« הקודםהמשך »
it to be compared with the great Greek and Roman heroic poems, but its unartistic arrangement, prolixity, and truculent iermination, depreciate very much its merits as a production of human genius.
Another lay of this cycle, the Gudrune, may be considered to have more interest for our readers, as one of the principal personages is Siegbert, king of Ireland, and Hagan, his son. Hilda, the daughter of the latter, is persecuted by three royal suitors, who carry her off at various times, but she is at length married to her real lover, Herwig. The construction of the poem and verse is said to be much superior to the other lays, while many tender and artistic touches soften the harsher manners of the age pourtrayed. This, along with the other Niebelungen, was preserved in the Castle Ambras, near Innspruck in the Tyrol, by the Emperor Maximilian the First in 1517. It contains some 4,700 verses, of a gentle, melodious kind, well calculated to draw the reader on to a full appreciation of its beauties.
Another cycle, that of Dietrich of Berne, or Theodoric of Verona, contains the Ecken Ausfahrt, Battle of Ravenna, Dwarf Laurin, and the Rosengarten. The principal hero throughout is Dietrich, but in the last poem several of the characters of the Niebelungen are introduced. It begins thus in ballad style :
Upon the lordly Rhine, there lies a fair and goodly town,
No bower on earth, Chriemhild exclaimed, is like this bower of mine. The bower is guarded by twelve knights, whom Dietrich and his followers engage to overcome. All are conquered except the horny Siegfried, husband to Chriemhild, whom on account of his early friendship Dietrich does not wish to fight. He is induced to do so, however, by a stratagem of one of his own warriors, old Hildebrand, and comes off victorious. There is more of chivalry and knightly bearing in this poem thau in the others. It remained a favorite romance in Germany up
to the 17th century, and is the last of the extraordinary ballads celebrating the half barbarian heroes of the middle ages.
The era of Charlemagne from the 9th to the 12th century, did not produce much original composition in the vernacular German, although the conqueror and lawgiver of the Saxons established schools and universities in every direction, to foster the growing desire for learning in Europe. The chief productions were in the Latin tongue, except some few of a religious character in the native dialect, Heliand's Evangelical Harmonies, and the Ludwig's lied, which celebrated the victory of Louis III. over the Normans at Salcourt. The latter was written by a monk named Herschell, who may have wielded the sword and lauce, as well as conned his breviary, in the troublous times. There existed however a cultivator of the drama in the person of Hroswitha, a nun of the convent of Gandersheim, founded by Ludolf of Saxony in 859. She imitated Terence, wrote six plays as she said herself “ to the glorification of female chastity,” six legends on saintly subjects and a panegyric on the Othos. This was the age of mysteries and farces, in which sacred events were represented according to holy writ for the edification of the people.
During the reigns of the Othos, Henry IV. and Henry VI. there does not appear to have been any advance made in literature or poetry by the German race. Their language still partook very much of the Frankish and Gothic dialects, in which almost the only reinaining song, the Anno Lied in praise of Anno, Archbishop of Cologue, is written. There succeeded however shortly after a new cycle, or series of poems, similar to those of the Niebelungan, called the Lombard, evincing a more advanced state of civilization, more exclusively Christian belief, and inore knightly manners in the heroes. These were Duke Ernest of Swabia, Count Rudolph, King Ruother, Orendel, &c. The last is the legend of the holy coat of Treves, and commences with a detailed account of the Saviour's death. It tells how the coat is thrown into the sea, swallowed by a fish, and found inside the animal. It relates the adventures of Orendel, in searching for it, how he rescues a princess from her rebellious vassals, and is rescued in turn by her, with the aid of a dwarf. The whole is evidently of a piece with the extravagant romances of the middle ages, brought to such perfection in Italy.
With Conrad III., of the Hohenstauffen dynasty, there arose a new spirit of poetry throughout Gerinany. The crusades had been carried on for some time, blending together the different nations of Europe, and importing the manners of one into the other. The Troubadours and Trouvères of France carried with them a prevailing influence, which changed the habits of the German courts from their semi-barbarous roughness, to an excess of chivalrous and almost effeminate luxury The minne-singers imitated the minstrels of the other side of the Rhine, almost deified their lady loves. “Frau minne," (love) became the divinity of the age, her favourite haunt being settled in Horselberg, a mountain near Eisenach in Thuringia, and called the Venusberg.
The Minne-singers with rare exceptions belonged to the order of knighthood. Their duty was to protect the feeble, to defend the oppressed. Every knight had his lady-love, who was in most cases, the wife of another. Šo universally indeed was this usage recognised, that the husbands generally acquiesced without any difficulty; and in their turn benefitted by the privilege. In a Provençal romance, Philomena, composed in the 19th century by a monk whose name has not come down to us, Oriunde, the wife of the King Matran, besieged in Narbonne by the army of Charlemagne, chances to see the Paladin Roland, and they become enamoured of each other. In consequence Oriunde most unpatriotically rejoices in the success of the foe, and to the just reproaches of her husband, that her delight is the result of her love for Roland, and that one day she will be punished for it, she replies, Seigneur, occupy yourself with your wars, and leave me and my love. It does not dishonour you since I love so noble a chevalier as Roland, nephew to Charlemagne, and with chaste affection.” Matran having heard this, retired quite discomfited and abashed.
All husbands, however, were not quite so accommodating. The Count de Limousin for instance, not only banished Bernard Count de Ventadour from his court and kingdom, on discovering bis amorous devotion to his wife, though we are assured it was perfectly innocent, but actually shut up the poor lady in her chamber, where he kept her a close prisoner for a considerable time. But such in. stances of exaggerated scruples seem to have been the exception not the rule. That the choice of a knight or a lady-love was regarded as an affair of no ordinary importance, is attested by the ceremonies, with which it was everywhere accompanied. The knight kneeling down before his lady, swore to serve her faithfully until death, while the fair one accepted his services, vowed truth and devotion, presented him a ring, and then raising him, imprinted a chaste kiss on his forehead. Although it was in France, and above all in Provence, that those singular customs took their rise, the Germans as we shall see, were not long behind their neighbours in romantic gallantry.
Of course marriage was reduced to a mere material necessity, with which love was deemed absolutely incompatible. To what
strange anomalies this system gave rise may be imagined ; a lady promised one of her adorers to accept him for her knight, if the other to whom she was sincerely attached, was lost to her. Having, however, married the object of her affection, and happening to love him still although he had become her husband, she was somewhat embarrassed when his rival claimed the fulfilment of her engage. ment, and refused to listen to his suit, But Eleanor of Poitiers, to whom the case was referred, decided it against her, alleging that she had really lost her lover, by accepting him as her lord.
This curious system was not however carried so far in Germany; the minne-singers who were all noblemen attached themselves to the courts of particular princes, by whom they were held in great respect. The dialect in which their lays were written was principally Swabian, from the native country of the reigning family. The first lyric in the German language is referred to Henry VI., son of the great Barbarossa. Spervogel and Wernher von Tegernsee produced devotional verses, and Henry von Veldecke, the most famous of all, wrote a new Æneid, in a low dialect of German. Frederick von Haissen was so engrossed by the devotion for his lady-love, that he continually said “good night” for “good morning," and turned his doublet wrong side outwards. He died in the Holy Land in 1190, having rendered his name and that of his lady-love famous by his deeds of valour. The reign of the Emperor Frederick II. may be looked upon as the golden age of poetry in the middle ages. The lays of 160 minne-singers of the period have been collected by Roger Manesse of Zurich, himself a member of the craft in 1300, of which Walter von der Vogelweide, Gottfried von Strasbourg, Wolfram von Eschenboch Hartmann von der Aue, Ulrich von Lichtenstein, and Jacob von der Warte were certainly the most superior. The last has left the following delicate little lay.
II. Hark, the little birds are singing,
Many a pretty little flower Merrily o'er mead and vale ;
Laughs out from the sweet May dew; Lays of grateful praise are ringing,
In the sunshine, hill and bower From the daintie nightingale.
Don their very gayest hue. Looki upon the dewy brae,
What shell soothe my bosom's care! On the heath with wild flowers bright,
What shall comfort me I trow ! See how gaily they'e bedight,
She with whom I fain were now, By the bounteous hand of May.
Will not listen to my prayer ! A version of the poems of Walter von der Vogelweide was brought out in the modern German tongue in 1832, by Dr. Carl Simrock, and some by Tieck.
The following will give some idea of his style.
I know not which most sweet,
The nightingale doth hush her wonted To me it chanced, as to a wayward boy, Who seeks in vain the charming face to The falcon rests upon his outstretched wings clasp
And hovers listening o'er the grassy plains, Which in the glass he sees, with eager joy, In all she does, there is so much oi grace
Until the mirror breaks within his grasp: Then all his joy is turned to woe and pain. E'en so I dreamed that bliss would be mine own,
Her beauty thawe my heart, e'en as the sun When I sought my sweet lady, but in vain; Thaws ice or snow; but oh! not unto ine Much grief from that fond love,
Doth she show forth her beams! she is not And only grief I've known. 11.
By sigh, or pray'r, or tuneful melody; 1.
And yet I've loved her from a little child, Both pare and beauteous is my lady fair, And sum up ev'ry hour that she on me
And chaste and lovely as the lily white;
With loud applause ! that ladies fair and
I only seek to shine in her dear sight : 2.
Star of my solitary heart ! look down, When in her bower, to lyre or lute she And soothe my bitter woe, or kill me with sings,
thy frown. Ulrich von Lichtenstein was a wealthy Austrian noble, who pursued his lady with the most unremitting gallantry. He was disfigured by a deformity of three lips, of which he got one cut off for her sake; then he lost a finger in a tournament in her honor; afterwards he assumed female attire and having obtained an interview with his mistress, she caused him to be trust out of the castle window into the moat for bis devotion. At length he was cured of bis love at the age of forty-five by being maimed at the command of the cruel fair one.
Conrad von Wurtzburg, Henry von Ofterdingen and Klingsohr of Hungary, were the last most celebrated miunesingers. The two latter are said to to have defeated all the other minstrels of Germany at the “minstrel war on the Wartburg," which was made the subject of a poem in the year 1207. The contest is said to have taken place at the court of Hermann von Thuringen, the most polished in Germany, and was decided by the lady of the castle, as a tournament. The executioner did the duty of his office on the unsuccessful party, a barbarous practice not to be found in the other annals of provençal or German lyrics.
To the minue-singers succeeded a number of romance writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Their favorite subject was that of the Saint Graal, or vase in which the water was turned into wine at the inarriage feast of Cannalı. Another founded on Arthur and the Knights of the round table, was called the Pareival, composed by Wolfrain of Eschenbach, who along with Godfrey of Strasbourgh and Hartinanu von der