Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
The Dance of Death
By Santob de Carrion
Rabbi Don Santob, or Santo

THIS poet, a Jew by birth, flourished about 1360. His name is not known, but he seems to have received the title of Santo by way of honor; “perhaps,” says Sanchez, “for his moral virtues and his learning.” He is supposed to have been either a native or a resident of Carrion.

  Here begins the general dance, in which it is shown how Death gives advice to all, that they should take due account of the brevity of life, and not to value it more highly than it deserves; and this he orders and requires, that they see and hear attentively what wise preachers tell them and warn them from day to day, giving them good and wholesome counsel that they labor in doing good works to obtain pardon for their sins.

Lo! I am Death! With aim as sure as steady,
  All beings that are and shall be I draw near me.
I call thee,—I require thee, man, be ready!
  Why build upon this fragile life?—Now hear me!
  Where is the power that does not own me, fear me?        5
Who can escape me, when I bend my bow?
I pull the string,—thou liest in dust below,
  Smitten by the barb my ministering angels bear me.
Come to the dance of Death! Come hither, even
  The last, the lowliest,—of all rank and station!        10
Who will not come shall be by scourges driven:
  I hold no parley with disinclination.
  List to yon friar who preaches of salvation,
And hie ye to your penitential post!
For who delays,—who lingers,—he is lost,        15
  And handed o’er to hopeless reprobation.
.    .    .    .    .
I to my dance—my mortal dance—have brought
  Two nymphs, all bright in beauty and in bloom.
They listened, fear-struck, to my songs, methought;
  And truly, songs like mine are tinged with gloom.        20
  But neither roseate hues nor flowers’ perfume
Will now avail them,—nor the thousand charms
Of worldly vanity;—they fill my arms,—
  They are my brides,—their bridal bed the tomb.
.    .    .    .    .
And since ’tis certain, then, that we must die,—
  No hope, no chance, no prospect of redress,—
Be it our constant aim unswervingly
  To tread God’s narrow path of holiness:
  For He is first, last, midst. O, let us press
Onwards! and when Death’s monitory glance        30
Shall summon us to join his mortal dance,
  Even then shall hope and joy our footsteps bless.

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