Germany Literature – From the Origins to 1180 Part I

On the primitive poetry of the Germans in the times preceding the period of their documented literature, Latin and Greek historians inform us, narrating songs that were handed down orally from generation to generation, which celebrated the gods or heroes and the origin of their lineages. Tacitus recounts that the Germans had carmina which took place in annals, in which the god Tuisto and his son Mannus, father of the three progenitors of the Ingevoni, Erminoni and Istevoni, were celebrated; who sang the god Hercules, that is Donar, going into battle; that among some populations the liberator Arminius was glorified. The historian of the Goths, Giordane, tells of prisca carmina, in which the ancient kings Berico and Filimer were celebrated and the migration of the Gothic peoples under their guidance from the Scanzia, almost officina gentium aut certain velut vagina nationum. These songs had to be recited in choir, perhaps with the guidance of one or more men skilled in the art, on solemn occasions, religious feasts, sacrifices, banquets, weddings or funerals. That these songs were simple lauds without epic intonation, as were certainly those that Ambassador Priscus heard from the “? Two barbarians” after the banquet at Attila’s court, is highly probable. But the song was also used to cheer the fighters before the battle. The Batavi, Tacitus tells us, are about to attack Cecina with wild song, and likewise inform Giuliano about it. That these songs contained the praise of the ancestors and heroes is clear from the story of Ammiano Marcellino, that the Goths of Fritigerno, standing in front of the ranks of Profuturo, Traiano and Ricimer, celebrated the glory of their ancestors with rough song. barditus, perhaps from holding the shields (ancient Norse: bardhi “shield”) in front of the mouth to make the sound of the voice louder and more frightening and to strike terror into the enemies.

They also used choral singing to celebrate the virtues of an extinct person. In Attila’s funeral (Jordanes, 49), the best champions ride around the king’s coffin, singing the funeral hymn, glorifying Attila as “the magnificent king of the Huns, son of Mudzuc, the victor of the strongest peoples, who with never seen before, he held the kingdom of the Scythians and the Germans, he was frightened by the two Roman empires and conquered their cities, but he was also mild and gave in to prayers, and accepted an annual tribute from the vanquished “. Not otherwise they are narrated in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf the funeral of the hero, at which a tall and wide sepulcher is erected on the seashore, visible from afar to navigators; twelve warriors then ride around the mound, intoning the funeral song in glory of the hero, who was “the most worthy of the kings of the earth, the meekest of men, the dearest to the people, the most eager for praise”.

According to recipesinthebox, these laudatory songs must certainly have been the origin of those sagas that gathered around the kings and heroes of the migrations of peoples, as the reflection of those grandiose events, of that tragic onslaught of glories and ruins that make up the history of the first centuries of our era, and which were later the heroic stuff of the poem. These sagas therefore have nothing in common with the divine myth, but are of purely historical origin. They belong to the species of songs which are the fusion of truth and poetry, that is, of the historical fact adorned by the cantor’s imagination. Of this nature are certainly not only the well-known sagas formed around the historical personalities of Theodoric, Teodoberto, Ermanaric, Attila, Ildebrando, Guntero, Gualtiero di Aquitania, etc., but also those where the figure of the main character is more difficult to trace and gets lost, oscillating between reality and myth, in the mists of prehistory. Be that as it may, the heroes of the sagas are not deities who have come down to earth and humanized, yes well these are very often human heroes made divine.

Since the Germans did not possess a particular alphabet of their own at any time, but had the art of writing by the Romans, the written literature given to them from the time after their intimate contacts with Latin civilization, or, better, to their conversion to the Christianity; it is known that the runic characters, deformation of the capital writing of the early days of the empire, which were used almost exclusively in pagan times, never served literary purposes, but only in the acts of divination or magic in general. The first written document, which has come down to us, therefore comes from the first Germanic population that embraced Christianity: it is that Visigothic translation of the Bible by Bishop Ulfila, of which the Codex argenteus, preserved in Upsala, contains notable fragments, in an alphabet by Ulfilas himself composed with runic, Greek and Latin characters. However, this distinguished document does not mark the beginning of written German literature either because Ulfila’s effort had no continuators, or because the brief Visigothic civilization of the century. IV died out without a lasting trace for the culture of modern Germany, which developed from the stock of the West Germans. A beginning of German literary activity is had only in the century. VIII, in that first fervor of study that was kindled around Charlemagne, and in which national-German and Christian-religious thought were united and carried out harmoniously. Charlemagne called to himself the most illustrious men of every country, Alberico, Eginardo, Teodulfo, Paolo Diacono, promoted the composition of a German grammar,

Germany Literature - From the Origins to 1180 1