Dance of Death: B Version (Lansdowne)
John Lydgate, Dance of Death: B Version (Lansdowne): FOOTNOTES
1 God has made everyone from the same matter
2 Lines 27–28: The very dangerous position, whoso takes heed / To occupy St. Peter’s rank
3 Each and every one of these valuable things adjudicated together
4 Folk waste more great estates than can be numbered
5 Whoever rises highest stands most in dread
6 What kind of power or high birth is worth taking pride in?
7 I see no refuge in which to escape his power
8 The thing that is proper to do must be done
9 Everything will pass away except our good deeds
10 My legal privileges nor my great wealth
11 Such judgment to have as you have given in truth
12 Except for mercy, I would now be destroyed
13 Though you bore arms well on horseback yesterday
14 Lines 263–64: You cannot find examples in which someone escaped / Because of their riches or the power of their office
15 Lines 318–20: Nothing does more to help / And provide an acquittal in such a difficult situation / Than demonstrating one’s love and dread of God through the giving of alms
John Lydgate, Dance of Death: B Version (Lansdowne): EXPLANATORY NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: A version: Lydgate, Dance of Death (Selden); B version: Lydgate, Dance of Death (Lansdowne); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson; D: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 322 (SC 21896); DMF: Dictionnaire du Moyen Français (1330–1500); DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; FP: Lydgate, Fall of Princes, ed. Bergen; Gray: “Two Songs of Death,” ed. Gray; Hassell: Hassell, Middle French Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases; MED: Middle English Dictionary; ODNB: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases.
Before 1 Incipit Macrobius. Three manuscripts of the B version of the poem (Lansdowne, Lincoln, and Leiden) include an attribution to Macrobius at the beginning of the poem, probably a misunderstanding or corruption of “Macabre” (the note in Leiden is in a later hand). Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius was a fifth-century Roman author whose Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, a treatise on the interpretation of dreams, was widely read in the Middle Ages; the ascription to Macrobius might also represent an attempt to associate the text with a known textual authority rather than the more mysterious “Macabre” (see Introduction, pp. 4–6). Two other manuscripts of the B version (Bodleian and Corpus Christi) identify it in their incipits as the “Dance of Pauls,” referring to the murals painted in the Pardon Churchyard of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. None of the A text manuscripts include references to either Macrobius or the St. Paul’s location.
Before 9 Angelus. The French Danse concludes, in some manuscripts, with a Latin stanza rubricated as “Angelus et doctor locuntur” (The Angel and the doctor speak) at line 543. Marchant’s edition opens and closes with woodcuts showing an angel hovering over an author figure (identifiable by his pose of reading at a lectern); this angel is holding scrolls containing the Latin texts that open and close the French work. If an angel was included at the beginning of the Parisian mural, it could explain the B version’s decision to give the second stanza to this character, who does not otherwise speak in the poem.
9 this myrrour. See A version’s note to line 49 above.
19 And lik to Petir have the sovereynté. See A version’s note to line 59 above.
35 Ye must forsake of gold your appill round. See A version’s note to line 75 above.
45 A symple shete — ther is no more to seyn —. See A version’s note to line 85 above.
54 Your hatt of red. See A version’s note to line 94 above.
Before 65 Imperatrix. This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre or in the A version.
77 Deth seith chekmat. The concept of a match of chess or a similar game played against Death or another supranatural figure is an ancient one. W. L. Nash writes, “[t]he ancient Egyptian game, which we call the game of draughts, has been the subject of many myths and legends. Plato quotes an ancient tradition that the game was invented by Thoth. Herodotus (II, 122) repeats the legend related to him by the Egyptian priests, that Rhampsinitus (Rameses III) descended into the lower world, there played at draughts with Isis, and returned, a victor, to Earth. Plutarch (de Isis, 12), probably referring to the same legend, says that Hermes (Thoth) played at draughts with the moon, and won five lunar days, which he added to the solar year” (341). In Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, the Man in Black, lamenting his love, states that “fals Fortune hath pleyd a game / Atte ches with me” (lines 618–19). Several examples survive in visual art, most notably a large painting of a man playing chess with Death in Täby Church outside of Stockholm, painted by Albertus Pictor c. 1480–90, which is said to have inspired the similar scene in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal.
81 Sir Patriarch, ful sad and humble of cheere. See A version’s note to line 121 above.
83 Your dowble cros. See A version’s note to line 123 above.
Before 129 Princeps. In A (line 145), this speaker is identified as the Constable.
131 Carlemayn. See A version’s note to line 139 above.
132–33 worthy Arthour of . . . . the Rounde Table. A central figure in medieval romance, King Arthur was a legendary ruler of England who was also understood as a historical figure in the later Middle Ages due to his central role in works like Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain (c. 1136). Arthur was said to have gathered the knights in his service around a round table at his court at Camelot, which served as their base in their search for the Holy Grail, the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Many of the Knights of the Round Table, including Lancelot, Galahad, and Gawain, appear as the protagonists of their own romance narratives.
151 brouht to lure. The phrase is used in hawking to mean “to bring somebody under control” (MED lure [n.1], sense 1c).
Before 161 Comes et Baro. In A (line 177), this speaker is identified as “the Baroun or the Knyht.”
Before 177 Abbas et prior. In A (line 223), this speaker is identified only as the Abbot. B adds the Prior.
188 somwhat the lesse grevaunce. In A, this line reads “passinge grete grevaunce” (line 244), a somewhat stronger statement of dismay than the revised line.
Before 193 Abbatissa. This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre; she corresponds to the A version’s Abbesse (line 249).
Before 209 Iudex. This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre or in the A version.
216 Weel is hym that alwey weel doth. Proverbial. See Whiting D278.
225 Doctour of Canon and Cyvile. In medieval Europe, two legal systems operated alongside one another: canon law, which was made and enforced by ecclesiastical authorities and used throughout Europe, and civil law, which was made and enforced by local secular authorities. Medieval universities taught both systems of law; the doctor whom Death addresses in this stanza is a scholar of both, as indicated by his terminal degree (doctor utrisque juris). This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre or in the A version.
235 No man of his liff hath charter nor seele. A charter is a formal document granting certain rights or privileges; a seal attached to such a document would give it legal effect. Using legal language, Death asserts here that no one has authority over his or her own life.
Before 241 Miles et armiger. In A, both the speaker marker and line 217 name only the Squire. B adds the Knight.
Before 257 Maior. This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre or in the A version.
273 Sir Chanon Reguler. The MED (canoun [n.2], sense 2a) defines a canon regular as “a canon living under a quasi-monastic rule, a regular canon, an Augustinian or a Premonstratensian canon.” Such canons would have lived on the grounds of St. Paul’s during the time the Dance of Death was present in the Pardon Churchyard. This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre or in the A version.
289 Sir Dean or Chanon, with many gret prebend. See A version’s note to line 313 above. The B version adds the reference to a dean, the head of a chapter of canons associated with a cathedral or collegiate church (MED den [n.2]), which would be particularly appropriate for the Dance of Death’s setting at St. Paul’s.
297 My divers cures, my riche personages —. See A version’s note to line 321 above.
305 ye be barbid and claad in clothis blaake. See A version’s note to line 377 above. Although the Monk appears in both the French Danse macabre and the A version, his stanzas here are substantially revised.
306 Chastly receyved the mantil and the ryng. The mantle (a sleeveless overgarment worn by monks and nuns) and the ring were outward symbols of a vow of perpetual chastity typically bestowed by a bishop.
323 Sir Chartreux. See A version’s note to line 347 above.
337 Sir Sergeant. The Sergeant-at-Law is equivalent to the Man of Law in the A version of the text (lines 465–80) and is distinct from the Sergeant who appears in the B text from lines 401–16.
348–49 Tescape awey from . . . . nor gret prudence. In A (lines 476–77), these lines appear in the opposite order.
Before 353 Generosa. This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre, but her exchange with Death corresponds to the A version’s Gentilwomman Amerous (line 449).
355 As fair as ye was whilom Polliceene. See A version’s note to line 451 above.
356 Penolope and the queen Eleyn. See A version’s note to line 452 above.
357 Yit on this daunce thei went bothe tweyn. See A version’s note to line 453 above.
376 And alle shul deie for an appyll rounde. See A version’s note to line 288 above. A similar image appears in line 35, in the description of the Emperor.
401 thou Sergeant with thi stately maas. See A version’s note to line 361 above.
414 And may nat flee, thouh I hadde it sworn. See A version’s note to line 374 above.
417 Maister Jurour. See A version’s note to before line 481 above.
433 Gentil menstral. Although the Minstrel appears in the A version (line 497), his stanzas here are substantially revised.
440 Bettir late than nevyr. Proverbial. See Whiting L89.
448 alle be nat mery that othirwhyle daunce. Proverbial. See Whiting A88.
Before 449 Famulus. This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre or in the A version.
456 the tyde abidith no man. Proverbial. See Whiting T318.
465–80 Ye phisiciens . . . . fynaly no boote. Death’s dialogue with the Physician in B seems closer to the French Danse (lines 351–66) than the corresponding section in A (lines 417–32). Where the Danse reads: “Comme aultre vous convient mourir” (line 356: You must die like any other), the A version omits this, while the B version has: “For Deth comyng sodeynly doth assaile / As weel lechis as othir” (lines 469–70). Similarly, only B reproduces the Danse’s “Plus n’y vault herbe, ne racine, / N’autre remede” (lines 364–65: “Plants and roots and other remedies / Are no longer any good”) with “Wherfore shal helpe nothir herbe nor roote, / Nor no medycine . . .” (lines 478–79), while the A version omits the line. It is not clear why Lydgate may have gone back to his French source in revising this specific section.
465–66 that loken so fast / In othir mennys watris what thei eyle. See A version’s note to line 417–18 above.
472 al men shal repe as thei have sowe. Proverbial. See Whiting S542.
480 For ageyns Deth is fynaly no boote. Proverbial. See Whiting D78.
Before 497 Artifex. This is a new character, who does not appear in the original French Danse macabre or in the A version.
509–12 She pershith sheeldis . . . . be no deffence. In this passage, Death is referred to as feminine. In French, Death is feminine (la mort), but there is no section that corresponds to the Artifex stanzas in the Danse macabre.
544 For as sone deieth a yong sheep as an olde. The usage of “sheep” here is metaphorical; see A version’s note to line 543 above.
545 Ye that have lived long in wildirnesse. See A version’s note to line 609 above.
552 this liff heer is but a pylgrymage. The idea of a life as a pilgrimage is present in a variety of late medieval devotional texts, perhaps most notably in Guillaume de Deguileville’s Le pèlerinage de la vie humaine, which was translated twice into Middle English, once in prose as The Pilgrimage of the Life of the Manhood (dated to the 1420s) and once in verse as The Pilgrimage of the Life of Man (1426/27); the latter text is attributed to Lydgate, although the attribution remains questionable. Compare also Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale: “This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo, / And we been pilgrymes, passynge to and fro. / Deeth is an ende of every worldly soore” (CT I[A] 2847–49). See also Whiting P201.
561 Ye folk that loken upon this scripture. “Scripture” seems to refer specifically to the written word; the A text uses “portrature,” a word with visual connotations, in the equivalent passage at line 633.
569–70 What is mannys liff but . . . a puff of wynde. See James 4:15. See also Whiting L242.
John Lydgate, Dance of Death: B Version (Lansdowne): TEXTUAL NOTES
This version of the Dance of Death, which appears to have been derived from the earlier Selden version of the text, survives in six manuscripts: Bodleian Library MS Bodley 686 (SC 2527), Corpus Christi College Oxford MS 237, British Library MS Cotton Vespasian A.XXV, British Library Lansdowne MS 699, Lincoln Cathedral Library MS 129, and Leiden University Library MS Vossius Germ. Gall. Q.9.
Lansdowne MS 699 is the base text for our edition, collated with Florence Warren’s critical edition for the Early English Text Society. Warren also records the many variant readings from Cotton Vespasian, a late manuscript (c. 1600) that describes the poem as “writen in the cappell of Wortley of Wortley Hall” (fol. 172r) and thus may represent a transcription from an otherwise unattested set of paintings, similar to those created for the Pardon Churchyard at St. Paul’s.
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 686, fols. 209r–16r
Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS 237, fols. 147r–57r
London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian A. XXV, fols. 172r–77v (49 stanzas only)
London, British Library, MS Lansdowne 699, fols. 41v–50v
Lincoln, Lincoln Cathedral Library, MS 126, fols. 79v–86r
Cambridge, Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Eng. 752, fol. 44r (one stanza only, inserted in the text of Lydgate’s Troy Book)
Leiden, Leiden University Library, MS Vossius Germ. Gall. Q.9, fol. 29v
EARLY PRINT EDITION:
Lydgate, John. Hore beate marie virginis ad vsum insignis ac preclare ecclesie Saru[m] cu[m] figuris passionis mysteriu[m] representa[n]tibus recenter additis., [Parisius: Per J. bignon pro R. fakes Lodoii [sic] librario, [1521?]] (20 stanzas only). [STC 15932]
Warren, Florence, and Beatrice White, eds. “The Daunce of Death.” In The Dance of Death, Edited from MSS. Ellesmere 26/A.13 and B.M. Lansdowne 699, Collated with the Other Extant MSS. EETS o.s. 181. London: Oxford University Press, 1931; Rpt. New York: Klaus Reprint Co., 1971. Pp. 1–77.
ABBREVIATIONS: A1: London, British Library Additional 37049 fols. 31v–32r (basis for “Dawnce of Makabre”); A2: London, British Library Additional 15225, fols. 15r–16r (basis for “Shaking of the Sheets”); BD: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ 1.1.6 (Bannatyne MS Draft), pp. 43r–44r; BM: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ 1.1.6 (Bannatyne MS Main), fols. 56r–57r (basis for “Resoning betuix Death and Man”); Brown: Religious Lyrics of the XVth Century, ed. Brown, p. 241; Brunner: “Mittelenglische Todesgedichte,” ed. Brunner, pp. 27–28, 30; C: Cambridge, Cambridge University Library Ff.5.45, fols. 13r–14r; Cov: Coventry, Coventry Archives Acc. 325/1, fols. 70rb–74vb; Cutler: Cutler, John L. “A Middle English Acrostic,” p. 88; D: Oxford, Bodleian Library Douce 322 (SC 21896), fols. 19vb–20ra (basis for “Death’s Warning to the World”); Doty: “An Edition of British Museum MS Additional 37049: a Religious Miscellany,” ed. Doty, pp. 206–11; Dufour: La dance macabre peinte sous les charniers des Saints Innocents de Paris, ed. Dufour; F: Bibliothèque nationale de France fonds français 14989, fols. 1r–12v (basis for French Danse macabre); Fein: The Danse Macabre Printed by Guyot Marchant, ed. Fein; Furnivall: “Of Þre Messagers of Deeth,” ed. Furnivall, 2:443–48; H1: London, British Library Harley 1706, fols. 19v–20r; H2: London, British Library, Harley 116, fols. 128r–v (basis for “A Mirror for Young Ladies at their Toilet”); Horstmann: “Nachträge zu den Legenden 5: The Messengers of Death,” ed. Horstmann, pp. on 432–34; L: British Library MS Lansdowne 669, fols. 41v–50v (basis for Lydgate, Dance of Death, B version), fols. 41v–50v; Lincy: “La danse macabre reproduite textuellement d’apres l’unique exemplaire connu de l’édition princeps de Guyot Marchant,” ed. Le Roux de Lincy, pp. 291–317; N: New Haven, Beinecke Library MS 493, fols. 51v–60v; P: Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys Library, Pepys Ballads 2.62; R: Oxford, Bodleian Library 4o Rawl. 566 (203); RV: Rome, Venerable English College (AVCAU) MS 1405, fols. 111r–21r; S: Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Selden Supra 53, fols. 148r–58v (basis for Lydgate, Dance of Death, A version); Saugnieux: “La danse macabre française de Guyot Marchant (1486),” ed. Saugnieux, pp. 143–64; Silverstein: “Cest le Myrroure pur les Iofenes Dames,” ed. Silverstein, pp. 121–22; Sim: London, British Library Addit. 22283 [Simeon MS], fols. 88vb–89ra; V: Oxford, Bodleian Library Eng. poet. a.1 (SC 3938) [Vernon MS], fols. 297vc–98rb (basis for “Three Messengers of Death”); Warren: The Dance of Death, ed. Warren and White; W1: Oxford, Bodleian Library Wood 401 (60) (Wing H2013A); W2: Oxford, Bodleian Library Wood 402 (48) (Wing H2013B).
1 O creatures ye. So Warren. L: O creatures.
7 yliche naturall. So Warren. L: that be naturall.
27 Thestat ful perilous. So Warren. L: thestat perlious.
39 Ageyn my myth. So Warren. L: ageyn myth.
46 visage. So Warren. L: my visage.
52 daunce for to leer. So Warren. L: daunce to leer.
56 avys. So Warren. L: amys.
58 gretely. So Warren. L: grisly.
60 That I shall. So Warren. L: that shal.
hereaftir. So Warren. L: aftir.
62 Myn hat of. L: myn
of hat of
63 Bi which. So Warren. L: bi the which.
72 ye. So Warren. L: I.
73 or. So Warren. L: os.
75–76 Or what availeth . . . . porte or straungenesse. These lines are transposed in L. A note in red in the outer margin indicates the correct order.
76 or2. So Warren. L: os.
82 with me. So Warren. L: withynne.
86 possessid. So Warren. L: possedid.
89 grete tresour. So Warren. L: tresour.
90 Have. So Warren. L: hath.
92 availeth it. So Warren. L: availeth.
96 ofte. So Warren. L: often.
113 Sir Archebishop whi. L: Rubricated caesura after Archebishop.
115 my. So Warren. L: your.
124 that. So Warren. L: that
126 adieu. This word is underlined in red and written with a red initial a wherever it appears in L. See also lines 251–53 and 487.
127 my tresour. So Warren. L: tresour.
130 This. So Warren. L: The.
not eschewable. So Warren. L: mysschevable.
133 of. So Warren. L: at.
136 Deth availe. So Warren. L: deth.
Before 137Nicholas Munston (?). Abraded signature in a later hand above this stanza in L.
138 assege. So Warren. L: asseged. forteresses. So Warren. L: porterresses.
140 worship. So Warren. L: worshepis.
grete rychesses. So Warren. L: worthynessis.
141 prowesses. So Warren. L: prowessis.
143 eke swetnesses. So Warren. L: & swetnesses.
151 acounte. So Warren. L: counte.
157 world. So Warren. L: word.
161 thourh. L: r inserted above thouh indicating correction.
164 This. So Warren. L: ther.
172 Cherishid. So Warren. L: chershid.
182 your state. So Warren. L:
Before 193 Abbatissa written in red ink in another hand in the top left corner of fol. 44v.
200 no good. So Warren. L: good.
201 for me so. So L. Warren: so for me.
203 this daunce. So Warren. L: this.
220 deferrid. So Warren. L: differrid.
240 shade. So Warren. L: slade.
242 gise. So Warren. L: gises.
244 devise. So Warren. L: devises.
245 emprise. So Warren. L: emprises.
249 Sith. So Warren. L: But sith.
Deth me. L: Rubricated caesura after deth.
262 on. So L. Warren: out.
274 ysworn. So Warren. L: I sworn.
282 to. So Warren. L: the.
of verry. L: of
301 Amys. Underlined in red in L; it is possibly misrecognized as the French amis (friends).
318 helpe more at. So Warren. L: helpe at.
323 and doth. So Warren. L: doth.
329 ded. L: de
th., with d inserted above the deleted letters.
331 Thowgh every. So Warren. L: euery.
332 Dredith. So Warren. L: dredith hym.
334 the Lord. So Warren. L: my lord.
338 Juge. So Warren. L: Iustise.
341 foly. So Warren. L: hihe.
345 Natures lawe. So Warren. L: natures of lawe.
350 in. So Warren. L: on.
352 God qwyteth al men lyke as they deserve. So Warren. L: but god quyteth men bettir than thei deserve.
355 ye was. So Warren. L: thei were.
Polliceene. L reads pollixene, which is underlined in red; Polliceene is added in red in the outer margin in another hand.
356 Penolope. L: underlined in red.
and. So Warren. L: or.
357 thei went. So Warren. L: went thei.
369 mayster. So Warren. L: ye.
372 astrologye. L: astroulogye with a punctus under u, indicating correction.
374 walke upon the. So Warren. L: walkyn vpon.
379 in the sterris. So Warren. L: in sterris.
380 nor. So Warren. L: or.
382 descrive. So Warren. L: descriven.
384 Who livith aryght. So Warren. L: but he that weel livith.
387 prechyng. So Warren. L: techyng.
ofte. So Warren. L: often.
395 Strengthe richesse. So Warren. L: strengthe nor richesse.
what so that. So Warren. L: what that.
396 Of. So Warren. L: or.
401 forth thou Sergeant. So Warren. L: forth sergeant.
413 arrested. So Warren. L: arrest.
416 for to. So Warren. L: to.
428 whom. So Warren. L: as.
433 shewe me now. So Warren. L: shewe now.
436 unto. So Warren. L: to.
460 profites that long. So Warren. L: profites long.
474 plyed. So Warren. L: plye.
482 thorow many. So Warren. L: many.
489 strong. So Warren. L: a strong.
490 my. So Warren. L: many.
508 ther may nothyng. So L. Warren: which that may.
518 fro. So Warren. L: for.
524 gon. So Warren. L: go.
at the plouh. So Warren. L: at plouh.
530 world. Warren, L: word.
533 gon. So Warren. L: pleyen.
542 Of me no more. So Warren. L: on me more no.
547 mote. So Warren. L: mete.
550 hermitage. So Warren. L: heritage.
554 space. So Warren. L: grace.
561 Ye. So Warren. L: ye ye.
570 Or as a. So Warren. L: or a.