Gambar halaman

for capital punishment, which was carried in the North-German Parliament. Prince, then Count, von Bismarck quitted his retreat at Varzin to press upon that assembly the adoption of the code in its entirety, and at his instance the motion was withdrawn. This action seems to have aroused'the ire of M. Lucas. It is a question upon which we will not enter. All thinking men will agree with Mr. Livingston that the penalty of death can only be justified when inflicted in self-defence either on behalf of society or of the individual man. But so long as men commit crime, can society in the interest of its own self-preservation avoid a resort in certain cases to the last argument of which mankind are capable? This is one among the many problems which are now agitating the civilised world, and of which the Premier whose action we have just cited has said: “It is not by argument or by discussion that the questions of the day are to be solved, but by iron and fire." A pregnant phrase, which teaches that the world's solution of them will be itself the most signal confession that they are not to be solved by human reason.

Jos. Blyth Allston.

The Minnesinger of Germany. By A. E. Kroeger. New York: Hurd

and Houghton. In the long struggle between the Empire and the Papacy, the contest whether the Latin or the Teuton was to be the master of the world, which has lasted a thousand years, and in which Kaiser William but continues, in modified form, the policy of Kaiser Otto, there is no more brilliant period than that during which the House of Swabia, or the Hohenstauffen, occupied the Imperial throne.

It was under these sovereigns that the great parties of Guelf and Ghibelline, whose struggles for supremacy shook all Italy, first arose. It was at this time that the great Lombard League of Italian cities was formed, and the contest between Pope and Emperor fiercest. The crusades filled all Europe with enthusiasm. The arts sprang into new life; and in especial that of architecture, under the great cathedral-builders, reached a splendor of development which it is not likely the world will ever again see. All life seemed to be crowded with fierce activities, with passionate desires, with eager hopes, which sought expression in all directions.

We might have expected that in a time of so much mental activity, and so much artistic productiveness, a vigorous and characteristic literature would arise ; but what one would not expect, was the direction that literature took. Intead of martial songs, of patriotic ballads, or of political satires, the new outburst of poetical genius drew its inspiration chiefly from romantic lore, from passionate devotion, or · from the beauties of nature. The poetry of the time is the poetry of happy youth, first awakening to the consciousness that woman is lovely, and that the world is fair, and half intoxicate with the new beauty and sweetness.

This gush of poetry is what is called the Minnesong, the first really national poetry of Germany (except the two ancient epics), and of it

*Weekly London Times, May 29th, 1870; Revue des Deux Mondes, Juin 1, 1870, Chronique de la quinzaine.

Mr. Kroeger gives in the volume before us a most interesting account, profusely illustrated by translations. And we can not here do better than to quote his own words from the introductory chapter :

“In the middle of the twelfth century, — or about 1150,- this first period of German literature may be said to have begun. Under the Hohenstauffen dynasty the Swabian form of the German language had become the language of all cultured men, and by its mellow sound was indeed peculiarly adapted to the requirements of poetry. The opening of the Orient, through the Crusaders on the one hand, and the spreading of the tales of King Arthur's Round Table, intermingled with those of Charlemagne, on the other, had roused over all Germany a spirit of poetry, to which the language was now fully adapted to give expression. Knights, princes, and kings -- the most exposed to this spirit of romance - were seized with it, and studied the intricacies of rhythm or rhyme with the same energy they devoted to their pursuits of war. Duke Leopold of Austria, Landgrave Herrmann of Thüringen, Margrave Henry of Meissen, Duke Henry of Breslau, Duke John of Brabant, King Wenzel of Bohemia, King Conrad, and the Emperor Henry, are among those, some of whose poems have been preserved. Even the great Frederic Barbarossa (Redbeard) - whom tradition reports still sleeping in the Kyffhäuser cave, his head on his hand, and his beard grown all round the table of stone, where he awaits the coming of the new glory of united Germany,

even he, and his perhaps still greater successor, Frederic II., often, after the day of battle or hunting, struck the lyre in their tents or castles, and poured forth those sweet songs of love that made soldiers, servants, and knights gather to listen. When it is considered that these Minnesinger, these warblers of love, were for the greater part unable to read or write, - even Wolfram von Eschenbach could not read or write, and Ulrich von Lichtenstein had to carry a letter from his sweetheart for weeks in his pocket before he found some one to read it for him; that we, therefore, owe almost all our knowledge of their songs to tradition, and that, nevertheless, songs from over one hundred and sixty Minnesinger within that one century have been preserved to us,- the extraordinary development of poetical art in that century may be imagined. Most of these Minnesinger were knights, and called Sirs; some of them, however, citizens, whose distinctive appellation was Master. It is Sir (Herr) Walther von der Vogelweide; and Master (Meister) Gottfried von Strassburg. These singers led a life most strange and romantic. At a time when cities had as yet barely come into existence in Germany, and the castles of the lords were the chief gathering places of the vast floating population of the crusading times, these Minnesinger, with little or nothing besides their sword, fiddle, or harp, and some bit of love-ribbon or the like from their sweetheart, wandered from village to village and castle to castle, everywhere welcomed with gladness, and receiving their expected remuneration with the proud unconcern of strolling vagabonds. Throngs gathered to hear their songs, retained them in memory, and transmitted them to the succeeding generation. One of the chief resorts of the Minnesinger was the castle of Landgrave Herrmann of Thüringen, who was to that century what the Duke of Weimar was to


the age of Goethe and Schiller, and whose Castle Wartburg was thus the home of song and literary development long before it became fainous as the place where Luther translated the Bible, and by doing so gave rise to a new German language, more vigorous and extensive than that of the Minnesinger, but less fragrant with sensuous beauty and grace. Worthily, therefore, is Landgrave Herrmann celebrated in the poetry of his numerous guests, as above all hosts the most hospitable and generous. For these singing knights felt no more delicacy in chronicling the good things they received from their patrons than in immortalising the meanness of those who let them depart without gifts of clothing, food, and money. Yet their lady-loves' names they never mentioned ; the tender delicacy observed by Don Quixote, the last of the famous race, was the rule that governed all. Like him, most of them had their Sancho Panza in the shape of a youth to whom alone they intrusted their secret. The chief occupation of those sweet youths was to commit to memory the verses which their masters composed for their mistresses, and, if unable to write, kept repeating to their Singerlein till he had every word and tone in mind. For he must learn not only the song itself, but also the melody of it. Then this living letter would be dispatched to the beauteous Dulcinea, who would listen attentively with due German sentimentality, and having had it sung to her until she could again repeat it perhaps to others, would give the young starved Singerlein a glass of wine and piece of bread, and mayhap other luxuries for himself and his master. It is thus chiefly through oral tradition that there has been preserved to us the immense labors of a century which the noble Swiss knight, Rüdiger of Manesse, and his son, first undertook to collect and fix into manuscript; thus, under the editorship of Johann Hadloub, one of the last of the Minnesinger, arranging that famous Manessian collection which now forms one of the treasures of the Parisian library, and which, through Bodmer, first became known again to German literature. The life of Walther von der Vogelweide, as sketched in another chapter, will represent in some measure the average life of the nobler knight-minstrel in the earlier part of the Minnesong period; whiist the life of Ulrich von Lichtenstein, also sketched herein, will illustrate the more extravagant form of knight-minstrelsy, and show how little Cervantes had need to exaggerate in his immortal Don Quixote."

The wandering minstrel with his lay of love, is a familiar feature in the early literature of all countries; but what is peculiar about these compositions is that instead of being simple and familiar forms, they are constructed in the most singularly complex and elaborate artistic fashion. Every stanza of a Minnesong must have a triple formation, "a strophe, antistrophe, and epode.” Every song must have its own special form of stanza, no poet being allowed to use the same form for two poems, nor to employ the form invented by another. Thus it comes that in the fragments still left of this literature more than twelve hundred different strophe-forms are preserved. But so far from feeling these rules onerous, out of the mere wantonness of genius they created ingenious difficulties and mastered them in play: they intertwine the rhymes until the strophe, or even the whole poem is a com

[ocr errors]

plex braid of musical consonances; they handle the rhythmical structure, increasing or diminishing its volume, as a composer handles the instruments of an orchestra. It seems as if they had caught the feeling of the Cathedral-builders, and while revelling in infinite multiplicity of ornament, intricacy of structure, had found out how to bring a massive effect from the whole. “We have Minnesongs,” says our author, "wherein every word of every line rhymes with the other, while the lines again rhyme in the usual way amongst themselves; poems wherein the last word of the line is rhymed by the first of the next line ; poems wherein the last word of the strophe rhymes with its first word; poems built in strophes of twenty and more rhymes; poems of grammatical rhymes, in the most various possibilities; poems of word-playing rhymes, etc.; and in most cases the fundamental rhythmical beauty reigns supreme and makes the ornamentation seem natural outgrowth.”

The difficulty of rendering in a translation these various effects, is so great that we wonder at the courage of the translator in attempting to grapple with them at all. This however he has done with extreme fidelity, not merely reproducing each line in number of syllables and accents, but rendering rhyme for rhyme and pause for pause, and even contriving to preserve in his version the tinge of quaint simplicity that is one of their most pleasing characteristics.

A graceful specimen of one of the less complex forms of the Minnesong, is this by Jacob von Warte:

“You shall hear songs sweetly pealing

Everywhere from yonder 'dale.
Tuneful songs the spring air filling,

Over all the nightingale.
Look upon the lawn's broad play

And upon the glowing heather,

How her dress she wraps together,
Gayly robed to greet young May.

“Many a kind of flowers peep

Laughing from the dew of meadows
Towards the sunshine's glory's sweep:

O, sweet May-time knows no shadows !
But this me no hope conveys,

Since I'm sick with heart-grief's fever :

She, whom I'd be with forever,
Still withholds from me her grace.

“O beloved, noble lady,

Loose me from my yearning dread !
Stay my guardian, kind and ready,

Lest my joys droop sick and dead.
Needful help I ask of thee,

If my heart thou lettest go,

Nothing more can calm my woe :
Sweet, o keep thy grace with me.

Power on many a one descendeth,

Thus we hear the wise men saying,
Yet with mercy's balm not blendeth ;

Thus my lady keeps betraying :

For me with such power she's chained,

Without mercy, the beloved !

That my heart-grief unremoved
Must stay with me to the end.

“Love, thou must be ours in common,

Or of joy my soul stays dead.
Grant that she may sweetly summon

By her mouth so sweet and red.
Since thy power me so does stir,

And thou govern'st all my soul, love,

As thou choosest - e'en so full, love,

Let thy power grow over her!Of the devotional class of these poems, probably the finest example is the great song by an unknown author, called "The Divine Minnesong," For this poem we must refer our readers to the book itself, as it is too long for quotation, but we will give Mr. Kroeger's introductory remarks: “It is,' says Van der Hagen, “the very glorification of love (Minne) and of Minnesong; it is the heavenly bridal song, the mysterious Solomon's Song, which mirrors its miraculous object in a stream of deep and lovely images, linking them all together into an imperishable wreath; yet even here in its profundity and significance of an artistic and numerously rhymed construction, always clear as crystal, smooth and graceful.'

“The noteworthy part of this poem is the symmetry of its construction in the general conception and idea of the poem, and the wonderfully artistic manner in which that symmetry is also made manifest and heightened by the sensuous elements of the rhythm, rhyme, wordsound, and that peculiar refrain, which has elsewhere been spoken of as occurring in Tristan and Isolde,' and the nature whereof is so weirdly or sweetly effective in music when — not a whole musical phrase is strictly repeated, which is simply the regular refrain, but a short passage reoccurs unexpectedly, though with thorough musical logic, or in another key, or so slightly varied as to recall the previous phrase and yet seem not the same.

“The hymn opens with the poet's exhortation to all those who desire to listen to his song of God's great love, to endeavor its attainment by unremitting exertion), and to pray for him, the poet, who has so little striven to gain it for himself. Then throwing his plaint aside, the poet calls upon the heavens and Christ to bend down and listen to his tuneful lays in praise of Christ's sweet mother; and now with increasing fervor begins that wonderful praise

•Thou bloom of rose, thou lily grace!' “The tone is slightly lowered and calmed down as the poet passes to recount the bliss and grace of her worship, and rises again as he proceeds to call upon all things in earth and heaven to praise her ; and finally upon herself to rejoice in her passing glory. The sound of the first chant of praise is once more heard,

'Thou of pure grace a clear, fair vase!' And the poet turns from her glorification of the mother to that of her son.


« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »