« AnteriorContinuar »
called a good piper all over the land is now nothing worth. Item people sang then the widersang—
"' Hoffen heldet mir das leben,
"Item at this time, five or six years before, there was on the Main a monk of the barefoot order, who was by the people rejected, and unclean [ie., he was leprous]. He made the best songs and dances in the world, both verse and melody, so that no man on the river Rhine, or in this country, could match him. And what he sang, that sang the people right gladly, and all masters, pipers and other minstrels, carried about tune and words. Item he sang the ode—
"' Des dipans bin ich uss gezalt,
"Item he sang—
"' Mel niei mei, dine wonueeliche zit
"Item he sang—
"' I)er untruwe ist niit mir gespelet,' &c.
"Of odes and widersange made he very many, and all was charming."
From this account it will be seen that poetry was extremely popular among all classes of society, and that the writers were persons of widely different station. It is often—quite accurately—stated that the minnesingers were succeeded by the meistersingers, but, as will shortly be seen more clearly, minnesang was perpetuated in the volkslieder, which everybody, irrespective of rank or calling, felt competent to indite, much to the indignation of the "masters," one of whom complained that there was not a peasant, no matter how common, but claimed to be a singer.
First, however, as to the " masters." This title was adopted in the thirteenth century by certain poets— m such as the celebrated "Frauenlob "—in
Ucaurtingtrt. contradistinction to the ordinary peripatetic gleemen on the one hand, and the makers of spriichc, half-lyrical, half-gnomic compositions, on the other. The "masters" were professional poets, but as there had been professional poets before—notably Walther von der Vogelweide—the term expressed more than the mere vocation. It connoted pride both as to general culture and the technical side of poetry itself. Indeed, "Frauenlob," or, to give him his actual name, Heinrich von Meissen, deemed himself superior to the old poets, Reinmar, 'Walther, and Wolfram. They, said he, had extracted their song from the scum, while his own art had come from the bottom of the kettle.
The chief characteristics of this mcislergesang were skill in the management of difficult rhythms, artifices of style, and a parade of scholastic and theological learning. It was cultivated exclusively by burgher poets, content, on the whole, to work up old material. Manier, in a cynical vein, allows this lack of originality :—
"Lihte vinde ich einen vunt,
A noteworthy feature of this new verse is the role the joe partit plays in it. The so-called "WartburgKrieg" is perhaps the most elaborate instance of the sort, but quite as interesting is the contest wherein Heinrich von Meissen acquired his romantic nickname. Meissen propounded the question: Which is the more honourable title for a woman, Wcib or Frau? and defended the latter alternative against the valiant Meister Regenbogen. Competitions like these excited a petty litigious spirit, showing itself in personalities and scurrilities. Indeed, the rules of their art and mystery—the "masters" had a strong bias for the occult—were discussed and fought over with almost a theological hatred. The professors were tenacious of their privileges. A stranger claiming to be a " master" was at once challenged with the inquiry, where he had learnt his art; and the title was only admitted in regard to those who had indited poems in the various recognised sorts of verse. Meetings were held for practice, and, like other tradesmen, the "masters" formed themselves into a guild.
In spite of their distinguishing vices, pedantry and
conceit, some of the "masters" found favour in the
halls of the nobility. Hadlaub (c. 1302),
At Court. „ ' _,
for instance, whose love-story reminds us of the Vita Nuova, warmly commends Herr Rudiger Maness of Zurich, an indefatigable collector of songs, and doubtless a good customer of Johann Hadlaub. Johann is a staunch believer in the ennobling influence of poetry, which he brackets, as a source of high feeling, with the charm of womanhood.
"Sweni iat niit edelem sange wol,
There is plenty of art here. The reader will notice especially the middle-rhymes, the recurrence of the key-words, and the long-drawn seventh line, which impart to the stanza its peculiar quality. The effect on the ear is very far from displeasing, and the pleasure is enhanced by the subdued alliteration. Moreover, the alternation of masculine and feminine rhymes attests a fine sense of harmony. Altogether, Hadlaub is a favourable specimen of his class, and coming so early, merits perhaps the name of "Minnesinger." Later "masters" also enjoyed the patronage of the great. For example, Heinrich von Miigeln lived in the service of Charles IV. at Prague, and was well known at other courts. In a great allegorical poem entitled Kranz der Mcide he depicts twelve liberal arts as virgins, who appear before the emperor and crave his sentence, which among them is the most excellent. Besides this capo d'opera, Miigeln, who suffered grievously from an astronomical "fad," wrote many pieces on both secular and religious topics. The "masters" holding these court posts—always few in number—at length disappeared as a class, for the following reason. It appears from the Limlmrg Chronicle that the musical side of the art was as important as the poetical; and, in the sixteenth century, the "masters," with their airs for one voice, and very often old airs, found themselves eclipsed by a new race of court musicians competent to meet the then universal demand for part-songs.
In general the Meistersingers did better in the towns—Maintz, Worms, Nurnberg, and Strassburg— in which last, according to a document of the year 1598, "die uralte lobliche kunst des teutschen Meistergesanges wurde durch etliche kuustliebende, gottesfiirchtige Bersonen vor ungefiihr 105 Jahren aufgerichtet." This is precisely as might have been expected, for the art of the "masters," in spite of exceptions, was essentially democratic. Regenhogen, " Frauenlob's" opponent, who lived about 1300, was a smith; and Michel Beheim, a singer of the fifteenth century, a weaver. Such favourites of Apollo did not necessarily quit their employments, but followed the "laudable art" as a recreation. However, the rise of the drama drew away the minds of the multitude from artistic poetry, and left the Meistersingers in a double sense "high and dry."