Every new generation has a strong will and desire to drive out the ghost of their forefathers. This was true during the hippie revolution in 1967-73, as in the French revolution 1789-99. By suppressing the living memory of the past, young intellectuals and artists may shine for a while, until they themselves become the past.
During another revolution in the 12th century Germany, a whole generation of poets, monks and other intellectual workers broke with the violent past of their nations and became peacemakers and sentimental lovers in the spirit. This was the revolution named “the Renaissance of the 12th Century”.
It began with a number of outstanding poets like Heinrich von Veldeke and Heinrich von Morungen, shone with the unmatched beauty of Walter von der Vogelweide’s poems and ended with the Catholic revolution led by St. Francis of Assisi, who challenged the Vatican and saved the Christian Church.
A knight who knew how to read and write in German, Latin and French became an important player in this revolution of the Spirit, Hartmann von Aue. The poet worked as a civil servant as most educated knights did at that time. He represented the new civilized nobility of Germany. He translated a number of French epic poems, wrote Minne love songs and crusade hymns, and participated himself in the “secret” crusade 1196-1197.
Hartmann was a contemporary of Robin Hood (J) and King Richard the Lionheart. But Hartmann was not part of a legend or fairytale – he was a real man in flesh and blood. His simple, expressive language and his profound knowledge of human psychology were admired throughout the middle ages. His extremely popular epic poem “Der arme Heinrich” was and is a classic Christian legend of true love and humility.
Hartmann von Aue became the ideal poet for over 300 years, and his style and compassion still echo through the literature up to the present days, be it directly or indirectly.
H.W. Gade, Copenhagen 17th June A.D. 2006
Table of Contents
[The crystal clear words of Hartmann von Aue]
A Quote from another master, Gottfried von Straßburg
Hartmann von Aue was born around 1160 or 1170. He was educated by monks and learned Latin and French, which became his tools and entrance key to literature. The previous description is probably true, but no one knows; the only information on Hartmann’s life is contained in the short – and famous – introduction to “Der arme Heinrich”. He was obviously proud of his education, which was rather unusual for a knight these days. When comparing Hartmann’s poems and historical sources from the time, we are almost certain that he was a civil servant employed by the lords of Aue maybe near Freiburg in Swabia; the lord may have been Berthold IV. Hartmann went on a crusade either in 1189 or 1196. Or he did not. From contemporary authors, we know that he was alive in 1210 and deceased in 1220. All guesswork. But one of the finest German poets ever, that is a fact.
The first major work by Hartmann von Aue was a translation of Chrétien de Troyes’ Arthurian romance “Erec et Enide”, probably written around 1192. Hartmann elaborated and changed the original French text (no copyright restrains in 1192). It was not only his breakthrough, but also the first Arthurian text in German. The novel is a discussion on Minne (courtly love) and the duties of the knight’s.
Hartmann was also a proficient songwriter in the Minne tradition. 60 songs have been preserved, although without Hartmann’s original music.
Other works by Hartmann are “Gregorius”, which is the cruel story of a medieval Oedipus, who marries his own mother, but after tremendous suffering becomes the Pope. “Gregorius” is based on an unknown French poem. “Der arme Heinrich“ (Henry the Leper) is the book on which “A Mystery Play “ is based. The last work by Hartmann was another translation of an Arthurian romance “Iwain”, also by Chrétien de Troyes. This time – around 1204 – Hartmann was so sure of himself and the French style, that he did not elaborate or “improve” de Troyes verses. Beside the four major works, Hartmann has written two small works “Klage” (complaint) and maybe another small book, which is disputed.
Lieder (Middle High German in text format) All lyrical poems by Hartmann von Aue
Gregorius (no text available yet, the contents of the story is also controversial)
Der arme Heinrich (Middle High German original in PDF format)
Hartmann von Aue became a role model in his own lifetime. His simple and clear language influenced not only the next generations of Minne and romance poets, but also many later writers in Medieval Germany up to the advent of modern High German. In the 18th century, he was rediscovered and in the 19th century, his epic poems fitted nicely into the symbolist back to the Middle Ages movement. Around 1900, a number of symbolist writers and dramatist made stage versions of “Der arme Heinrich”, and today there is still focus on the knight who could read and write.
Walter von der Vogelweide and other poets from the 13th century wrote in a style close to Hartmann. Later, the poets adapted other styles, but still tried to keep the ideals of the old master. When the German language changed, the old Middle High German slowly disappeared and finally even educated persons could hardly read the old verses. Then he was forgotten for a long time together with most of the old poets, until the 19th century, where the Grimm brothers made the first commented edition of “Der arme Heinrich” in 1815.
“Der arme Heinrich” was and is Hartmann von Aue’s most popular work. A number of German writers have dramatized the poem including Adalbert von Chamisso (1839) and Gerhart Hauptmann (1905). The composer Hans Pfitzners made an opera version in 1895. The Erec and Iwein romances are still popular and are used for “knight fact finding” by the many medieval enthusiasts in Europe. The dramatist Tankred Dorst made his version of “Der arme Heinrich” as late as 1997 with E. A. Klötzke as composer, so it would be untrue to claim that Hartmann is completely unknown in our time.
Besides the German versions, the English pre-Raphaelite painter and writer Date Gabriel Rossetti made an English translation of “Der arme Heinrich”, “Henry the Leper”. See parts of the text at the end of this introduction for the benefit of non-German speakers.
The plot in “Der arme Heinrich” resembles a legend or a mystery, hence the Danish title “A Mystery Play” (Et Mysteriespil). But besides the knight and the maiden, which we should remember were every day figures in the 12th century, the poem has a much broader aim than telling a moral story. It is an amazingly modern psychological thriller between a dethroned prince and the farmer’s daughter – most of the time with the girl as the hyperactive main character. Throughout the beautiful, seemingly simple poem, are hidden streams and springs of religious themes, heresy and the crusades. The poem is maybe a political statement, at least this author thinks so, as the inner core of “Der arme Heinrich” might be a discussion between the heretic Cathars and the true Christian faith, with the girl as the Cathar voice and Heinrich as the voice of a weak human who finally finds the true God at the end of his trials. The Cathar heresies are wiped from the girl’s mind, when she sees Heinrich’s miraculous cure.
Until Heinrich and the nameless girl are married, the couple goes through a series of obstructions including the arrogance of Heinrich and his punishment, the heretic thoughts of the girl, the farmer couple’s deep sorrow and the cynical doctor in Salerno; all leading to the final proof of Heinrich’s noble mind when he frees the girl. The blood sacrifice shows a brutal trait also seen in other works by Hartmann, especially the Gregorius poem. Luckily for the readers of “Der arme Heinrich”, the girl is saved from having her heart cut out alive through the goodness of the fallen knight. The blood sacrifice was, alas a common superstition in the middle ages.
Let us go in details for a while. First a study in the threatened Christian ideals in the 12th century, then the Cathars and finally a look into a music dramatist’s work.
The Christian unity was broken in 1054 in the so-called schism; the Catholic Europe against the orthodox church of Constantinople. During the crusades, the aggression between the two wings of the Christian faith escalated, sometimes even with collaboration between Catholics and Saracens against the Greek Church. In the late 12th century, the moral standards of the Christian church were low, in spite of the good will of the clergy. Bribing and nepotism, not to mention priests and monks with mistresses, led to a great concern amidst the common people. A demand for higher standards and a pious life inside and outside the Church eventually led to St. Francis of Assisi’s reform of the Catholic church in the 13th century. But at the time of Hartmann von Aue, all educated persons were searching for the lost faith and Christian virtues. Superstition and heresy were widespread and threatened the Christian church as such.
The heretic Arianism of the fourth century were long dead, except for the – even today – mysterious remnants of Arian Christianity in the Celtic and Slavic areas. But in the 11th century, a new heresy resembling Arianism spread in France and other parts of Europe, the Cathars. This new pseudo-religion claimed that the world was created by an evil God, actually the guy who wrote the Old Testament. Only by forsaking the evil life, forced upon them by an evil God, the believers could hope for an eternal life with the “real” God. To put it short, life was misery and death was the only way to salvation according to the Cathar baptism shortly before the death. This strange heresy had an enormous influence among common people in France. The Catholic Church, for very good reasons, tried to stop the Cathar teaching in France, but unfortunately the Cathars had a protector in Duke William in Languedoc, where they were able to prosper and consolidate their believes. It came to an abrupt end in 1209, when a Christian army slaughtered the Cathar leaders, the so-called Perfects and civilians in great numbers. The Christian General was asked how ythe soldiers were supposed to see the difference between the Cathars and the Catholic inhabitants in the cities. The general answered: ”Kill them all. God will know his own.” And as can be expected, the conquering knights took over all properties and land of the Cathars.
There is an unlucky link between the troubadours and the Cathars as the courtly love ideal of the troubadours are close to the ascetic ideals of the Cathars. Furthermore, the travelling troubadours often came in contact with Cathars on their journeys through the European countries. So the ideas of the Cathars became mixed with the pure love of the troubadours. And the ideas of an evil world were a welcome idea for the poor population in Southern France. It was not a co-incidence that Hartmann let the girl preach the Cathar gospel to her parents. The heretics were a huge movement partly due to the low moral standards of the Catholic Church in the 12th century. Through the later reform of the Catholic Church, the Christian Church was saved in the early 13th century.
By convincing the girl of the real God’s mercy in the end of the poem, she is also converted into a believing Catholic Christian.
In 1977, I discovered “Der arme Heinrich“ in a collection of medieval poems. I immediately fell in love with the work and decided to dramatize the text into a chamber opera. I was 23 years old at the time, and this was my second opera. I had a dislike of singing actors in the 1970-ies, so I let two singers sing the emotional parts of the text, while the actors played / spoke the conversational parts of the poem.
I had a serious problem with the final scene, as I could not come to terms with the blood sacrifice. When the opera was first published in 1985, the ending was left open by purpose, which was a really bad solution to a huge problem.
2006 came, and I started to make the final digital version of my 1977 chamber opera. I was worried whether the music had survived the 30 years, but it clearly had. The text of Hartmann was still as overwhelming as the first time I read it. And suddenly, I realized that the only thing I had to do to mend the missing ending was to use Hartmann’s own text. It worked. How can one miss the point for almost 30 years?
Hartmann von Aue was enthusiastic over the new invention, the rhymes. He uses the rhymes in pairs, which unfortunately leads to a certain monotony, when you have around 1400 verses. I immediately decided in 1977, that the spoken passages should be without rhymes. The power of Hartmann’s favourite effect was saved for the songs.
The road towards understanding medieval German is not an easy trip. Often the words are not what they seem. Even if the Middle High German language has a surprising similarity to Old Danish, I have made several huge blunders through my 15 years with Middle High German texts by Heinrich von Morungen and Hartmann von Aue. Hopefully, they will all be corrected over time.
The new text about the happy marriage is translated directly from Middle High German and a relatively recent (1968) German translation by Helmut de Boor. The old parts were translated into Danish from a Swedish version. Which was later translated back into Swedish by Irene Linton for a Swedish-Finnish stage version, that never came. Strange.
Making music to medieval subjects most often turns the composers’ mind into embarrassing clichés of hollow 5th intervals and triple trumpets. I wanted to have a delicate orchestra sound, which I achieved by combining an oboe, a bass recorder (!), a French horn, a trombone and a cello. Only the cello is occasionally allowed to play two simultaneous notes. All the other instruments – naturally – play one note at a time. As my harmonies are very complicated, modern chords, it was necessary to work hard on reproducing the original piano score. 90% of the score was written in 1985.
In June 2006, I managed to finish the text and music to the final version of “A Mystery Play”. Let’s have a great hand for Hartmann von Aue!
The history of Europe in the middle ages are the story of small kingdoms turning into larger and larger states. It is both the times of the crusades with all the unhappy wars and the times of the first European philosophers since the Roman age. The young Europe was also hit by the plague, leprosy and other epidemics, leaving hitherto prosperous regions in desperate poverty from Spain to Greenland. Only in the 15th century, the economy and the birth rate began to flourish again. But that was the time of Dante and the Italian heydays. Now look at a short timeline over Europe from 960 (the Vikings) to 1226 (the death of St. Francis).
960 Muslim universities in Cordoba and Cairo.
980 Growth of trading cities: Venice, Genoa, London, Antwerpen, Paris, Marseilles and Mainz.
983 Slav rebellion against German rule.
989 Russians convert to Orthodox Christianity.
994 London besieged by Vikings.
996 Civil war in Rome.
1000 Scandinavian Vikings settle in York.
The whole population of the earth are around 200 million.
1003 Danish army lands in England.
1009 The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is burned by Muslims.
1013 Danes overthrow Saxons, becoming rulers of England.
1014 Pope Benedict VIII (1012-24) crowns Heinrich II German King.
1016 Knut the Great, Danish King (1016-35) of England, Denmark and Norway.
1029 Growth of the cult of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Church.
1032 Konrad II seizes France.
1033 The 1000th anniversary of the crucifixion of Christ. Many pilgrims travel to Jerusalem.
1036 Heinrich III rules the Holy Roman Empire covering great parts of Europe.
1054 The Great Schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
1062 End of the Viking age.
1065 The Norman Robert Guiscard seizes the last Byzantine city in Southern Italy, Bari.
1066 William the Conqueror invades England. He becomes king.
1071 A Turkish army besieges the Byzantine Emperor Romanus.
1076 Pope Gregorius VII (1073-85) excommunicates Heinrich IV.
1077 Pope Gregorius VII pardons Heinrich IV.
1083 Heinrich IV conquers Rome.
1084 The “Anti-pope” Clemens crowned by Heinrich IV.
1090 Bernard of Clairvaux born.
1091 Normans conquer an Arabic manuscript with the decimal system.
1095 Pope Urban starts the first Crusade.
1st Crusade 1095-1101 led by Peter the Hermit. Jerusalem conquered.
1096 Crusaders start pogroms against Jews in Worms and other cities in Germany.
Seljuk Turks kills thousands of German crusaders.
1097 Crusaders defeat the Turks at Dorylaeum.
1098 Crusaders seize Antioch in Turkey.
1099 The Crusader attack Jerusalem, murder all Muslims and force the Jews of Jerusalem into a synagogue and burn down the building.
Only 60,000 crusaders are still alive out of the originally 300,000 men.
1100 Building of castles all over Europe.
1101 William IX, the Duke of Aquitaine, becomes the first troubadour.
1106 Heinrich IV dies to the relief of the pope.
1109 Crusaders seize Tripoli.
1110 Crusaders enter Beirut. Sidon in Syria taken by the Crusaders.
1111 Heinrich V takes Pope Paschal II prisoner as the Pope refuses to crown him.
1115 Seljuk Turks threaten Constantinople.
1118 Boudouin I the king of Jerusalem dies. Pope Gelasius II excommunicates Heinrich V.
1119 The Templar knights protect pilgrims.
1125 King Heinrich V dies.
1126 The climate in Europe becomes 1-2 degrees warmer for 2 hundred years.
Arti Averroes (Ibn Rushd) was born, the Arab translator of Aristotle from Greek to Arabic.
Reinmar der Alte German poet (? – before 1210).
1135 Maimonides was born, a Jewish scholar and rabbi.
1140 Heinrich von Veldeke Dutch poet (before 1140 – after 1190).
Bertran de Born French poet (1140-1210).
Chrétien de Troyes French poet (before 1140 - ?).
Gottfried von Strassburg German writer (?-1210).
1144 Saracens capture crusader castles in Palestine.
1145 Pope Blessed Eugene III (1145-53).
2nd Crusade 1145-47 Konrad III of Germany, total disaster.
1147 Arabs beat the crusaders of Konrad III. 500,000 crusaders die due to diseases and famine.
1148 Crusaders attack Damascus.
1152 Friedrich Barbarossa is elected emperor of Germany.
1154 Pope Adrian IV (1154-59).
1156 King William of Sicily beats a Byzantine fleet.
the Lion Heart was born. Creation of Austria by Barbarossa
Waldemar I the Great, King of Denmark, rise of Denmark to major power status.
1158 Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa declares himself ruler of North Italy.
1159 Pope Lucius III (1181-85).
1160 A medical school is founded in Montpellier, France.
Hartmann von Aue German poet (1160-1210).
1161 First German Hansa trading ports at Wisby, Gotland and Lübeck.
1165 Byzantium expands into Balkans, alliance with Venice.
1170 Thomas Becket murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.
Heinrich von Morungen German poet (? – after 1217).
Wolfram von Eschenbach German poet (1170-1220).
Walter von der Vogelweide German poet (1170-1230).
1173 Pope Alexander III canonizes Thomas Becket.
1174 Friedrich Barbarossa buys Sardinia, Corsica, Tuscany and Spoleto.
1179 Hildegard von Bingen, nun and composer dies.
1182 St. Francis of Assisi was born.
The people revolt against the rulers in Constantinople.
Jews expelled from France. The Jews settle in Germany.
1184 The pope declares certain “Christian” groups heretical (Cathars and Waldensians).
1185 Andronicus I Comnenus, the Byzantine emperor is lynched.
1187 Pope Clement III (1187-91). Saladin captures Jerusalem.
1188 Saladin destroys the Crusader kingdoms in Syria and Palestine.
Crusade 1188-92 Philip Augustus, Henry II of England and Friedrich
Barbarossa start the third Crusade. Richard Lionheart becomes king of England.
The crusaders take Jerusalem back.
1190 The Crusades hold new pogroms against the Jews in England.
Friedrich Barbarossa drowns during the third crusade.
Matthaeus Platerius, a doctor from Salerno, writes about the medicinal properties of plants.
1191 Pope Celestine III (1191-98)
Heart of Lion and the Crusaders defeated in Acre.
About 3,000 Muslim prisoners executed in Acre.
1192 Saladin and Richard the Lion Heart sign ceasefire.
King Richard is kidnapped by a rival in Austria.
1193 Saladin dies.
1194 King Richard escapes his prison through a huge ransom.
1197 Emperor Heinrich VI dies in Messina.
Civil war in Germany.
1198 The “secret” Crusade led by Enrico Dandolo of Venice.
King Richard dies.
1199 Prince John becomes king of England.
1202 4th Crusade 1202-04 The Venetians trick the crusaders into conquering new land for the city.
Crusaders murder 100,000 orthodox Christians.
1204 Crusaders take Byzantium, founding Latin Empire.
1206 St. Francis of Assisi renounces his worldly possessions.
1208 St. Francis of Assisi decides to become a priest.
1209 Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) calls for a crusade against the Cathars. A huge number of Cathar leaders and believers are killed.
The Franciscan brotherhood receives papal approval.
1210 Hartmann von Aue dies.
1212 Children's crusade. The children were later sold as slaves.
1216 Pope Honorius III (1216-27).
5th Crusade 1217-19 Once again a catastrophe.
1219 St. Francis of Assisi sails to Egypt and talks to the sultan to work for peace.
1225 Massive German colonisation of towns and lands in Eastern Europe.
1226 St. Francis of Assisi dies. He is canonized in 1228.
Source: http://timelines.ws, other timelines and various books
In the middle ages, society was built on the feudal system, i.e. the emperor ruled the kings, the kings ruled the dukes, the dukes ruled the princes, and so on down to the thralls who had no rights whatsoever. Most of the population, actually, were thralls and not born free. In the 13th century, the thralls eventually became freeborn farmers, but in the 12th century, they were still enslaved. The laws were incomplete and unfair with death penalty for stealing a pair of shoes for thralls and a small fine for murder for the nobility, unless of course the diseased was a friend of the king.
But even the highest leaders of the many small countries and regions led a tough, boring life with death by the sword, plague or leprosy as the norm. Most people died before their 40th year. Almost everyone was illiterate, including the knights and kings, so the cultural level was generally low with room for superstition and heathen customs galore. So much for the romantic “Age of the knights”.
The crusades changed all these conditions over time, as the hundred thousands of knights and soldiers met the rich Arab cultures in the Middle East. Courtly manners were introduced even to the highwaymen in the small castles conveniently located along the roads all over Europe. The classic Greek literature on medicine and science were rediscovered via the Arab philosophers and scientists. A national literature and music prospered. The Christian Church was finally reformed and the slaves became free citizens. A new age of prosperity and peace emerged out of the chaotic early middle ages.
In the late 1100’ies, the reputation of the church was not optimal. Reform movements and heretic priests were on the move against the Catholic Church and threatened the Christian faith. The Popes were attacked from many sides and had to react, and so they did.
In the late 11th century, there was an important fight between the Church and the Emperor of Germany, Heinrich IV. In Germany, the election of bishops and other high-ranking clericals was normally shared between the German Emperor and the Church. Now Heinrich IV suddenly insisted that he had the right to choose and elect the bishops himself. The Pope was not amused, and a long war of words and excommunications followed. In 1122, the struggle was settled, and the right to elect bishops remained with the Church.
During the turbulent years in the late 12th century, the Popes and kings still fought verbal and physical wars against each other, but this time over “normal” matters such as power, land and titles. At the time of Hartmann von Aue, the Church had sunken to very low moral standards and was beginning to loose sight of the original Christian virtues.
Then came a little friar from Assisi, Italy, St. Francis..
St. Francis of Assisi was the most important Christian figure in the 13th century. He was born in Assisi, Italy in 1181 or 1182, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. After a wild youth, which included learning the art of the new Troubadours, non-stop partying and being a soldier, he renounced his earthly wealth, left his father and founded a new order, The Friars Minor (the small brothers) in 1209. St. Francis was a simple man whose ardent faith and love of all living creatures instantly made him the symbol of a new pure Church in Italy and the rest of Europe. He was also famous for his sermons to the birds and his fearless work with lepers.
His sermons attracted many of those who had been tempted by the ideas of the Cathars, thus leading the lost souls back to the Christian faith. As mentioned before, the troubadour tradition of courtly love indeed had some elements, which could be confused with the diehard chastity and poverty of the Cathar “Perfects”. St. Francis was taught to write songs, and the Troubadour style was always a part of the saint’s sermons and songs, especially in his masterpiece “Canticle of Brother Sun”. The social aspects of the Cathar movement were brilliantly transferred to the Christian Church, when St. Francis founded “The third Order”; an order for laymen and laywomen, with rules similar to the rules of the “imperfect” Cathars. The order preached peace, no use of weapons, they are vegetarians etc.
After the restoration of the Catholic Church, St. Francis died in 1226. He is still one of the most beloved saints. St. Francis managed to “convert” the lost Christians into devoted believers, and he sat new moral standard in the demoralized church of the 13th century.
Read more in the official Catholic Article on St. Francis of Assisi.
Last Verse of Canticle of Brother Sun
[Italian original by St. Francis of Assisi, written September 1225]
Laudato si mi signore per sora nostra morte corporale.
da la quale nulla homo uiuente po skappare.
guai a cquelli ke morrano ne le peccata mortali.
Beati quelli ke trouara ne le tue sanctissime uoluntati
ka la morte secunda nol farra male.
[English prose translation by the author 2006]
Praised be You, My Lord, for Sister Death, the bodily Death,
Which no human can ever escape.
Alas, the ones dieing in mortal sin.
Blessed are the ones dieing while doing your Holy Will,
For the second Death cannot harm them.
Hartmann von Aue was probably taught Latin in a Monastery School, where the children were taught writing, singing and the Scriptures.
Medieval German poetry had a Godfather and a Godmother; the ancient oral German tradition of songs and epic tales and the French troubadours. The German counties and regions were entwined and the languages of their French neighbours became popular through trade and art. French, Provencal, Languedoc and other southern languages were picked up by poor German knights and clerks. Many of them had a knowledge of Latin from the church.
In the early 12th century, the troubadour movement reached over the whole of Europe and even faraway Scandinavia and the heathen Vikings began to write their versions of the new European songs. With the songs of the Troubadours, the style and the courtly philosophy spread from Spain to Norway. Only the rock revolution of the 1960-ies comes close to the popularity of the exciting new troubadour tradition 800 years ago, the lays and the love songs.
Hartmann von Aue, our man, could read French rather well compared to certain other contemporary writers. He could also read in a time where even the princes and dukes let their servants write their memories for them. In “A Mystery Play”, he boasts with a little Latin phrase “Cordis speculator”, the watcher of the heart, another name for the all-seeing God. Due to the translations of Hartmann and Wolfram von Eschenbach of French masterpieces, the troubadour tradition became German, Spanish, Danish, Icelandic etc. and became international.
In the 13th century the troubadours were already wandering from town to town, from country to country. The popular medieval song fragment Carmina Burana in Middle High German and Latin is a great example of the worldly style of the wandering poets.
Bertran de Born was the most famous French troubadour. He was not only a knight, but a warlord and loved to make trouble. He sang mostly about political issues. Dante later wrote about him with utter dislike. The Frenchmen did not agree.
A romance is a novel in the form of courtly verses with rhymes in pairs.
Gottfried von Strassburg lived in the French / German city Strassburg. Gottfried, who was not a knight but a scholar, is the author of the most famous Tristan romance, the story behind Wagner’s opera, about 700 years later. Gottfried died about the same time as Hartmann in 1210.
Wolfram von Eschenbach lived between 1170 and 1220, probably in Bavaria. He was a knight and Like Hartmann; he translated his most famous work Parzival after the French Master Chrétien de Troyes based on the legendary Holy Grail.
Heinrich von Veldeke was born around 1140 and died 1190 or later. He was the first Dutch / Belgian troubadour and famous for his Eneide after a French version of the Aneas story by the Roman poet Vergilius. He was an important idol for the new German Poetry Wave in the 12th century.
A Minne poem is a love song based on a set of very strict rules. The tradition originated from the first French and Italian troubadours in the early 12th century. The tradition lasted for over 400 years in Germany. All the Minne songs was both written and composed by the poets, but only a few of the melodies have survived, mostly the tunes of Walter von der Vogelweide.
Heinrich von morungen was a knight and civil servant, like Hartmann, employed by the lords at the Morungen castle in Thüringen. He wrote a number of fantastic courtly love songs, which have influenced both Walter and Hartmann.
Reinmar der Alte was the archenemy and predecessor of Walter. He is regarded as one of the finest classic Minne singers, and lived at the Viennese court, where he and Walter fought against each other, with Walter as the eternal looser.
Walter von der Vogelweide was the greatest German songwriter ever. His most famous poem “Unter den Linden”, still lives after 800 years. He wrote Minne poems, political epic songs and a number of his beautiful melodies are preserved until these days. The last song in A Mystery Play has a melody by Walter.
A Minne Song by Hartmann
(Original Middle High German text)
Mîn dienst der ist alze lanc
bî ungewisseme wâne.
nâch der ie mîn herze ranc,
diu lât mich trôstes âne.
Ich mohte ir klagen
von maniger swæren zît,
sît ich erkande ir strît.
sît ist mir gewesen vür wâr
ein stunde ein tac, ein tac ein woche, eine woche ein ganzez jâr.
English Draft Translation:
My service is all too long,
And the uncertainty wears me down.
But in my heart, I am fearless,
And in that, I will be comforted,
I want to complain to her,
To let her know for sure,
That the hard time,
Since I started fighting her,
Sums up, I swear,
To an hour, a day, a day and a week, a week and a whole year.
[A draft translation by the H.W. Gade, 2006]
Hartmann von Aue was an administrator and entertainer at the same time. He was supposed to entertain the local nobility and be an educated secretary to his illiterate Lords and their wives. The poet was expected to write new songs admiring the lord or soft love songs to the Duke’s wife, all in the style of Courtly love. He should also be able to sing and play an instrument. And of course recite Latin and French poems and Romances. No wonder, if Hartmann was tired.
The original manuscripts from the 12th Century were written on parchment, which was very expensive. The monks who copied the texts by hand often used and reused old pieces of parchment (on both sides of course), where they could scrape off the old text. This early reuse of resources destroyed most of the original texts from the early middle ages.
In the 14th century, however, the old texts were written down anew; full of spelling mistakes and sloppy editing, but these were the originals that survived. 3-4 generations of linguists and literature researchers have worked on the copies, and tried to restore the language and form of Hartmann von Aue’s own text. This is not easy, and the scientists are still fighting.
In the High Middle Ages, the knights as a class within the army had risen from being simple soldiers on horses to being rich and feared fighters for Christianity. The nobility began to send their sons to the knights to learn to fight and behave well.
The roots of feudalism can be traced back to ancient Rome, where a system of patrons and clients existed. The clients received protection from the patron, who in turn expected support and votes during elections. The German tribes had a similar system between lords and vassals. In the 7th century, formal agreements between a landowning lord and a noble vassal became common. The vassal received a piece of land, called a fief from the lord in return for supporting the lord with military assistance including soldiers (normally peasants), arms and other supplies. The lord offered protection, too. The lords could be the king, a nobleman or a bishop.
The system was used all over Europe in the 12th century. The Poor Henry is a vassal of the king, administrating the castle and the farms. The peasant family belongs to the vassal. The feudal system was abandoned in the 14th century, when the citizens grew richer and more independent, and the kings lost a great deal of their former power.
The great shift in the moral standards of the old heathen knights, now turned Christians in the 12th century, appeared during the first crusades, when the crusader knights of Germany and other partly barbarian northern countries met their civilized cousins from France and Italy. The new role models of the German knights had the following moral qualifications:
Virtues already known in the barbaric past:
l Loyal to the king/lord
l Willing to sacrifice himself for the king/lord
Virtues hitherto unknown to the drunken murderers in the Viking age:
l Merciful to people in need, including wounded enemies (“why?”)
l Humble to everyone they met (“Me humble? Never!”)
l Courteous; gentle and gracious towards noble women (“I wash my hands once a week!”)
In 1070, after a long relatively peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem, pilgrims were threatened by the Seljukian Turks, who attacked and conquered Byzantine for a while. The Greek Orthodox wing of Christianity broke out of the Mother Church in 1054, and the hostile feelings caught fire, when Byzantine attacked the Norman lords of Sicily.
27 November 1095, Pope Urban II held a huge council in Clemont-Ferrand in Auvergne, where he declared war on the Muslim invaders. At the same time, letters were distributed to all Christian rulers, calling for the first Crusade. Europe literarily exploded in religious enthusiasm and violence. Chaos and faith struggled for Jerusalem and both won, but the siege should not last long.
The following, official crusades took place:
1st Crusade 1095-1101 led by Peter the Hermit. Jerusalem conquered
2nd Crusade 1145-47 Konrad III of Germany, total disaster.
3rd Crusade 1188-92 Saladin captures Jerusalem and the crusaders take it back.
4th Crusade 1202-04 The Venetians trick the crusaders into conquering new land for the city.
5th Crusade 1217-19 Another catastrophe.
6th Crusade 1228-39 Frederick II regains Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem without bloodshed
7th Crusade 1249-52 Louis IX of France leads an unsuccessful campaign against Egypt
8th Crusade 1270 Louis IX tries again but dies after only 2 months.
Besides the official crusades, there were a number of minor crusades, including the “secret” crusade Hartmann von Aue maybe was a part of (1196-97) and the horrendous Children’s Crusade that ended with 30,000 kids dying of hunger or being sold as slaves. The crusade against the Cathar heretics in southern France in 1209 was another example.
During the Crusades, disorganised bands often went on their own and slaughtered Jews in England and Germany before sailing to the holy land. This happened too frequently to be a mere co-incidence. And this is without counting the thousands of Jew who were killed in Jerusalem. Read Ivanhoe for further details.
There were often peaceful relations, for example cultural exchange and trade between the combatants. Western literature, visual art and music were much influenced by the Muslims and the Eastern cultures. Without peaceful co-operation during the crusades, there would have been no future for Europe.
King Richard Lionheart took part in the same crusade as Hartmann von Aue in 1196-97, where the poet and songwriter Heinrich von Morungen probably also participated.
(Original Middle High German text)
Nieman ist ein sælic man
ze dirre werlte wan der eine,
der nie liebes teil gewan
und ouch dar nâch gedenket kleine.
Des herze ist vrî von sender nôt,
diu manigen bringet ûf den tôt,
der schône heil gedienet hât
und sich des âne muoz begân.
dem lîbe niht sô nâhe gât,
als ich mich leides wol entstân,
wand ich den selben kumber hân
English Draft Translation
Nobody can be a happy man,
Who in this world found no one,
And never won a part of love.
Think carefully about this,
Your heart is free from utter pain,
That in many cases causes death.
He who serves the beautiful,
He must begin to contemplate,
Until Love will not affect him much.
And I for sure know the pain,
As I, too, suffer from the same distress.
[A draft translation by H.W. Gade, 2006]
According to Helmut de Boor, the famous Hartmann expert who published the bilingual version of the poem in 1968, the idea behind “Der arme Heinrich” might be based on an old family tale from the ancient past of the Aue Lords, his employers. It could be a direct request from the family to legalise the moral or juridical rights of their forefathers, as a marriage between a thrall, the farmer’s daughter and a nobleman certainly was unheard of in the high middle age, with its strict separation between the social classes. The lines in the poem just before Heinrich and the girl marry, is rather conspicuous:
die ir hie sehet bî mir stân,
nû ist sî frî, als ich dâ bin
She who stands by my side,
Now she is free, as I am
The heated discussion between the advisers and peers of prince Heinrich is also a bit strange, taken that Heinrich has just been saved by God (the discussion is not included in “A Mystery Play”). It was obviously an extremely controversial choice.
Helmut de Boor may be right; it is an awkward marriage seen from the eyes of the nobility. And what about the fiefs (land) given to the family by the king, if the girl was not accepted as Heinrich’s legal wife?
No one will ever know, but it is a peculiar marriage, and extraordinary liaisons are always remembered by the people, even in illiterate times.
Looking out of our own windows today, we see young men and woman in suicide attacks every day all over the world. They too must have loving mothers and fathers, who – horrid as it is – would not mind having a martyr in the family, and a welcome rise in their social position in the village.
The parents of the girl in “Der arme Heinrich” though, do care and they are heartbroken when they are pressed to accept her martyrdom. One should not forget, that their former master, prince Heinrich, would help the family’s social position significantly, if he were cured from his leprosy. But look at the parents’ overwhelming reception of the girl, when she returns from Salerno…
The disease that strikes prince Heinrich was one of the most
widespread diseases in the medieval world. The history of leprosy goes back
many thousand years, and might have followed the humans from the very
beginning. In the 12th century, leprosy swept
Leprosy is closely related to tuberculosis. It is essentially an infection of the nerves, similar to Parkinson’s disease, slowly destroying the nerves of the patient. To understand the complete fear of the lepers in the old days, one should compare to the AIDS of today.
Leprosy is caused by the leprae bacteria. The disease spreads by airborne saliva droplets, like a normal flu. Contrary to the myths, leprosy is not highly contagious.
The incubation time has an extreme span of time from weeks to over twenty years.
Advance of the Disease
In the first stages, red or brown spots surrounded by a white border come and go on the skin. Then come infected tumours, especially on the extremities.
In the second stage, the black or white spots grow where the old red spots used to be. Ulcers begin to spread from the joints of the limps, causing the joints to disappear one by one.
In the last stage, the skin becomes insensible to sensory impressions; heat, cold, pain or touch. The patient starts injuring himself as he cannot feel pain. The lesions and damages are now all over the body, especially in the face. Hands, feet and other body parts fall of.
After about 8 years, the patient dies.
The most conspicuous symptoms are the discolouration of the skin and the missing fingers and toes; the distorted face without any expression and loss of hair. An offensive smell is often present.
The invisible symptoms are lack of sensation at the nerve ends and erosion of the bones. Serious side effects include ulcers, blindness, paralysis (“clawed hand”) and other motor dysfunctions.
Leprosy does not affect the mind and sanity of the patient
The Leper and the Society
Unlike today, rich patients were treated quite different to poor patients. A wealthy person like prince Heinrich was not condemned to a leprosy colony and often – like in the famous case of the leper king Baldwin of Jerusalem – could continue theirs lives as if nothing has happened. The leprosy of Heinrich is maybe inspired by king Baldwin, whom Hartmann von Aue must have heard of.
The poor patients were symbolically declared dead and “buried” by the church. After being expelled from society, they were isolated in leprosy colonies. The patients were forbidden to wash in public water, visit churches and inns, or socialize with the healthy population in any way. They were allowed to beg, but had to wear special clothes and a clapper or bell to warn the citizens.
Sinful and Unclean
Over the years, a natural discomfort with the horridly distorted patients turned into blank hatred, as the lepers were finally considered both sinful and unclean. They were compared with the homosexuals and the Jews who were also being persecuted by the medieval society.
Even in modern times, there have recently been millions of leprosy patients, especially in Asia and Africa. But through an intense campaign by the WHO, started in 1985, over 12 million patients have been cured, and there are now “only” about one million patients left, often hiding in their homes to escape being expelled from the village or the town area.
When he was smitten with leprosy, Prince Heinrich visited the two most famous medical centres of medieval Europe. He started in the French town Montpellier, where one of the first medical schools was to be founded in 1220. At the time of Hartmann von Aue, though, the city welcomed anyone who practised medicine, no matter what his background was. This must have led to a continuous stream of quacks, which can be seen in the poem, where Heinrich leaves Montpellier very disappointed. By a strange coincidence, Montpellier is situated in Languedoc, the homeland of the Cathars.
The greatest medical centre of all was the city of Salerno in Italy. Its history of doctors and medicine was founded in 794 based on the local Benedictine monastery. In 1070, Constantino Africano, the famous translator of Greek and Arab medicine books settled in Salerno and participated to the fame of the medicine city. At the time of Hartmann, Salerno was untouchable in the medical world. Except maybe for certain doctors’ strange way of saving lives.
In Salerno, the doctor declares the blood sacrifice of a virgin as the only remedy against leprosy. This cruel medicine is rooted in the Old Testament and the ancient heathen traditions. The myth was common in the middle ages.
For non-German Speaking Readers: Most of the Hartmann von Aue literature is – for obvious reasons – written in German. However, even if you cannot read German, you can still read the German websites by using the free translation services at http://www.altavista.com.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia One of the best short descriptions on Hartmann von Aue.
German Wikipedia Article The best article on the web by far – learn German!
English Hartmann Portal The original manuscripts and PDF versions of Hartmann's works
Der arme Heinrich (Middle High German in PDF format)
Der arme Heinrich Gutenberg (Middle High German in text format)
Erec (Middle High German in PDF format)
Lieder (Middle High German in text format) All lyrical poems by Hartmann von Aue
Gregorius (no text available yet, the contents of the story is also controversial)
Manuscript Sources A general site on the development and forms of medieval poetry. Access to the original texts from the source manuscripts.
ENGLISH: www.amazon.com Search on “Hartmann von Aue”. A complete edition of all Hartmann’s works was released in 2001. A must have!
GERMAN: www.amazon.de Search on “Hartmann von Aue”. All his works are available both in modern German and High Middle German. There are various version of most of the poems. And best of all: The Complete Hartmann von Aue.
FRENCH: www.amazon.fr Search on “Hartmann von Aue”. “Der arme Heinrich” and “Iwein“ in French.
DANISH / SWEDISH: “A Mystery Play” Is an excerpt translation of the German original. A Swedish version exists.
The CRUSADES – read both articles to understand the crusades in depth
1 The Catholic version of the Crusades really good and thorough with the historical facts seen from a catholic view.
2 Wikipedia’s version of the Crusades intelligently written stories about the background and crucial moments of the crusaded.
The Cathars The shocking story of the heretic movements in southern France in the later 1100-ies.
Muslim Science and Inventions A fascinating review of Muslim inventions and scientific achievements.
Feudalism on Wikipedia An introduction to the feudal system in the high middle ages.
The German Middle Age Society a comprehensive Website with a lot of interesting links.
http://www.lrz-muenchen.de/~hr/lang/dt-hist.html History of the German language.
http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/greal/MHDBDB.html Middle High German website.
http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/hasty/resources/CHAPTER1.HTM Middle High German tutor.
http://www.haverford.edu/library/reference/mschaus/mfi/thesaurus.html Medieval Feminists’ index.
The Renaissance of the 12th Century The Renaissance of the 12th Century
http://www.Mittelaltermusik.de General Website for Medieval Music (German)
http://www.altemusik.net/index.html Website with Authentic Instruments (German). Music from the Middle ages and the Renaissance. Over 50 historical instruments, for example early violins, sack pipes and bowed horns.
Et Mysteriespil (A Mystery Play)
Books™ is a trademark of
NORDISC Music & Text, DK-2700 Broenshoej, Denmark
2nd Edition, 1st Issue Summer 2006.
Produced by NORDISC Music & Text. Copenhagen, Denmark.
Original drawings and layout by H.W. Gade © 2006.
Medieval Initials by the excellent medieval font ”Versals”.
”Et Mysteriespil” is based on the epic poem ”Der Arme Heinrich” written around 1190.
The original Middle High German text by the German poet and crusader Hartmann von Aue.
Danish text by H.W. Gade adapted from Hartmann von Aue © 1977/1985/2006.
Music and orchestra arrangements by H.W. Gade © 1977/1985/2006.
The music to the 28th choir was written by the poet Walther von der Vogelweide (around 1210)
All performance and mechanical rights, current or in the future, are reserved for H.W. Gade and his heirs.
The Father / The Doctor / the Storyteller
Musicians and Singers
2 choir singers (light baritone or mezzo soprano)
Translated by the English painter and author Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Once on a time, rhymeth the rhyme,
In Swabia land once on a time,
There was a nobleman so journeying,
Unto whose nobleness everything
Of virtue and high-hearted excellence
Worthy his line and his high pretense
With plentiful measure was meted out:
The land rejoiced in him round about.
He was like a prince in his governing--
In his, wealth he was like a king;
But most of all by the fame far-flown
Of his great knightliness was he known,
North and south, upon land and sea.
By his name he was Henry of the Lea.
All things whereby the truth grew dim
Were held as hateful foes with him:
By solemn oath was he bounden fast
To shun them while his life should last.
In honour all his days went by:
Therefore his soul might look up high
To honorable authority.
A paragon of all graciousness,
A blossoming branch of youthfulness,
A looking-glass to the world around,
A stainless and priceless diamond,
Of gallant 'haviour a beautiful wreath,
A home when the tyrant menaceth,
A buckler to the breast of his friend,
And courteous without measure or end;
Whose deeds of arms 'twere long to tell;
Of precious wisdom a limpid well,
A singer of ladies every one,
And very lordly to look upon
In feature and hearing and countenance:
Say, failed he in anything, perchance,
The summit of all glory to gain.
And the lasting honour of all men.
Alack! the soul that was up so high
Dropped down into pitiful misery;
The lofty courage was stricken low,
The steady triumph stumbled in woe,
And the world-joy was hidden in the dust,
Even as all such shall be and must.
He whose life in the senses centreth
Is already in the shades of death.
The joys, called great, of this under-state
Burn up the bosom early and late;
And their shining is altogether vain,
For it bringeth anguish and trouble and pain,
The torch that flames for men to see
And wasteth to ashes inwardly
Is verily but an imaging
Of man's own life, the piteous thing.
The whole is brittleness and mishap:
We sit and dally in Fortune's lap
Till tears break in our smiles betwixt,
And the shallow honey-draught be mix'd
With sorrow's wormwood fathom-deep.
Oh! rest not therefore, man, nor sleep:
In the blossoming of thy flower-crown
A sword is raised to smite thee down.
It was thus with Earl Henry, upon whom for his pride God sent a
leprosy, as He did upon Job. But he did not bear his affliction
as did Job.
Its duteousness his heart forgot;
His pride waxed hard, and kept its place,
But the glory departed from his face,
And that which was his strength, grew weak.
The hand that smote him on the cheek
Was all too heavy. It was night,
Now, and his sun withdrew its light.
To the pride of his uplifted thought
Much woe the weary knowledge brought
That the pleasant way his feet did wend
Was all passed o'er and had an end.
The day wherein his years had begun
Went in his mouth with a malison.
As the ill grew stronger and more strong,--
There was but hope bore him along;
Even yet to hope he was full fain
That gold might help him back again
Thither whence God had cast him out.
Ah! weak to strive and little stout
'Gainst Heaven the strength that he possessed.
North and south and east and west,
Far and wide from every side,
Mediciners well proved and tried
Came to him at the voice of his woe;
But, mused and pondered they ever so,
They could but say, for all their care,
That he must be content to bear
The burthen of the anger of God;
For him there was no other road.
Already was his heart nigh down
When yet to him one chance was shown;
For in Salerno dwelt, folk said,
A leach who still might lend him aid,
Albeit unto his body's cure,
All such had been as nought before.
Earl Henry visits the leach in Salerno whom he implores to tell
him the means by which he may be healed.
Quoth the leach, "Then know them what they are;
Yet still all hope must stand afar.
Truly if the cure for your care
Might be gotten anyway anywhere,
Did it hide in the furthest parts of earth,
This-wise I had not sent you forth.
But all my knowledge hath none avail;
There is but one thing would not fail:
An innocent virgin for to find,
Chaste, and modest, and pure in mind,
Who to save you from death might choose
Her own young body's life to lose;
The heart's blood of the excellent maid--
That and nought else can be your aid.
But there is none will be won thereby
For the love of another's life to die.
"'T was then poor Henry knew indeed
That from his ill he might not be freed,
Sith that no woman he might win
Of her own will to act herein.
Thus got he but an ill return
For the journey he made unto Salerne,
And the hope he had upon that day
Was snatched from him and rent away.
Homeward he hied him back: fall fain
With limbs in the dust he would have lain.
Of his substance--lands and riches both--
He rid himself; even as one doth
Who the breath of the last life of his hope
Once and forever hath rendered up.
To his friends he gave and to the poor,
Unto God praying evermore
The spirit that was in him to save,
And make his bed soft in the grave.
What still remained aside he set
For Holy Church's benefit.
Of all that heretofore was his
Nought held he for himself, I wis,
Save one small house with byre and field:
There from the world he lived concealed,--
There lived he, and awaited Death,
Who being awaited, lingereth.
Pity and ruth his troubles found
Alway through all the country round.
Who heard him named, had sorrow deep
And for his piteous sake would weep.
The poor man who tilled Earl Henry's field had a daughter, a
sweet and tender maiden who, out of love for Henry and a heart of
Christ-like pity, at last offers herself to die for him. After a
struggle Henry accepts the sacrifice. But when he knows it is
about to be made his heart rises against it and he refuses to
permit it. At this the maiden is much grieved. She takes it as a
token that she is not pure enough to be offered for him. She
prays for a sign that she may hope to become wholly cleansed. In
answer to this prayer Earl Henry is in one night cleansed of the
leprosy. He then joyfully takes the maiden for his bride and
leads her before his kinsman and nobles for their consent.
"Then," quoth the Earl, "hearken me this.
The damozel who standeth here,--
And whom I embrace, being most dear,--
She it is unto whom I owe
The grace it hath pleased God to bestow.
He saw the simple spirited
Earnestness of the holy maid,
And even in guerdon of her truth
Gave me back the joys of my youth,
Which seemed to be lost beyond all doubt,
And therefore I have chosen her out
To wed with me knowing her free.
I think that God will let this be.
Lo! I enjoin ye, with God's will
That this my longing ye fulfil.
I pray ye all have but one voice
And let your choice go with my choice."
Then the cries ceased, and the counter-cries,
And all the battle of advice,
And every lord, being content
With Henry's choice, granted assent.
Then the priests came to bind as one
Two lives in bridal unison,
Into his hand they folded hers,
Not to be loosed in coming years,
And uttered between man and wife
God's blessing on the road of this life.
Many a bright and pleasant day
The twain pursued their steadfast way,
Till hand in hand, at length they trod
Upward to the kingdom of God.
Even as it was with them, even thus,
And quickly, it must be with us.
To such reward as theirs was then,
God help us in His hour. Amen.