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The "masters" did not excel in the pure lyric. In treating the themes of their predecessors they incourt-iyHc and dulged a didactic tendency, issuing in the .hiksong. formation of a mixed kind of verse. This is notably the case with the odes of Meister Suchensinn (t 1392). Probably, however, they did not always wear the gown. For their own profit divers of them may have thrown off verses conceived in a more popular vein—in other words, may have deigned to write volkslieder. Even the old court-lyric was not devoid of popular elements. In the songs of the "lower minne" the heroine is a humble maiden, while the dorfspoesie of Neidhart von Reuenthal, though tending to be satirical, furnishes a not wholly prejudiced picture of rural life and manners. A typical scene in Neidhart's summer-odes is a "row" between mother and daughter, when the girl is going to the dance. This scene is again depicted in the dancesongs of the Ditmarsch peasantry in the sixteenth century.
Artistically, the volkslieder are often debased minne
songs, and exhibit in relation to the "society" lyric
the contrasts already pointed out as differ
Yolkslieder. . . ,
entiating the popular from the court romance. The connection between the parts is looser, and more is left to the listener's imagination. More purely human than the minnesong, with its trammels of court-etiquette, the volkslied has frequently the character of an occasional poem. Sometimes it is an immediate reflection of experience, as, for example, when it analyses, so to speak, at first hand the feelings of a lover in the hour of dismissal.
"My pretty love hath bid me go,
For that I'll not be dying;
Another I'll be trying.
My pretty love hath yellow hair,
They burn serene and starry.
I see her, nowise sorry.
And whenso she abroad cloth stir,
That may not be endured;
When love from me is lurid.
They'd have me in a cloister barr'd,
And so my hopes would smother;
Lo, I had won another!"
The original stanzas were copied by Herr Karl Bartsch from a manuscript in the library of the University of Basle,1 and it is not improbable that they were written by a student, one of those "freie burschenknechte" who. in their love-ditties and drinking-songs, parodied the Bible and liturgy.
The volkslied is often hardly distinguishable from the ballad. Either it arises out of a tale, or it is a tale ttinrusingers sans fagon. Very interesting and remarking^. &YAe is the fact that the names of four prominent Minnesingers—Reinmar von Brennenberg, Heinrich von Morungen, Gottfried von Neifen, and Tannhiiuser.— are preserved in German folk-song. The volkslieder do not remember them as poets, doubtless because the song-writers depended on tradition. Let us take an example, included in Uhland's collection—that of the "noble Mbringer." This song appears to have been based on a tale inserted by Caesarius of Heisterbach in his Dialogus Miramlomm, to the following effect.
1 Bcilriige zur QuelUnhwnde der AltdetUichen lAteratur. Strassburg, Triibner. The best collections of volkdieder are those of Uhland, AUc hochuiul nicderdevttche Volkdieder, Stuttgart, 1844-46, and Bbhmn, Altdcuttrhes Liederlmch, Leipzig, 1877.
In the country of Hollenbach dwelt a knight, Gerhard by name, a great votary of St Thomas. A devil „ , , . in human form accosts him, and in the
th< grateful name of the saint bespeaks his hospitality. Gerhard receives him kindly, and lends him his own fur cloak (" cappam suam furratam bonam satis"). The devil makes off with the cloak, whereupon Gerhard's wife reproaches him for his folly. He, however, consoles her by saying that St Thomas will compensate their loss. Some time after, Gerhard starts on a pilgrimage to the apostle's grave in India. Ere he goes, he gives his wife one half of a ring. The other half he takes with him; and he tells her that if he does not return within five years she is free to marry again. In India Gerhard enjoys himself so well that it is only on the last day he remembers his agreement with his wife. Recollecting this, he becomes very downcast, when suddenly the thief of a devil appears, commissioned to fetch him back before bedtime, as his wife is on the point of wedding. Catching him up, the devil transports the pilgrim to his home on the Khine, and sets him down safe and sound, in the twilight. While bride and groom sit at the marriage-feast, Gerhard drops his half of the ring into the goblet. His wife recognises him, and the poor bridegroom would have gone away in disgrace, but Gerhard, out of politeness, keeps him in the house overnight. Caesarius insists that the story of this miracle was known to all the inhabitants of Hollenbach, and that Gerhard's grandchildren were, in his day, still living there.
Now as to the volkslied. The precise date of its composition cannot be fixed. It was certainly written
Thcnohie before 1359, and may have been written as
MiiHngar. early ^ 1300 The tale of the " noble M5.
ringer" is the tale of Gerhard, with the episode of the devil and the stolen cloak left out. On the eve of a pilgrimage to St Thomas, Moringer sets his wife a term of seven years, after which 3he may do as she lists; and he commends her, during his absence, to the protection of the young Herr von Neifen. The seven years are up, but Moringer still tarries in the land of St Thomas. In a dream an angel comes and warns him that, unless he returns that very day, Von Neifen will take his spouse. Moringer prays to the saint, and falls asleep again. When he awakes he is at home sitting before his mill. From the miller he receives a confirmation of his dream. Everybody believ&s him dead. Feigning to be a pilgrim, he enters the house, and just when the bride is to be bedded, he lifts up his voice in a song describing his own case. The bride orders a wine-cup to be passed to him. Moringer puts in the ring, and sends it back to his wife. At once she recognises him, and throwing herself on her knees pleads for forgiveness. Young Von Neifen, too, accuses himself of breaking faith. Moringer, very gracious, pardons them all, and gives his daughter to Von Neifen. "But," he exclaims, pathetically, "lass mir die alte Braut."
The songs of Heinrich the Lion belong to the same cycle; and in these also, though not as in Caesarius, "8ina conjugal the agency of a devil comes into play. paxTM," <tc It is worthy of note that in The Noble
Mi/ringer two genuine stanzas of Walther von der Vogelweide are put into the mouth of the hero. This suggests another remark—viz., that while the Minnesingers had complimented married ladies, the common poets bestow their praises, or dispraises, on young maidens. It is due, perhaps, to the stricter morals of the rising burgher-class that two noblemen, who may be termed the "last of the Minnesingers "—Count Hugo von Montfort and Oswald von Wolkenstein—in their later verse celebrate the virtues of their wives.
I have by no means exhausted all that might be
said on the German lieder. The large part which
nature plays in these songs, as in all popu
Jttyme-sjxafaTS. , ,, . . . „ , .
lar poetry of the time, is specially deserving of recognition.1 Again, the satirical verses aimed at
1 See on this Scherer's History of Oerman Literature, vol. i. p. 250 (English translation). Clarendon Press, Oxford.