Lübeck's Dance of Death

The Lübecker totentanz, Hermit and peasant
Hermit and peasant.

Death answers the craftsman

Gi Amtes Lude alghemeine,
Achten vele Dinges kleine,
Dat gi einen anderen bedreghen,
Unde vaken darinne leghen.
Up sterven hebbe gi nicht gepast,
Juwe Sele ser belast,
Dat wil juwer Sele wesen swar,
Klusenaer, volghe naer(1)
you craftsmen - all of you -
pay [too] little heed to many things
[so] that you cheat each other
and furthermore often lie.
You did not waste any [thoughts] on dying
and you strained your souls.
It will be difficult for your souls.
Hermit, follow after.

The hermit

To sterven dat is mi nicht leit,
Were ik van binnen bereit,
Were mine Conciencien wol purgert,
De Viant heft mi tentert
Mit menniger Temptacie swar.
Vorbarme di Her openbar,
Ik di bekenne mine Sund,
Wes mi gnedich tor lesten Stund.
To die, that is not difficult for me,
if I were prepared inwardly,
[and] were my conscience well cleansed.
The Devil has tempted me
with many great temptations.
Show mercy, Lord, openly
I admit to you my sins.
Be gracious to me in the last moment.

Death answers the hermit

Do machst wol danssen blidelik,
Di hort dat hemmelske Rik.
Dat Arbeit, dat du hefst ghedan,
Sal diner Selen lustende stan.
Deden se alle so, it scholde en vromen,
Er scholde nicht vele ovel komen,
Men it wirde mengen sur,
Kom to min Reigen, Veltgebur.
You may very well dance gladly,
To you belongs the heavenly kingdom.
The work that you have done
shall gladden your soul.
If everybody did so, it would be to much benefit;
there wouldn't be much evil.
But it has become sour for many [people].
Come into my rank, peasant.

The peasant

Des Dansses neme ik wol Respit,
Noch hebbe ik mine Tyt
Mit Arbeide hen ghebracht,
Unde ghedacht Dach unde Nacht,
Wo ik min Lant mochte begaden,
Dat it mit Vrucht wirde geladen,
To betalen mine Pacht.
Den Dot hebbe ik nicht geacht.
I would like to put off this dance.
So far I have used all my time
on work,
and thought, day and night,
on how to cultivate my field,
so that it could be full of fruit
to pay my farm rent(2).
I did not pay heed to death.

The dance of death and the Oldesloe chapel
ca. 1940.
The chapel

The dance of death picks up again after having been interrupted by the little privat Oldesloe chapel. This chapel was quite small and located between the nave and the dance of death chapel, but does not exist today.

See this page for more about the dance of death chapel.

Footnotes: (1) (2)

...wesen swar, Klusenaer, volghe naer: Two of the words in this triple rhyme are really Dutch and not Low German. In Low German "klusenaer" would have been "klusenere" and "naer" would have been "na".

"Misspellings" like these indicate that the text was translated from a Dutch original in the same way that the Copenhagen's Dance of Death contains a lot of Low German words.

To pay my farm rent....: Namely to the nobleman.

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