Germany Literature – From 1180 to 1350 Part III
A world very different from that of the courtesan epic stands before us with the national epic. Naturally this too could not escape the formal influence of Christianity and chivalry, but the moral and psychological background remained largely that of pagan barbarism; not gallant feats of isolated individuals, courteous manners, skirmishes of love based on infidelity and adultery, changing sensations and languid pangs; but, under the enterprises and misfortunes of individuals, the destinies of peoples, fatalities and frightful massacres, which take place in the domain of all the moral values of pagan antiquity: primitive hardness and pride, incorruptible fidelity, which commands love indomitable and relentless hatred, revenge that begets revenge. Heldenlieder, were then elaborated with epic extension in the form of a poem, when the use of transcription replaced the simple oral tradition.
The most important of these poems is the poem of the Nibelungs, which, after previous editions, arose in the form preserved in us around 1200 in Austria, and into which almost the entire Germanic saga flows directly or indirectly. The ancient legend of Siegfried there is merged with the Burgundian and the Ostrogothic: its main historical foundation is the massacre of the Burgundians carried out by Attila in 437. The two parts of the poem were at first probably independent, as can also be inferred from some inconsistencies in the course of the action and in the character of the characters themselves. The events that take place there form a series of facts dependent on each other in a relationship of offense and revenge, culminating in a bloody and general catastrophe:
According to APARENTINGBLOG, the poem has been handed down to us in numerous reviews, which differ considerably from each other: that of the St. Gall manuscript is now the most universally accepted. The saga, which is full of a great tragic and grave breath, of an impending sense of doom and death, is truly engineered with elements of grandiose proportions, and represents in the characters, gigantic and iron in will and faith, a formidable life interior, even if the artistic means in the execution did not always correspond to this grandeur and even if the poem remains full of inequalities and disharmonies. The comparison with the Iliad, rather than from aesthetic reasons, it was suggested by the fact that the Germans find there the greatest document of the first stories and of the original virtues, the monument of heroic Germanism and the epic of the homeland. The natural continuation of the Nibelungi poem is the Klage, the Lament, which tells of the pain of the few survivors at Attila’s court for the fallen heroes and their burial, recalling their deeds and their virtues, as well as the announcement of the tragic tale to the widows of Rüdiger and Gunther. The Klage, in which a Christian influence far superior to that already exerted on the poem is evident, is nevertheless, as a work of art, negligible. The second, important national heroic poem is the Gudrun, also composed by an Austrian poet around 1200 and come down to us in a single manuscript drawn up by order of Maximilian I and discovered in 1820. However, it is noticeably detached, due to its tone and historical precedents, from the content of the Nibelungi, from the conditions and events of the time of migration, and deals with a complex of legends of northern origin, formed among the Germanic populations of the North Sea, which bear the characteristics of the time of the Vikings and which were probably brought to southern Germany in the century. X from Rhenish jesters. Despite some remnants of the gloomy Nibelungian world, the characters do not come out of the ordinary. With its exaltation of humble and patient fidelity and of the purest feminine nobility, it is a work that breathes peace and announces peace; is that, Odyssey.
All the other minor epic poems, which have remained, have a bearing on the central nucleus of the Germanic sagas, connecting around the figure of Theodoric, who is represented as the type of the dignified, austere and patient hero, but, if necessary, invincible. Even these poems have come to us anonymous in almost totality: thus the Biterolf and Dietleib, in which a series of adventures and tournaments are narrated, which take place according to the chivalric custom, and which culminate in a duel between Theodoric and Siegfried, composed finally to the friendly; the Rosengarten, which represents the struggle between the Burgundian knights of Crimilde, including Siegfried, and Theodoric, who this time puts his opponent to flight; the Laurin, which deals with the fairytale-like adventures of Theodoric who fights with his companions against Laurin, the king of the dwarves, who owns his splendid rose garden in the mountains of Tyrol and who is finally captured and forced to follow the winners by accepting the Christian faith. Other Theodoric’s struggles with giants and dragons narrate the poems of Ecke, Sigenot and the Virginal, and reasons for his enmity with Hermanaric are found in the epics Alpharts Tod, Rabenschlacht and Dietrichs Flucht: the last two composed, in their present form, at the end of the century. XIII by Henry the Bird (Heinrich der Vogler); and legends that probably stem from events related to another Theodoric, king of Austrasia, combined with other charming and poetic motifs, treat poems Ornit and Wolfdietrich.