صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

might not be without profit. No Literary His- | ourselves to the German aspects of the matter, torian that we know of, least of all any in examine what may lie between. England, having looked much in this direction, either as concerned Germany or other countries, whereby a long space of time, once busy enough, and full of life, now lies barren and void in men's memories, we shall here endeavour to present, in such clearness as first attempts may admit, the result of some slight researches of cur own in regard to it.

The Troubadour Period in general Literature, to which the Swabian Era in German answers, has, especially within the last generation, attracted inquiry enough; the French have their Raynouards, we our Webers, the Germans their Haugs, Gräters, Langs, and numerous other Collectors and Translators of Minnelieder; among whom Ludwig Tieck, the foremost in far other provinces, has not disdained to take the lead. We shall suppose that this Literary Period is partially known to all readers. Let each recall whatever he has learned or figured regarding it; represent to himself that brave young heyday of Chivalry and Minstrelsy, when a stern Barbarossa, a stern Lion-heart. sang sirven es, and with the hand that could wield the sword and sceptre twanged the melodious strings; when knights-errant tilted, and ladies' eyes rained bright influences; and suddenly, as at some sunrise, the whole Earth had grown vocal and musical. Then truly was the time of singing come; for princes and prelates, emperors and squires, the wise and the simple, men, women, and children, all sang and rhymed, or delighted in hearing it done. It was a universal noise of Song; as if the Spring of Manhood had arrived, and warblings from every spray, not indeed without infinite twitterings also, which, except their gladness, had no music, were bidding it welcome. This was the Swabian Era; justly reckoned not only superior to all preceding eras, but properly the First Era of German Literature. Poetry had at length found a home in the life of men; and every pure soul was inspired by it; and in words, or still better, in actions, strove to give it utterance.

"Believers," says Tieck, "sang of Faith; Lovers of Love; Knights described knightly actions and battles; and loving believing knights were their chief audience. The Spring, Beauty, Gayety, were objects that could never tire; great duels and deeds of arms carried away every hearer, the more surely the stronger they were painted; and as the pillars and dome of the Church encircled the flock, so did Religion, as the Highest, encircle Poetry and Reality; and every heart, in equal love humbled itself before her."

Let the reader, we say, fancy all this, and moreover that, as earthly things do, it is all passing away. And now, from this extreme verge of the Swabian Era, let us look forward into the inane of the next two centuries, and see whether there also some shadows and dim forms, significant in their kind, may not begin to grow visible. Already, as above indicated, Reinecke de Fos rises clear in the distance, as the goal of our survey: let us now, restricting *Minuslieder aus dem Schwäbischen Zeitalter. vede, x)

Conrad the Fourth, who died in 1254, was the last of the Swabian Emperors: and Conradin his son, grasping too early at a Southern Crown, perished on the scaffold at Naples in 1268; with which stripling, more fortunate in song than in war, and whose death, or murder, with fourteen years of other cruelty, the Sicilian Vespers so frightfully avenged, the imperial line of the Hohenstauffen came to an end. Their House, as we have seen, gives name to a Literary Era; and truly, if dates alone were regarded, we might reckon it much more than a name. For with this change of dynasty, a great change in German Literature begins to indicate itself; the fall of the Hohenstauffen is close followed by the decay of Poetry; as if that fair flowerage and umbrage, which blos somed far and wide round the Swabian Family, had in very deed depended on it for growth and life; and now, the stem being felled, the leaves also were languishing, and soon to wither and drop away. Conradin, as his father and his grandfather had been, was a singer; some lines of his, though he died in his sixteenth year, have even come down to us; but henceforth no crowned poet, except, long afterwards, some few with cheap laurel crowns, is to be met with: the Gay Science was visibly declining. In such times as now came, the court and the great could no longer patronize it; the polity of the Empire was, by one convulsion after another, all but utterly dismembered; ambitious nobles, a sovereign without power; contention, violence, distress, everywhere prevailing. Richard of Cornwall, who could not so much as keep hold of his sceptre, not to speak of swaying it wisely; or even the brave Rudolf of Hapsburg, who manfully accomplished both these duties, had other work to do than sweet singing. Gay Wars of the Wartburg were now changed to stern Battles of the Marchfield; in his leisure hours, a good Emperor, instead of twanging harps, must hammer from his helmet the dints it had got in his working and fighting hours. Amid such rude tumults the Minne-Song could not but change its scene and tone; if, indeed, it continued at all, which, however, it scarcely did; for now, no longer united in courtly choir, it seemed to lose both its sweetness and its force, gradually be came mute, or in remote obscure corners lived on, feeble and inaudible, till after several centuries, when, under a new title, and with far inferior claims, it again solicits some notice from us.

Doubtless, in this posture of affairs political, the progress of Literature could be little forwarded from without; in some directions, as in that of Court-Poetry, we may admit that it was

*It was on this famous plain of the Marchfield that in 1260; and was himself. in 1278, conquered and slain Ottocar, King of Bohemia, conquered Bela of Hungary, by Rudolf of Hapsburg at that time much left to his own resources; whose talent for mending heln ets, however, it was here again, after more than five centuries, that is perhaps but a poetical tradition. Curious, moreover, the House of Hapsburg received its worst overthrow, and from a new and greater Rudolf, namely, from Na(Vor-poleon, at Wagram, which lies in the middle of this

same Marchfield.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

obstructed or altogether stopped. But why not will discover; arises in the most secret and only Court-Poetry, but Poetry of all sorts should, most sacred region of man's soul, as it were in have declined, and as it were gone out, is quite our Holy of Holies; and as for external things, another question; to which, indeed, as men depends only on such as can operate in that must have their theory on every thing, answer region; among which it will be found that Acts has often been attempted, but only with par- of Parliament, and the state of the Smithfield tial success. To most of the German Literary markets, nowise play the chief parts. Historians this so ungenial condition of the With regard to this change in German LiteCourt and Government appears enough: by the rature, especially, it is to be remarked, that the warlike, altogether practical character of Ru- phenomenon was not a German, but a Eurodolf, by the imbecile ambition of his success- pean one; whereby we easily infer, so much at ors, by the general prevalence of feuds and least, that the roots of it must have lain deeper lawless disorder, the death of Poetry seems fully than in any change from Hohenstauffen Empeaccounted for. In which conclusion of theirs, rors to Hapsburg ones. For now the Troubaallowing all force to the grounds it rests on, we dours and Trouveres, as well as the Minnesincannot but perceive that there lurks some fal- gers, were sinking into silence; the world seemed lacy; the fallacy, namely, so common in these to have rhymed itself out; those chivalrous times, of deducing the inward and spiritual ex- roundelays, heroic tales, mythologies, and quaint clusively from the outward and material; of love-sicknesses, had grown unprofitable to the tacitly, perhaps unconsciously, denying all ear. In fact, Chivalry itself was in the wane; independent force, or even life, to the former, and with it that gay melody, like its other pomp. and looking out for the secret of its vicissitudes More earnest business, not sportfully, but with solely in some circumstance belonging to the harsh endeavour, was now to be done. The latter. Now it cannot be too often repeated, graceful minuet-dance of Fancy must give where it continues still unknown or forgotten, place to the toilsome thorny pilgrimage of Unthat man has a soul as certainly as he has a derstanding. Life and its appurtenances and body; nay, much more certainly; that properly possessions, which had been so admired and it is the course of his unseen, spiritual life, besung, now disclosed, the more they came to which informs and rules his external visible be investigated, the more contradictions. The life, rather than receives rule from it; in which Church no longer rose with its pillars "like a spiritual life, indeed, and not in any outward venerable dome over the united flock;" but, action or condition arising from it, the true more accurately seen into, was a straight prisecret of his history lies, and is to be sought son, full of unclean creeping things; against after, and indefinitely approached. Poetry, which thraldom all better spirits could not but above all, we should have known long ago, is murmur and struggle. Everywhere greatness one of those mysterious things whose origin and littleness seemed so inexplicably blended: and developments never can be what we call Nature, like the Sphinx, her emblem, with her explained; often it seems to us like the wind, fair woman's face and neck, showed also the blowing where it lists, coming and departing claws of a Lioness. Now too her Riddle had with little or no regard to any the most cunning been propounded; and thousands of subtle, theory that has yet been devised of it. Least disputatious School-men were striving earnest of all does it seem to depend on court patron-ly to read it, that they might live, morally live, age, the form of government, or any modifica- that the monster might not devour them. These, tion of politics or economics, catholic as these like strong swimmers, in boundless bottomless, influences have now become in our philosophy: vortices of Logic, swam manfully, but could not it lives in a snow-clad, sulphureous Iceland, and get to land. pot in a sunny, wine-growing France; flourishes under an arbitrary Elizabeth, and dies out under a constitutional George; Philip II. has his Cervantes, and in prison; Washington and Jackson have only their Coopers and Browns. Why did poetry appear so brightly after the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis, and quite turn away her face and wings from those of Lexington and Bunker's Hill? We answer, the Greeks were a poetical people, the Americans are not; that is to say, it appeared because it did appear! On the whole, we could desire that one of two things should happen Either that our theories and genetic histories of Poetry should henceforth cease, and mankind rest satisfied, once for all, with Dr. Cabanis's theory, which seems to be the simplest, that" Poetry is a product of the smaller intestines," and must be cultivated medically by the exhibition of castor-oil: Or else that, in future speculations of this kind, we should endeavour to start with some recognition of the fact, once well known, and still in words admitted, that Poetry is Inspiration; has in it a certain spirituality and divinity which no dissecting-knife


On a better course, yet with the like aim, Physical Science was also unfolding itself. A Roger Bacon, an Albert the Great, are cheering appearances in this era: not blind to the greatness of Nature, yet no longer with poetic reverence of her, but venturing fearlessly into her recesses, and extorting from her many a secret; the first victories of that long series which is to make man more and more her King. Thus everywhere we have the image of contest, of effort. The spirit of man, which once, in peaceful, loving communion with the Universe, had uttered forth its gladness in Song, now feels hampered and hemmed in, and struggles vehemently to make itself room. Power is the one thing needful, and that Knowledge which is Power: thus also Intellect becomes the grand faculty, in which all the others are well nigh absorbed.

Poetry, which has been defined as "the harmonious unison of Man with Nature,” could not flourish in this temper of the times. The number of poets, or rather versifiers, henceforth greatly diminishes; their style also, and topics, are different and less poetical. Men

wish to be practically instructed rather than | struggles and hard-contested victories is the poetically amused: Poetry itself must assume youth changed into a man. a preceptorial character, and teach wholesome saws and moral maxims, or it will not be listened to. Singing for the Song's sake is now nowhere practised; but in its stead there is everywhere the jar and bustle of argument, investigation, contentious activity. Such throughout the fourteenth century is the general aspect of mind over Europe. In Italy alone is there a splendid exception: the mystic song of Dante, with its sterne, indignant moral, is followed by the light love-rhymes of Petrarch, the Troubadour of Italy, when this class was extinct elsewhere: the master minds of that country, peculiar in its social and moral condition, still more in its relations to classical Antiquity, pursue a course of their own. But only the master minds; for Italy too has its Dialecticians, and projectors, and reformers; nay, after Petrarch, these take the lead; and there, as elsewhere, in their discords and loud assiduous toil, the voice of Poetry dies away.

Without pushing the comparison too far, we may say that in the culture of the European mind, or in Literature, which is the symbol and product of this, a certain similarity of progress is manifested. That tuneful Chivalry, that high cheerful devotion to the Godlike in heaven, and to Women, its emblems on earth; those Crusades and vernal Lovesongs were the heroic doings of the world's youth; to which also a corresponding manhood succeeded. Poetic recognition is followed by scientific examination: the reign of Fancy, with its gay images, and graceful, capricious sports, has ended; and now Understanding, which, when reunited to Poetry, will one day become Reason and a nobler Poetry, has to do its part. Meantime, while there is no such union, but a more and more widening controversy, prosaic discord and the unmusical sounds of labour and effort are alone audible.

To search out the causes of this great revolution, which lie not in Politics nor Statistics, would lead us far beyond our depth. Meanwhile let us remark that the change is nowise to be considered as a relapse, or fall from a higher state of spiritual culture to a lower; but rather, so far as we have objects to compare it with, as a quite natural progress and higher development of culture. In the history of the universal mind, there is a certain analogy to that of the individual. Our first selfconsciousness is the first revelation to us of a whole universe, wondrous and altogether good: it is a feeling of joy and new-found strength, of mysterious infinite hope and capability; and in all men, either by word or act, ex presses itself poetically. The world without us and within us, beshone by the young light of Love, and all instinct with a divinity, is beautiful and great: it seems for us a boundless happiness that we are privileged to live. This is the season of generous deeds and feelings; which also, on the lips of the gifted, form themselves into musical utterance, and give spoken poetry as well as acted. Nothing is calculated and measured, but all is loved, believed, appropriated. All action is spontaneous; high sentiment, a sure, imperishable good: and thus the youth stands, like the First Man, in his fair Garden, giving Names to the bright Appearances of this Universe which he has inherited, and rejoicing in it as glorious and divine. Ere long, however, comes a harsher time. Under the first beauty of man's life appears an infinite, earnest rigour; high sentiment will not avail, unless it can continue to be translated into noble action; which problem, in the destiny appointed for man born to toil, is difficult, interminable, capable of only approximate solution. What flowed softly in melodious coherence when seen and sung from a distance, proves rugged and unmanageable when practically handled. The fervid, lyrical gladness of past years gives place to a collected thoughtfulness and energy; nay often-so painful, so unexpected are the contradictions everywhere met with-to gloom, sadness, and anger; and not till after long

[ocr errors]

The era of the Troubadours, who in Germany are the Minnesingers, gave place in that country, as in all others, to a period which we might name the Didactic; for Literature now ceased to be a festal melody, and address ing itself rather to the intellect than to the heart, became as it were a school lesson. Instead of that cheerful, warbling Song of Love and Devotion, wherein nothing was taught, but all was believed and worshipped, we have henceforth only wise Apologues, Fables, Satires, Exhortations, and all manner of edifying Moralities. Poetry, indeed, continued still to be the form of composition for all that can be named Literature, except Chroniclers, and others of that genus, valuable not as doers of the work, but as witnesses of the work done, these Teachers all wrote in verse: nevertheless, in general there are few elements of Poetry in their performances: the internal structure has nothing poetical, it is a mere business-like prose: in the rhyme alone, at most in the occasional graces of expression, could we discover that it reckoned itself poetical. In fact we may say that Poetry, in the old sense, had now altogether gone out of sight: instead of her heavenly vesture and Ariel-harp, she had put on earthly weeds, and walked abroad with ferula and horn-book. It was long before this new guise would sit well on her; only in late centuries that she could fashion it into beauty, and learn to move with it, and mount with gracefully as of old.

Looking now more specially to our historical task, if we inquire how far into the subsequent time this Didactic Period extended, no precise answer can well be given. On this side there seem no positive limits to it; with many superficial modifications, the same fundamental element pervades all spiritual efforts of mankind through the following centuries. We may say that it is felt even in the Poetry of our own time; nay, must be felt through all time; inasmuch as Inquiry once awakened cannot fall asleep, or exhaust itself; thus Literature must continue to have a didactic character; and the Poet of these days is he who, not indeed by mechanical but by poetica:

methods, can instruct us, can more and more | But perhaps the special step of transition may evolve for us the mystery of our Life. How be still better marked in the works of a rhymer ever, after a certain space, this Didactic Spirit named the Stricker, whose province was the in Literature cannot, as an historical partition epic, or narrative; into which he seems to and landmark, be available here. At the era have introduced this new character in unusual of the Reformation, it reaches its acme; and, measure. As the Stricker still retains some in singular shapes, steps forth on the high shadow of a place in Literary History, the places of Public Business, and amid storms following notice of him may be borrowed here. and thunder, not without brightness and true fire Of his personal history, it may be premised, from Heaven, conclusively renovates the world. nothing whatever is known; not even why he This is, as it were, the apotheosis of the Didac- bears this title; unless it be, as some have tic Spirit, where it first attains a really poetical fancied, that Stricker, which now signifies concentration, and stimulates mankind into he- Knitter, in those days meant Schriber, (Writer:) roism of word and of action also. Of the lat- "In truth," says Bouterwek, "this painster, indeed, still more than of the former; for taking man was more a writer than a Poet, yet not till a much more recent time, almost till our not altogether without talent in that latter way. own time, has Inquiry in some measure again Voluminous enough, at least, is his redaction reconciled itself to Belief; and Poetry, though of an older epic work on the War of Charle in detached tones, arisen on us, as a true mu- magne with the Saracens in Spain, the old German sical Wisdom. Thus is the deed, in certain original of which is perhaps nothing more circumstances, readier and greater than the than a translation from the Latin or French. word: Action strikes fiery light from the Of a Poet in the Stricker's day, when the rorocks it has to hew through; Poetry reposes mantic Epos had attained such polish among in the skyey splendour which that rough pas- the Germans, one might have expected that sage has led to. But after Luther's day, this this ancient Fiction, since he was pleased to Didactic Tendency again sinks to a lower remodel it, would have served as the material level; mingles with manifold other tenden- to a new poetic creation; or at least, that he cies; among which, admitting that it still would have breathed into it some new and more forms the main stream, it is no longer so pre- poetic spirit. But such a development of these eminent, positive, and universal, as properly Charlemagne Fables was reserved for the to characterize the whole. For minor Periods Italian Poets. The Stricker has not only left and subdivisions in Literary History, other the matter of the old Tale almost unaltered, more superficial characteristics must, from but has even brought out its unpoetical linea time to time, be fixed on. ments in stronger light. The fanatical piety with which it is overloaded probably appeared to him its chief merit. To convert these castaway Heathens, or failing this, to annihilate them, Charlemagne takes the field. Next to him, the hero Roland plays a main part there. Consultations are held, ambassadors negotiate; war breaks out with all its terrors: the Heathen fought stoutly: at length comes the well known defeat of the Franks at Ronceval, or Roncevaux; where, however, the Saracens also lose so many men, that their King Marsilies dies of grief. The Narrative is divided into chapters, each chapter again into sections,

Neither, examining the other limit of this Period, can we say specially where it begins; for, as usual in these things, it begins not at once, but by degrees; Kings' reigns and changes in the form of Government have their day and date; not so changes in the spiritual condition of a people. The Minnesinger Period and the Didactic may be said to commingle, as it were, to overlap each other, for above a century: some writers partially belonging to the latter class occur even prior to the times of Friedrich II.; and a certain echo of the Minne-Song had continued down to Manesse's day, under Ludwig the Bavarian.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

an epitome of which is always given at the outset. Miracles occur in the story, but for most part only such as tend to evince how God himself inspirited the Christians against the Heathen. Of any thing like free, bold flights of imagination there is little to be met with: the higher features of the genuine romantic epos are altogether wanting. In return, it has a certain didactic temper, which, indeed, anDounces itself even in the Introduction. The latter, it should be added, prepossesses us in the Poet's favour; testifying with what warm interest the noble and great in man's life affected him.".

The Walsche Gast (Italian Guest) of Zirkler or Tirkeler, who professes, truly or not, to be from Friuli, and, as a benevolent stranger, or Guest, tells the Germans hard truths somewhat in the spirit of Juvenal; even the famous Meister Freidank, (Master Freethought,) with his wise Book of rhymed Maxims, entitled Die I eschewenheit, (Modesty ;) still more the sagacious Tyro, King of Scots, quite omitted in history, but who teaches Friedebrand, his Son, with some discrimination, how to choose a good priest-all these, with others of still thinner substance, rise before us only as faint shadows, and must not linger in our field of vision. Greatly the most important figure in the earlier part of this era is Hugo von Trimberg, to whom we must now turn; author of various poetico-preceptorial works, one of which, named the Renner, (Runner,) has long been known not only to antiquarians, but, in some small degree, even to the general reader. Of Hugo's Biography he has himself incidentally communicated somewhat. His surname he derives from Trimberg, his birth-place, a village on the Saale, not far from Würzburg, in Franconia. By profession he appears to have been a Schoolmaster: in the conclusion of his Renner, be announces that 'he kept school for forty years at Thürstadt, near Bam-tunes. berg" farther, that his Book was finished in 1300, which date he confirms by other local



shape, in which we afterwards see it, of Meister gesang, (Master-song:) but for this hypothesis, so plain are Hugo's own words, there seems little foundation. It is uncertain whether he was a clerical personage, certain enough that he was not a monk: at all events, he must have been a man of reading and knowledge; industrious in study, and superior in literary acquirement to most in that time. By a collateral account, we find that he had gathered a library of two hundred Books; among which were a whole dozen by himself, five in Latin, seven in German, hoping that by means of these, and the furtherance they would yield in the pedagogic craft, he might live at ease in his old days; in which hope, however, he had been disappointed: seeing, as himself rather feelingly complains, " no one now cares to study knowledge, (Kunst.) which, nevertheless, deserves honour and favour." What these twelve Books of Hugo's own writing were, can, for most part, only be conjectured Of one, entitled the Sammler, (Collector,) he himself makes mention in the Renner: he had begun it about thirty years before this latter but hav ing by ill accident lost great part of his manuscript, abandoned it in anger. Of another work Flügel has discovered the following notice in Johann Wolf:

Der dies i uch gedichtet hat,

Der pflag der schlen zu Thürstat.
Vierzig jar nur Babenberg,
Und heiss Hugo von Trymberg.
Es ward fallenbracht das ist wahr,
Da tausent und dreykundert jar
Nach Christus Geburt vergangen waren,
Bruthalbs jar gleich vor den jaren
Ja die Juden in Franken wurden erschlagen.
Fey der zeit und in den tagen,
Da binch Leopolt bischoff was
Zu Babenberg.

*Bouterwek, ix. 215. Other versified Narratives by this worthy Stricker still exist, but for the most part only in manus ript. Of these the History of Wilhelm von Blumethel, a Round-table adventurer, appears to be the principal. The Poem on Charlemagne stands printed in Schilt r's Thesaurus; its exact date is matter only of conjecture.

"About this time (1599) did that virtuous and learned nobleman, Conrad von Liebenstein, present to me a manuscript of Hugo von Trimberg, who flourished about the year 1800. It sets forth the short-comings of all ranks, and especially complains of the clergy. It is entitled Reu ins Land, (Repentance to the Land ;) and now lies with the Lord of Zillhart."*

Such is the whole sum-total of information which the assiduity of commentators has collected touching worthy Hugo's life and forPleasant it were to see him face to face; gladly would we penetrate through that long vista of five hundred years, and peep into his book-presses, his frugal fireside, his noisy mansion with its disobedient urchins, now that it has all grown so silent; but the distance is too far, the intervening medium intercepts our light; only in uncertain, fluctuating dusk, will Hugo and his environment appear to us. Nevertheless Hugo, as he had in Nature, has in History, an immortal part; as to his inward man, we can still see that he was no mere bookworm, or simple Parson Adams; but of most observant eye; shrewd, inquiring, considerate, who from his Thürstadt school-chair, as from his sedes exploratorio, had locked abroad into the

Some have supposed that the Schoolmaster world's business, and formed his own theory dignity, claimed here, refers not to actual about many things. A cheerful, gentle heart wielding of the birch. but to a Mastership and had been given him; a quiet, sly humour; practice of instructing in the art of Poetry, light to see beyond the garments and outer which about this time began to have its scho-hulls of Life into Life itself: the long-necked lars and even guild-rethren, as the feeble rem- purse, the threadbare gabardine, the languidlydants of Minne-Song gradually took the new simmering pot of his pedagogic household establishment were a small matter to him: he was a man to look on these things with a meek smile; to nestle down quietly, as the

The other ten appear to have vanished even to the last vestige.

Flögel, (iii. 15,) who quotes for it, Wofi Lexicon Memorab. t. ii. p. 1061.

« السابقةمتابعة »