Imágenes de páginas

༡༡་༡ བ

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in J. A. Schmeller's · Bruchstück einer althochdeutschen alliterirenden
Dichtung vom Ende der Welt, and exquisite alike for its beauty
and force of language.

THE HELIAND.—(The Saviour).
We give here an extract of the Heliand, entitled 'Prophecy of
the destruction of the Temple,' in which the reader will at
once recognise the affinity between the English and Saxon
language, especially striking in the oldest monuments of the Old-Saxon
(High German) language, because here we see the source whence lloro-Gerne
the English has flowed, in all its purity.

Of the Heliand. Vilmar, in his antiquities of the Heliand, cocon)

expresses himself thus: “We meet here Christianity dressed in the
poetical garb of a noble German tribe, described in fervent lan-
guage, adorned with everything that the German people — the
German heart-could offer. We have here a national Saviour, the
mighty popular King, represented by the poetry of a man belong-
ing to the people. The spirit with which it is imbued, is refreshing,
like vernal breezes; a homely feeling, strong, and intense, dwelling
within the singer's heart, appeals to us as powerfully and irresistibly
as the sweet reminiscences of childhood, or our mother's silent

At the same time, it is replete with vigour, full of rapid move-
ment, and breathes a firmness and proud determination hardly to
be met with throughout the field of Christian poetry. In every
passage, in every line, we detect the communion of sentiments
shared in by a strong-minded people, distinguished for the purity
of its morals, its heroism, and proud of joining the same songs of
praise addressed to its beloved King and Lord—the mighty

THE TEMPLE. Ik mag in hoht gitellien,

I may, however, tell you, hvilic êr tecan bivoran

what sign before giwerdad wunderlic

will happen wonderful er he an these werold kume

before he into this world comes an themu mareon daga.

on that celebrated day. That wirdid êr an themo manon skin, that will before the moon be manifested, jac an theru sunnun so same:

and by the sun the same: gisverkad siu bethin,

dark they will become both, mit finistre werdad bifangan;

with darkness become surrounded; fallad sterron,

(then) fall the stars, hvit hebentungal

the bright heavenly lights: endi hrisid erde,

then trembles the earth, bivod thius brede werold.

moves the wide world. Wirdid sulikaro bokno filu:

take place such signs many: grimmid the groto seo,

rages the great sea, wirkid thie gebenes strom

effects the sea's stream egison mit is udhiun

Terrors with its waves erdbuandiun.

(to the) earth-inhabitants.

Than thorrot thiu thiod

then withers the people thur thath gethving mikil,

by this great desolation, folc thurh thea forhta:

the crowd by fear: thad nis fridu hvergin:

for no peace anywhere; ac wirdid wig so maneg

but (then come) wars so many obar these werold alla.

over this world all. hetili afhaben;

the wild arises, ondi heri ledid

and armies leads kunni obar odar.

one race against another. Wirdid kuningo giwin

Then begins king's battle meginfard mikil

a great struggle, wirdid managoro qualm,

there takes place many a man's death open urlagi.

open war. That is egislic thing,

That is a great thing (judgment) tha: is sulik mord sculun

that ever such murder should man afhebbien!

men commit! Wirdid wol so mikil

There arises disease so great Obar these werold alle,

over this world all. mansterbono mest

Man's death, above all, thero, the gio an thesaru middilgard, of those who ever in this world suulti thurh suhti.

died by sickness. Liggiad seoka man,

There lie sick men driosat endi doiat

fall and die endi iro dag endiad

and their days end fulliad mid iro ferahu.

fill (themselves) with their lives. During the reign of the Franconian kings, the mental progress of the Germans was frequently impeded and arrested, partly because the former took but little interest in literature, partly on account of other adverse circumstances. Among these impediments, we mention the wars carried on during the reign of the Franconian and Saxon emperors; the struggles sustained against Greeks, Normans, and Hungarians; the inroads of the Slaves, who extended as far as the Elbe; the inveterate hostility shown by the Italians to everything German ; and, lastly, the counteracting and blighting influence of the hierarchy founded during the Papacy of Hildebrand. Under that of Henry I. (919), and of the succeeding kings of the Saxon house, the light gradually reappeared, commerce began to spread, and the prosperity of the nation increased; for at all times we find a nation's material welfare invariably connected with its mental development, the exchange of matter leading to the exchange of ideas.


Now we approach a period of our literary history, perhaps the most prolific, and certainly the most romantic and poetical, that of the Swabian minstrels (Minnesingers). nder Conrad the Third, the first of the Hohenstaufen, who, in the year 1137, mounted the German imperial throne, the more refined Swabian Alemannic dialects prevailed at court, and among the educated of Germany. It was at this period that a variety of influences concurred, all highly calculated to develop and sustain the mental life of our nation ; chivalry with its romantic aspirations, the glorious age of the Crusades, with its lofty enthusiasm and noble deeds, the stirring example of the minstrels of the south of France, the Troubadours, whose cultivated minds and more refined manners could not but exercise the most beneficial influence on our more uncouth northern bards; the increasing prosperity of the nation, result of the cultivation of the soil and the spread of commerce, all these combined influences developed the mental progress of an age, which we call with pride, 'das Blüthenalter,' of our early literature.

And here we must mention how the most mighty and noble, the lovely and beautiful of the land encouraged, and fostered this allabsorbing taste for poetry, with what ardour they cultivated it themselves, and how much the example thus given, by elevating the mind and filling the heart with sublime conceptions, contributed to the accomplishment of those noble deeds, with which that splendid age of romance, love, and poetry so gloriously abounds.

Henry VI., Conrad IV., King Wentzel of Bohemia, Margrave Otto of Brandenburg, John of Brabant, Henry of Meissen, and Anhalt, Heinrich von Veldeck, Hartmann von der Aue, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Reinmar der Alte, Walter von der Vogelweide, Gottfried von Strassburg, and a host of others, cultivated the noble field of poetry, which, under the Emperor Frederic II., attained its highest cultivation. Glorious time of the Minne,'* beautiful dream of the past-gone, never to return!

Minne,' the poetry, the reflection, the echo, the language of nature, its smile and frown, in which we see typified the budding of vernal flowers and sweet early love, the budding of the heart, autumn's withered and scattered leaves, and the heart's blighted hopes, the rise of God's glorious sun, and the dawn of our own aspirations, its setting and the vanishing of the dreams of our youth. • Minne,' elevated and refined, the homage paid to virtue, beauty, and loveliness, belonging to an age of lofty aspirations and noble deeds, to the age of romance and poetry, is the sweetest blossom of the loving German heart, for it is deep, true, and pure !

The charm which the Minnelied exercised over the heart of the people must be attributed to the fact of its being always sung with the accompaniment of stringed instruments. The metrical form in the Minnesong was always strictly observed ; two stanzas of equal quantity were followed by one irregular in metre, the former being called the 'Stollen,' the latter the 'Abgesang,' the

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Minne,' in its primitive sense, means 'in remembrance of.'



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stanza itself 'Lied.' The mode of constructing the stanza and the Ton’ varied, and depended on the inventive faculties of the minstrel himself. The Leiche,' a lyric poem, generally of a

' religious character, and the ‘Spruch' (proverb), the latter of which generally consisted of one stanza only, were not subject to the same metrical rules. Didactic poetry dates more immediately from the time of the minstrels, but moves within the exterior concrete world; and the moral lessons it contains are expressed in various forms, such as by the Spruch,' maxim, Lehrgedicht,' didactic poem, Fabel, also called · Bispel' (allegory), Mähre,' tale of fiction, and · Büchlein,' epistolary poem. The principal home of the minstrels was Alemannia, i. e. Swabia. The Alemans lived between the Rhine and the Lech, and were conquered by Clodowic, who, after the battle of Soissons (486), established the Franconian rule in Gallia. They re-conquered their independence under the succeeding Merovingian kings, but succumbed under the Major-domus Pepin. That Swabia should at this time already have possessed a refined language, and superior to any other spoken in the rest of Germany, in harmony, flexibility, purity and force, is a fact from which it has been inferred that, at some remote period, that country must have been in possession of a refined literature ; for well may we ask, why should the inhabitants of a part of Germany, favoured by so many circumstances, calculated to stimulate poetical feeling, have accomplished less in this respect than Franconia or Lower Saxony, of the early literature of which countries we possess documentary evidence, whilst not a fragment of Alemannic literature of the same period has been transmitted to us ?

We opine, that the greater mental refinement existing in Swabia and in Switzerland, at this remote period, must be attributed to the fact of those countries having always been in direct intercourse with the French, then unquestionably our superiors in refinement and mental culture, but principally to the exertions of the Troubadours, whose stirring example, no doubt, exercised the most direct influence on the mental life of the Swabians. Let us, also, bear in mind, that the emulating example set by the Emperor Frederick II. and his nobles, at that time created a taste for literature among the nation, but principally among the upper classes, who devoted themselves to classical studies, or went to the universities of Paris, Padua, and Salamanca. Everything at that time assumed a poetical garb; itinerant singers of the highest rank went from court to court; tournaments were given in their honour, and the lovely and beautiful, encouraging and stimulating those mental pursuits, kindled in the hearts of the gallant knights the flame of that enthusiasm of which the poetry of the romantic age bears witness. Unlike the earliest Teutonic songs of the heroic age, which were the outpourings of the nation's heart, the Minnegesang essentially reflects the soul of the individual. It is full of sunshine and gentle breezes; but the thunders of heaven sweep through our earliest epic poetry.

A historical event connected with the era we are now speaking of, hitherto wrapt in mystery, is the "The Minstrels' War at the Wartburg.' The old chronicles report that during the reign of Landgrave Hermann of Thuringia, a number of minstrels, then assembled at a castle called the Wartburg, had challenged each other to a mental combat, and stipulated that the least successful should lose his life. It is also stated that Wolfram von Eschenbach, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Walter von der Vogelweide, Reimar von Zweter, Bitterolf, and Schreiber, had accepted the challenge, and that Heinrich von Ofterdingen, the most unsuccessful in the mental race, being condemned to death, had appealed to the enchanter, Klinsor of Hungary, to act as umpire, who, at the instigation of Sophia of Thuringia, had decided in favour of the doomed candidate. Dates and events, alluded to in the poem, are conflicting and contradictory, for it is strange, that Reimar the Younger, who lived in the second half of the 13th century, should have taken part in a contest supposed to have occurred between 1206-1208. Founded upon this real or supposed event, we possess a poem of a fragmentary character, called the 'Singers' War at the Wartburg,' probably written towards the end of the 13th century, and ascribed by some to Wolfram von Eschenbach, by others to Frauenlob.

In the first part of the poem, the respective merits of Leopold of Austria on the one hand, and of Hermann of Thuringia on the other, are discussed between the minstrels; this leads to a quarrel, in which Klinsor, the Hungarian, takes part, and the mental war, confined at first to the two princes, gains a wider sphere, and leads to endless controversies between these knights of the past.

LYRIC AND DIDACTIC POETRY. Many of the minstrels contained in the following list, were equally distinguished as lyric, didactic, and epic poets. Their productions, and those of many others, whose names have remained unknown, were ultimately collected and embodied in the Manesse' manuscript, now in the possession of the French. Of their epic poems we shall speak hereafter.


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