complaisance,
So once more come with me and dance;
I've chose you for my partner, miss;
Nay, be not so surpriz'd at this,
I do not always love old age,
You'll make some figure on my stage.


    die Iungfrau
Ich folge weil ich muß und tanze wie ich kan,
Ihr Schwestern wählet euch bey Zeiten einen Mann:
So reichet ihr die Faust dem Bräutigam im Leben,
Die ich dem Tode muß, doch halb gezwungen geben.

    XLVII. The Maiden's answer.
Since I must go, O sisters dear,
Choose you a partner, for fear
This grim-ey'd monster, when I die,
Should like more of our family:
For sure I think it much amiss,
To give to him my virgin kiss.

The maid by Milde. Death holds up the false sleeve.
Milde, Maid

Behind the maiden's head we once again see the city of Lübeck. This time from the west side.

Suhl has some variations in the text, which follow Jacob von Melle and Nathanael Schlott, but are contradicted by later sources as well as the painting itself.

    Und warum wolt ihr mir den letzten Tanz Gang versagen?

Baptism and death are the first and last walk, although you don't walk yourself, but are "being walked".(1)

The maid by Suhl. The false sleeve floats in the air
Suhl, Maid

Suhl, von Melle and Schlott have the opposite variant in the following line, where they write, »Tänzgen« (going dancing) instead of »Tänzchen« (little dance). However, in this case they are backed by Mantels, and it's hard to determine from the old photos who is right.

For the longest time I thought the maid wore a long stick on her head with some sort of red pompon at the end (picture to the left). Ludewig Suhl shows clearly that the hair is adorned by some sort of feather, which in no way touches the false sleeve that Death is holding up. As the picture shows, false sleeves (German: Zierärmel / Scheinärmel) can be quite long and attached to the back.

On the other hand, Suhl forgets to draw Death's arm, so the false sleeve is hanging suspended in the air for no obvious reason (compare with Suhl's original watercolour and Milde's version).

Footnotes: (1)

Deutsches Worterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm, 1878, page 1.222:

der erste und der letzte gang, zur taufe und zum grabe, wo man doch nicht selber geht, sondern so zu sagen (das zu andern zwecken erfundene scherzwort drückt es scharf aus) gegangen wird: