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gh In Ot; Centu V since the ssed himse f of a se O's ** writer first p the d
=sics of the iddle Ages With
*s of Germ. ed. L
CI a. ++bsequent read; 8, in Whole
this Singer: and every 24 th S o Bartsch
or in part, has only increased his attraction. There are some writers — not many — who seem to defy criticism by a sort of native charm, and of these Walther is one. If we listen to some grave persons, it is a childish thing to write a poem, as he does his second Lied, in stanzas every one of which is monorhymed on a different vowel. But as one reads
one only prays for more such childishness. Is there a better song of May and maidens than
“So diu bluomen uz dem grase dringent”?
where the very phrase is romance and nature itself, and could never be indulged in by a “classical” poet, who would say (very justly), “flowers grow in beds, not grass; and if in the latter, they ought to be promptly mown and rolled down.” How intoxicating, after deserts of iambs, is the dactylic swell of
“Wol mich der stunde, daz ich sie erkande”! how endearing the drooping cadence of
“Bin ich dir unmaere
1 “Diu werlt was gelf, rôt unde blå,
Similar stanzas in e, i, o, u follow in order.
how small the change which makes a jewel out of a commonplace in
But to go through the nearly two hundred pieces of Walther's lyric would be here impossible. His Leich, his only example of that elaborate kind, the most complicated of the early German lyrical forms, is not perhaps his happiest effort; and his Spriiche, a name given to short lyrical pieces in which the Minnesingers particularly delighted, and which correspond pretty nearly, though not exactly, to the older sense of “ epigram,” seldom, though sometimes, possess the charm of the Lieder themselves. But these Lieder are, for probable freedom from indebtedness and intrinsic exquisiteness of phrase and rhythm, unsurpassed, perhaps unequalled. To compare Walther to Petrarch, and to talk of the one being superior or inferior to the other, is to betray hopeless insensibility to the very rudiments of criticism. They are absolutely different, —the one the embodiment of stately form and laboured intellectual effort—of the Classical spirit; the other the mouthpiece of the half-inarticulate, all-suggesting music that is at once the very soul and the very inseparable garment of Romance. Some may like one better, others the other; the more fortunate may enjoy both. But the greatest of all gulfs is the gulf fixed between the Classical and the Romantic; and few there are, it seems, who can cross it.
Perhaps something may be expected as to the personality of these poets, a matter which has had too great a place assigned to it in literary history. promii, of Luckily, unless he delights in unbridled ** guessing, the historian of mediaeval literature is better entitled to abstain from it than any other. But something may perhaps be said of the men whose work has just been discussed, for there are not uninteresting shades of difference between them. In Germany, as in France, the trouvère-jongleur class existed; the greater part of the poetry of the twelfth century, including the so-called small epics, Rönig Rother and the rest, is attributed to them, and they were the objects of a good deal of patronage from the innumerable nobles, small and great, of the Empire. On the other hand, though some men of consequence were poets, the proportion of these is, on the whole, considerably less than in France proper or in Provence. The German noble was not so much literary as a patron of literature, like that Landgrave Hermann of Thuringia, whose court saw the fabulous or semifabulous “War of the Wartburg,” with Wolfram von Eschenbach and Heinrich von Ofterdingen as chief champions. Indeed this court was the main resort of German poets and minstrels till Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in the next generation proved herself a rather “sair sanct” for literature, which has since returned her good for evil. To return to our four selected poets. Gottfried is supposed to have been neither noble, nor even directly attached to a noble household, nor a professional minstrel, but a burgher of the town which gives him his name—indeed a caution is necessary to the effect that the won of these early designations, like the de of their French originals, is by no means, as a rule, a sign of nobility. Hartmann von Aue, though rather attached to than a member of the noble family of the same name from which he has taken the hero of Der Arme Heinrich, seems to have been admitted to knightly society, was a crusader, and appears to have been of somewhat higher rank than Gottfried, whom, however, he resembled in this point, that both were evidently men of considerable education. We rise again in status, though probably not in wealth, and certainly not in education, when we come to Wolfram von Eschenbach. He was of a family of Northern Bavaria or Middle Franconia; he bore (for there are diversities on this heraldic point) two axe-blades argent on a field gules, or a bunch of five flowers argent springing from a water-bouget gules; and he is said by witnesses in 1608 to have been described on his tombstone as a knight. But he was certainly poor, had not received much education, and he was attached in the usual guest-dependant fashion of the time to the Margrave of Vohburg (whose wife, Elizabeth of Bavaria, received his poetical declarations) and to Hermann of Thuringia. He was a married man, and had a daughter.