Dance of Death
All the Bones of Men. The Dance of Death by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 – 1543).
1542 French edition

Don’t know about you, but I’ve been preoccupied with death. Shouldn’t be much of a surprise to you, I’ve written about death and momento mori before.

The lists of Covid-19 infections, deaths and recoveries make grim, yet compulsive viewing as I grapple with the scale of it. And when you add the scams on top, it’s just breathtaking.

So I’ve been looking for a little “light” relief. Which means reading horror stories. Short ones because I’m not that brave.

Amongst which, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death is the most appropriate right now. Or you could watch the Vincent Price film if you can get a copy.

And I was reminded of Danse Macabre, also known as the Dance of Death. An allegorical concept, highlighting that regardless of your station, death comes to us all.

My first exposure to the concept was via the Camille Saint-Saëns (Opus 40) piece in high school music class. And then again as the Jonathan Creek theme. You can listen to the Henri Cazalis poem that inspired the music together in this nicely acted English translation.

You might be familiar with the book of the same name by Hans Holbein the younger (1497 – 1543).

Each image includes charming details of each death, commensurate with each person’s life. There are several editions, in various languages with more or less illustrations.

These images come from the the 1542 French version.

Where death brought justice.

Death Count
piercing a knight with his own spear
Death Plougman
Driving the ploughman’s team
Death Old Woman
assisting the old woman

Though he was also capricious.

death emprorer
stealing the emperor’s crown
death richman
staling the rich man’s money
death child 2
kidnapping a child

But there are other more fascinating modern deaths out there too.

Like William John Peacock, the Auckland dentist, who according to the Police news, May 26, 1877 died in his bed.

Drink Fire and Death
Horrible fate of a digger, Police news, May 26, 1877 via state library victoria

Apparently he was drunk, and while smoking his pipe set himself on fire. And his gunpowder flask too. Which exploded. And that was that.

So yes.

Everyones dies according to their station.

You will too.

So while you’re forced to #stayathome, why not take some time to think about how you can improve your life, and maybe do something about it too.


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