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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

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 it.

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: yo thestat.

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 w verray.

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: deth., 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.







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¶ Incipit Macrobius
O creatures ye that been resonable,
The liff desiryng which is eternall,
Ye may seen heer doctrine ful notable,
Your liff to leede which that is mortall,
Therby to lerne in especiall
How ye shal trace the daunce which that ye see
To man and wooman yliche naturall,
For Deth ne sparith hih nor lowe degre.

¶ Angelus
In this myrrour every man may fynde
That hym behovyth to goon upon this daunce.
Whoo goth before or who goth behynde,
All dependith in Goddis ordynaunce.
Wherfore eche mann lowly take his chaunce;
Deth spareth nothir poore nor blood roiall.
Eche man therfore have this in remembraunce
Of oon mateer God hath forgid all.1

¶ Papa
Ye that be sett hih in dignyté
Of all estatis in erthe spirituall,
And lik to Petir have the sovereynté
Ovir the chirche most in especiall:
Upon this daunce ye first begynne shall,
As most worthi lord and governour,
For al the worshippe of your estat papall
And of all lordshippe to God is the honour.

¶ Responsum
First me bihovyth this daunce with Deth to leede,
Wich sat in erthe hihest in my see —
Thestat ful perilous whoso takith heede
To occupie Seynt Petris dignyté — 2
But for al that fro Deth I may nat flee,
Upon this daunce with othir for to trace,
For sich honour, who prudently can see,
Is litel worthe that doth so soone passe.

¶ Imperator
Sir Emperour, lord of all the ground,
Most sovereyn prynce surmountyng of noblesse:
Ye must forsake of gold your appill round,
Septre and swerd and all your hih prowesse.
Behynde yow lat tresour and richesse,
And with othir to my daunce obeye.
Ageyn my myth vaileth non hardynesse;
Adamis children all thei must deye.

¶ Responsum
I not to whom I may appele,
Whan Deth me sailith that doth me constreyn.
Ther is no gynne to socour my quarele,
But spade and picois my grave to atteyne,
A symple shete — ther is no more to seyn —
To wrappen in my body and visage,
Wherupon sore I me compleyn
That lordis grete have litel avauntage.

¶ Cardinalis
Ye be abaissht, it seemeth, and in drede,
Sir Cardynall — it seemeth bi your cheer —
But for al that ye folwe shal in deede
With othir estates this daunce for to leer.
Your gret array al shal levyn heer,
Your hatt of red, your vesture of gret cost.
Al these thynges rekenyd weel ifeere:3
In gret worship good avys is lost.

¶ Responsum
I have gret cause — trewly it is no faile —
To been abaissht and gretely to dreede me,
Sith Deth is come me sodeynly tassaile,
That I shall nevir hereaftir clothid be
In grise nor ermyn lik to my degré;
Myn hat of red levyn heer in distresse,
Bi which I have lernyd weel and see
How that al joie eendith in hevynesse.

¶ Imperatrix
Lat se your hand, my lady dame Empresse,
Have no disdeyn with me for to daunce.
Ye may aside leyn al your richesse,
Your fresh attyres, devises of plesaunce,
Your soleyn cheeris, your strange countenaunce,
Your clothis of gold most uncouthly wrouht,
Havyng of Deth ful litel remembrance.
But now ye se weel al is come to nouht.

¶ Responsum
What availeth gold, richesse, or perre,
Or what availeth hih blood or jentylnesse,
Or what availeth freshnesse or beaute,
Or what is worth hih porte or straungenesse?
Deth seith chekmat to al sich veyn noblesse.
All worldly power now may me nat availe:
Raunsoun, kynrede, frenshippe, nor worthynesse,
Syn Deth is come myn hih estate tassaile.

¶ Patriarcha
Sir Patriarch, ful sad and humble of cheere,
Ye mote with othir gon on this daunce with me.
Your dowble cros of gold and stonys cleer,
Your power hool, and al your dygnyté
Som othir shal of trouth and equité
Be possessid in hast, as I rehers can.
Trust nevyr that ye shal pope be,
For foly hope disseiveth many a man.

¶ Responsum
Worldly honour, grete tresour, and richesse
Have me disseyved sothfastly in deede.
My joies old be turned to distresse.
What availeth it sich honour to possede?
Hih clymbyng up a fal hath to his meede;
Gret estat folk waste out of noumbre.4
Whoso mountith hihest stondith most in drede,5
Such hevy berden doth hem ofte encoumbre.

¶ Rex
Right noble kyng, most worthi of renoun,
Cum forth anon for al your worthynesse,
That somtyme had so gret possession,
Rewmys obeyng unto your hih noblesse.
Ye most of nature to this daunce yow dresse
And fynally your crowne and sceptre leete.
For whoso most haboundith in gret rychesse
Shal bere with hym but a sengle sheete.

¶ Responsum
I have nat lernyd heer afforn to daunce
No daunce in soth of fotyng so savage,
Wherbi I see ful cleerly in substaunce:
What pride is worth force or hih parage?6
Deth all fordoth — this is his usage —
Gret and smal that in this world sojourne.
Who that is most meek hath most avauntage,
For we shul all to dede asshis torne.

¶ Archiepiscopos
Sir Archebisshop, whi do ye so withdrawe
Your look, your face as it wer bi disdeyn?
Yee must obey to my mortal lawe:
It to constreyne it were but in veyn.
For day bi day, be right wele certeyn,
Deth at hond pursewith every coste.
Preestes and Deth may nat be holden ageyn,
For at oon our men contith wit ther oste.

¶ Responsum
Allas, I wot nat what partye for to flee,
For dreede of Deth I stonde in sich distresse,
Tescape his power I can no refute see.7
But who that knewe his constreynt and duresse,
He wolde take reson to maistresse
And seyn adieu pompe, and pride also,
My peynted paleys, my tresour, and richesse.
Thyng that behovyth nedis must be do.8

¶ Princeps
Riht myhty prynce, be rith weell certeyn
This daunce to yow is not eschewable.
For more myhty than ever was Carlemayn,
Or worthy Arthour of prowes ful notable
With al his knyhtes of the Rounde Table —
What did ther platis, ther armour, or ther maile,
Ther strong corage, ther sheeldes defensable,
Ageyns Deth availe whan he hem dide assaile?

¶ Responsum
My purpos was and myn entencion
To assege castellis and myhti forteresses,
Rebellis to bryng unto subjeccion,
To seeke worship, fame, and grete rychesses.
But I se weel that al wordly prowesses
Deth can abate, wherof I have despite.
To hym allon sorwe eke swetnesses,
For ageyns Deth is founde no respite.

¶ Episcopos
Com ner, Sir Bisshoppe, with your myteer and croos,
For al your richesse, soth I yow ensure,
For al your tresour so longe kepte in cloos,
Your wordly goodis and goodis of nature,
And of your sheep the gostly dreedful cure,
With charge commytted to your prelacie,
For to acounte ye shal be brouht to lure.
No wiht is sewr that clymbith on hih.

¶ Responsum
Of these tidynges I am nothyng glaad,
Which Deth to me so sodeynly doth bryng.
It makith my face and countenaunce ful saad
That for discomfort me lyst nothyng to syng;
The world contrary to me in werkyng
Which al estatis can so disherite.
And needis we must onto our departyng,
And al shal passe save oonly our merite.9

¶ Comes et Baro
Erl or Baron, which that thourh regiouns
Have sore laboured for worship and renoun,
Forget your trompetis and your clariouns.
This is no dreem nor symulacioun.
Somtyme your custom and your entencoun
Was in estat and wordly wurshippe to glade,
But often tyme it happith, in conclusion,
Oo man brekyth that anothir made.

¶ Responsum
Ful often tyme I have ben auttorised
To hih empryse and thyng of gret fame.
Of gret estatis my thank also devised,
Cherishid with princes and lordis hih of name,
Nor nevyr on me was put no diffame
In roial courtes, which that weer notable.
But Deth unwarly al power makith lame,
And undir hevene in erthe is nothyng stable.

¶ Abbas et prior
Sir Abbot and Priour with your brood hatt,
To been abassht ye have a maner riht.
Gret is your hed, your bely rounde and fatt;
Ye must come daunce thouh ye be nat liht.
Leven your lordshippe to som othir wiht,
Your eyer is of age your state to ocupye.
Whoso is fattest to hym I have behiht,
In his grave sonnest shal putrefie.

¶ Responsum
Of thy manace I have no gret envye
That I shal leve al maner governaunce.
But that I shal as a cloistrer die —
This doth to me somwhat the lesse grevaunce.
My libertes nor my gret aboundaunce,10
What may thei availe in any maner wise?
Yit aske I mercy with devoute repentaunce,
Thouh toforn Deth too late men them avise.

¶ Abbatissa
And ye, my lady gentyl dame Abbesse,
With your mantyl furryd large and wide,
Your veile, your wympil, your ryng of gret richesse,
And beddis softe ye must now leyne aside,
For to this daunce I must be your gyde.
Thouh ye be tendre, born of gentil blood,
Whil that ye live yoursilf provide,
For aftir Deth no man hath no good.

¶ Responsum
Allas, that Deth hath for me so ordeyned
That in no wise I may nat hym eschewe;
Unto this daunce of riht I am constreyned
That heer with othir I must his trace sewe.
This pilgrymage to every man is dewe,
An ernest mateer, a mateer of no jape.
Who that is alwey redy shal nevir rewe
The hour abydyng that God hath for hym shape.

¶ Iudex
That hand of youres, my Lord Justice,
That have rewlid so long the lawe,
Weel may men holde yow war and wise,
So that this drauht be weel drawe;
Escape shal ye nat, wold ye never so fawe,
Sich dome to have as ye have yoven in soth.11
Wherfore men seyn of an old sawe:
Weel is hym that alwey weel doth.

¶ Responsum
Allas, ne were that myn entent
Was weele dressid, thouh I othirwhile erryd.
Now shuld I uttrely be shamyd and shent
For many causes that I have oftyn deferrid,
Sauff mercy oonly now were I marrid.12
Blissid therfore is every wiht,
As bi Holy Scriptur may ben averrid,
That in all tyme doth lawe and kepith riht.

¶ Doctor utrisque Iuris
Com forth, Doctour of Canon and Cyvile.
In bothe these lawis of long contynuaunce,
Your tyme hath spent — bewar ye did no gile —
In your mateers for to han fortheraunce.
Now must ye lerne with me for to daunce;
All your lawe may yow nat availe.
Giff me your hand and make no perturbaunce:
Your hour is come — this is withouten faile.

¶ Responsum
A mercy, Jhesu, whow mankynde is freele
And litel tyme in this worlde abydyng;
No man of his liff hath charter nor seele.
Therfore it may be likned in all thyng
Unto a flour so amorously floorsshyng,
Which with a froste bigynneth riht sone to fade.
Whan cruell Deth his massage list to bryng,
Al liffly thyng he bryngeth in the shade.

¶ Miles et armiger
Knyht or Scwyer, riht fressh of your aray
That can of daunses al the newe gise:
Thouh ye bare armes wele-horsid yisterday,13
With speere and sheeld at your uncouth devise,
And took upon yow many strange emprise,
Dansith with us, it wole no bettir be;
Ther is no socour in no maner wise,
For no man may from Dethis power flee.

¶ Responsum
Sith that Deth me holdith in his lace,
Yit shal I speke a woord or I pace:
Adieu, al myrthe, adieu now al solace;
Adieu, my ladies somtyme so fressh of face;
Adieu, beauté that lastith but short space!
Of Dethis chaunge every day is pryme;
Thynk on your sowlis or that Deth manace,
For al shal rote, and no mann wot what tyme.

¶ Maior
Com forth, Sir Mayr, which had governaunce
Bi pollicie to rewle this cité:
Thouh your power were notable in substaunce,
To flee my daunce ye have no liberté.
Estate is noon nor wordly dygnyté
That may escape on of my daungeris.
To fynde rescew exaumple ye may se
Nouthir bi richesse nor force of officeres.14

¶ Responsum
What helpith now thestat in which I stood,
To rewle cites or comouns to governe,
Plente of richesse, or increce of good,
Or olde wynnyng that cometh to me so yerne?
Deth al defaceth, whoso list to lerne;
Me for tareste he comyth on so faste.
Eche man therfore shold afore discerne
Prudently to thynk upon his laste.

¶ Canonicus Regularis
Lat see your hand, Sir Chanon Reguler,
Somtyme ysworn to religion,
As humble soget and obedienceer,
Chastly to live lik your profession.
But ther may be no consolacion
Ageyn my sawes sodeyn and cruell,
Except oonly — for short conclusion —
Who liveth in vertu mot nedis dey weel.

¶ Responsum
Whi shulde I grutche or disobeye
The thyng to which, of verrey kyndly riht,
Was I ordeyned and born for to deye,
As in this world is ordeyned every wiht?
Which to remembre is nothyng liht;
Prayng the Lord that was sprad on the Roode
To medle mercy with His eternal myht
And save the sowles that he bouht with his blood.

¶ Decanus
Sir Dean or Chanon, with many gret prebend,
Ye may no lenger ha distribuciouns
In gret array your tresour to dispende,
With all your richesse and your possessiouns,
For Kynde hath sett hir revoluciouns,
Eche man som day to daunce on Dethis brynk.
Therof ye may have no dilaciouns,
For Deth cometh evir whan men lest on hym thynke.

¶ Responsum
My divers cures, my riche personages —
Allas ful litel thei may me now comforte.
Deth upon me hath geten his avantages;
All my richesse can make me now no sporte.
Amys of grey, thei must ageyn resorte
Unto the world with many a gret prebende;
For which trewly, as clerkis can reporte,
To deye weel eche man sholde entende.

¶ Monialis
Thouh ye be barbid and claad in clothis blaake,
Chastly receyved the mantil and the ryng,
Ye may nat the cours of nature forsake,
To daunce with othir now at my comyng.
In this world is non abidyng,
Nouthir of maide, widewe, nor wiff,
As ye may seen heer cleerly bi wrytyng,
That ageyns Deth is founde no preservatiff.

¶ Responsum
It helpith nat to stryve ageyn Nature,
Namely whan Deth bigynneth tassaile,
Wherfore I counseil every creature
To been redy ageyn this fel batayle.
Vertu is sewrer than othir plate or maile,
Also nothyng may helpe more at sich a nede
Than to provide a sur acquytaile
With the hand of almesse to love God and drede.15

¶ Chartreux
Yeve me your hand with chekis ded and pale,
Causid of watche and long abstynence,
Sir Chartreux, and doth your chyne vale
Unto this daunce with humble pacience.
To stryve ageyn may be no resistence;
Lenger to live set nat your memorie.
Thouh I be lothsom outward in apparence,
Above all men Deth hath the victorie.

¶ Responsum
Unto this world I was ded ago ful longe
Bi myn ordre and my profession.
Thowgh every man, be he nevyr so strong,
Dredith to deye bi naturall mocion
Afftyr his flesshly inclynacion,
Plese it the Lord my sowle for to borwe
Fro feendis myht and fro dampnacion;
Som arn today that shal nat be tomorwe.

¶ Sergeant in lawe
Come neer, Sir Sergeant, short processe for to make,
Ye must cum pleete afore the Juge on hihe,
Many a quarell thouh ye have undirtake
And for lucre doon folk gret remedie.
Ther shal your sotil wittis be deemyd foly,
Yif sleathe and covetise be nat exiled.
Bewar bitymes and labour for mercy,
For thei that trust most themsilf ar sonnest bigiled.

¶ Responsum
Of riht and reson bi Natures lawe,
I can alleggen nor make no diffence,
Nor bi sleihte nor statute me withdrawe
Tescape awey from this dreedful sentence,
For al my witt nor gret prudence.
No thyng in erthe may no man preserve
Ageyns His myht to make resistence;
God qwyteth al men lyke as they deserve.

¶ Generosa
Com forth maistresse, of yeeres yong and grene
Which hold yoursilff of beauté sovereyn.
As fair as ye was whilom Polliceene,
Penolope and the queen Eleyn,
Yit on this daunce thei went bothe tweyn,
And so shal ye for al your strangenesse.
Thouh deynous daungeer longe hath lad your reyn,
Unto this daunce ye mote your fotyng dresse.

¶ Responsum
O cruel Deth that sparist non estat,
To old and yong thou art indifferent.
To my beauté thou hast seyd chekmat,
So hasty is thi mortall jugement.
For in my youthe this was myn entent,
To my servise many a man to have lurid.
But she is a fool, shortly in sentement,
That in hir beauté is too myche assurid.

¶ Magister in Astronomia
Com forth, mayster, that loken up so ferre
With instrumentis of astronomye
To take the grees and hithe of every sterre.
What may availe al your astrologye,
Sith of Adam al the genealogie,
Maade first of God to walke upon the gronde,
Deth doth arrest? Thus seith theologie,
And alle shul deie for an appyll rounde.

¶ Responsum
For al my craft, connyng, or science
I can fynde no provision,
Nor in the sterris serche out no difference,
Bi domofyeng nor calculacion,
Sauff fynaly — in conclusion —
For to descrive our connyng every deel,
Ther is no more bi sentence of reson,
Who livith aryght most nedis deye weel.

¶ Frater
Com forth, thou frere, to thee myn hand is rauht
Upon this daunce thee to conveie and lede,
Which in thi prechyng hast ful ofte tauht,
How that I am gastfull for to dreede
(Althouh that folk take ther of non heede).
Yit is ther non so strong nor so hardy,
But I dar arrest hym and lett for no meede,
For Deth eche hour is present and redy.

¶ Responsum
What may this be that in this world no man
Heer for tabide may have no sureté?
Strengthe, richesse, nor what so that he can:
Of wordly wisdam is al but vanité.
In gret estate nor in poverté
Is no thyng founde that may fro Deth deffende,
For which I sei to hih and lowe degré,
Wis is the synner that doth his liff amende.

¶ Sergaunt
Com forth, thou Sergeant with thi stately maas;
Make no deffence nor no rebellion.
Nouht may availe to grotchen in this caas,
Thouh thou be deynous of condicioun,
For nouthir appele nor protectioun
May thee franchise to do nature wrong.
For ther is non so sturdi a champioun;
Thouh he be myhty, Deth is yit mor strong.

¶ Responsum
How darst thou, Deth, set on me arrest,
Which am the kyngis chosen officeer
And yistirday walkyng est and west
Myn office did with ful dispitous cheere?
But now this day I am arrested heere
And may nat flee, thouh I hadde it sworn.
Eche man is loth to deie, ferr or neer,
That hath nat lernyd for to deie afforn.

¶ Iurour
Maister Jurour, which that at assises
And at shiris questis didist enbrace,
Departist lond aftir thi devises,
And who most gaff most stood in thi grace:
The poore man lost bothe lond and place;
For gold thou coudist folk disherite.
But lat se now, that withynne so short a space,
Before the Juge how thow canst thee acquyte.

¶ Responsum
Somtyme I was callid in my contré
The bellewedir, and that was nat a lite.
Nat lovid but drad of hih and lowe degré,
For whom me list bi craft I coude endite,
Hang the trewe and the theef acquyte;
Al the contre bi my woord was lad.
But I dar say, shortly for to write,
Of my deth many oon wole be ful glad.

¶ Mimus
Gentil menstral, shewe me now thi witt,
How thou canst pleye or foote ariht this daunce.
I dar weel sei that an harder fitt
Than this fil nevyr unto thi chaunce.
Look therfore what may best avaunce
Thi sowle as now and use that I reede:
Refuse nyce play and veyn plesaunce;
Bettir late than nevyr to do good deede.

¶ Responsum
Ey, benedicité, this world is freele.
Now glad, now sory, what shal men use?
Harpe, lute, phidil, pipe — farwell! —
Sautry, sithol, and shalmuse,
Al wordly myrthe I here refuse.
God graunte me grace of sich penaunce,
As may myn old synnes excuse,
For alle be nat mery that othirwhyle daunce.

¶ Famulus
Servant or officer in thyn office,
Yif thou hast ben as God wold and riht,
To pore and riche doon pleyn justice,
Fled extorcioun with al thi myht,
Than maist thou in this daunce go liht,
Or elles ful hevy shalt thou be thanne.
Whan alle domys shal fynaly be diht,
Go we hens, the tyde abidith no man.

¶ Responsum
Shal I so sone to Dethis daunce,
That wend to have lyved yeeris many mo
And sodeynly forsake al my plesaunce
Of offices and profites that long therto?
Yit oon thyng I consel or I go —
In office lat no man doon outrage,
For dreede of God and peyn also;
Also service is noon heritage.

¶ Phisicus
Ye phisiciens for mony, that loken so fast
In othir mennys watris what thei eyle,
Look weel to yoursilf or att last
I not what your medicynes nor crafte may availe,
For Deth comyng sodeynly doth assaile
As weel lechis as othir — that shal ye knowe.
Atte Last Jugement, withouten any faile,
Whan al men shal repe as thei have sowe.

¶ Responsum
Allas too long and too myche in phisik
For lucre I plyed al my bisynesse,
Bothe in speclacion and in practik,
To knowe and konne al bodily siknesse.
But of gostly helthe I was reklesse,
Wherfore shal helpe nothir herbe nor roote,
Nor no medicyne, sauff Goddis goodnesse,
For ageyns Deth is fynaly no boote.

¶ Mercator
Come, riche marchant, and looke hidirward,
Which hast passid thorow many dyvers lond,
On hors, on foote, havyng most reward
To lucre and wynnyng, as I undirstonde:
But now to daunce thou must yeve me thyn hond.
Al thyn old labour, wher is it become now?
Adieu, veynglorie, bothe of fre and bonde!
Non more coveitith than he that hath inow.

¶ Responsum
Bi many an hill and many strong vale
I have travailid with my marchaundise,
Bi straunge seeis carried many a bale,
To sondri iles, more than I can devise.
Myn hert inward evir frett with covetise
But al for nouht — Deth doth me constreyne —
For which I sei, bi record of the wise,
Who al enbracith, he lityl shal restreyn.

¶ Artifex
Yeve hidir thyn hand, thou Artificeer,
For ther is founde no subtilité
Bi witt of man that fro my daungeer
To save hymsilff can have no liberté.
My strook is sodeyn, fro which no man may flee,
Bi coriousté nor cunnyng of fressh devise.
Kynde hath ordeyned it will non othir be:
Eche man mote passe whan deth settith assise.

¶ Responsum
Ther is no craft serchid out nor souht,
Cast nor compassid, bi old nor newe entaile —
I se ful weel withynne myn owen thouht —
Ageyns Deth ther may nothyng availe;
She pershith sheeldis, she pershith plate and maile,
Ageyns hir strok cunnyg nor science,
Whan that hir list mortally to assaile —
Allas, allas — ther may be no deffence.

¶ Laborarius
Thou, Labourer, which in sorwe and peyn
Hast lad thi liff and in gret travaile,
Thou must here daunce and therfore nat disdeyn,
For thouh thou do it, may thee nat availe.
And cause whi that I thee assaile
Is oonly fro thee for to dissevire
This fals world that causith folk to faile.
For he is a foole that wenyth to liven evir.

¶ Responsum
I have wisshid aftir Dethe ful oft,
Althouh I wold have fleed hym now —
I had levir to ha leyn unsoft
In wynde and reyn and gon forth at the plouh,
With spade and picoys laboured for my prouh,
Dolvyn and dikid and atte cart goon.
For I may seyn and pleynly avow:
In this world here rest is ther noon.

¶ Infans
Litil child that were but late born,
Shape in this world to have no plesaunce,
Thou must with othir that goon her toforn
Be lad with hem with sotyl ordynaunce.
Lerne of newe to gon on this daunce,
Ther may non age in soth skape therfro.
Lat every wiht have this in remembraunce:
Whoso lengest levith most shal sofren woo.

¶ Responsum
A, A, A — o worde I cannat speke.
I am ful yong, I was born yisterday.
Deth is ful hasty on me to been wreke
And of his strok list make no delay.
I cam but now and now I go my way,
Of me no more tale shal be tolde.
The will of God no man withstond may,
For as sone deieth a yong sheep as an olde.

¶ Heremita
Ye that have lived long in wildirnesse
And contynued long in abstynence:
Tyme is come that ye mote yow dresse
Of my daunce to have thexperience,
For ther ageyns is no resistence.
Take now leve of thyn hermitage.
Wherfore eche man advertise this sentence:
That this liff heer is but a pylgrymage.

¶ Responsum
Liff in deserte callid solitarye
May ageyns Deth have no respite nor space.
At unsett howr his comyng doth nat tarye,
And for my part welcom be Goddis grace,
Thankyng my Lord with humble cheer and face
Of his yiftis such as I have assayed,
Fynally affermyng in this place,
No man is riche, but he that halt Hym payed.

¶ Conclusio
Ye folk that loken upon this scripture,
Conceyveth heer that al estatis daunce,
Seth what ye be and what is your nature:
Mete unto wormys, nat ellis in substaunce.
And have this myrrour ay in remembraunce
Before your mynde aboven al thyng:
To all estatis a trew resemblaunce
That wormes foode is ende of your lyvyng.

What is mannys liff but a countenaunce
Or as a puff of wynde that is transitorie,
As may be weel perceived bi this Daunce?
Therfore ye that reden this storye,
Keepe thentent in your memorye,
And it shal steer yow into gostly liff,
Teschewe peyn and come unto glorie,
And be your socour in al gostly stryff.

Be nat afferd this scriptur in tyme of pley
In your mynde to revolve and reede.
For trust trewly ye shal nevir the sonner deye,
But it shal cause yow synne for to dreede;
The which refusid, ye shal have gret meede.
Therfore among have mynde on this lettir
And use vertu, prayer, and almesse deede,
And than I dar sey ye shal doon the bettir.

(see note)
have reason; (t-note)

in particular
alike; (t-note) 
does not spare

Angel (see note)
(see note)
That he must go
God’s plan


Out of all religious positions on earth
(see note)
in particular

high esteem; papal estate

It is proper for me
Who; seat of authority; (t-note)

with others; to follow
pass [away]

preeminent; nobility
(see note)
scepter; sword; martial deeds

Against; might; prevails; valor; (t-note)
Adam’s children (i.e., humanity)

know not; appeal
assails; compel
aid; assist; complaint
pickaxe; reach
to say; (see note)
face; (t-note)

upset; full of dread
you shall follow; indeed
to learn; (t-note)
fine clothing; shall be left
garment; (see note)

judgment; (t-note)

certainly; mistake
upset; to have great dread; (t-note)
Because; to attack me suddenly
gray fur (possibly squirrel); ermine
leave; (t-note)

Empress; (see note)
Let [me] see
leave aside
fancy clothes; stratagems of flattery
distant expression; haughty attitude
outlandishly made

nothing; (t-note)

What use is; wealth; precious stones; (t-note)
high birth or nobility
haughty attitude; aloofness; (t-note)(t-note)
checkmate; vain; (see note)

Ransom; kindred; friendship
Because; to attack

attitude; (see note)
must; (t-note)
double cross; (see note)
whole; rank
truth and fairness
as I can say; (t-note)


deceived; truly indeed; (t-note)

What use is it; such; possess; (t-note)
for its reward


Come; at once; nobility
possession of lands
Realms; high nobility
must; naturally; prepare yourself
single [winding] sheet

in truth; frenzied
in essence

destroys; practice

retreat; (t-note)
with contempt
to control

course of action
Loans; delayed
the [last] hour; reckon; host

don’t know where to flee

oppression; cruelty; (t-note)
say goodbye; (t-note)
painted palace; (t-note)

Prince; (see note)
be completely certain
not avoidable; (t-note)
Charlemagne; (see note)
military deeds
(see note)(t-note)
plate armor; chainmail
spirit; defensive shields
them; (t-note)

besiege; castles; mighty; (t-note)

earthly valor; (t-note)
demolish; contempt
alone; also; (t-note)
against; reprieve

miter and cross
truly I assure you
privately owned
earthly goods; natural goods (e.g., crops)
spiritual serious duty
prelacy (office of the bishop)
brought under control; (see note)(t-note)
person; secure

not at all


Earl and Baron; (see note)
through; (t-note)

deception; (t-note)
to take joy

One; breaks

martial deeds
gratitude; contrived
No slander was ever put on me

unexpectedly; helpless

Abbot and prior; (see note)
upset; good reason

Leave; person
heir; position; (t-note)
him I have designated
soonest; decay

threat; grudge

cloistered monk
somewhat lesser offence; (see note)

help; any kind of way

examine themselves

Abbess; (see note)(t-note)
of noble rank or birth
sleeveless overgarment
bedding; turn (put)

delicate; noble
prepare yourself
possessions; (t-note)

way; escape
rightly; compelled; (t-note)
follow his steps
matter; joke
awaiting; created

Judge; (see note)

Well; knowledgeable

well; (see note)

intended well; otherwise
referred to a higher court; (t-note)

Blessed; person

Doctor of both laws
(see note)

matters; personal benefit



life; seal; (see note)

ardently flourishing
message; chooses
living; (t-note)

Knight or squire; (see note)
knows; dances; fashion; (t-note)

of outlandish design; (t-note)
remarkable deeds; (t-note)

assistance of any kind

Because; snare; (t-note)
Yet; before; go

a new beginning
before Death threatens
decay; knows

Mayor; (see note)

policy; rule
There is no status or worldly rank
any; powers; (t-note)

the estate
rule; populaces
wealth; quickly
to arrest
in advance

Canon Regular
(see note)
vowed; (t-note)
subject; subordinate
according to


virtuously must

by truly natural right; (t-note)

no small thing
Praying; spread; Cross
mix; power

(see note)
have; a share [of alms]
fine clothing; to squander


always; least

(see note)
very little
got the better of me
no consolation
Fine garments of grey; return; (t-note)

tonsured; wearing; (see note)
mantle; ring; (see note)

no one living


begins to attack

fierce battle
Virtue; more secure; either armor; chainmail


wakefulness (i.e., for a vigil)
lower your chin; (see note)(t-note)

direct not your attention

[Carthusian] order
natural instinct; (t-note)

borrow; (t-note)
the Devil’s might; damnation

legal argument; (see note)
plead your case before; (t-note)
profit; legal redress
crafty; (t-note)
sloth; covetousness
themselves; deceived

make a formal legal claim; defense
cunning; myself excuse
To escape
(see note)

repays; (t-note)

Rich Gentlewoman; (see note)
mistress; fresh
once; Polyxena; (see note)(t-note)
Helen; (see note)(t-note)
Yet; both of them; (see note)(t-note)
despite; haughtiness
scornful resistance; reign
must; footing; turn



Master of astronomy

degrees and height
help; (t-note)
Since; descendants

(see note)

provision (i.e., against death)
By locating the position of the stars; (t-note)
explain; in every aspect; (t-note)
by doctrine
must necessarily die well; (t-note)


taught; (t-note)

no one; fearless
confine; free; compensation

to abide; certainty
nor anything else he can do; (t-note)
vanity; (t-note)

(see note)(t-note)

aid; complain; case
arrogant by nature

take me into custody

scornful attitude
detained; (t-note)
(see note)
unwilling to die
before; (t-note)

sessions of civil court; (see note)
shire’s inquests; illegally influence
Divided; schemes
gave (i.e., bribed)
see; time
acquit yourself

bellwether; not a small thing
feared by
I pleased; cunning; convict; (t-note)

multiple ones (i.e., many) will

skill; (see note)(t-note)
step correctly
befell; luck; (t-note)
foolish merriment and vain delight
(see note)

Oh, bless; changeable

psaltery; stringed instrument (cithole); reed flute

otherwise; (see note)

Attendant; (see note)

If; desires; righteous

judgments; made
time waits for; (see note)

Who; supposed; more
belong; (t-note)


money; intently
urine; ails them; (see note)
Attend to yourself
know not; help
easily physicians

(see note)

profit; plied; business; (t-note)
theorizing; practice
spiritual well-being; ignorant
remedy; (see note)(see note)

over here
various; (t-note)
To profit and wealth

master and servant
No one; covets; enough

By; foreign valley; (t-note)
seas; unit of measurement for goods
always loaded

embraces; restrain

Artisan; (see note)
Give here; Craftsman

ingenuity; new plans
Nature; it will not be otherwise
must; session of civil court

Reckoned or measured; design

help; (t-note)
cleverness; knowledge
(see note)


do not be angry
in order to separate; (t-note)


very often

rather to have lain uncomfortable
pickaxe; fortune
Worked hard at manual labor

Created; delight; (t-note)
go here before
led; skillful judgment
again; (t-note)
in truth; escape; from there


eager to do me harm


(see note)

(see note)

must prepare; (t-note)

take note of; wisdom
(see note)

reprieve; (t-note)
unspecified hour; delay

gifts; determined

he who pleases the Lord

(see note)(t-note)
Meat; nothing else

outward show
(see note)(t-note)

the intent
spiritual life
To avoid punishment
help; spiritual struggle

afraid; pleasure

charitable deeds


Go to John Lydgate's “Death’s Warning to the World” (DIMEV 4905)