Landsknecht and Death

I was looking for inspiration for a dagger&sword project for next year, and during my web crawl I found this image. And I was immediately reminded of Caine and the “Dance with Death”series she posted this year. I think she would love it.

I would like to provide you with the translation of the german text, but I cannot read the font no matter what so I cannot even reliably transcribe the original – I understand about a half. On top of it I suspect it is poetry and that gives me trouble even in my native language, let alone in archaic German.

Strauch, Wolfgang: Landsknecht und Tod

Source -click-


  1. Allison says

    Here’s my attempt at a transliteration:

    Der Kriegsman spricht

    O grimer dot wasz thuestu hie
    An dich het ich keyn glauben nie
    Bis das ich sieh dein greulich gesicht
    Hang alle sorcht hab ich vernicht
    Maniche grosse not hab ich verstanden
    In deutschen und in welschen Landen
    Nun musz ich leyden des dottes pein
    O Herr got erparm dich mein.

    Der dot spricht

    Wie wol do bist kuen, Stark und Lang
    Manich man hat von dir gelitten Zwang
    Ja must du auch mein pfeil erleyden
    Dein schlacht schwerdt das wirt nit verscheyden
    Gegen mir hilft kein gegen Wher
    Ich erlech den Haumptman sambt dem Her
    Wolauff du wirst nit lenger leben
    Du must dem Richter antworde geben.

    O grim death, what are you doing here?
    I would never have believed in you
    Until I see your gruesome fact
    Much great need have I stood
    In German and in foreign lands
    Now I must suffer the pain of death
    O God, have mercy upon me.


    Though you are bold, strong and large (?)
    Many a man has suffered your force
    Yes, you must also suffer my arrow.
    Your battle sword will not turn it away
    Against me no defense will help
    I collect (?) the General along with his army.
    Henceforth you will no longer live
    You must give answer to the Judge.

  2. Allison says

    Some corrections:

    I suspect that “Hang alle sorcht hab ich vernicht” is something like “Dann alle sorche [sorge] hab ich vernicht [vernichtet? fuer nicht?]”

    Trans: then all my cares are for nothing

    Also, “gruesome fact” should be “gruesome face”

  3. voyager says

    Yes, Caine would have loved that. I immediately thought of her too.
    What are those things hanging from the buttocks of death? Icicles? Stalactites? Hanging bits of rotting flesh?
    Thanks, Charly. That made me smile.

  4. Jazzlet says

    I couldn’t work out what the hanging things were for sure either. I wondered if they were rags of clothing, but they seem too sharp for that, and there is no other evidence of clothing. Well other than the customary scarf protecting Death’s modesty even when he’s not facing us. But this Death does have hair, so I think bits of rotting flesh are a distinct possibility.

  5. says

    I think those are supposed to be pieces of rotting flesh. I was wondering whether the artist decided to depict Death with glutei maximi because because he did not in fact know how to draw a pelvis. Because this picture was made before anatomy atlasses were widely available and before dissections were a common practice. Note that the artist depicted two bones in both thihgs and upper arms, which was a lot of fidly work for something that is anatomically wrong, and both scapulae lack ridges(spines),

  6. rq says

    It’s hard to wipe your bum properly when there’s no real bum to wipe, though poor Death should have learned by now.

    Thanks for the translation, Allison, and yes, this fits with Caine’s series very well!

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    Allison @1: Is “welschen” an older German word for “foreign”? It’s almost certainly cognate with “Welsh”, but I thought that referred specifically to Celts. Thanks for the translation.

  8. avalus says

    Welsch is a old german term for the swiss/italian area. It transformed to “foreign”, as Rob correctly stated. I guess it relates to the swiss word walis.

    Great job, Allison@1:
    I have spotted a few things and have an idea for the 4th line.

    Bis das ich sieh dein greulich gesicht
    Hang alle sorcht hab ich vernicht
    Maniche grosse not hab ich verstanden

    Until I see your gruesome face
    I have destroyed (avoided?) all sorrow (concern?)
    Much great hardship (misery, peril) have I stood (but maybe that also means “brought”, as bringing misery is what soldiers do)

    Ich erlech den Haumptman sambt dem Her
    Lit: “I hunt down the captain with the army” Alternative: cull or slay

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