- Theodor Storm bibliographies
- Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1-72 by John Goldingay (February 07,2014)
The Folksong was, to begin with, the song of the country ; it breathes the freshness of the fields, and the simplicity of early communal life. Many of the best known pieces begin with a situation drawn from nature, fixing the scene as the hill, the linden, or the village well. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the modern lyric nature plays so great a part.
Love of nature is characteristic of the German mind ; it is not always regarded or celebrated in the same way, but wherever the German lyric rises above mediocrity, this is one of its finest and most con- vincing elements. Morike was of the same mould, extremely sensitive to his surroundings, and naive in his attitude to nature. In the Romanticists, nature is lifted out of her own sphere and endowed with a soul-life ; the rose and the butterfly are not merely parts of a world of which man is the centre, they have become human like ourselves : — " Die Veilchen kichern und kosen Und schaun nach den Sternen empor : Heimlich erzahlen die Rosen Sich duftende Marchen ins Ohr.
Storm, too, when in exile, sings of the Holstein landscape, the grey strand, the roar of the sea, the misty dunes, and the cry of the sea-bird.
Theodor Storm bibliographies
In Keller and Meyer new motives appear, the snowy peaks, the torrents and lakes of Switzerland. Here, again, we have individuality and freshness. Two poets may describe the same land- scape quitedifferently, butwhat a wealth of suggestions in a land of such diversity as Germany, what contrasts between low-lying Holstein and the Alps, between the bright Rhineland and the sombre beauty of Silesia!
The background of the German lyric is never merely typical or traditional ; it has an intimate appeal and a warmth and variety of colouring which speak of personal contact, individuality, and truth. The landscape has contributed in another way to the variety and individuality of the German lyric, although in this case other influences have also been at work.
And even at the present day, when local barriers have almost disappeared, there are great differences between the Alsatian and the Swabian, the Bavarian and the Frank, the Rhinelander and the Mecklenburger. They have grown up under different surroundings, traditions, and sometimes a different mental and physical inheritance. Swabia was at one time pre- eminent as the motherland of poetry, while the practical talents of the North have proclaimed them- selves on the battlefield, in statesmanship, and in successful industrial enterprise.
But when we look back from the standpoint of the present day we see that there is scarcely a single district but has contri- buted to the list of German poets. And these men have borne upon their faces the stamp of their race and native soil. This is why there have been so few so-called schools of poetry in Germany ; and none of them has ever been national or has dominated litera- ture so powerfully as to cramp the individual in the expression of his personal experience.
From first to last there has been a healthy development of style, free from the mere slavish imitation of tradition or fashion. In England, where German poetry is not nearly so well known as French, nor so familiar as its artistic merits entitle it to be, there are still, even among cultured people, two fairly strong prejudices against the German lyric.
The one is that German poetry is too sentimental ; the second that the language is harsh and clumsy. Opinions such as these die hard, especially if there is the least foundation for them. Heine is frequently sentimental, and Lenau or Griin so extremely pessimistic that their view of life can only be regarded as abnormal. These are examples among the greater poets, and more could be found among the minor ones.
But when applied to the German lyric as a whole the criticism is unjust.
There is no false sentiment in Goethe. He is extremely candid ; in his lyrics of love or his philoso- phical poems we find strong passion and deep feeling breaking forth spontaneously, but it rings natural and true. More names might be mentioned, but the above are characteristic. They represent all that is best in the German lyric, its intensity of feeling, its simplicity and directness of expression. With regard to the second point the least insight into the actual facts will show that it is a mere prejudice and nothing more.
Certainly there are words in the German language that it would be difficult to employ in a line of verse. There is, as compared with the older stages of the language, a remarkable preponder- ance of consonants over vowels, and many construc- tions are cumbrous and difficult to adapt to the rules of metre.
Official or legal German, even some of the German written b ' biographers and essayists, seems an impossible language for the finer touches of poetr. Fortu- nately German is rich in synonyms, it has an incom- , parable store of onomatopoetic words and alliterative phrases. As far as syntax is concerned, the modern lyricist follows the example of the folksong and makes his sentences as simple as possible. He allows him- self great freedom in the order of words. The separ- able prefix is frequently retained where prose usage would require it to be put at the end of the sentence. The sign of the past participle may be omitted, and many other such anomalies are not only permitted but quite common.
The consequence is that German poetry possesses a pliancy and melody that are rare in German prose. Goethe is a master of musical rhythm. Heine has shown us the possibilities of the German language in his " North Sea Pictures. There may be rough strength, extraordinary minuteness of distinction, and occasionally not a little harshness in German prose, but this language at the same time possesses an abundant vocabulary to express the tenderness of the elegy, the sublimest meditation of the philosophical poet, the fire of the ode, or the rapture of the song of love.
He makes special mention of a battle- song which they sang as they advanced upon the enemy. He calls it " barditus. In singing it they placed their shields before their mouths that the sound might be fuller and more impressive. In his A finals he mentions also the lays of Arminius. Jordanes, too, in his history of the Goths, speaks of dirges sung for the death of Attila. None of this poetr - was written down, and it has been irretrievably lost. It is impossible to say whether these chorus songs were epic or lyrical ; probably they partook of the nature of both. Even in the Old High German age only the scantiest traces of anything resembling lyric poetry can be found.
They may have inspired later lyricists as they were handed down by oral tradition in an age which made no clear distinction between epic, dramatic, and lyrical utterance. We find, for instance, the second Merseburg Spruch, a charm against lame- ness in horses, living on in Scotland in the eighteenth century, and being among the store of folklore handed down to Burns by word of mouth : — " The Lord rade. But as in France, so in Germany every kind of mythological or historical song, every ceremonial or amusement that could remind the people of their ancient creed and traditional customs, were ruthlessly suppressed by the Church.
The loss of this poetry was the price paid for the higher civilisation of Christianity.
Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1-72 by John Goldingay (February 07,2014)
The " Sanger " was almost an official personage, and as time went on his place was taken by the wandering " Spielmann " and the unplaced cleric. To the former we owe the preservation of the great popular tradi- tions, to the latter the earliest extant collection of lyric poetry.
But as to the form of the earlier lyric poetry we are absolutely in the dark. We hear of " winileodos " in the year , but we only hear of them because in that 'ear nuns were forbidden by edict " to write or send them. Even without this casual reference we could conclude from the form of the early Minnesang, its peculiarities of versification, its use of certain poetical formulas, and its remarkable fluency and elegance of style, that a long development preceded it.
Apart from the Church there were other influences hostile to the growth of German lyric poetry. Under the Ottonian dynasty Latin became the language of court, and acquired an ascendancy which was broken only in the age of chivalry. But as in all ages, so in this the various classes of society merged into each other. The educated cleric who could find no employment, or who was unwilling to accept the strict rule of the Church, inevitably came into contact with the " Spielmann.
It is mostly in Latin, but sometimes the refrain, sometimes a verse, is in German. Lyrical feeling is expressed in various ways : there is the lusty drinking song, the lyric of love, keen satire and the bitterness of poverty. We find references to living personages, even glimpses of an already awakened interest in nature, personal laments over weakness and misfortune, the conflict between the wish to serve Heaven and the attractions of the world.
From the middle of the twelfth century onwards, a new spirit animates German literature. The winning of the Holy Land for Christianity was an idea that had its origin in the Church. The practical object of the Crusades remained unachieved, but the enthusiasm which it aroused, the new idea of the Christian soldier which it gave birth to, and the contact between East and West, as also between the various peoples of Europe, gave an extraordinary stimulus to German civilisation.
The whole essence of chivalry was new, and was adopted almost unchanged from France. The knight became not merely the leader of society, but the bearer of culture and the arts. To copy the example of the Provencal troubadour, that is, to be 1 Ed. Schmeller, Breslau, The clergy step into the background, the knights take their place, and celebrate their advent by the creation of a literature which is unique in the history of Germany.
Its most outstanding features are elegance and taste. But its summer was of short duration.
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It died with the class that created it, and never again shall we see such close connection between the highest ranks of society and the practice of letters. The great festival of , celebrated at Mayence by the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa on the conferring of knightly privileges upon his two sons, is a tangible date for fixing the establishment of chivalrous etiquette in Germany. But even before this time the poetry of Provence had spread to the south and south-west of the country, awakening interest and emulation.
In form the Minnesang adheres to the rules of its models. The " Spruch " is in one stanza, mostly short and didactic in content. In regard to the length of the lines, their number, and the arrangement of the rhymes, the poet has absolute freedom in all three classes. So far as the content is concerned the Minnesang shows more originality. The word " Minne " denotes more than love ; this emotion, in fact, pla s a subordinate part in mediaeval poetry.
The " Herrin " whom the Minnesinger looked up to might be a lady of much higher rank, married or single, and thus arose the binding convention that no hint of the actual personality should be given in the song.
This naturally opened the door for the celebration of merely hypothetical passions, and the absence of sincerity, directness, and spontaneity is generally regarded as the chief weakness of the Minnesang, But it is a mistake, which several Ger- man critics have made, to regard the Minnesang as mere conventional poetry. Passion may be genuine though veiled ; indeed, the poet would have regarded it as a gross breach of etiquette, a betrayal of himself and his mistress, to be personal.
And there are com- pensating qualities, a delicacy rare in early German verse, neatness of fancy, and very remarkable graces of style. In some of the poems it is the lady who speaks, and these are among the most passionate and direct. In others there is a fanciful dialogue between the lovers, while in the " Tagelied " a third personage is introduced, the watchman who awakens the lovers at break of day and bids them think of their danger.
One of the earliest examples of the Minnesang is the well known : — " Du bist min, ich bin din : des solt du gewis sin. Only a few of the Minnesangs are anonymous ; it is a splendid token to the respect paid to poetry, that the author not only named him- self with pride, but was also jealous of his rights. No other might imitate his " Ton," that is, the stanza and the melody which he had invented, without being characterised by the singularly effective word "doenediep. Some discussion has arisen over the fact that he is an Austrian. This is, however, not sufficient ground for thinking that the Minnesang was in its origins German, for French influence reached Austria at an early time through Italy.
Another Austrian poet of note was Dietmar von Aist, whose songs of spring and longing appeal to us by their directness and simplicity. A contemporary of these earliest singers was called Spervogel, but the collection of " Spriiche " handed down under this name may have been written by two, if not three, different poets.
These pieces are in one stanza, mostly reflective, elegaic, or didactic in character, and reveal a somewhat pessimistic attitude to life. There were many Minnesingers of charm and originality, whose poems have been preserved chiefly in two beautiful manuscripts, the VVeingartner in Stuttgart, and the Manessian in Heidelberg. It is impossible to characterise them individually here ; perhaps it may suffice if the most important are noted. Veldeke, who wrote about 1 , is a fluent and optimistic singer, with a keen eye for the beauty of nature ; Hausen, who fell in the Crusade of 1 , is more elegaic.