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out asserting for Schiller any claim that even | Schiller be forgotten. "His works, too, the memory of what he did and was, will arise afar off like a towering landmark in the solitude of the Past, when distance shall have dwarfed into invisibility many lesser people that once encompassed him, and hid him from the near beholder."
enemies can dispute, enough will remain for him. We may say that, as a Poet and Thinker, he attained to a perennial Truth, and ranks among the noblest productions of his century and nation. Goethe may continue the German Poet, but neither through long generations can
THE NIBELUNGEN LIED.*
[WESTMINSTER REVIEW, 1831.]
In the year 1757, the Swiss Professor Bod-| gress. The Nibelungen has now been investimer printed an ancient poetical manuscript, gated, translated, collated, commented upon, under the title of Chriemhilden Ruche und die with more or less result, to almost boundless Klage, (Chriemhilde's Revenge, and the La- lengths: besides the Work named at the head ment;) which may be considered as the first of this Paper, and which stands there simply of a series, or stream of publications, and as one of the latest, we have Versions into the speculations still rolling on, with increased modern tongue by Von der Hagen, by Hinscurrent, to the present day. Not, indeed, that berg, Lachmann, Büsching, Zeune, the last in all these had their source or determining cause Prose, and said to be worthless; Criticisms, in so insignificant a circumstance; their Introductions, Keys, and so forth, by innumersource, or rather thousand sources, lay far able others, of whom we mention only Docen elsewhere. As has often been remarked, a and the Brothers Grimm. certain antiquarian tendency in Literature, a fonder, more earnest looking back into the Past, began about that time to manifest itself in all nations, (witness our own Percy's Reliques:) this was among the first distinct symptoms of it in Germany: where, as with ourselves, its manifold effects are still visible enough.
Some fifteen years after Bodmer's publication, which, for the rest, is not celebrated as an editorial feat, one C. H. Müller undertook a Collection of German Poems from the Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Centuries; wherein, among other articles, he reprinted Bodmer's Chriemhilde and Klage, with a highly remarkable addition prefixed to the former, essential indeed to the right understanding of it; and the whole now stood before the world as one Poem, under the name of the Nibelungen Lied, or Lay of the Nibelungen. It has since been ascertained that the Klage is a foreign inferior appendage; at best, related only as epilogue to the main work: meanwhile out of this Nibelungen, such as it was, there soon proceeded Dew inquiries, and kindred enterprises. For nuch as the Poem, in the shape it here bore, was defaced and marred, it failed not to attract observation: to all open-minded lovers of poetry, especially where a strong patriotic feeling existed, this singular, antique Nibelungen was an interesting appearance. Johannes Müller, in his famous Swiss History, spoke of it in warm terms: subsequently, August Wilhelm Schlegel, through the medium of Das Deutsche Museum, succeeded in awakening something like a universal popular feeling on the subject; and, as a natural consequence, a whole host of Editors and Critics, of deep and of shallow endeavour, whose labours we yet see in pro
Das Nibelungen Lied, übersetzt von Karl Simrock The Nibelungen Lied, translated by Karl Simrock.)
Í vols. 12mo. Berlin, 1827.
By which means, not only has the Poem itself been elucidated with all manner of researches, but its whole environment has come forth in new light; the scene and personages it relates to, the other fictions and traditions connected with it, have attained a new importance and coherence. Manuscripts, that for ages had lain dormant, have issued from their archives into public view; books that had circulated only in mean guise for the amusement of the people, have become important, not to one or two virtuosos, but to the general body of the learned: and now a whole System of antique Teutonic Fiction and Mythology unfolds itself, shedding here and there a real though feeble and uncertain glimmer over what was once the total darkness of the old Time. No fewer than Fourteen ancient Traditionary Poems, all strangely intertwisted, and growing out of and into one another, have come to light among the Germans; who now, in looking back, find that they too, as well as the Greeks, have their Heroic Age, and round the old Valhalla, as their Northern Pantheon, a world of demi-gods and wonders.
Such a phenomenon, unexpected till of late, cannot but interest a deep-thinking, enthusiastic people. For the Nibelungen especially, which lies as the centre and distinct keystone of the whole too chaotic System,-let us say rather, blooms as a firm sunny island in the middle of these cloud-covered, ever-shifting, sand-whirlpools, they cannot sufficiently testify their love and veneration. Learned profes sors lecture on the Nibelungen, in public schools, with a praiseworthy view to initiate the German youth in love of their fatherland; from many zealous and nowise ignorant critics we hear talk of a "great Northern Epos," of a "German Iliad;" the more saturnine are shamed into silence, or hollow mouth-homage; thus from all quarters comes a sound of jovfn!
acclamation: the Nibelungen is welcomed as a | of Substance that casts such multiplied im precious national possession, recovered after measurable Shadows? The primeval Mythus, six centuries of neglect, and takes undisputed were it at first philosophical truth, or were it place among the sacred books of German historical incident, floats too vaguely on the literature. breath of men: each successive Singer and Redactor furnishes it with new personages, new scenery, to please a new audience; each has the privilege of inventing, and the far wider privilege of borrowing and new-model.
Of these curious transactions, some rumour has not failed to reach us in England, where our minds, from their own antiquarian disposition, were willing enough to receive it. Abstracts and extracts of the Nibelungen haveling from all that have preceded him. Thus been printed in our language; there have been though Tradition may have but one root, it disquisitions on it in our Reviews; hitherto, grows like a Banian, into a whole overarching however, such as nowise to exhaust the sub- labyrinth of trees. Or rather might we say, it ject. On the contrary, where so much was to is a Hall of Mirrors, where in pale light each be told at once, the speaker might be some- mirror reflects, convexly or concavely, not what puzzled where to begin: it was a much only some real Object, but the Shadows of this readier method to begin with the end, or with in other mirrors; which again do the like for any part of the middle, than like Hamilton's it: till in such reflection and re-reflection the Ram (whose example is too little followed in whole immensity is filled with dimmer and literary narrative) to begin with the beginning. dimmer shapes; and no firm scene lies round Thus has our stock of intelligence come us, but a dislocated, distorted chaos, fading rushing out on us quite promiscuously and away on all hands, in the distance, into utter pell-mell; whereby the whole matter could not night. Only to some brave Von der Hagen, but acquire a tortuous, confused, altogether furnished with indefatigable ardour, and a deep, inexplicable, and even dreary aspect; and the almost a religious love, is it given to find sure class of "well-informed persons" now find footing there, and see his way. All those Dukes themselves in that uncomfortable position, of Aquitania, therefore, and Etzel's Court-holdings, where they are obliged to profess admiration, and Dietriche and Sigenots, we shall leave standand at the same time feel that, except by name, ing where they are. Such as desire farther inthey know not what the thing admired is. formation, will find an intelligible account of Such a position towards the venerable Nibelun- the whole Series or Cycle, in Messrs. Weber gen, which is no less bright and graceful than and Jamieson's Illustrations of Northern Antihistorically significant, cannot be the right quities; and all possible furtherance, in the one. Moreover, as appears to us, it might be numerous German works above alluded to; somewhat mended by very simple means. among which Von der Hagen's writings, though Let any one that had honestly read the Nibe- not the readiest, are probably the safest guides. lungen, which in these days is no surprising But for us, our business here is with the achievement, only tell us what he found there, Nibelungen, the inhabited poetic country round and nothing that he did not find: we should which all these wildernesses lie; only as enthen know something, and, what were still bet-vironments of which, as routes to which, are ter, be ready for knowing more. To search out they of moment to us. Perhaps our shortest the secret roots of such a production, ramified and smoothest route will be through the Heldthrough successive layers of centuries, and enbuch, (Hero-book ;) which is greatly the most drawing nourishment from each, may be work, important of these subsidiary Fictions, not and too hard work, for the deepest philosopher without interest of its own, and closely related and critic; but to look with natural eyes on to the Nibelungen. This Heldenbuch, therefore, what part of it stands visibly above ground, we must now address ourselves to traverse and record his own experiences thereof, is what with all despatch. At the present stage of the any reasonable mortal, if he will take heed, business, too, we shall forbear any historical can do. inquiry and argument concerning the date and local habitation of those Traditions; reserving what little is to be said on that matter till the Traditions themselves have become better known to us. Let the reader, on trust, for the present, transport himself into the twelfth or thirteenth century; and therefrom looking back into the sixth or fifth, see what presents itself.
Some such slight service we here intend proffering to our readers: let them glance with us a little into that mighty maze of Northern Archæology; where, it may be, some pleasant prospects will open. If the Nibelungen is what we have called it, a firm sunny island amid the weltering chaos of antique tradition, it must be worth visiting on general grounds; nay, if the primeval rudiments of it have the antiquity assigned them, it belongs especially to us English Teutones as well as to the German.
Far be it from us, meanwhile, to venture rashly or farther than is needful, into that same traditionary chaos, fondly named the "Cycle of Northern Fiction," with its Fourteen Sectors, (or separate Poems,) which are rather Four teen shoreless Limbos, where we hear of pieces containing "a hundred thousand verses," and "seventy thousand verses," as of a quite natural affair! How travel through that inane country; by what art discover the little grain
Of the Heldenbuch, tried on its own merits, and except as illustrating that other far worthier Poem, or at most as an old national, and still in some measure popular book, we should have felt strongly inclined to say, as the curate in Don Quixote so often did, Al corral con ello, Out of window with it! Doubtless there are touches of beauty in the work, and even a sort of heartiness and antique quaintness in its wildest follies; but on the whole that George-andDragon species of composition has long ceased to find favour with any one; and except for its groundwork, more or less discernible, of old
Northern Fiction, this Heldenbuch has little to distinguish it from these. Nevertheless, what is worth remark, it seems to have been a far higher favourite than the Nibelungen, with ancient readers: it was printed soon after the invention of printing: some think in 1472, for there is no place or date on the first edition; at all events, in 1491, in 1509, and repeatedly since; whereas the Nibelungen, though written earlier, and in worth immeasurably superior, had to remain in manuscript three centuries longer. From which, for the thousandth time, inferences might be drawn as to the infallibility of popular taste, and its value as a criterion for poetry. However, it is probably in virtue of this neglect, that the Nibelungen boasts of its actual purity; that it now comes before us, clear and graceful as it issued from the old singer's head and heart; not over-loaded with Ass-eared Giants, Fiery Dragons, Dwarfs, and Hairy Women, as the Heldenbuch is, many of which, as charity would hope, may be the produce of a later age than that famed Swabian Era, to which these poems, as we now see them, are commonly referred. Indeed, one Casper von Roen is understood to have passed the whole Heldenbuch through his limbec, in the fifteenth century; but like other rectifiers, instead of purifying it, to have only drugged it with still fiercer ingredients to suit the sick appetite of the time.
Of this drugged and adulterated Hero-Bool: (the only one we yet have, though there is talk of a better) we shall quote the long Title-page of Lessing's Copy, the edition of 1560; from which, with a few intercalated observations, the reader's curiosity may probably obtain what little satisfaction it wants.
Das Heldenbuch Welchs aufs neue corrigirt und gebessert ist, mit shōnen Figuren geziert. Gedruckt zu Frankfurt am Mayn, durch Weygand Han und Sygmund Feyerabend, &c. That is to say:
"The Hero-Book, which is of new corrected and improved, adorned with beautiful Figures. Printed at Frankfurt on the Mayn, through Weygand Han, and Sygmund Feyerabend.
"Part First saith of Kaiser Ottnit and the Little King Elberich, how they with great peril, over sea, in Heathendom, won from a king his daughter, (and how he in lawful marriage took her to wife.")
From which announcement the reader already guesses the contents: how this little King Elberich was a Dwarf, or Elf, some halfspan long, yet full of cunning practices, and the most helpful activity; nay, stranger still, had been Kaiser Ottnit of Lampartei, or Lombardy's father, having had his own ulterior views in that indiscretion. How they sailed with Messina ships, into Paynim land; fought with that unspeakable Turk, King Machabol, in and about his fortress and metropolis of Montebur, which was all stuck round with Christian heads; slew from seventy to a hun dred thousand of the Infidels at one heat; saw the lady on the battlements; and at length, chiefly by Dwarf Elberich's help, carried her off in triumph: wedded her in Messina; and without difficulty, rooting out the Mohammedan prejudice, converted her to the creed of Mother Church. The fair runaway seems to have been of a gentle, tractable disposition, very
different from old Machabol; concerning whom it is chiefly to be noted that Dwarf Elberich, rendering himself invisible on their first interview, plucks out a handful of hair from his chin; thereby increasing to a tenfold pitch the royal choler; and, what is still more remarkable, furnishing the poet Wieland, six centuries afterwards, with the critical incident in his Oberon. As for the young lady herself, we cannot but admit that she was well worth sailing to Heathendom for; and shall here, as our sole specimen of that old German doggerel, give the description of her, as she first appeared on the battlements during the fight; subjoining a version as verbal and literal as the plainest prose can make it. Considered as a detached passage, it is perhaps the finest we have met with in the Heldenbuch.
Ihr herz brann also schone,
She let it flow down,
The lovely maidling.
She wore a crown with jewels,
It was of gold so red:
For Elberich the very small
There in front of the crown
Even as the sun's sheen.
The maid she stood alone,
Shone her neck like the snow.
Elberich the very small
Was touched with the maiden's sorrow.
Happy man was Kaiser Ottnit, blessed with such a wife, after all his travail;-had not the Turk Machabol cunningly sent him, in revenge, a box of young Dragons, or Dragoneggs, by the hands of a caitiff Infidel, contriver of mischief; by whom in due course of time they were hatched and nursed to the infinite wo of all Lampartie, and ultimately to the death of Kaiser Ottnit himself, whom they swallowed and attempted to digest, once without effect, but the next time too fatally, crown and all!
"Part Second announceth (meldet) of Herr Hugdietrich and his son Wolfdietrich; how they for justice's sake, oft by their doughty acts succoured distressed persons, with other bold heroes that stood by them in extremity."
Concerning which Hugdietrich, Emperor of Greece, and his son Wolfdietrich, one day the renowned Dietrich of Bern, we can here say little more than that the former trained himself to sempstress work; and for many weeks, plied his needle, before he could get wedded and produce Wolfdietrich; who coming into the world in this clandestine manner, was let down into the castle-ditch, and like Romulus and Remus nursed by a Wolf, whence his name. However, after never-imagined adventures, with enchanters and enchantresses, pagans, and giants, in all quarters of the globe, he finally, with utmost effort, slaughtered those Lombardy Dragons; then married Kaiser Ottnit's widow, whom he had rather flirted with before; and so lived universally respected in his new empire, performing yet other notable achievements. One strange property he had, sometimes useful to him, sometimes hurtful: that his breath, when he became angry, grew flame, red hot, and would take the temper out of swords. We find him again in the Nibelungen, among King Etzel's (Attila's) followers: a staid, cautious, yet still invincible man; on which occasion, though with great reluctance, he is forced to interfere, and does so with effect. Dietrich is the favourite hero of all those Southern Fictions, and well acknowledged in the Northern also, where the chief man, however, as we shall find, is not he, but Siegfried.
"Part Third showeth of the Rose-garden at
Worms, which was planted by Chrimhilte, King Gibrich's daughter; whereby afterwards most part of those Heroes and Giants came to destruction and were slain."
In this Third Part the Southern or Lombard Heroes come into contact and collision with another as notable, Northern class; and for us much more important. Chriemhild, whose ulterior history makes such a figure in the Nibelungen, had, it would seem, near the ancient City of Worms, a Rose-garden, some seven English miles in circuit; fenced only by a silk thread; wherein, however, she maintained Twelve stout fighting men; several of whom, as Hagen, Volker, her three Brothers, above all the gallant Siegfried her betrothed, we shall meet with again: these, so unspeakable was their prowess, sufficed to defend the silk-thread Garden against all mortals. Our good antiquary, Von der Hagen, imagines that this Rose-garden business (in the primeval Tradition) glances obliquely at the Ecliptic with its Twelve Signs, at Jupiter's fight with the Titans, and we know not what confused skirmishing in the Utgard, or Asgard, or Midgard of the Scandinavians. Be this as it may, Chriemhild, we are here told, being very beautiful, and very wilful, boasts in the pride of her heart, that no heroes on earth are to be compared with hers; and hearing accidentally that Dietrich of Bern has a high character in this line, forthwith challenges him to visit Worms, and with eleven picked men, to do battle there against those other Twelve champions of Christendom that watch her Rosegarden. Dietrich, in a towering passion at the style of the message, which was "surly and stout," instantly pitches upon his eleven seconds, who also are to be principals; and with a retinue of other sixty thousand, by quick stages, in which obstacles enough are overcome, reaches Worms, and declares himself ready. Among these eleven Lombard heroes of his, are likewise several whom we meet with again in the Nibelungen; besides Dietrich himself, we have the old Duke Hildebrand, Wolfhart, Ortwin. Notable among them, in another way, is Monk Ilsan, a truculent, graybearded fellow, equal to any Friar Tuck in Robin Hood.
The conditions of fight are soon agreed on: there are to be twelve successive duels, each challenger being expected to find his match and the prize of victory is a Rose-garland from Chriemhild, and ein Heissen und ein Küssen, that is to say virtually, one kiss from her fair lips, to each. But here, as it ever should do, Pride gets a fall; for Chriemhild's bully-hectors, are in divers ways all successively felled to the ground by the Berners; some of whom, as old Hildebrand, will not even take her Kiss when it is due: even Siegfried himself, most reluctantly engaged with by Dietrich, and for a while victorious, is at last forced to seek shelter in her lap. Nay, Monk Ilsan, after the regular fight is over, and his part in it well. performed, calls out, in succession, fifty-two other idle Champions of the Garden, part of them Giants, and routs the whole fraternity; thereby earning, besides his own regular allowance, fifty-two spare Garlands, and fifty
two several kisses; in the course of which | less be elicited, and here and there a deformity latter, Chriemhild's cheek, a just punishment removed. Though the Ethiop cannot change as seemed, was scratched to the drawing of his skin, there is no need that even he should blood by his rough beard. It only remains to go abroad unwashed.* be added that King Gibrich, Chriemhild's Casper von Roen, or whoever was the ulti Father, is now fain to do homage for his king-mate redactor of the Heldenbuch, whom Lessing dom to Dietrich; who returns triumphant to designates as "a highly ill-informed man," his own country; where also, Monk İlsan, ac- would have done better had he quite omitted cording to promise, distributes these fifty-two that little King Laurin, "and his little RoseGarlands among his fellow Friars, crushing a garden," which properly is no Rose-garden at garland on the bare crown of each, till "the all; and instead thereof introduced the Gehörnss red blood ran over their ears." Under which Siegfried, (Behorned Siegfried,) whose history hard but not undeserved treatment, they all lies at the heart of the whole Northern Tradiagreed to pray for remission of Ilsan's sins: tions; and, under a rude prose dress, is to this indeed, such as continued refractory he tied day a real child's-book and people's-book together by the beards, and hung pair-wise among the Germans. Of this Siegfried we over poles; whereby the stoutest soon gave in. have already seen somewhat in the Rose-garden at Worms; and shall ere long see much more elsewhere; for he is the chief hero of the Nibelungen: indeed nowhere can we dip into those old Fictions, whether in Scandinavia or the Rhine-land, but under one figure or another, whether as Dragon-killer and Prince-royal, or as Blacksmith and Horse-subduer, as Sigurd, Sivrit, Siegfried, we are sure to light on him. As his early adventures belong to the strange sort, and will afterwards concern us not a little, we shall here endeavour to piece together some consistent outline of them; so far indeed as that may be possible, for his biographers, agreeing in the main points, differ widely in the details.
So endeth here this ditty
"In Part Fourth is announced (gemeli) of the little King Laurin, the Dwarf, how he encompassed his Rose-garden with so great manhood and art-magic, till at last he was vanquished by the heroes, and forced to become their Juggler, with, &c. &c."
Of which Fourth and happily last part we shall here say nothing; inasmuch as, except that certain of our old heroes again figure there, it has no coherence or connection with the rest of the Heldenbuch; and is simply a new tale, which by way of episode Heinrich von Ofterdingen, as we learn from his own words, had subsequently appended thereto. He says:
Heinrich von Ofterdingen
They gave him silver and gold,
First, then, let no one from the title Gehörnte, (Horned, Behorned,) fancy that our brave Siegfried, who was the loveliest as well as the bravest of men, was actually cornuted, and had horns on his brow, though like Michael Angelo's Moses; or even that his skin, to which the epithet Behorned refers, was hard like a crocodile's, and not softer than the softest shamoy for the truth is, his Hornedness means only an Invulnerability, like that of Achilles, which he came by in the following manner. All men agree that Siegfried was a king's son; he was born, as we here have good reason to know, "at Santen in Netherland," of Siegemund and the fair Siegelinde: yet by some family misfortune or discord, of which the accounts are very various, he came into singular straits during boyhood; having passed that happy period of life, not under the canopies of costly state, but by the sooty stithy, in one Mimer a Blacksmith's shop. Here, however, he was nowise in his proper element; ever quarrelling with his fellow appren tices; nay, as some say, breaking the hardest anvils into shivers by his too stout hammering. So that Mimer, otherwise a first-rate Smith, could by no means do with him there. He sends him, accordingly, to the neighbouring forest, to fetch charcoal; well aware that a monstrous Dragon, one Regin, the Smith's cwn Brother, would meet him and devour him.
Doth sing our noble Heroes' story: God help us all to heavenly glory. Such is some outline of the famous Heldenbuch; on which it is not our business here to add any criticism. The fact that it has so long been popular betokens a certain worth in it; the kind and degree of which is also in some measure apparent. In poetry "the rude man," it has been said, "requires only to see something going on; the man of more refinement wishes to feel; the truly refined man must be made to reflect." For the first of these classes our Hero-Book, as has been apparent enough, provides in abundance; for the other two scantily, indeed; for the second not not at all. Nevertheless our estimate of this work, which as a series of Antique Traditions may have considerable meaning, is apt rather to be too low. Let us remember that this is not the original Heldenbuch which we now see; but only a version of it into the Knight-errant dialect of the thirteenth, indeed partly of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, with all the fantastic monstrosities, now so trivial, pertain-derived from various secondary sources; chiefly from * Our inconsiderable knowledge of the Heldenbuch is ing to that style; under which disguises the Lessing's Werke [B. XIII], where the reader will find really antique earnest groundwork, interesting an epitome of the whole Feem, with Extracts by Hert as old Thought, if not as old Poetry, is all but Fülleborn, from which the above are taken. A still more accessible and larger Abstract, with long specimens quite obscured from us. But Antiquarian translated into verse, stands in the Illustrations of Northdiligence is now busy with the Heldenbuch ern Antiquities, [p. 45-167.] Von der Hagen has sino also, from which what ligh is in it will doubt result we have not yet learned. been employed specially on the Heldenbuch; with what