RECORDS OF CIVILIZATION
SOURCES AND STUDIES
Edited under the auspices of the
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY
AUSTIN P. EVANS, PH.D.
Professor of History
FREDERICK BARRY, PH.D. JOHN DICKINSON, PH.D.
Associate Professor of the History of Professor of Constitutional Law, Uni-
Science versity of Pennsylvania
FRANKLIN H. GIDDINGS, LL.D.
Professor Emeritus of Sociology and
the History of Civilization in Residence
CARLTON J. H. HAYES, LITT.D.
Professor of History
F. J. FOAKES JACKSON, D.D.
Charles A. Briggs Graduate Professor
of Christian Institutions in Union Theo-
A. V. WILLIAMS JACKSON, LL.D.
Professor of Indo-Iranian Languages
OHARLES KNAPP, LITT.D.
Professor of Greek and Latin
HOWARD LEE MCBAIN, LL.D.
Ruggles Professor of Constitutional
Law and Dean of the Graduate Facul-
DANA CARLETON MUNRO, L.H.D.
Dodge Professor of Medieval History,
DAVID MUZZEY, PH.D.
Professor of History
JAMES T. SHOTWELL, LL.D.
Professor of History; Director of the Di-
vision of Economics and History, Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace
LYNN THORNDIKE, PH.D.
Professor of History
WILLIAM L. WESTERMANN, PH.D.
Professor of Ancient History
FREDERICK J. E. WOODBRIDGE, LL.D.
Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy
PEASANT LIFE IN OLD GERMAN EPICS
From "Derusrlihe iterat'rueschichic," by Alfred BRcse, by permission of C. II. Bcck'sclh
S'er t sbuchiand lung.
HARTMANN VON AUE
From a miniature of the W'eingartner Iielderhand.chrift.
-. '::'. *:.
IN OLD GERMAN EPICS
DER ARME HEINRICH
TRANSLATED FROM THE MIDDLE HIGH GERMAN
OF THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY
CLAIR HAYDEN BELL
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF GERMAN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS
9 3 1
? 'i 3 sB
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS
Published October, 1931
Printed in the United States of America
The Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Medieval writings which depict the life of humble folk are
rare. The two thirteenth-century poems which are offered
here in translation afford a glimpse of some of the more inti-
mate aspects of life during that period. The one follows the
career of a peasant boy who would play the knight; the other,
employing the age-old theme of vicarious sacrifice, paints a
picture, somewhat idealized, of the relations existing between
a noble landowner and his dependent peasantry.
Although Der arme Heinrich was written earlier by some
half century than AMeier Helmbrecht, the latter poem is given
first place in the following pages. This is not only because of
its greater dramatic interest, but because it is, far more than
Der arme Heinrich, a narrative of medieval German peasant
life, and is thus more particularly the poem which justifies our
title. It is, furthermore, of much greater value in its descrip-
tion of social conditions and in its cultural content in general.
The translations are based upon the texts as published in
Panzer's fourth edition of Mleier Helmbrecht and Gierach's
edition of Der arme Heinrich. A long line of great poets and
prose writers Cowper, Ruskin, Newman, Wilhelm von Hum-
boldt, Goethe- tell us that translation from one language to
another, and particularly of verse, with full fidelity to both
form and content, is impossible; that shipwreck must inevitably
be suffered either on Scylla or in Charybdis. Both of these epics
were written in the rhymed couplets that prevailed at the time,
with four stresses to the line a form which impresses us today
as trying and monotonous; our ear is accustomed to an entirely
different and freer flow of verse. We value these epics today
for their content rather than for their formal beauty. And so
I have made it my first endeavor to render faithfully the con-
tent of the poems. I may add, however, that I have sought to
make a line for line rendering, with a verse-numbering identical
with that of the German editions, a fact which enables easy
reference to the originals. I shall be content if the translations,
with all their limitations, prove to be of service to readers
interested in this field, to whom the medieval language of the
originals would constitute too great a deterrent.
The explanatory notes and the bibliography are placed at
the end, where they will not annoy those who are not inter-
ested in them. The bibliography lists only the essential works
under "General Literature"; otherwise it aims to be complete.
It has seemed worth while to include such a bibliography here,
since only fragmentary ones are available elsewhere. The
arrangement under the various subdivisions of the bibliography
is chronological, making it possible to observe the growth of
interest in these works and to follow the critical discussion of
Obligation to the commentaries of European editors is
acknowledged, and gratitude to friends who have offered sug-
gestions. These translations, which were begun only as a pas-
time, would doubtless still be lying abandoned in a desk drawer
but for the interest and counsel of Professors Austin P. Evans
and Dana C. Munro. The former, who is the general editor of
the series in which this volume appears, has afforded me guid-
ance and constructive suggestion at every turn. More help
than one may expect to receive even from the most generous
colleague was given me, too, by my friend, Professor S. Gris-
wold Morley, particularly with the translation of Meier
Helmbrecht. To these good friends I express my cordial
C. H. B.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
Meier Helmbrecht 35
Der arme Heinrich 91
HARTMANN VON AUE Frontispiece
MAP OF THE HELMBRECHT REGION 12
A TWELFTH-CENTURY "FARMER'S ALMANAC" 32
NEIDHART VON REUENTHAL AND HIS PEASANTS 42
THE PEASANT 66
THE KNIGHT 130
Two epic poems possessing unique value and interest stand
out in the field of medieval German literature: Hartmann von
Aue's Der arme Heinrich and Wernher der Gartenaere's
Meier Helmbrecht. Although different in spirit and in sub-
stance, both treat of peasant life; both are rooted in German
soil. They are the first unified, national stories, German in
theme and in setting, developed in German literature.
Meier Helmbrecht is the greatest didactic satire produced
in medieval Germany.' Unless we except Der arme Heinrich,
which preceded it by some half-century, it is the first and only
medieval German poem built on a consistent psychological
basis, with the interest centered in character development
rather than the march of events. The author consciously sets a
psychological problem and solves it with astonishing directness
and logical consistency. The Germanic scholar Franz Pfeiffer
writes: "The German middle ages possess no second poem
which might be placed at the side of this fresh, vigorous and
gripping portrayal of folk life. How entirely different our
literature would appear, what accomplishments its history
would have to record, if this illustrious precedent . had
awakened imitation !"2 The other epic writers of the time sought
their material in a remote, idealized past. Their aim was to
entertain by the presentation of a series of motley adventures,
strung together loosely on the thread of the narrative, shallow
and conventional, bizarre and fantastic, borrowed for the most
part from foreign sources, and bearing little imprint of
national characteristics. The author of Meier Helmbrecht -
1 A discussion of the author is found below, p. 13.
2 Pfeiffer, "Forschung und Kritik," Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-his-
torischen Classe der Kaiserlicken Akademie der Wissenschaften, XLI (x863),
the realist of the thirteenth century set about, on the other
hand, to relate something which he had seen "with his own
eyes." Dipping into the fullness of life about him, he portrays
the life and customs of his times in a poem which surpasses
all others in medieval German literature in its value to the
student of Germanic culture. He holds up a mirror where chi-
valry may behold its decay; the peasants, a grim warning
against disloyalty to their class.
The splendor of knighthood had begun to pale early in the
thirteenth century. More and more during the crusades and
the wars in Italy men in the lower strata of knighthood rose
into prominence, men of coarser strength and hardihood.
Possessing no land, they found life carefree in time of war; in
peace they had often to support themselves by plundering.
An armed and mounted class, accustomed to war service, con-
scious of its power and difficult to hold in check, was a blessing
only so long as its forces were directed toward some great and
definite goal, such as the crusades and foreign wars had pro-
vided. The decline of the central power, the lack of foreign
interests, the sinking of the ideals of knighthood, made this
class an open menace to the safety of their own country.
Within the empire the feuds, which even Kaiser Friedrich had
not been able to subdue, gained the upper hand under his suc-
cessors. The knight became a brigand, a brawling disturber of
the peace, who stormed from one feud to another. Material
want contributed greatly to the sinking of the noblest of the
higher classes. Their affluence inevitably declined, because
court life and the tournament consumed large sums. Economic
superiority passed rapidly into the hands of the ascendant
citizenry. From the middle of the thirteenth century the mis-
use of armed force became more and more prevalent; the
tournaments, too, as Reinmar von Zweter remarks, became
more rinderlich than ritterlic1k\/Iany an impoverished knight
sought to improve his economic lot by taking a wife from the
rich peasant class, for the sake of her money and land.rMany
a rich townsman and well-to-do peasant sought to win the title
of knighthood; often money and land were sacrificed to this
end.lMen of the lower classes placed honor and life at stake
far the mere privilege of a place in the following of some
robber knight who had built himself an impregnable nest on
top of a hill or crag and scourged the surrounding country with
his plundering sallies. It became difficult to distinguish knights
frnm highwaymen, and the rich booty yielded by attacks upon
to~ n caravans was very tempting to the adventurous..- here
v.ere stern laws permitting only knights to bear arms and for-
bidding townsmen and peasants under heavy penalty to carry
them But pressure develops counter-pressure; how could these
lavs remain effective in turbulent times when self-protection
\\nj dictated by necessity? The peasant, like the townsman,
v as forced to arm himself in self-defense, even when wealth
and vanity did not lead him thus to ape knightly fashion.
Concomitant with the sinking of knighthood and the rise
of the citizen class, the beginnings of the thirteenth century
had witnessed a rise in the social position of the peasant in the
more favored localities; and from this time on, German litera-
ture displays a growing interest in him. The reason lies in his
increasing affluenceA.His affectation and vanity, his conceit and
his luxury in food and dress kept pace with his accumulating
wealth and better standards of living.He cultivated foreign
apparel, though its richness did not suffice to cloak the native
crudeness of his manners, and merely made him the butt of
jeering descriptions and caricature, awakening envy as a stimu-
lant toward derisive literary treatment. When writers began
to satirize the peasant, we may feel certain that the latter was
living in comfortable, favorable circumstances. Bavaria and
Austria, blessed by a bounteous nature and greater peace than
other German territory, were the lands in which the peasant
first struggled his way up to independence; consequently it is
here that he first appears in literature. Along the fertile banks
of the Danube the peasant cultivated acres that were free of
debt and of heavy taxation. That the old man's sack was
filled with money, the sons well knew! Because they were as
well off as many a knight of the times, they strove to match
the customs and dress of the latter. As Seifried Helbling
SLandfrieden of 1256. Cf. Hiigli, Der deutsche Bauer im Mittelalter, pp. 53 f.
Do something that the monkeys see,
They'll think it good and follow thee.4
In dress above all, this aping tendency most plainly revealed
itself. Little heed was paid by the young peasant fops to the
laws which prescribed plain cloth and monotonous gray or
brown colors for their wear.5 They sought in every way not
only to equal but to outdo their models. They wore their hair
in long, flowing curls. They devoted much care to the head-
dress, a hood finely embroidered with designs in silk. The
jacket was sewn with silk, ornamented with long rows of but-
tons of many colors, and buckled with a velvet belt. Trousers
were to be seen which required sixteen yards of cloth for the
making. Their red leather shoes came to a point and were
embroidered with silk. Despite all edicts against a peasant's
bearing arms, they carried swords and knives at their belts,
and spears in their gloved hands. Spurs, to which bells were
sometimes tied, clanked at their heels. They even wore breast-
plates and helmets. Neidhart describes a young peasant whose
dress was made up of twenty-four different kinds of cloth.
Further interesting bits of description have been gleaned from
Neidhart's poems by McLaughlin:
Perhaps you would like to hear how the rustics are dressed. Their
clothes are above their place. Small coats they wear, and small cloaks;
red hoods, shoes with buckles, and black hose. They have on silk pouch-
bags, and in them they carry pieces of ginger, to make themselves agree-
able to the girls. They wear their hair long a privilege of good birth.
They put on gloves that come up to their elbows. One appears in a
fustian jacket green as grass. Another flaunts it in red. Another carries
a sword long as a hemp flail, wherever he goes; the knob of its hilt has a
mirror, that he makes the girls look at themselves in. Poor clumsy louts,
how can the girls endure them? One of them tears his partner's veil,
another sticks his sword hilt through her gown, as they are dancing, and
more than once, enthusiastically dancing and excited by the music, their
awkward feet tread on the girls' skirts and even drag them off. But they
4Der kleine Lucidarius (Seifried Helbling), i, 453.
5These laws are first mentioned in the Kaiserchronik, by Pfaffe Konrad,
1147, ed. E. Schr6der, Hannover, 1892. Cf. Hugli, op. cit., pp. 32-34.
are more than clumsy, they have an offensive horse-play that is nothing
less than insult."
From such descriptions it is clear that Wernher's account of
Helmbrecht's garb, although it involves exaggeration, is in
the main a realistic description.
rThe literature of the thirteenth century contains sufficient
,descriptions of the half knight, half peasant type to convince
*us that this class was common in the social life of the period.
Knighthood was no longer conferred solely in recognition of
deeds of valor performed on the field of honor, but was now
extended also to townsman and peasant for services rend-
ered. The more successful peasants bound less successful
fellow-peasants to themselves in a servile relation. Through
years of trust and service, vassals rose from serfdom to asso-
ciate on intimate terms with their lords. These Ministerialen,7
as they are called, were given fiefs, wore the coat of arms of
their seigneur, and sometimes, as in the case of Hartmann von
Aue, also bore his noble family name. Thus there arose in the
course of a century a new nobility alongside the old, embracing
within its ranks members from all strata of society.
The impoverishment of the nobility and the ascendancy of
the peasant are described fully in Der kleine Lucidarius (Sei-
fried Helbling).8 Here the peasant wins favor of a nobleman
by his service as a lower official or manager. He sends his son
to court, and his daughters sew for the court ladies. His son
marries one of the nobleman's daughters; the nobleman's son
marries the rich daughter of the peasant official. The descend-
ants of the marriages are dubbed knights. The land that the
former peasant rented from the nobleman, he now receives in
knightly fief. Similar accounts are given by the poet Hugo von
Trimberg in his Renner:9 A young peasant, carrying his first
sword, bears himself proudly and sings to the girls at the
dance. His admiring mother talks of him to a nobleman's
6 McLaughlin, Studies in Medieval Life and Literature, p. 91.
7 Dienstleute, servitors.
8This poem dates from between the years 1283 and 1299. Ed. by J. See-
miller, Halle, x886.
9 A poem of about the year 1300. Ed. by the Bamberg Historischer Verein,
squire, who thereupon tells her that he knows where so promis-
ing a youth can find just the right wife. Sorely needing oats
for his horse and food for himself, he receives these in abun-
dance, and then
Rides back home to Hungerdale,
Where goods as well as honor fail.
Vss. 1605 f.
In the castle the dancing mice find it necessary to forage else-
where to satisfy their hunger. The peasant wife brings further
gifts of food to the squire; peasant and son likewise call. Op-
portunity beckons: the son marries the knight's daughter,
decked out in her begged, ill-fitting finery. The offspring are
parvenus, by name and occupation related to Helmbrecht
Schlingdasgeu and his comrades, whom we meet in the poem
to follow. These are the social conditions which form the
background for the story told us in Meier Helmbrecht. From
the mouth of the old peasant we hear the bitter complaint,
raised so generally by the poets of the thirteenth century, over
the decay of knighthood and the lapse of court etiquette.
Peasant Helmbrecht's son is a typical well-to-do fop such as
has been described, who from vanity and love of adventure, as
well as from repugnance to farm work, joins the retinue of a
About two hundred years passed, after the composing of
this poem, before it was recorded in the older of the two
manuscripts still extant. This is the Berlin MS B, written in
Austria in the fifteenth century. The younger MS A is a part
of the Ambras Heldenbuch that Kaiser Maximilian, called
"the last knight," a zealous collector of the cultural docu-
ments of knighthood, caused to be written down in the years
1504 to 1515 by one Hans Ried. These two manuscripts vary
considerably from each other in their text, although they were
apparently transcribed from a common source. Hans Ried
was by far the more faithful copyist; the older copyist, as
MS B betrays,'" made many changes according to his impulse,
both in content and in form. Hence MS A is throughout much
10 Cf. Panzer, Meier Helmbrecht, p. ix.
the more reliable of the two, needing correction from B only
in rare instances.
An important difference in the two manuscripts lies in the
locality given as the scene of the action. In connection with a
description of Helmbrecht's costume, we are assured in verses
No peasant wore such costly work
Twixt Hohenstein and Haldenberk.
The less reliable copyist gives instead of these place names:
zwuschen W els und dem Traunberg. Again, in verses 896 ff.,
where Meier Helmbrecht praises the spring water which he
offers to his son, MIS A reads:
No equally good spring I know
Except the Wanghaus spring so clear,
But no one brings its waters here.
For Wanchhilsen, MS B gives Leubenbach (present-day Leon-
bach).11 If, then, we may trust the more reliable Ambras
manuscript, the place of action lies in Upper Austria, south of
the confluence of the Salzach with the River Inn, a region
which until the eighteenth century belonged to Bavaria. The
region indicated in MS B is likewise in Upper Austria, lying
somewhat further to the east.
There is but one place known by the name of Wanghausen,
and its mention afforded the best starting point for determin-
ing the locality in which the action occurs. It lies on the east
side of the Salzach, in Austria, opposite the Bavarian hamlet
Burghausen. There is today still a spring in Wanghausen
which, because of the excellent water it furnishes, is called by
the native folk das golden Briinnlein. A minute study of the
surrounding territory has been made by Friedrich Keinz, fol-
lowed later by L. Fulda and M. Schlickinger. The results of
this investigation are most interesting. Having discovered a
Helmbrecht Farm in legal records of the thirteenth century,
11 Chance has revealed the probable motive which led the scribe of MS B to
alter the place names: that he might do honor to his patron, Lienhart Mewrll,
who was owner of Leubenbach at the time. Cf. Panzer, Meier Helmbrecht,
p. ix; and "Zum Meier Helmbrecht," Btr XXVII (1902), 88-izz.
Keinz succeeded in locating the actual farm in the neighbor-
hood of Wanghausen, some six kilometers east of Burghausen
on the edge of the Weilhart forest. This holding was up to
the last century called the Helnbrechtshof. Even for the
peasant Ruprecht of the poem, documentary record of a con-
temporary, Ruperth von Schitir, has been found. The farms
Schiderer and Groszschieder which lie southeast of the Helm-
brecht farm may have been his holdings. Near at hand is the
Reuter spring, the only one in the region with good water,
justifying father Helmbrecht's comparison of it with the
Wanghausen spring. Hohenstein is the Hohenberg, near
Burghausen, and Haldenberg is perhaps identical with the hill
Adenberg, lying not far away in the opposite direction from
the Helmbrecht farm. Near the farm there stretches a forest
such as is featured in the poem, the Weilhart. At a distance
of about an hour's walk, in the midst of this forest, there
stands a huge linden tree of a hoary old age, and under it a
little chapel, the JVeisse Schacher, concerning which Keinz
found a legend still in circulation among the peasant folk, that
it marks the spot where a soldier who had run away from his
parents in order to lead a dissolute life was once hanged. As
the decades and centuries passed after the disappearance of
knights, popular tradition may easily have changed the fol-
lower of the robber knight into a soldier. The chapel as it now
stands dates from a later time than that of the poem; yet it is
not improbable that relatives of the hanged man originally
constructed the chapel, inviting passers-by to say a paternoster
for the salvation of the sinner on the spot of his execution.
Many of the unusual expressions occurring in the poem have
found explanation in the language and customs of the region
studied. One of the investigators found in 1865 an old peas-
ant, Lindl, who recollected that in his youth he had seen in
the nearby monastery Ranshofen (abandoned in 181 1) a book,
with illustrations, about a "robber chieftain Helm" from Gil-
Some of the matters above mentioned are established fact.
Much is only hypothesis. Critics however generally accept the
view that the actual scene of the action of Wernher's poem has
been successfully identified, and that a substratum of historical
fact underlies the narrative. Thus Wernher's assertions that
he was telling at first hand a story of actual events may well
be true.12 To point out that the poet has fashioned his tale with
the free hand of a creative artist need not necessarily cast dis-
credit upon the poem's historical basis. It is evident from the
literary character of the epic that it is not in every detail
historical. There is even evidence of direct literary influence
which, if it did not suggest the entire story, at least furnished
Wernher with a general motif, and inspired him to treat an
event from the field of his own experience in the light of a
The singer Neidhart von Reuenthal, who preceded Wern-
her,"3 busied himself in his village lyrics, as we have seen, with
the same milieu as that which is reflected in the Meier Helm-
brecht. One has to read but few of Neidhart's songs to dis-
cover numerous analogies with Wernher's poem. There is the
same general satirical treatment. One meets the same vain
peasant youths, who strive to imitate the knights. There are
the frivolous peasant girls who consider it an honor to yield
themselves to a man of higher degree. It is apparent that
Wernher must have been thoroughly familiar with Neidhart's
songs. Specific proof of the relationship is furnished in the
glowing tribute which Wernher pays to Neidhart, amounting
almost to an acknowledgment of indebtedness." Last, and per-
haps most convincing evidence of all, there are the stanzas in
which Neidhart, describing a young peasant named Hildemar,
furnishes in brief almost an entire exposition of the Helm-
brecht plot. Translated into English, these read:
On his head a hood he wears, drawn tight with strings inside it,
Pretty birds in brightest silk worked on it round about.
More than oAe swift-moving hand has deft with fingers plied it,
Ere they thus embroidered it; this fact you need not doubt.
He must bear my curses wroth
12 Panzer, Schiffmann and Braune are the leading critics in opposition to this
1 The dates of Neidhart's birth and death are unknown. His poetic activity
falls between 118o and 1250. 14 Vss. 217ff.
Who conceived and thought it,
Who abroad the silk and cloth
Bought, and hither brought it.
Have you ne'er beheld his locks, so curled and long and shining?
Down around his chin they fall, in thick and close array.
In the hood they lie of nights, held shapely by confining,
Blond and fine like richest silk, as soft in every way.
From the tying, well 'tis curled
Where the hood confines it.
Like a mane it flows unfurled
Where no tying binds it.
SBrazen, he would be the peer of men of high degree,
Who at court have spent their days and there from youth have grown.
His hood, if once they catch him, will be stripped off speedily;
Ere he knows what's happened him, his birds will all have flown.
Let such reward as he'll receive
Be his ambition's yield.
Many a youth, you may believe,
Like wild, now roams the field.
There is a similarity of detail here which cannot be acci-
dental, even to the scattering of the birds on the hood.'5 We
note, however, the important difference that in Neidhart's
prophecy Hildemar will be driven away in shame and disgrace
by the court people whom he apes, while Wernher's Helm-
brecht suffers death at the hands of his own kind whom he has
misused. Neidhart's influence upon Wernher is universally
recognized. But it must be borne in mind that the two poets
knew the same peasants, of the same epoch. Wernher's frank
reference to Neidhart is not that of a poet who seeks to hide
his literary borrowing. It is, on the other hand, an acknowl-
edgement of the relation of his character Helmbrecht to those
pictured by Neidhart. The type was common; but, as Meyer
aptly says,'" Wernher has not had to undress Hildemar in
order to bedeck his Helmbrecht. Furthermore, Wernher has
many guides other than Neidhart. It has been shown that, if
15 Cf. Wiessner, "Helmbrecht und Neidharts Strophen iiber Hildemar," Btr
XLIX (1924), i52 ff.
1 Meyer, "Helmbrecht und seine Haube," ZfdPh XL (1go8), 426.
Wernher's world was that of Neidhart, he saw this world
largely through the eyes of Wolfram von Eschenbach; and his
poem contains reminiscences of Hartmann von Aue, Stricker,
Freidank, Walther von der Vogelweide, and the folk epics.17
As for the author whom we have to thank for our narrative,
we have no positive knowledge whatever save the fragment
of information which he gives us in the last line of his poem;
here he announces his identity as Wernher der Gartenaere, a
name not recorded elsewhere. All else is more or less uncertain
inference, based upon the nature and contents of the poem.
C. Schroder has sought to identify the author with Bruder
Wernher, an Austrian writer of aphorisms whose activity can
be traced from 1217 to 125o.'s But there is nothing beyond the
partial similarity of names to justify the hypothesis; viewpoint,
language and technique of the two poets are so divergent as
to make this identification unacceptable.19 The language of the
poem indicates either Bavarian or Austrian origin. Keinz's
theory, that Wernher was a "pater" gardener in the Augustin-
ian monastery Ranshofen which stood some two hours' distance
north of the Helmbrecht farm, has found considerable favor.
This "pater" gardener, so runs Keinz's theory, not only super-
vised the extensive agricultural holdings of the monastery, but
also instructed the peasants of the region in the arts of horti-
culture. In line with this duty, he was called upon to travel
about from farm to farm, and in this close contact with the
folk life in which the Helmbrecht story has its setting, he may
have witnessed the events of the story at first hand or have
heard them from the peasants of the region. This would also
explain the poet's thorough and detailed familiarity with the
geography of the locality in which the action takes place. He
knew the region on the lower Inn River so minutely that he
must either have grown up there or have dwelt there long in
Friedrich Panzer, whose widely used edition of Meier
Helmbrecht has been followed in our translation, opposes the
17 Pfannmiiller, "Meier Helmbrecht," Btr XL (i918), 252 ff.
Is Schrider, "Bruder Wernher," Ergdnzungsblitter zur Kenntniss der Gegen-
art, III (1869). 19 Panzer, Meier Helmbrecht, p, x, note 2.
Keinz hypothesis on the basis of internal evidence in the
poem.20 The lines (vss. 780 f.)
And only barest dues alone
Shall priest or monk receive from me,
Panzer considers impossible from a monk, while Keinz inter-
prets them in connection with verse 256 as referring to the
tithe which the elder Helmbrecht paid yearly, in produce, to
the neighboring monastery. Realistic writer as he was, Wern-
her would certainly picture the attitude of the average peasant
to this degree of accuracy.21 Panzer points out also the sally
against the nuns in 109 ff., and against the donations to the
nun in 125 ff. And the remark made in 208 ff., where the poet
speaks of himself as a dancer, is difficult to explain as coming
from the pen of a monastery inmate. One of the most weighty
bits of evidence is afforded by verses 848 ff.:
Much as I've wandered through the land,
Such kindly care I've nowhere had
As was bestowed upon this lad.
While the Keinz hypothesis interprets this travel as having
occurred in connection with the "pater" gardener's duties in
supervision of the horticultural activities in the lands surround-
ing the monastery, Panzer considers it to be clear evidence that
the poet was a wandering minstrel, who moved from court to
court to ply his art and thereby gain his bread. The significance
of Wernher's cognomen der gartenaere would then remain
hidden to us. Pfeiffer seeks to derive the appellative from a
rare Bavarian verb garten, to wander about from house to
house; although for such derivation we should expect the form
gartaere rather than gartenaere.22 Schiffmann has pointed out
a noble family in Krems on the Danube by the name of Gartner
since 1293, and Wernher's membership in it would afford an
20 Ibid., pp. xi ff.
21 Cf. Gough, "The Authorship of . Meier Helmbrecht," Proceedings of
the Leeds Philos. and Lit. Society, Literary and Historical Section I, Pt. 2
22 Panzer, Meier Helmbrecht, p. xiv, note i.
explanation of the unusual surname.23 Schiffmann's suggestion
would make of Wernher a nobleman. Even the class from
which he originated cannot be inferred with certainty. He
expressly calls himself a "poet" in verse 1933, but was he by
birth a knight, or had he sprung from the peasant class?
Wernher would surely have aroused ringing applause with
the recital of his tale under the village linden tree. However
Panzer and those who see in Wernher a wandering minstrel
hold that he plied his art at the courts of nobility. His poem
is conceived much in the style of his forerunner, the court
singer Neidhart. He pictures young Helmbrecht in Neidhart's
spirit of satire, and his verses 913 ff., so argues Panzer, are
addressed specifically to the nobility.2" Karl Stechele, of Burg-
hausen,25 has set up the hypothesis that the poet was a certain
Sir Wernher, known to have been in the following of the dukes
of Bavaria, resident at Burghausen, and that in the latter part
of his life this knight entered the neighboring monastery,
where he made himself useful as head gardener. The name of
a Sir Wernher of Burghausen appears as a witness in a docu-
ment of the monastery Ranshofen in 121o, and there is further
documentary evidence that he and his son of the same name
were present at Ranshofen in 1215. Stechele presents a fairly
convincing argument, and one that meets most of Panzer's
difficulties. But, on the other hand, one must not overlook
Wernher's explicit denial of his high standing in verse 864,
23 Schiffmann, "Studien zum Helmbrecht," Btr XLII (I917), 13 f.
24 Panzer, Meier Helmbrecht, p. xiii: "Dariiber kann kein Zweifel sein, dass
er seine Kunst nicht unter der Dorflinde, sondern am Hofe geibt hat. Vom
Standpunkte des Hofes und fur den Hof hat er sein Gedicht verfasst und ganz
im Stile Neidharts verspottet er seinen d6rperlichen Helden. Die V. 913 ff. sind
durchaus an den Adel gerichtet." But cf. Gough, "The Authorship of . Meier
Helmbrecht," loc. cit., p. 55: "I cannot conceive, with Panzer, that the poem was
written for the entertainment of courts. The description (o020-1035) of the
debased chivalry of the time would not be pleasant hearing to the knights-if
intended for such. No Fahrender would have dared to speak so openly, in fact
nobody but a cleric protected by the sanctity of his calling." And Haertel, "Social
Conditions in Southern Bavaria," Trans. of the Wisconsin Acad. of Sciences,
Arts, and Letters, XVII (1914), o058: "The complaints against knighthood ..
would, at the very least, cause the expulsion of the guilty poet from the castle."
25 Stechele, "In des Herzogs Stube auf der Burg zu Burghausen," Das Bayer-
land, XXXIII (1921-22), 344-349.
where he speaks of himself as being no herre in h6her aht
(lord in high esteem) ; and his remark in verses 884 f., "Such
food would surely please a lord," seems that of a person not
himself of noble rank. Moreover, despite the strong influence
of Neidhart mentioned above, the poem taken as a whole has
a flavor distinctly different from that of court poetry. Wern-
her shows a remarkable familiarity with the life and mental
horizon of the peasant, and has created in the older Helm-
brecht a more sympathetic character and one of more dignity
and nobility of thought than could well have come from the
pen of a knight. Neidhart was envious of his peasants, quar-
relled with them, and as a nobleman born looked down upon
them with scorn. Wernher is more detached in his views; he
severely arraigns knights and peasants alike for the evil condi-
tions that prevail among them. He has no quarrel with the
upright peasant; he shows for him rather such a benevolent
sympathy and so high a regard for the value of his calling,
that his attitude arrests our attention.
Coulton remarks in his MIedieval Fillage,G2 "in all medieval
literature, the peasant is very seldom noticed, and, even then,
the notice is universally scornful." The peasant was in a sense
the pariah of medieval society, ordained by God to labor by
the sweat of his brow and looked down upon as a "necessary
domestic beast." 27 The clerical group as well as the nobility
shared in this contemptuous view of the laboring class. As for
the peasant himself, he produced no literature, consequently
he never spoke for himself."2 The importance that attaches
to Wernher's view of the peasant becomes apparent when we
observe the rarity of such a favorable attitude. Coulton
remarks, with considerable exaggeration, that in the entire
field of medieval literature this poem and Piers Plowman are
the two exceptions to the universal scorn, standing out alto-
gether unparalleled for the sympathy they express for peasant
life.29 Wernher's sympathetic attitude, amounting almost to
"class consciousness," may indicate that he himself came from
26 Page 237. 27 Coulton, Medieval 'illage, p. 234.
28 Higli, Der deutsche Bauer im lMittelalter, p. x.
29 Coulton, Medieval Fillage, p. 237. That this is an overstatement appears
peasant stock and looked back upon the occupation of farm-
ing with affection.30 However that may be, it seems safe to
infer that he was a cleric. There are not only the author's love
of poetry and his familiarity with the literature of his time,
but also his acquaintance with current Latin farces dealing
with the home-coming of the scholar, from which Wernher
borrowed in his treatment of Helmbrecht's first home-coming,3
and his acquaintance perhaps with the Iliad and the Aeneid.3?
More convincing, however, than these details is the mere fact
of the presentation of a peasant thus early in so strongly
favorable a light. The clerics may have been, on the whole, as
Coulton maintains, scornful and contemptuous of the peasant
and his lot, yet it is among the churchmen that we find the
expression of a more sympathetic attitude.33 Christ, it will be
remembered, called his Father a husbandman,34 and Christians
are enjoined in Ecclesiastes vii, 16: "Hate not laborious works,
nor husbandry enjoined by the Most High." Religious parables
which are based upon agriculture are very numerous. Thus
we find the great medieval German preacher, Berchtold von
Regensburg, likening Christianity to a field, the treasures of
the soil to souls, and God himself to the plowman who plows
the field with the cross.3 Such figures of speech had the young
peasant maiden in Der arme Heinrich heard from the priests,
that led her to say, in declaring her purpose to die for her
beloved lord, Herr Heinrich:
A farmer seeks me for his wife
To whom I gladly yield my life.
O, give me to him then, betide,
And all my wants will be supplied.
from the fact that in the other poem contained in this volume, Der arme Hein-
rich, we also find a peasant presented as an ideal character. And it is worth
observation that a strong monkish influence prevails in Hartmann's poem.
30 Haertel's view, "that Wernher was an intelligent old peasant living in the
comfortable circumstances described in his poem," impresses us as having small
plausibility indeed. "Social Conditions in Southern Bavaria," loc. cit., p. 1059.
31 Panzer, "Zum Meier Helmbrecht," Bir XXXIII (1908), 393 ff.
3 See infra, note 3 to Meier Helmbrecht, and Meyer, "Helmbrecht und seine
Haube," loc. cit., p. 428.
33 Coulton, Medieval Village, p. 230. 34 John xv, i.
35 Berchtold von Regensburg, Deutsche Predigten, ed. Pfeiffer, I, 357 f.
His plow moves steadily indeed,
His yard is stored for every need.
His horses, cattle, never die,
With him, the children never cry, etc.
Vss. 775 ff.
The Church, then, viewed the lot of the peasant as ordained
by God, and sought to encourage him in his toil by represent-
ing labor as an essential condition of life, and by pointing out
the importance to society of his work as the creator of bread.
In his chapter, "Church Estimates of the Peasant," in which
Coulton asserts: "Nearly all our full-length pictures of the
medieval peasant come from churchmen; but these are pre-
ponderantly unfavorable," he also concedes:7 "It is true that
Christianity did something real . for the ennobling of
manual labor." Hiigli shows how under the influence of Chris-
tian teaching the attitude toward labor gradually changed in
Germany, until toward the end of the thirteenth century we
find German monks pronouncing the peasant to be the beloved
child of God because of his ceaseless toil, which is pleasing to
him.38 Whether the peasant himself, in the sweat of his toil,
felt himself to be so beloved of God and took such pride in his
work, is another question.3"
36 Coulton, Medieval Fillage, pp. 231-252; see p. 242 for quotation.
37 Ibid., p. 233. 38 Hiigli, Der deutsche Bauer im Mittelalter, pp. 64-66.
39 Self-possessed pride in occupation such as Farmer Hlelmbrecht utters (vss.
545 ff.) found expression and has come down to us in an old folk-song, Ritter
und Bauer, which Uhland has recorded in his Alte hock- und niederdeutsche
I'olkslieder, I, 337. It reads in part, in prose translation: "(2) The knight said:
'I am by birth of noble race.' The peasant said: 'I grow grain; that, methinks,
is far better. You'd soon have to forget your nobility if it were not for my farm-
ing. I feed you from the furrows of my plow, if you will credit me for it ....
(4) I do not give as much as a bit of chaff for your courtly doings. The
customs of my agricultural pursuit, methinks, are better. Of what good is your
lance-tilting and your dancing? I see no good in them. My hard labor is sound,
and the world profits by it.' "
Old poems of the peasantry which express similar sentiment may be found in
Johannes Bolte's collection: Der Bauer im deutschen Liede, 32 Lieder des 15.-19.
Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 189o), Acta Germanica, I, 173-308. All of these folk-songs,
however, are some two centuries later in origin than Meier Helmbrecht, and
come from a period in which the opposition between peasant and knight was
much more deeply and sharply felt than in the thirteenth century. Cf Hiigli, Der
deutsche Bauer im nMittelalter, p. 66.
It is from the clerical class, then, that the sympathetic atti-
tude shown toward the peasant in Meier Helmbrecht might
be expected. Gough, although rejecting Keinz's theory that
Wernher was a "pater" gardener,40 presents the hypothesis
that he was a wandering member of the Franciscan Order. He
points out what may be regarded as Franciscan characteristics
in the speech which Wernher puts into the mouth of the old
Meier, and he somewhat convincingly argues away the difficul-
ties which have been raised against the monk theory. Certainty
upon this point, however, cannot be attained: we must rest con-
tent that for the present at least there is not sufficient evidence
in hand to decide the matter. Wernher may possibly have been
a knight or a wandering minstrel; more likely he was an itiner-
ant monk, or even, as Keinz argues, a "pater" gardener.
The precise date at which Meier Helnbrecht was written
remains undetermined. The most definite clue is given by the
author in verse 217, where the poet Neidhart von Reuenthal is
referred to as already dead. The year of Neidhart's death is
unfortunately not known. His last poem which can be definitely
dated was written in 1236. Again, in verse 728, Helmbrecht
affects an aristocratic tone by use of a Bohemian greeting. The
practice of embellishing one's speech with Bohemian words
could hardly have gained vogue until after the coming of
Bohemian supremacy in Austria in 1246."4 Verse 41 with its
reference to the "Kaiser," has been thought to cast some light
upon the problem. The last emperor before the Great Inter-
regnum was Friedrich II, who was deposed in 1245 and died
in 1250. The argument has been advanced that the title would
hardly have been thus used after 1250, in a period when the
enthroning of a new German emperor could not be foreseen;
this inference is unsound, as the title may well have been used
without reference to an individual, merely connoting the great-
est temporal power. The terminus ad quem is set by the fact
40 Gough's rejection ("The Authorship of . Meier Helmbrecht," loc. cit.,
p. 52) is based solely upon an argument advanced by Schiffmann relative to the
meaning of the M.H.G. word scherge, but this argument has been entirely
refuted. Cf. infra, note to Meler Helmbrecht, No. 54.
41 Cf. E. Schrider, review of Seemiiller, "Studien zum kleinen Lucidarius,"
AfdA X (1884), 56-58.
that Pleyer, the Salzburg poet, has been influenced by Aleier
Helmbrecht (about 1260); such influence is even more unmis-
takable in the work of Seifried Helbling, an Austrian poet
who can be traced from the year 1282 to 1299. The first
definite allusion in literature to Helmbrecht is to be found in
Ottokar's Rheimchronik (about 1310), where certain peas-
ants, in refusing military service, appeal as their justification
to the teachings of father Helmbrecht.2 These bits of evidence
set the date of our poem at about the middle of the thirteenth
It would appear that the poem did not become known far
beyond the confines of its home region. Neither it nor its
author won the mention of contemporary poets, such as was
commonly given to court singers, and such as Wernher himself
accords to Neidhart.4 To the folk of his native region the
contents of the poem, or the events upon which it was based,
were doubtless well known; Keinz tells us that in popular
parlance the word Helmbrecht was used to designate any
frivolous or wild person. There is even evidence that in this
sense the word passed over into Bohemian: the Czech philos-
opher StitnV in the fourteenth century uses the masculine word
helmbrecht as a common substantive with the meaning liber-
tine, a feminine derivative helmbrechtice (loose woman), and
the adjective helmbrechtny (dissolute).4
With the complete decay of chivalry at the end of the four-
teenth and in the fifteenth century this poem, too, sank into
oblivion until, under the spur of the interest awakened by
Romanticism, scholars of the nineteenth century unearthed it
with other gems of the past and restored it to the German
people. Of the two manuscripts extant, the Germanic scholar
Bergmann published one in 1839, and F. H. von der Hagen
the other in 1850. Since that time numerous critical editions
have appeared. Yet not the scholar alone finds merit in this
unique poem: popular interest is shown in the appearance of
4226, 417f.: felmbrechtes vater lire wgil ich gerne volgen und der knep-
pischeit sin erbolgen. Attention was first called to this passage by Haupt,
"Kleine Bermerkungen, 2," ZfdA I11 (1843), 279.
43 Vs. 217. 44 Lambel, Meier tlelmbrecht, p. 139.
some fourteen renderings in modern German verse and numer-
ous prose versions. Of the former, the best are by Ludwig
Fulda and Johann Pilz. Among the latter, Josef Hofmiller,
writing in a pithy, forceful vernacular, has created an enduring
work of art. And Ortner, in his recent three-act tragedy Meier
Helmbrecht has gripped present-day audiences with this stir-
ring thirteenth-century epic, recast in dramatic form.45
Although, as is generally acknowledged, Wernher drew
inspiration from Neidhart, he far surpassed his teacher. Both
in form and in material he struck out upon a path unknown to
the epic writers of his time. His realistic detail makes of the
poem a veritable mine for treasure-seekers in the field of cul-
tural history." From the standpoint of literature, one must of
course not expect this medieval poet to have at his command
the technique of present-day writers. Wernher's exposition is
too long, and the dialogue, more than half of the poem, is
extended in entire disproportion to the length of the action.
Nevertheless, in the picture he gives us of the social life of his
times, in the dramatic intensity of his plot, and in the opposi-
tion between the older and the younger generation, represent-
ing the eternally conflicting elements of the old and the new,
he has created a work of lasting interest and of universal
Both peasant and knight, as we have seen, appear in Meier
Helmbrecht. Both appear likewise in Hartmann's Der arme
Heinrich, which, as has been stated above, preceded Wernher's
poem by some half century. While in Meier Helmbrecht there
is a strong breath of discord and opposition between the two
classes, the earlier poem pictures the knight and his dependent
peasantry in a relationship of happy, idyllic harm,-ny and
--Tis surprising that so little is definitely known of the life of
a -7Pt \ihose works wevre. sri1iixncd as those of Hartrman
_-on, AUI As is the case with Wernher, no direct documentary
45 Complete data will be found in the Bibliography, pp. 155 ff.
46 As an illustration of the wealth of such detail, an analysis of the poem for
the light it casts upon the peasant's food will be found in the Appendix, pp.
testimony concerning him has come down to us, so that nearly
all that we know of him is what we can glean from his writings,
together with such comments upon him as were made by con-
Hartmann names himself for us in most of his works, and
in the introduction of Der arnme Heinrich he informs us of his
station in life:
A knight there was so learned he,
That he could read quite easily
In manuscripts and books; the same
Hartmann von Ouwe was by name;
He served at Ouwe in vassalage.
Vss. I ff.
He was, then, knight, probably of a poor family, in the
service of the lord.of Ouwe. This Ouwe (modern Aue or Au:
meadow) is a place name of frequent occurrence, both alone
and in compounds, and it is not surprising that its location
should be contested. There are three places of this name that
come into consideration: (i) Obernau, near Rottenburg on
the Neckar; (2) Aue, or Ortenau, in the Breisgau, some few
miles south of Freiburg; and (3) Eglisau, formerly Ouwe, on
the Rhine in Switzerland.4
It is a well established fact that Hartmann was a Swabian.
He tells us in Der arme Heinrich that the Herr Heinrich-of
whom he writes and whose familyhe_.served was resident in
S\bhia-." Hartmann's high praise of the Swabians in verses
1420 ff. of the same poem likewise points in this direction.
The contemporary poet Heinrich von dem Tiirlin m:nkes spe-
cific reference to Hartmann as a Swabian poet. And the
evidence afforded by these passages is abundantly supported
by the language of Hartmann's works.
. The poet's literary activity falls in the last decade of the
tw elfth and the first decade of the thirteenth century. He was
born about 1170. As a boy he apparently entered a monastery
school and received an education far superior to that com-
monly enjoyed by those of his class. He became familiar with
47 Ehrismann, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, p. 142. 8 Vs. 31.
the Bible, l-arntd to read Latin, and came to know the Roman
poets. In order to fit himself for his knightly calling, he left
th;s schl:.1, ,reS-iTumably about the age of fifteen, and acquired
al the accomplishments of knighthood. The influence of his
'clerical schooling follo.,%ed him, however, throughout his life,
and aftecitd greatly his moral views and his writings. A trip
-to-France added' the final polish to his education; there he
learned the French language and became familiar with French
literature, from i which lh was later to borrow.
S'The first product' of 1-lartinmnn's pen \ cre love lyrics. In
accordance with the requirements of knightly custom he wrote
a number of Minnesongs, and a longer poem, Das Biichlein,
in honor of a lady. Yet his chief accomplishment lies in the
field of the epic. Of his epics, two, Erec and Iwein, belong to
profane literature, while the other two, Gregorius auf dem
Steine and Der arme Heinrich, are legends of religious cast.
The dates of these epics cannot be set with certainty. Erec
was written about 1192, Iwein about 1202. Somewhere be-
tween them fall Gregorius and Der arme Heinricih.The date
of the latter poem cannot be set more accurately than at the
dividing line of the two centuries.49
Little. furtherJightis shed upon Hartmann's career by his
n writings. Between knightly activities and literary occupation
his life would seem to have flowed evenly, with little of great
fortune or of misfortune to mark it. One event moved him to
the depths of his heart the death of his master, to whom he
bore a rumn:lrkablc loyalt and devotion, the loyalty of the
ideal vassal to his lord. Of this event he writes:
Since death has stricken down with cruel hand
My master, know
That I no longer care how matters stand
Down here below.
How happiness dies out with him! And how
My joy all went!
Upon the soul's eternal welfare now
My thoughts are bent.
49 Ehrismann, op. cit., p. 146; cf. Sparnay, "Die Einstellung des Armen
Heinrichs . .," ZfdA LXVII (193o), 23-41.
And can it aid his soul in anything
That service to the cross I now shall bring,
Alay half of my reward become his own,
And may I see him soon before God's throne.
Riding forth on the crusade of 1L9 7, Hartmainn bids fare-
well not only to his homeland but also to .M1icim ,,-,.t,i, intent
now tIpon devoting himself to Gottesmiinne. He probably
returned from this crusade in the spring of the following
year. He was still living and writing in the beginning of the
thirteenth century. Gottfried von Strassburg praises him as a
living author in his Tristan (about 1210). But Heinrich von
dem Tiirlin, in his poem Die Krone, written between 1215 and
1220, refers to him as already dead.
Hartmann is looked upon as the founder of the court epic
the creator of the classic poetic form of medieval German
literature, into which he was the first poet to introduce Arthur-
ian legend. Charm, grace and moderation are the character-
istics of his works. As Gottfried von Strassburg exclaims of
him in his Tristan, "How pure and how clear are his crystal-
line words!" Among his contemporaries, Hartmann's second
Arthurian epic, Iwein, was considered his masterpiece. In
form, it is the best Arthurian epic in German literature./We
of today, on the other hand, largely because its content is less
foreign to our world of thought, incline to give first place
among his works to Der arme Heinrich.
/The poet's thoroughgoing change from the worldly material
of the Arthurian epic to the religious legend and then back
again is a remarkable one/ It doubtless reflects the cross-
currents of his soul, which embraced a whole world of conflict-
ing moods. /The opposition between secular and religious
forces, which moved this whole age, left its mark upon Hart-
mann's life and works. He never overcame the conflict in his
nature between the wordly and the religious elements, nor was
he able to weld these elements harmoniously in his writings.
There came a time when his worldly epic grew to seem sinful
to him, and to call for literary penance In the introduction
of his Gregorius he renounces everything earthly. In it he
expresses the idea that penitence and humility before God
purify and finally lift up even him who is laden with the most
grievous sin. In Der arme Heinrich he teaches that without
humility before God even the most excellent person cannot
gain salvation. Each of these poems seeks to evaluate worldly
pleasure as against devotion to God. After the writing of
these two religious poems, Hartmann turns back once more in
his Iwein to Frau WVelt. In this narrative, as in his earlier
Erec, he deals with the conflict between love and the duty of
heroic knighthood. All four of his epics have an ethical basis,
the moral action revolving about the two poles, guilt and
atonement. The hero deviates from the order set for him,
thus incurring guilt. But native goodness of character brings
him through the test that works his restoration.
/Erec, Iwein and Gregorius are free renditions of French
poems into Middle High German. Der arme Heinrich is in a
far higher degree an independent creation./In a general way,
to be sure, its material belongs to world literature, as does that
of Gregorius. The latter, a story of double incest, traces its
pedigree from the Oedipus legend, while the former bears
relationship to widespread stories of cleansing from leprosy
through divine miracle or through human blood. If, with
Hartmann, we identify Job's affliction as leprosy, the oldest
work of literature in which the hero is a leper is the Book of
Job. In German literature, the leper legend is found in the tale
of Sylvester, the Latin dAmicus et Amelius, Konrad von
Wiirzburg's Engelhard, Kistener's Jakobsbriidern, Der Seelen
Trost and a story in Die sieben weisen Meister. And Crescen-
tia too, in the Kaiserchronik, is afflicted with leprosy as a
Hartmann gives his story a definite historical setting. He
tells us in his prologue that he wishes to publish a tale which
he found in a book, and that it is a story concerning a certain
Herr Heinrich von Ouwe, a member of the noble family to
which the poet rendered court service. From this it would seem
that he was giving poetic treatment to a legend from the
family annals of his lord. But a consideration arises to vex us.
50 For references, consult Ehrismann, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur,
How came he to learn from a book a tale with which, if it
was a legend of his master's family, he should have been
familiar from oral tradition? It would be possible to take
the poet's citation of a source as an invention, a stylistic device
to heighten interest by the weight of authority; yet the account
seems too circumstantial. It seems more natural to assume
that Hartmann did, in fact, read extensively, as he says, in
search of edifying and consolatory material which he might
use. He probably came upon some short Latin piece in a col-
lection of legends or miracles; such stories, written for moral-
izing, instructional and devotional purposes, were common in
the middle ages. Used often as sermon themes, these were
called exempla or sermon stories. A short Latin version of
Der arme Heinrich has in fact been found, in two Breslau
collections of exempla. These date from the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, but are based on older collections, of the
thirteenth century. The story is on a low plane, calculated
for the average public of a Sunday sermon. The two versions
differ but little. A virgin is moved to sacrifice herself to cure
a leper, because of gifts of clothes she had once received from
him. The peasant family is lacking. In version A the leper is
an Albertus, in B a Henricus. Passages which this Latin
exemplum has in common with the book of Job, and which can-
not have been taken from Hartmann's poem, seem to indicate
that it does not originate from the latter, but antedates it.s50
The poet probably read this or some similar short story and
used the scant material as the basis of his poem. Just what lies
at the bottom of his attaching the story to an ancestor of his
noble master's family we do not know. Most probably he
desired in this way to do honor to the family of his liege lord.
But whatever scrap of narrative may have stimulated Hart-
mann to the use of his theme, he developed it into a moving
story of his own, full of soul and religious warmth."
The subject of the poem is almost repulsive, but as Uhland
sa Recent research by C. von Krause, "Drei Mirlein . und das Exempel
vom Armen Heinrich," 1930, casts grave doubt upon this view Von Krause
seeks to reverse the sequence, arguing that the exemplum is derived from Hart-
mann's A. I., and that Hartmann's source remains still to be discovered.
"1 Ibid., p. 200.
remarks, "the mildest and most sincere of the old German
poets has through his treatment poured out over the harshness
of the old legend so soft and subdued a light that this poem
stands out as one of the most excellent and graceful of the
middle ages." Goethe, although he appreciated the high
literary quality of the poem, felt himself strongly repelled by
it. He writes:
The poem, which is in itself very admirable, gave me physical and aes-
thetic pain. One cannot help being nauseated by a leprous knight for
whom a fine young girl sacrifices herself; as indeed a century in which
the most repulsive disease has to serve so persistently as a motive for
deeds of love and chivalry inevitably fills us with aversion. Upon me at
least, that terrible disease as a motive for an act of heroism has an effect
so violent that it seems to me the mere touching of the book exposes me
But those who are familiar with the fondness of medieval
legend for the hideous and terrible, and who recall how even
a poet such as Konrad von Wiirzburg, intimate with the refine-
ment of court poetry, does not hesitate in one of his narratives
to describe in loathsome detail the leprosy from which his hero
suffers, will be less inclined to join in Goethe's criticism than
to pay tribute to Hartmann's fine sensibility. He does not with
a single word conjure up the horrid manifestations.of Hein-
rich's affliction; he is content to show its blighting and tragic
effect upon the hero's life, bringing out the sharp contrast
etveen his state of friendless desertion and his former bril-
liant station. Son.' the interest is occupied bV the maiden, in
whom the ethical content of the poem centers. She is pictured
as a young saint. She ha i ni inner battles t, fight, ni stirring
of earthly instinllts ti. suprelS, noCl ing toJlie-toCavercome.
Her native, self-sacrificing goodness of heart is strengthened
by a m stic longing for heaven. In a state of sustained trans-
port she presses firmly toward her goal of self-sacrifice for
another. To be sure, the pious speeches of the young child to
her parents impress us as all too wise, her attitude toward the
torture she faces as all too light-hearted; and yet, bearing in
52 Tag- und Jahreshefte, iS1, pp. 72 f.
mind that hers is the wisdom of poverty, and her psychology
that of incipient puberty, we feel that she has not been drawn
so untrue to life as some critics are inclined to believe. More-
over, Hartmann furnishes motivation in the atmosphere of
wonder and miracle which surrounds the maiden. The Holy
CGhWst has inspired her vith iisd0,m and eloqilnce and has
prompted er to her task. Nor is such a spirit of transport
foreign to the times. We have but to recall the religious frenzy
which gripped young and old alike, and found expression in the
children's crusades and in deeds of grimmest asceticism, to
realize that we have here a breath of the middle ages.
A pleasing feature of Hartmann's narrative is that, while
in most similar legends the bloody sacrifice is completed and
must then be undone by a miracle, the sacrifice is here dis-
pensed with, the will alone suffices." The solution is entirely
psychological. In Heinrich we trace a definite character devel-
opment. Possessing wealth, high station and happiness, he
lacks one virtue, the virtue of pious humilityie attributesis
blessings to his own merit rather than to the grace of God.
His guilt is due to his pride, der hohe imuot, the moral motiva-
tion ,of the acti7 iT.PIhun~lT-, b G: Gd tii~T7 pIy, h e passes
into a state of misery out of which he works upward through
stages itf mir:al test. H is lirs: i'LA.ction is rcbL llion: he cinniot
find Job's patience to- endure. But when all hi"i.p of a cure has
vanished, his inner conversion begins. He proceeds from his
pride to humility by three acts of piety: (i) he giveaway his
rtE~u T) he recognizes the guilt of his pride;. (3.)he-pri-
fies himself of his former worldliness by complete renunciation
of-cure and hippi ness and by humble surrender to God's will.
Standing before the door of the doctor's room and perceiving
the body of the girl lying prepared for the sacriihTle his inner
conversion take, placc k, i yi :.L, inenniuwen muot), his
sl.lishness is changed to : ni-U goodness (hieie hinw~ gie).
He has become ripe for God's mercy. The miraculous inspira-
tion of the little maid to self-sacrifice and her moral strength
53 In the Sand Sylvester legend, too, the children in whose blood Emperor
Constantine was to bathe are spared. Wackernagel-Stadler, Der arme Heinrich,
accomplish the he.-lin g of her master's soul, Ior her loyal devo-
tion produces lo,\ al dic.totion alsi in him, .and works the miracle
*i- hhl-Wib'dil clWan-sing. Both haie withstood tile test2 fr the
-fa-TlThTJ' l iie i upon them \ as a test of God.
With all its :tnm:ispher -of miracle, :o religious ecstasy and
remotniencss from ea:rth, Dl,' ariit Hri, ioh affords us a real-
istic r-election of medieval life, \\ith its Sicial organization and
"-its d ill heed-. Thie story is given a ilLciled historical and
Ica- coloring. The impression of reality is heightened by the
giving oTf' name and the home of the hero as with historical
fidelity, and by the fact that this hero was an ancestor in the
noble family which the poet himself served. We are led into
an actual region in which Hartmann lived. Aside from the
miraculous cure, almost everything could have happened as it
is related: thoroughly realistic are the picture ,of the social
classes; the plague of l.prsv thich was s_.,oranipjat in medi-
eval-Europe, with the isolation of the stricken; the visiting of
the most famous medlical schoo,1s: life upon the ri-nted farm;
-'tl loyal Ity\ the peasant _to his wciji ; the idyll oLthe-child;
thiedaughter's outlook upon her peasant life; the knightly
equipmenfor the trip; the receptio~iupon the return home;
the praise of the native Swabians; and the summoning of kin
and follo\%ers M3Iycl, mind Mannen) in conference over the
marria F ge F u stion. It is this strong realistic and historical
trend blended wi th the legendar) strain w Iich makes the nar-
rative so effective, and which so captures the interest of the
present-day reader. The great number of text editions, of
translations into modern verse and prose, and of dramatic
re-castings which are listed in the Bibliography afford an
eloquent testimony to the widespread interest in the poem, a
translation of which is presented herewith for the first time in
Different in nature and content as are the two narrative
poems which have been discussed above, they are alike in this,
that each presents a peasant as an ideal figure. Hartmann von
5aaA prior attempt, published in 1869 in an obscure place (The Missouri
Republican [daily]), appears to have remained a fragment. See Bibliography,
The Golden Legend of Poor Henry, by Kroeger.
Aue gives no personal names to the members of the peasant
family which he pictures, not even to the daughter who plays
so essential a role in the narrative. His peasant is an ideal type
taken from a "sermon story," a pattern of Christian upright-
ness, and bearing an unlimited loyalty and devotion to his
seigneur a devotion which does not falter at housing and
caring for the master stricken with leprosy when all the world
forsakes and flees him, nor even at consenting to the sacrifice
of his daughter for the cleansing of Herr Heinrich from his
Herr Heinrich's peasant is a freeman (vrier lantsaeze),
belngiing to th i tlird and rlo\est cl:ias- Iif freeman as described
by the law.5' Vollfrei he is not, as he does not himself own the
land which he tills. The farm or clearing which he cultivates
is extensive, with small farmers or serfs resident on it, who
are attached to the land. This holding, together with its bonds-
men, is the personal inherited property of Herr Heinrich. The
peasant is not a Meier in the original sense of this term: he
has no managerial duties toward Heinrich that is, he does
not act as superintendent and collector of peasant rentals -
but rents or leases the land from Heinrich in his own right.
His favorable position is emphasized:55 the landlord is content
with his tenant and does not demand of him more than the
latter of his own volition gives, either in regular rentals or in
special levies. We are told also that Herr Heinrich protects
his Meier from any outside violence or oppression,5" a protec-
tion which he is under no obligation to afford his tenant.57 Of
other peasants it is explicitly stated that they had worse land-
Herr Heinrich, when he learned the hopelessness of a cure
for his disease, gave away all his personal property to the
Church and to his poor relatives, reserving for himself only
the one farm to which he repaired. On the other hand, his
rights of fief which belonged to his house he did not lose,
despite his leprosy."5 These rights left him the wherewithal to
54 Sachsenspiegel, ch. 2. 55 Vss. 267 ff. 53 Vss. 270 ff., 278 ff.
57 Cf. Sch6nbach, Ober Hartmann von Aue, p. 309.
58 Cf. Sachsenspiegel, i, 4.
pay for his keep and to undertake his second journey to Salerno.
They are also the source of his increased wealth mentioned
toward the end of the poem,59 when, out of gratitude for his
cure through the daughter, Heinrich presents the farm,
together with the serfs upon it, as a gift to his faithful Meier,
who thus becomes a landed peasant, a Vollfreier. The close of
the narrative witnesses a marriage alliance between nobleman
and peasant, for Herr Heinrich marries the freeman's
The poem Meier Helmbrecht, some fifty years later in date,
pictures to us a peasant in a somewhat different position, and
supplies a vastly greater amount of realistic detail. In this
family grandfather, father and son were each named Helm-
brecht. It appears that the father Helmbrecht was a freeman.
He rents or leases his farm of medium size, possibly from
some nobleman, more probably from a neighboring monastery.
The lease had been held by his father before him,60 and it is his
ardent desire to hand it down to his son.61 He tells us that he
pays annually a tenth of his produce, and later states that he
gives nothing to the monks other than their legal tithe.62
Besides the father and the mother, the Helmbrecht family
consists of the son Helmbrecht and two daughters, Gotelint"
and an older married sister who had left home after her mar-
riage." The father does not seem to have many hired helpers.
He and his son do their own plowing, and the women of the
family are accustomed to hard work, such as flailing grain,
swinging and beating flax, digging up beets"5 and looking for
the calves grazing in the brush."6 Of servant helpers only two
are mentioned, a man and a woman servant (der kneht and
das friwip) These are free laborers, and not serfs bound to
59 Vss. 1430 if. 60 Vs. 914. 61 Vss. 543 ff.
62 The cheeses and eggs taken to court by the Helmbrechts (vss. 913 ff.) have
been interpreted as a form of rental payment. But the statement in vs. 918 that
this was a common peasant practice makes it appear likely that it was merely a
marketing of produce. 63 Vs. II7.
64 Vs. 1416. Haertel, "Social Conditions in Southern Bavaria," loc. cit., p.
1059, overlooks the married daughter. He seems to interpret wrongly too the
ironical utterance of the son Helmbrecht in vs. 364, upon which he bases an
inference that there were several sons.
65 Vs. 1359. 66 Vs. 1391. 67 Vss. 708, 71I.
the soil as are the cottagers whom Herr Heinrich presents,
together with the farm, to his tenant farmer.
Meier Helmbrecht possesses a fair amount of live stock.
Horses are scarce. The son alludes to horse-raising;68 but the
father, to supply a suitable mount for his son, purchases one at
a cost of thirty folds of woolen homespun, four cows, a yoke
of oxen, three steers and four measures of grain."9 Four other
oxen are mentioned by name,70 and reference is made to the
calves out at pasture.71 The mother raises poultry;72 she and
the daughter are able to present rich gifts, such as a cow,
cheeses and eggs,73 to the nun who made Helmbrecht's hood,
and to dress the pampered youth like a young nobleman. The
neighboring Meier Ruprecht offers his daughter's hand to
young Helmbrecht with a dowry of ten cattle and many sheep
and hogs,74 an offer which he scorns: farming is altogether too
slow with its returns, and he will have none of it.
Yet it is not for these details that we remember the father,
Peasant Helmbrecht, and feel gratitude to Wernher for the
rift which he makes in the mist that almost entirely hides the
life of the common man of his time: it is rather for the rugged,
steadfast, simple character which this old tiller of the soil
reveals, for his integrity, and for his loyalty to his occupation.
With what quiet manliness he talks of the dignity of labor!
Agriculture has never been more heartily praised than by the
elder Helmbrecht, who would give his all to keep his son on
the farm. To the latter he offers moral worth, rather than
descent, as the talisman by which to test true nobility:
M'y son, if you would noble be,
I counsel you most faithfully,
Be noble, then, in what you do!
Good conduct, this is always true,
Is crown of all true nobleness,
Vss. 503 ff.
the same fine sentiment that is expressed by a great poet of
our own tongue:
SVs. 377. 69 Vss. 390 ff. 70 Vss. 815 ff. 71 Vs. 1391. 72 V. 223.
73 Vss. 119, 126. Vss. 280 ff.
From "Schaffendc Arbft und bildejide Kimst im Altcrtuim und Mittclalter," by Paul
Brandt, bv permission of Alfred Krbner I'crlag.
A TWELFTH-CENTURY "FARMER'S ALMANAC"
Calendarium from an illustrated copy of the Chronicle of Zweifalten.
Loke, who that is most vertuous always,
Privee and apert, and most entendeth ay
To do the gentil dedes that he can,
And taak him for the greatest gentil man.75
The work of the farmer, the father Helmbrecht urges,
belnehfts alike the poor and the rich. Many a lady is by it
end-oed with beauty, many a king crowned through its yield.
Indeed even the birds and the beasts, the eagle and the wolf,
ill :inimatc nature, profit from the labors of the farmer. With-
out him!, he reflects, the world's pride would be a very small
thing, and working faithfully night and day in the field of duty
nxhilch Ii e has allotted to one not only best serves one's fellow-
Iini, but best honors God. Among all the wavering characters
,it the poem, he alone remains firmly planted as a staunch old
o: k, even when the lightning blasts of fate blight him in the
dishonor and destruction of his son and daughter. His senti-
ments are strangely modern for the time in which he lived. In
reading them we feel that those dimly viewed generations are
remote only in time; that over the intervening chasm of years
they were inspired by ideals far less alien to us than we com-
75 Chaucer's Tale of the Wyf of Bathe, Oxford Chaucer, D, 1113-1116.
Guot zuht ist sicherliche
Ein kr6ne ob aller edelkeit.
One writes of what to him occurred;
One tells what he has seen; a third
Of love alone sings his refrain,
While still a fourth one writes of gain;
5 A fifth one praises riches gold;
A sixth lauds courage, high and bold.
Here I shall tell what happened me -
That is, what my own eyes did see.
I saw, and this is true, I swear,
Io A peasant's son -a lad whose hair
Was curly and light blond as well.
His locks, which richly downward fell
Beyond his shoulders on each side,
Above within a hood were tied.
15 This hood was richly worked. I ween
That no one ever yet has seen
So many birds on hood arrayed;
Both doves and parrots were displayed
In neat embroidery on the hood.
20 Hear more at length what thereon stood.
A peasant Helmbrecht was his name -
Was father to a youth the same
Concerning whom this tale is spun;
Like father, so was named the son,
25 For Helmbrecht was the name of each.
In simple, short and homely speech
I now shall tell you what was found -
What wondrous things were sewed around -
Upon his hood or cap so neat.3
30 (My tale shall be without deceit -
I'm telling not from mere surmise.)
Behind, one saw a seam-band rise;
From back to front the edging led,
Across the middle of his head.
35 This band was worked with birds, all made
As though just flown from out the shade
Of neighboring Spessart's 4 woody lair.
Upon a peasant's shock of hair
Sat never better hood before
40 Than on his head young Helmbrecht wore.
This bumpkin, you must further hear,
Had on the side, toward his right ear,
All sewed upon this selfsame hood
(Shall I now say what thereon stood?)
45 A picture of the siege of Troy,5
When daring Paris for his joy
Stole the king of Greece's wife;
He loved her dearer than his life.
One saw there too how Troy was won,
50 And how Aeneas, fleet, did run,
Escaping thence, by ship to sea;
And how the towers fell finally,
As well as many walls of stone.
Alas that any peasant's son
55 Should ever wear a hood of such
A kind as makes one tell so much!
Hear from me further, if you would,
What elsewhere on this headpiece stood,
Filled out in silk. You may believe,
60 The tale in no wise does deceive.
Upon the left side of the hood
King Charlemagne 6 and Roland stood,
Turpin, with Oliver at hand -
A staunch and battling warrior band.
65 The wonders that their power and might
Wrought with the heathen were in sight:
Provence, as well as distant Aries,7
Were overcome by good King Karl;
With wisdom and with virile hands
70 He conquered all the Spanish lands,
Whose people heathen were before.
And would you hear how furthermore
(This is the truth, like all the rest)
The hood between its bands was dressed
75 Behind the head from ear to ear?
One saw the sons of Helche8 here,
Who, struggling valiantly and well,
In battle by Ravenna fell
When Wittich grimly struck them down -
So That wanton blade of ill renown -
Them and young Diether, too, of Bern.
And you may further wish to learn
What else this fop, this foolish lad,
Embroidered on his headpiece had.
85 This fool of God, this silly lout,
Had on the front, all round about,
Extending from his right ear round
To where his other ear was found
(I know from fact that this is right;
90 Now hear the rest about this sight!)
A border, wondrous to behold,
Of ladies gay, knights brave and bold;
Nor had there been forgotten there
A group of lads and lasses fair.
95 These all were in a dancing scene,
And worked with silk of softest sheen.
Between the ladies, two and two,
Just as they still in dancing do,
A knight stood holding each fair hand.
Ioo And over at the other end,
Between each pair of lasses went
A lad, hands clasped in merriment.
And fiddlers, too, were standing near.
It now remains that you should hear
o05 How such a hood young Helmbrecht had,
This foolish, wild, and wanton lad.
As yet you have not heard me say
Whence had come the hood so gay.
The needle of a pretty nun
10o Embroidered it; and she had run,
Turned by her beauty, from her cell.
It happened to her, truth to tell,
As to her kind quite frequently
(Such ones my eyes so often see!)
115 Who, by their lower half misled,
Stand at last with shame-bowed head.
Now Gotlint, Helmbrecht's sister, won
The favor of this pretty nun
By giving her a fine fat cow.
120 Skilled with her hands, the latter now
Repaid them, as so well she could:
Made Helmbrecht both a suit and hood.
When Gotlint gave the cow to her,
Hear what further did occur:
125 The mother gave, the nun to please,
So many eggs and so much cheese,
The while in convent halls she ate
She ne'er had been thus satiate
With foods so many eggs to crack,
130 And such fine cheeses without lack.
The sister gave her brother more,
To honor him, than's told before:
A linen shirt,9 of such fine weave
One scarce a better could receive.
135 The linen was so finely spun
That seven weavers each had run
Away before the eighth man's skill
The final weaving did fulfill.
Suit-cloth the mother gave him then,
140 So wonderful a specimen
That never had a tailor's shears
Cut out such goods in many years.
Inside with fleece the cloth was lined,
With skin of beast of such a kind
145 As grazes on the grassy field,
The whitest that the land could yield.
The mother also gave her son
A sword, a very handsome one,
And doublet made of links of chain.
I5o For Helmbrecht nothing was too vain.
His every wish she tried to meet
And gave, his outfit to complete,
A dagger and a pouch. Behold,
These decked a youth both wild and bold!
155 Now when she thus had dressed her son,
He said: "Dear mother, I need one
Thing more to wear: it is a coat.
If I should be without it, note
How damaged and disgraced I'd be.
16o It should be made so handsomely
That when you see me in the same
Your heart within you will exclaim
That you are honored in your son,
No matter where his path may run."
165 Still laid away in folds she had
A handsome dress; it was too bad
She had to part with it the while,
To clothe her son in proper style.
She bought him cloth of blue, so fair,
170 Not here, indeed, nor anywhere
Had any peasant theretofore
Possessed a coat worth two eggs more
Than Helmbrecht's. What I say to you
Is by my word of faith quite true!
175 Now he could teach him virtue's ways,
And also how to gain high praise,
Who had advised him such a coat.
Upon its back the eye could note
From belt to neck in straight array
ISo How button close to button lay.
These brightly gleamed like reddest gold.
And if you further would be told
Details about this coat, I'll try
To meet your wish and amplify.
185 Down from the collar, neathh the chin,
A row of buttons did begin
That reached the girdle-buckles quite.
These buttons were of silver-white.
Such labor rarely one bestows
190 Upon one's coat or other clothes.
No peasant wore such costly work
Twixt Hohenstein and Haldenberk.'1
And see now how this pleases you:
There were three crystal buttons, too,
195 And not too small, nor yet too big.
He held with these his coat so trig
Across his chest, the stupid lout.
The bosom was all round about
Bestrewn with buttons, fine and bright,
200 That cast afar their dazzling light:
Yellow, blue, green, black, brown, red
And white, to order as he'd said.
These gleamed with such a brilliant sheen
That at each dance where he was seen
205 Most loving glances on him fell,
From maidens and from wives as well.
They all were charmed his form to see.
Now I confess, quite honestly,
That while this youth was standing there
210 I'd win scant favor from the fair.
Where sleeve was on to bodice bound,
The seam which ran its edge around
Was spangled gay with many a bell;"
One heard their tinkle very well.
215 Whenever in the dance he sprang
He charmed the girls with their cling-clang.
Sir Neidhart,12 if he still did live,
Him God would ample talent give;
NEIDHART VON REUENTHAL AND HIS PEASANTS
From a miniature of the Mannessische Liederhandschrift.
In better verse this he could tell
220 Than I can, that I know quite well!
Ere Helmbrecht's mother had bought his clothes,
His leather leggins and his hose,
Many a hen and egg was gone.
When at last the proud young son
225 Was thus decked out in gorgeous show,
"My will impels me forth to go,"
He said. "Dear father, your support
I need, that I may go to court.
My mother gifts has given me,
230 My sister too, so generously,
That, as I live! to my last day
I'll bear them in my heart always "
This gave the father great unrest.
His son in irony he addressed:
235 "To match your clothes, I'll give a steed,
And one that runs with swiftest speed,
One that can take a hedge or pit -
At court you will have need of it -
One that can run the longest course.
240 How gladly I shall buy the horse
If one is cheaply to be had!
Meanwhile I beg, beloved lad,
Give up the trip you plan to court!
The courtier's life is of a sort
245 Too hard for those, and not well fit,
Who have not always followed it.
Dear son, you drive the steer for me,
Or take the plow while I drive. We
Shall thus get all our acres plowed.
250 And you will near your grave and shroud
With fullest honor, as I do
(I flatter me that this is true),
For I've been upright, faithful, just,
And never have betrayed a trust;
255 What's more, I pay in full each year
My proper tenth"3 without arrear.
And thus far I have lived my life
Free from envy, free from strife."
Said he: "Dear father mine, I pray
260 You drop this subject right away!
It cannot now be otherwise.
I'm bound to see, with my own eyes
What knightly life is like! And know
That now no longer I shall go,
265 Your sacks a-riding on my neck.
Nor shall I longer at your beck
Shovel dung upon your cart.
God's damnation blight my heart
If I should drive your steers once more,
270 Or sow your oat-seed as before.
It ill becomes my dashing air,
Nor is it suited to my hair,
My flowing, blond and curly tress,
My well-conditioned, handsome dress,
275 My new-made coat, my hood so gay,
Its hawks and pigeons on display,
Embroidered by a lady's hand.
I'll never help you plow your land!"
"Stay here, dear son, and do not go!
280 For Peasant Ruprecht, as I know,
Will give to you his daughter's hand;
Ten cattle, too, I understand,
And swine and sheep, both young and old.
At court you'll hungry be, and cold.
285 Your bed will often be most hard,
You'll win no favor nor regard.
Now follow my admonishment,
'Twill bring you honor and content;
For seldom does it come to pass
290 That one can rise above one's class.
Your station is behind the plow.
You'll find, too, courtiers enow
Wherever you direct your pace.
You'll bring upon you but disgrace,
295 I swear it, son. If you must test
The truth of this, you'll be the jest
Of all born courtiers, as you'll see.
Control yourself, and follow me!"
"Father, once I have a steed
300 You will find that I can lead
Court-life with just as fine an air
As those who've always lived right there.
Whoever once my headpiece sees
With all its silk embroideries
305 Will take his oath upon first sight
That I who wear it am a knight,
Although I've driven many a cow,
Marked many a furrow with the plow.
Once I'm dressed so smart and fine
310 In all these handsome clothes of mine
That sister gave me yesterday,
And mother, too, in such array,
I tell you most assuredly,
Unlike my former self I'll be;
315 What though so many times before
I've threshed upon the threshing floor
And with the flail have laid around,
Or driven stakes into the ground.
Once I've clad both foot and limb
320 And made them look so neat and trim
In hose and Cordovan-made" shoes,
No one can tell, e'en though he choose -
No one will think then to allege -
That I have ever built a hedge.
325 If you will give to me the mount,
Peasant Ruprecht need not count
On me to take his girl to wife.
No petticoat shall rule my life!"
He said: "A moment silent stay
330 And hear, son, what I've got to say.
Who follows good admonishment
Gains from it honor and content.
The child who both in word and deed
His father's counsel will not heed
335 Will reap at last but harm; his name
Will soon be overwhelmed with shame.
Now if you simply will not hear,
But class yourself as friend and peer
Of courtier noble-born and high,
340 You'll meet with failure when you try.
For this he'll only bear you hate.
You should believe what I now state,
That never will a peasant grieve
At any harm you may receive.
345 And if a knight, a genuine one,
Took all a peasant e'er had won,
He'd fare much better, son, than you.
You know how certainly that's true.
For if you steal a peasant's food,
350 Dear son of mine, beloved and good,
If once he gets you in his hand,
You're pledge and hostage, understand,
For all who've robbed of him before.
On you he'll settle each old score.
355 Your pleas will fruitlessly be spent.
He'll count himself God's instrument
If he should slay you at your deed.
My own dear son, believe and heed
All that I say. Avoid all strife,
360 Stay here, and choose yourself a wife."
"Whatever, father, be my fate,
I'll not yield now, it's far too late!
Forth I must fare upon the stage.
Now others as your sons engage,
365 And let them sweat behind your plow.
The cattle such as I drive now
Must bellowing before me flee.
I'd not be here for you to see
Except for lack of nag or steed.
370 That I can't ride at whizzing speed
Along with others, all on edge,
Go raiding through each peasant's hedge,
And drag him out by head of hair,
That gives me deep regret, I swear!
375 I'll not endure the pinch of need;
If in three years I should indeed
Raise one poor colt, one cow as well,
Such gain would be a bagatelle.
I'll go a-robbing every day,
380 That I may gain sufficient prey,
And ample victuals, free of cost;
And that my body from the frost
In winter's kept; unless it be
None buys my captured steers from me.
385 Father, hasten now straightway,
Do not make the least delay!
Give to me at once the steed
And let me swiftly from you speed !"
I will not let the story lag.
390 Some thirty yards of woolen shag
(And, as the tale would have us know,
This cloth of thirty folds'1 or so
Was longest of all lengths of shag),
He sold, to buy his son the nag;
395 Four finest cows, too, it appears,
A yoke of oxen and three steers,
Four measures also of his grain.
Alas, lost goods for all his pain!
For full ten pounds"6 he bought the horse,
400 And in that selfsame hour, of course,
At three it would have scarce resold;
The seven pounds were but lost gold.
When now the son thus ready stood,
Had donned his handsome clothes and hood,
405 Hear what the foolish youth then said.
He proudly shook his hooded head,
And in a vaunting, boastful tone
Said: "I could bite through hardest stone!
I feel such bold and valiant mood,
4Io Heigh! I could chew up iron for food!
Let the Kaiser17 count it gain
If I don't capture and enchain
And pluck him to the very hide;
Our good and noble duke beside,
415 Perhaps a count or two as well.
Cross fields I shall ride pell-mell
My course without the slightest fear,
Crisscross the world both far and near.
Now let me pass from out your care
420 To hurtle swiftly through the air.
In my own fashion I will grow.
A Saxon,"8 father, you must know,
You'd rear with greater ease than me!"
He said: "You may then, son, be free.
425 With your training I am through.
Henceforth I wash my hands of you!
My further counsel I must spare
As to the way you curl your hair.
However, guard your handsome hood
430 With all its doves, lest someone rude
Should touch it without gentleness,
And, with bad intent, might mess
Your long and light-blond locks thereby.
But if you really want to try
435 Without my guidance and my aid
To get along, I'm sore afraid
A staff will be your guide some day,'1
Some child will lead you on your way."
He said: "O son, beloved young man,
440 Let me dissuade you from your plan!
Live here on what I live on too,
And on what mother gives to you.
Drink water, dearest son of mine,
Ere you with booty buy your wine.
445 Our meal-cake, even in Austria, son,
Is much enjoyed by everyone.
Both wise and stupid relish it -
For noblemen they deem it fit.
Do you, dear child, eat of it too,
450 Before you go so far that you
Exchange your stolen oxen when
You're hungry, for a paltry hen.
Each week day mother here can make
The best of soups, and no mistake!
455 Fill up your maw with that! 'Twill aid
You better than to give in trade
For someone's goose your stolen horse.
If you will only take this course
You'll live in honor, son, like me,
460 No matter where you chance to be.
Son, mix a little bit of rye
Together with your oats, and try
To be content with this good dish
Before you eat of stolen fish.20
465 Follow me, and you are wise;
If not, betake you from my eyes!
Though you win wealth and honor too,
I shall not wish to share with you;
And if you win disgrace and pain,
470 Alone bear these, as well as gain."
"You drink your water, father mine,
And I shall quench my thirst with wine.
Enjoy your groats, if you so wish,
But I prefer a better dish
475 Of chicken, boiled deliciously;
It cannot be forbidden me.
And I shall eat, until I'm dead,
The finest, whitest wheaten bread.
The oats are proper food for you.
480 The Roman law says, and it's true:
A child will, in his early days
Take on his sponsor's virtuous ways.21
A noble knight once sponsored me,
And blessed may he ever be.
485 Through him I am of noble kind,
And have a proud and knightly mind !"
The father said: "Believe me, son,
Who far more pleases me, is one
That follows only proper ways,
490 Does right, and always constant stays.
Though he by birth be somewhat low,
He'll please the world much better so
Than one of royal line or birth,
Devoid of virtue or of worth.
495 A worthy man of low degree,
And a noble without honesty
Or morals, you must understand,
Should both these enter some strange land
Where no one knew them, you would see
500 They'd take the man of low degree
To be the noble of high birth,
Not him who chooses shame for worth.
My son, if you would noble be,
I counsel you most faithfully,
505 Be noble, then, in what you do!
Good conduct, this is always true,
Is crown of all true nobleness.
That I am right, you must confess."
The son said: "Father, that is true.
510 But then, my hood, my long hair too,
My handsome clothes, all seem to say:
You can't stay rooted here! Away!
So brilliantly my garments gleam,
More fitting for a dance they seem
515 Then harrowing or plowing earth."
"Alas that mother gave you birth !"
Exclaimed the father to the son.
"Because you leave the best undone
And do the worst! My handsome youth,
520 Reply to this, and speak the truth
If you have common sense and wit,
Which has the better life of it:
He, whom all berate and curse,
Whose actions make the whole world worse,
525 Who lives from other people's woe,
And works against God's favor so:
Which life now is the purer, son,
His, or again, the life of one
From whom the whole world profit draws,
530 Who does not seem aggrieved because
He struggles hard, both day and night,
For others' gain, to live aright -
To God doth proper honor show;
And who, wherever he may go
535 Finds favor both with God and man?
Dear son, now tell me if you can -
But speak the truth which of these two
Is the more pleasing man to you?"
"Father mine, it is the man
540 Who harms no one, but rather can
Bring gain and pleasure to mankind;
His is the better life, I find."
"And you would be that very one
If you would follow me, dear son.
545 Stay here at home and help me plow
And you will help the world enow.
You'll profit then both rich and poor
By such good work, you may be sure.
The wolf, indeed, the eagle too,22
550 All creatures will rejoice for you,
All living things of sea and land
Called into life by God's command.
Beloved son, stay by the plow,
For with its gain it can endow
555 With beauty many a dame. 'Tis found
That many a king himself is crowned
Through gains our farming-labors buy.
And no one ever stood so high
Whose pride would not endure a fall
560 If farming were not done at all."
"From your sermons, sire, 1 pray
God grant to me release straightway.
If by chance you had turned out
A genuine preacher, I don't doubt
565 But that your sermons would have made
A grand success with some crusade!
Now what I wish to say, please hear:
Though peasants do much work, I fear
They eat up more than is their share.
570 And now, however I may fare,
I certainly will plow no more!
If soiled and blackened hands I wore
Because I did the plowing here,
Then by the grace of God, it's clear
575 I should be shamed, beyond all chance,
When I took ladies' hands in dance."
The father said: "My son, demand -
And be not vexed at my command -
Wherever you may wise men see,
580 Just what this dream I dreamed might be:
You had two candles in your hand.
These burned, until far over land
Their rays shone clear, and brightly beamed.
The man of whom I last year dreamed,
585 Loved son, a dream of this same kind,
I saw him this year walking blind!"
The son said: "Father, very well!
But if perchance my courage fell
At such a tale, then certainly
590 An arrant coward I should be!"
This warning failed, like those before.
The father said: "And I dreamed more:
One foot you walked on, painfully;
Your other leg, off at the knee,
595 Was resting on a wooden crutch.
From out your coat there stuck some such
A thing as splintered shoulder blade!
That profit from this dream be made,
Ask what its hidden sense may be,
600 Of all the wise men that you see!"
"That means good luck, health free from care,
Of all rich joys a goodly share !"
He said: "A further dream I dreamed,
And shall I tell you how it seemed?
605 It seemed to me you wished to fly
O'er woods and brush, high in the sky.
Somehow, a wing was clipped off short.
This put an end to all your sport.
Does this dream, also, good foretell?
61o Alas, hands, feet, and eyes as well!"
"Father, all of these your dreams
Foretell my happiness, it seems,"
Said Peasant Helmbrecht's youthful son.
"For servant, seek some other one.
615 You'll now be left behind by me,
No matter what your dreams may be."
He said: "These dreams, compared with one,
Are but a puff of wind, my son!
Hear one dream more that came to me:
620 I saw you standing on a tree.
Above the grass your feet, I swear,
Were near two fathoms in the air.
Perched above your head so high
A raven sat, a crow near by.
625 Your hair was matted and unkempt.
These two birds combed it, as I dreamt:
From right the crow would dart at it,
From left the raven parted it.
Alas, this dream that I did see,
630 Alas, oh son, alas the tree!
Alas the raven and the crow!
I've ill succeeded, as I know,
In what I've brought you up to be,
Unless the dream has lied to me."
635 "By Christ! And father, though it seems
You've dreamed all that there is of dreams,
Both of the good and evil too,
I'll ne'er give up, whatever I do,
The trip I long for, till my death.
640 I feel its need with every breath.
Dear father, may God care for you,
And care for dearest mother, too!
His kindness on your children rest,
And may they be forever blessed!
645 God keep us all within his care!"
With this, young Helmbrecht forth did fare;
To father his farewell once said,
Through the gate he quickly sped.
If I related all his ways,
650 Then not within three livelong days -
Perhaps, indeed, not in a week -
Could I make end and cease to speak.
He, riding on, reached castle walls.23
The knight who ruled within its halls
655 From warfare ample booty gained;
And so, most gladly he retained
Whoever did not fear to ride
And fight his foemen at his side.
The youth became a squire to him.
660 His plundering became so grim,
What others scarcely would attack
He thrust within his greedy sack.
He pilfered anything at all;
No booty was for him too small,
665 Nor could it be too big for him.
It might be shaggy, sleek, or slim,
It might be straight, or have a crook-
All, just the same, our Helmbrecht took,
The peasant Helmbrecht's ill-starred son.
670 He'd take a horse from anyone,
Or cow, and scarce a spoonful leave.
Of sword and doublet he'd relieve
A man of mantle and of coat.
He took his kid, he took his goat,
675 He took the sheep, the ram beside;
He paid it later with his hide!
He'd even take a woman's skirt,
From off her back he'd pull the shirt,
Her coat of skin, her cloak, or gown.
680 But when the sheriff tamed him down
He felt the deepest sort of rue
That he had robbed from women too;
The truth of this will soon appear.
Good fortune favored his first year;
685 Fine sailing-wind hummed overhead,
His craft in safety forward sped.
His daring then grew greater yet,
Because the best share he would get
Of captured booty and of prey.
690 But now his thoughts began to stray
Towards his own kin. All those that roam
Thus feel themselves at times drawn home.
So from his lord he took his leave;
His comrades likewise did receive
695 His farewell wishes, that God might
Keep them in his watchful sight.
Here comes a chapter to relate
Which it were hard to relegate
To silence, and forbear to tell.
700 If only I could picture well
How those at home received the youth!
Did they walk toward him? No, forsooth,
They did not walk, they ran instead.
All in a heap they sprang ahead.
705 Each one before the other pushed.
The father, mother, leapt and rushed
As though no calf of theirs had died.4
What did the servant who first spied
The lad receive for such good news?25
710 Shirts and breeches he well could use.
Did the hired folk21 then straight out
"Welcome, Helmbrecht!" gaily shout?
That by no means did they do,
For well had they been charged not to!
715 But rather: "Sir," both spoke instead,
"God's welcome to you, sir !" He said:
"Min leiwe siute Kindekin,
Gott lass euch immer selig sin!" 27
His sister ran up to him then.
720 She threw her arms around him; when
With these strange words he next addressed her,
As greeting to her: "Gratia vester!"
The young ones in the lead we find;
The parents panted on behind.
725 They showered their greetings on the lad.
"Dieu vous salue!" replied the cad
To father; and to mother so,
Bohemianwise: "Dobrt jitr6!"
Between these two a look was sent
730 That showed their great astonishment.
The wife spoke: "Husband, I believe
Our senses fool us and deceive!
He's not our child, but, I contend,
Bohemian, or else a Wend."
735 The father spoke: "A Frenchman he.
My son, whom I did faithfully
Commend to God, he's not, I swear,
Although he's like him to a hair."
Then Gotlint, sister of the youth,
740 Said: "He is not your son, in truth!
He spoke in Latin words to me;
He is a priest or monk, maybe."
"My faith !" declared the hired hand,
"If I correctly understand,
745 This youth was reared in Saxony,
Or Flanders, that is plain to see.
'Leiwe Kindekin,' said the youth;
He must be Saxon then, forsooth!"
Simply the father spoke, and slow:
750 "Son Helmbrecht, is it you, or no?
If my heart you wish to win
Speak but a word as all your kin
And kith at home have always done,
That I may know you are my son.
755 'Dieu vous salee' you say, or so,
But what that means I do not know.
Honor me, and mother, too;
We both deserve as much from you.
Speak a single German word!
760 I'll rub your horse when that I've heard,
Myself, and not my hired hand -
A word that I can understand;
And blessings on you, son Helmbrecht."
"lWat hewwt ihr drummer Bur mi seggt,2
765 Und das vermoledete WJif?
Min Pird un minen smucken Lif
Sail mir ein plumper Buersmann
IWahrhaftig nimmer gripen an!"
This speech alarm in him awoke,
770 But still the father kindly spoke:
"If you're my son, my Helmbrecht, then
Tonight I'll boil for you a hen,
And also roast a second one.
I'll keep this promise to you, son.
775 But if you're not Helmbrecht, my child,
But foreign Wend, Bohemian wild,
Betake you to the Wends! God knows,
Trials enough I have, and woes,
In caring solely for my own.
780 And only barest dues alone
Shall priest or monk receive from me!
If you're not Helmbrecht, certainly,
Though I had amplest stores of fish,
You'd never get a single dish,
785 Nor at my table wash your hand."2
If you're from Saxony, Brabant,
Or if again you come from France,
It's well if in your bag perchance
You have provisions with you now;
790 For you will never then, I vow,
Touch food of mine, I'd have you hear,
Not though the night should prove a year!
No wine or mead is on my board.
Young sir, go stay with some rich lord!"
795 Now it was growing on toward night.
Young Helmbrecht counseled left and right
Within himself, and then said he:
"As true as God my help may be,
I'll tell you who I am, straight out!
Soo For nowhere is there round about
A host who would receive me.
It was not sharp, believe me,
My speech to you thus to disguise.
I'll act no more in such a wise."
805 He said, "Yes, I am he, it's true!"
The father said, "Well, say then who!"
"The one who bears your selfsame name."
The father said: "Declare the same!"
"They call me Helmbrecht, after you.
81o Your son, and also servant, too,
I was, and but a year ago;
And this I swear to you is so."
"I think you lie," the father spoke.
'Tis true 1" "Then name to me the yoke
815 Of oxen four in front of you!"
"That I can very quickly do.
That ox, that formerly I took
So oft in charge, and o'er it shook
My stick, we called it 'Heather.'
820 I'm very doubtful whether
There ever farmer was who would
Not own such cattle if he could.
And that next ox, we called him 'Spot.'
A prettier creature no one's got,
825 Or ever harnessed up in yoke!
The third, too, I can name," he spoke,
"We called that tricky creature 'Spite.'
It is because my mind's so bright
That all their names I still can tell.
830 And will you further prove me? Well,
The other ox's name is 'Sun.'
That I can name them, every one,
Let that to my advantage be,
And have the door unbarred for me !"
835 The father said: "At door and gate
Shall you no longer stand and wait;
And every chamber, every chest,
Shall open be at your request."
Misfortune, may you cursed be!
840 For never has there come to me
Such goodly treatment, of a truth,
As now was given to the youth.
His horse out to the stall was led.
And for himself the finest bed
845 Did sister, mother, then prepare.
The father tended to the fare.
He furnished food with lavish hand.
Much as I've wandered through the land
Such kindly care I've nowhere had
85o As was bestowed upon this lad.
The mother to her girl did cry:
"Now do not walk, my child, but fly
Up to our storeroom in the loft
And bring down bolster and pillow soft."
855 These things upon the stove were spread
To make a warm, luxurious bed,30
That he might rest upon the same
Until the time for dinner came.
When Helmbrecht had awaked again
860 The dinner was prepared, and then
He washed his hands. I'll now relate
What food was placed before his plate.
I'll name the course they first set down
(Were I a man of high renown
865 I'd always most contented be
If this same dish were served to me) :
As fine-cut kraut31 as you will find;
And fat and lean (there was each kind)
Came with this dish the best of meat.
870 Now hear what food he next did eat:
A soft and ripe and fatty cheese
Was served and cut, the youth to please.
A third dish followed then, to wit,
As fat a goose as e'er on spit
875 Was roasted at a kitchen fire.
(The parents did not seem to tire,
They did all this with best of will.)
This fowl had grown so large until
'Twas big as ever buzzard is,
88o And now the youth could call it his.
A boiled hen and a roasted one,
As Helmbrecht's father ordered done,
Were now brought on the groaning board.
Such food would surely please a lord;
885 He'd glad enough eat just the same
While in his blind he ambushed game.
Many other dishes, too,
The like a peasant never knew,
Foods fine and good as could be had,
890 Were now served up before the lad.
The father said: "If I had wine
We'd drink it now, dear son of mine.
Instead, loved Helmbrecht, take for drink
This fine spring water, best, I think,
895 That ever from the earth did flow.
No equally good spring I know
Except the Wanghaus32 spring so clear;
But no one brings its waters here."
While thus they joyfully all ate,
900 The father could no longer wait;
He asked his son to tell the sort
Of life he had observed at court
Where he was present, while away.
"Tell what court-life is like today,
905 And I in turn will tell you then
How I, long years ago, and when
I still my youthful years enjoyed,
Observed how knights their time employed."
"You, father, tell that first to me,
91o And I shall then tell willingly
Whatever you may ask me to.
Of customs I know much that's new."
"When I was young, long years ago,
Your Grandpa Helmbrecht (as you know,
915 This is the name my father had)
Sent me to court, though but a lad,
With eggs, and with his cheeses too,
Just as a peasant still will do.
And many knights I saw those days,
920 Observed their customs and their ways.
Those knights were courtly, stately men,
And knew no knavish evil then
As in these times so many do -
So many men, and women, too!
925 One picturesque and knightly way
Won favor with the ladies gay:
'Tourney' is what they called the game.
A courtier gave to me its name
When I requested him to tell
930 About this sport they liked so well.
They rode as though their ire were raised
(Because of this I heard them praised).
One group rode here, the other there,
Against each other, pair and pair,
935 As though to thrust each from his horse.
Among my comrades I of course
Had never witnessed any sort
Of game like this I saw at court.
When they had finished with the lance
940 They trod the measures of a dance
Accompanied by dashing song.
To no one did the time seem long.
Forth stepped a fiddler then straightway
Who for the dance began to play.
945 The ladies then did all arise -
A sight to gladden moping eyes.
The knights stepped forth towards beauty's band
And clasped their partners by the hand.
There was an overflow of charm,
950 Fair ladies led on knighthood's arm-
A pretty feast for eyes to see;
And in the dance joined merrily
Young men and maidens, poor and rich,
It did not seem to matter which.
955 The dance then over, from the crowd
Someone stepped forth and read aloud
About Duke Ernest.33 At the close,
Whatever each one present chose
For pleasure, that he found to do:
960 Some shot with bow and arrow, too,
Toward distant targets that were set.
And there were other pleasures yet:
Some hunted game, some chased the hind.
Who then was worst in every kind
965 Of skill, would be the best today.
Ah! In those days so far away
Good faith was prized, and honor too,
Ere falseness spoiled these through and through.
The false and loose and evil men
970 Who with their knavish cunning then
Knew how to make the wrong seem right
The knights did not permit in sight
To dine at court in honor's guise.
Today that one is counted wise
975 Who can deceive and lie; in short,
He is a valued man at court,
Wins honor and wins money too,
Far more (unhappily'tis true)
Than does a man who lives upright,
980 And strives for favor in God's sight.
This much of older ways I know;
And now the favor to me show,
Loved son, and tell me of the new."
"In truth, and that I'll do for you.
985 This is the present knightly way:
'Drink, comrade, drink again, I say!
Drain you your goblet, I'll drain mine!
We'll be the better for the wine!'
Now listen: this is what I mean:
990 Of yore the worthy knights were seen
Where pretty ladies lingered round.
Today they're always to be found
Where wine is kept for sale. And there
This constitutes their only care,
995 As eve and morn they drinking sit:
How they can quickest see to it
(If once the kegs they empty drain)
That their good host new stores may gain
Of wine as stout and heady,
Iooo To keep their spirits ready.
This is the minnesong they sing:
'Come, barmaid, pretty little thing,
Our cups must overflowing be!
A monkey and a fool were he
Ioo5 Whose body ever should incline
To worship women more than wine!'
He who can lie has good address;
Deceiving- that is courtliness.
He counts as skilled whose edged tongue can
ioIo Maliciously insult a man.
Who curses others like a knave
Is deemed both virtuous and brave.
Believe me, father, it is true,
Old-fashioned people such as you
io15 Are now all under social ban!
They are to woman and to man
About as welcome company
As is the hangman wont to be!
The ban itself is but a joke!"
1020 "A mercy God!" the father spoke,
"Be it lamented in our prayers
That wickedness so much now dares!"
"The former jousts are in disgrace,
And new ones occupy their place.
1025 Before, one heard them call out gay:
'Halloo, sir knight, on to the fray!'
But now they cry the whole day through:
'Pursue them, knight, chase and pursue!
Thrust and thrust, and slay and slay!
1030 Thrust out the eyes that see the day!
Strike off a foot there where it stands,
And here hew off a pair of hands!
Hang this fellow here for me,
Catch the rich men that you see -
1035 They'll yield a hundred pounds or so.'
These customs very well I know.
I trow I could, did I incline,
Relate much more, dear father mine,
That's new, about such ways. 'Twill keep!
1040 I've ridden far, and I must sleep.
Tonight I am in need of rest."
They did all things at his request.
Of sheets the household knew no trace.
A fresh-washed shirt, then, in its place,
1045 Which sister Gotelint had kept,
She spread upon his bed. He slept
Until the following morning late.
What he did then, I'll next narrate.
As one might very well expect,
1050 Young Helmbrecht now the table decked
With all the gifts of every sort
That he had brought along from court
For father, and mother, and sister too.
And of a truth, if you but knew
o155 What these consisted of, I'm quite
Convinced that you would laught outright.
His father he brought a whetting-stone -
No mower could a better own
To tie in handle with a band;
io60 A scythe, so fine that peasant's hand
Ne'er swung the like of it through hay -
A peasant's gem in every way!
A hatchet in his hand he laid,
And never had a better blade
io65 Or one so good been forged by smith.
He gave him, too, a hoe therewith.
Among these things, another
Was a fox-skin for his mother.
Helmbrecht, with a stunning whack
1070 Had stripped it from a fat priest's back.
What Helmbrecht stole or took as prey
I'll not conceal in any way,
Although I may not know the whole.
From a traveling mercer, too, he stole
1075 A very handsome silken band,
Which now he put in Gotlint's hand,
As well as gold-embroidered lace
That far more suitably would grace
Some noble's child who knew no stint,
io8o Than Helmbrecht's sister Gotelint.
The hired man Helmbrecht brought lace shoes;
But for him he ne'er would choose
To carry such coarse things along
Or even touch a dirty thong,
o185 He was so courtly. Had he staid
At home to be his father's aid,
He would have left him bare of foot.
In the hired maid's hand he put
A neckerchief and ribbon red,
1o90 Two things that stood her in good stead.
How long, you now would have me say,
Did Helmbrecht with his father stay?
But seven days, it is the truth.
It seemed a whole year to the youth
1095 Since he had taken any prey.
So now he made all haste to say
Good-by to father, mother, both.
"No, no, dear son," the father quoth,
"If you but think that you can live
S1oo With what I own and have to give
Until my efforts here are done,
Then sit, and wash your hands, dear son;
Go in and out as pleases you.
With court-life have no more to do.
From "l.a Sculpture franicaise," by J. Roussel,
Editions Albert Moranc,, by permission.
From the cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris.
So05 'Twill bitter prove, as you will see.
Much rather I'd a peasant be
Than some retainer of a court
Who no farm rental gets in short,
Who must for once and all prepare
I 10 To forage for his daily fare,
Must scurry round now there, now here,
And constantly endure the fear
That if his foes once capture him
They'll hang him to the nearest limb."
1115 "Father," spoke the handsome lad,
"For the welcome I have had,
Sincere and cordial thanks of mine!
But since the time I last drank wine
A week or more's already passed.
1120 Because of this extended fast
My belt is three holes smaller now.
Beef I must have from toothsome cow
Before my buckle goes once more
Back to the place where it was before.
1125 I'll spoil the day of many a plow
And take as booty many a cow
Before I give my body rest
To round out nicely to its best.
There is a certain wealthy man
1130 Who's given me insult greater than
Any one I've ever seen.
Godfather's crops of tender green
I saw him ride across of late.
Now well he knew, if he'd but wait,
1135 His pay must be an ample one.
His cattle very soon must run,
His sheep, and also all his swine.
That for this godsire loved of mine
He trampled down his hard-earned grain,
I140 This makes me feel the deepest pain.
I know another rich man who
Has offended deeply, too!
For with his crullers he ate bread! 3'
If I don't punish this, I'm dead!
1145 A third rich man is known to me,
And no one quite so much as he
Has hurt my feelings, I declare!
Not even would a bishop's prayer
Persuade me vengeance to forego,
1150 His conduct has offended so!"
His father asked him: "What is that?"
"While at his table still he sat
He opened wide his belt, the boor.
Heighho! for that, you may be sure
1155 All that's his I'll snatch away!
His beasts shall all be mine one day
That haul his cart and drag his plow.
They'll help me, so that I shall now
For Christmas have fine clothes to hand.
I16o How did he think that I would stand
Such insults? O the triple fool!
He, and another empty skull
Who's hurt my deepest feelings so?
If unavenged I let this go,
1165 Then let them call me slave of fear.
He, drinking from a mug his beer,
Blew from its top the gathered foam.
Did I not pay such insult home,
With ladies I should have no worth,
1170 And never more about my girth
Should I deserve to hang a sword.
And now full soon you shall have word
Of me and of the swath I'll cut.
Many a farmyard I shall gut,
1175 And if my man is gone that day,
I'll drive his stock off, anyway."
The father said: "I'll thankful be,
My son, if now you'll name to me
Your comrades all the fellows who
1 So Have taught you it's the thing to do
To take revenge upon rich men
And confiscate their cattle when
With crullers they perhaps eat bread.
I'd like to hear their names," he said.
S185 "There's Limmerslint,35 a comrade fair,
And Schluckdenwidder; that's the pair
From whom I've learned to know the trade.
I'll name you other friends I've made:
There's Hollensack, and Riittelschrein -
1190 These both were teachers, too, of mine.
There's Mausdenkelch, Kuhfrass as well.
Now, father, you have heard me tell
With what fine blades it is I mix;
Already I have named you six.
1195 Wolfsgaum's another comrade. He,
No matter what his love may be
For cousin, uncle, aunt or whether
It be February weather-
Leaves no thread upon their form,
1200 Man or woman, to keep them warm,
Or even cover up their shame.
Strangers and kin he treats the same.
Wolfsrissel, he's a man of skill!
Without a key he bursts at will
1205 The neatest-fastened iron box.6
Within one year I've seen the locks
Of safes, at least a hundred such,
Spring wide ajar without a touch
At his approach! I can't say how.
1210 Horse, ox, and also many a cow,
Far more than I can tell about,
From barn and farm he's driven out;
For when he'd merely toward it start,
Each lock would quickly spring apart.
1215 I've still one further comrade, sire.
And never did a knight's good squire
Win for himself such courtly name.
He had it from a wealthy dame,
A duchess of most high degree
1220 Who's known as Nonarre Narrie.37
This comrade's name is Wolfesdarm.
And whether it be cold or warm,
He cannot pillage to his fill.
For theft so gratifies his will,
1225 His thirst for it he cannot slake.
No footstep does he ever take
Away from evil toward the good;
With instinct sure his spirit would
Strive toward bad and vicious deed
1230 As does a crow to new-sown seed."
The father said: "Now I would learn
What name they have for you in turn,
Each one of all your comrades gay,
When there is something he would say."
1235 "Father mine, this is my name,
For which I feel no need of shame:
My comrades call me Schlingdasgeu.
I seldom bring the peasants joy
That in our neighborhood are found.
1240 Their children, where I've been around
Eat water-soup that's thin and flat.
I make them suffer more than that!
I quickly press the one's eyes out,
On others' backs I lay about,
1245 Across an ants' nest one I stake,
Another's beard I jerking take
With pincers piecemeal from his face,)
Break this one's limbs in many a place,
Tear that one's scalp off while he squeals,'
1250 String up by the tendons of his heels38
Another one, with withes for twine.
/ All that the peasants have is mine!
Where we ten comrades ride along,
What though our foe be twenty strong
1255 Or even more, and stalwart men,
They're soon laid low by our bold ten."
"My son, these comrades that you name,
Although it's true you know the same
Better than do I, my child -
1260 However bold they are, and wild,
If watchful God ordains it so,
The sheriff, as you well must know,
Can make them go where'er he will,39
And were they thrice his number still."
1265 "Father, what till now I've done,
Not for a king or anyone
Will I continue any more!
Geese and chickens by the score,
Your cattle, cheeses, and your hay
1270 For you and mother till today
I've saved from all my friends for you.
Now this I will no longer do;
For you've offended far too much
The honor of my comrades, such
1275 As no misdeeds have ever done
In robbing goods of anyone.
Had not you so complained and carped,
And on our evil doings harped,
To Lammerslint, as I had planned,
1280 I should have given Gotlint's hand-
To Limmerslint, my comrade good.
She'd had the finest livelihood
That any woman ever won
With husband since the world begun.
1285 Furs, mantles, best of linen too,
As fine as ever churchman knew,
Should have been hers in ample measure,
Had you not, in your displeasure
Slanders on us wished to speak.
1290 And Gotlint would have had each week,
If she had wished, the freshest meat
From newly slaughtered cow, to eat."
"Sister Gotelint, now hear:"o
When Lammerslint, my comrade dear,
1295 First sought to gain your hand through me
I answered unreservedly:
'As things with you and her now stand,
Believe me, if you win her hand,
This you will never have to rue.
1300 I know that Gotelint's so true
(Of this you need not anxious be),
That if you're hanged once on a tree,
Herself she'll cut the rope in two,
Will drag you off, and bury you
1305 Near by where crossing roads do meet;4
With myrrh and burning incense sweet
(You may be sure of this all right)
She will encircle you each night
For one whole year or thereabout;42
13o1 And you may know beyond all doubt,
She'll smoke your bones when none else would,
Your bones which are so pure and good.
But if by fortune you are left,
And of your eyesight are bereft,
1315 She'll guide your footsteps through the land,
Through paths and bypaths, with her hand.
If you should lose a foot or two,
The crutches which are used by you
Each morning to your bed she'll bear.
1320 And you need also feel no care
If, with the foot they cut from you,
One hand or more is lopped off, too.
As long as you still live to eat
She'll cut for you your bread and meat.'
1325 "Limmerslint then spoke. Said he:
'If Gotelint says yes to me,
To her a dowry I shall give,
So that the better she may live.
Three well-filled sacks belong to me;
1330 They weigh like lead, these sacks, all three.
One's full of uncut cloth; she'll find
The finest linen of its kind.
If one should buy a yard in trade
Fifteen good kreutzers would be paid.
1335 This gift she certainly will prize.
The second sack will please her eyes
With veils, and skirts, and many a waist;
And poverty no more she'll taste
If we are man and wife. I swear
1340 I'll give her all these things to wear
Upon the very following day,
And all I take henceforth as prey.
The third sack bulges to its brim,
Stuffed full, up to its very rim,
1345 With finest cloths and feathery fur.
And there will also be for her
Two mantles that are scarlet-lined;
An outside trimming she will find
Of sable fur, both soft and black.
1350 I've safely hidden each stuffed sack
In a ravine not far away.
I'll give her these without delay.'
4 "Your father's ruined all I'd planned.
May God protect you with his hand
1355 You're like to lead a bitter life.
If any peasant as his wife
Should take you, you are very sure
The direst hardship to endure.
You'll flail his grain, your strength he'll tax,
1360 And you must swing and beat his flax.
You'll dig your husband's beets up, too.
All this would have been spared to you
By my true comrade Lammerslint.
Alas, dear sister Gotelint!
1365 The grief must truly pain me deep
If each night through henceforth you sleep,
Against your heart uncouthly pressed
A peasant's coarse, ignoble breast;
His love you'll find a bitter gall!
1370 Weapons! Weapons! This I call
Aloud upon your father's head!
He's not my father, be it said.
And this in very truth I speak;
For when through but the fifteenth week
1375 Within her, mother carried me,
There came to her quite stealthily
A polished, knightly man from court.
So I inherit from such sort,
And from the man who sponsored me43
1380 (Blessed may their memories be),
The lofty thoughts and knightly ways
Which I shall show through all my days."
His sister Gotelint then said:
"Neither am I his child Instead,
1385 There was, I know, another
Who lay once by my mother-
A clever knight, as I've heard say-
While still beneath her heart I lay.
He caught her, on his pleasure bent,
1390 When late at eventide she went
To seek her calves in brush near by.
Thus 'tis, my spirit is so high!
"Dearest brother Schlingdasgeu,
The good Lord fill your heart with joy!"
1395 Thus continued Gotelint,
"Please do your best that Lammerslint
Be given me as wedded man.
There'll be a crackling in my pan,
My grapes will all be gathered in,
1400 And filled shall be each chest and bin.
The best-brew\ed becir uill then abound,
My meal shall be most finely ground.
If those three sacks my stock increase,
From poverty I'll have release.
1405 With food to eat, good clothes to wear,
No pinch I'll suffer anywhere.
I'll thus have everything in store
That woman wished from man before.
And I can give a husband, too,
1410 All that is a husband's due
From a wife of sturdy kind;
All this he'll in my body find.
For what he wants, I do not lack;
My father merely holds me back.
1415 My body's three times firmer, sure,
Than was my sister's, to endure,
When in marriage she was manned.
And yet, next morning she could stand,
And did not die from overwork!
1420 And so I think I need not shirk;
For death will never lay me low
Unless by some far harder blow.
Brother mine and comrade true,
What I now discuss with you
1425 For love of me to no one say!
I'll go with you the narrow way
That leads through pines up to the hill.
I'll lie by him and do his will.
And know that all of this I'll dare
1430 Spite relatives' and parents' care."
This talk the father did not hear.
Nor was the young girl's mother near.
The brother counseled what to do.
'Twas quickly settled by the two
1435 That she should follow him from thence.
"I'll give you to him, though offense
And pain to father it may bring.
You'll wed my comrade, honoring
Yourself and him by that mere act;
1440 And this will bring the wealth you've lacked.
Now would you see this to the end,
Then back again to you I'll send
A messenger, as guide to you.
You like my friend, he likes you too;
1445 With mutual love, you must succeed
In every undertaken deed.
The wedding plans on me shall rest,
And in your honor every guest
A waist or jacket shall receive.
1450 This shall be done, you may believe.
Do you prepare now, Gotelint!
The same I'll say to Lammerslint.
God keep you! I must go !" said he,
"I like my host as he does me!
1455 God's blessings, mother, on your head!"
Along his old paths Helmbrecht sped,
And gave at once to Limmerslint
The pleased consent of Gotelint.
His happiness scarce knew a bound.
1460 He kissed his friend around and round,
Then bowed down low against the wind 4
That blew to him from Gotelind.
Now hear of violence grim and wild.
Many a widow and her child
1465 In their possessions met with harm,
Were filled with grief and sharp alarm
When the hero, Limmerslint,
And his betrothed, young Gotelint,
Were both to mount the bridal chair.45
1470 What was drunk and eaten there
Was gathered in from all the land;
For as the day drew near to hand
The comrades did not idle stay.
The youths drove in on hoof their prey,
1475 And wagons with their stolen freight
They drove in early, drove in late,
To Lammerslint's parental house.
When famed King Arthur46 in carouse
Espoused one Guinevere by name,
1480 His celebration was quite tame
Compared with that of Lammerslind:
These fared on something more than wind!
When everything had been prepared,
Forth Helmbrecht's messenger now fared.
1485 In quickest haste he sped along,
And brought the sister to the throng.
Now when the news reached Lammerslint
Of the approach of Gotelint,
He went at once to meet her.
1490 Hear how the youth did greet her:
"O, welcome, Lady Gotelint!"
"Reward you God, Sir Limmerslint!"
Loving glances in exchange
Thick between the two did range.
1495 With each, these glances did occur:
She looked at him, he looked at her.
With well-framed words, and proudly said,
Limmerslint his bolt now sped
Towards the fair young Gotelint;
1500 And she rewarded Limmerslint
With words that were as sweet and warm
As her maiden lips could form.
Now we must give young Gotelint
As wife to youthful Limmerslint,
150S And we must give young Limmerslint
As man, in turn, to Gotelint."
A gray-haired man now did arise
Who in the use of words was wise;
Well versed he was in marrying.
1510 He stood both parties in a ring.48
Then first he spoke to Limmerslint:
"And will you take this Gotelint
To be your wife? If so, say 'aye.' "
"Gladly," the young man did reply.
i515 And when he asked the same once more,
He answered "Gladly" as before.
And then he asked a third time still:
"And do you this of your free will?"
He answered: "By my soul and life,
1520 I gladly take her as my wife."
The man then spoke to Gotelint:
"And do you, too, take Lfimmerslint
Willingly, your man to be?"
"I do, sir, if God grants him me."
1525 Again he asked the same of her,
Again she said: "I'm willing, sir!"
And then upon his third demand:
"I'm willing, sir, here is my hand !"
They gave away thus Gotelint
1530 To be the wife of Limmerslint,
And thus they gave young Lammerslint
To be the man of Gotelint.
And now they sang, the questions put,
And Limmerslint trod on her foot.49
1535 Now for the banquet all is set,
And this much we must not forget:
We must determine and decide
Who serves the bridgroom and the bride.
Schlingdasgeu was marshal gay;50
1540 He bulged the horses' hides with hay.
Schluckdenwidder poured the wine.
Hollensack, the next in line,
Seated the guests, both strange and known;
As steward, bright his talent shone.
1545 And he, unsteady, fickle swain,
Riittelschrein, was chamberlain.
Kuhfrass, kitchener, served the meat;
He gave them all that they could eat,