It was first found in print in 1496 and to this day it remains unclear which of both came first: the Dutch “Elckerlic” or the English “Everyman”
One fragment in the Dutch version goes like this:
Och, doot, sidi mi soe bi,
als icker alder minst op moede!
Doot, wildi van mi hebben goede?
Duysent pont sal ic u gheven,
Op dat ic behouden mach mijn leven.
Ende doet een verdrach van desen
In modern English it roughly sounds like this:
Oh, death, you are so close to me,
when I was not in the least expecting you!
Death, shall I offer you things of value?
I will give you a thousand pounds,
if you will leave me and will let me live.
And please, can we agree on this?
Everyman, is also a novel by Philip Roth, published in May 2006. It won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2007. It is Roth’s third novel to receive the prize.
It is loosely based upon the old “Elckerlic”/”Everyman”, the stories from the Middle Ages by anonymous writers.
Everyman is the title of the fifteenth-century English morality play whose eponymous protagonist is “called” by death and must account for his life on earth before God. About the play, Roth said the following in a late 2005 interview:
The moral was always “Work hard and get into heaven”, “Be a good Christian or go to hell”. Everyman is the main character and he gets a visit from Death. He thinks it’s some sort of messenger, but Death says, “I am Death” and Everyman’s answer is the first great line in English drama: “Oh, Death, thou comest when I had thee least in mind. (When I thought of you least.)
Photos: covers of early Elckerlic and Everyman editions.
#ajournalofuneventfuldays #everyman #elckerlic