Germany Literature – From the Origins to 1180 Part II

But for the work of religious propaganda, to which the clergy and the monk were intended, in this age and the next, in whose hands were the studies and the letters alone, the vigilant concern was constant to suffocate and destroy what in tradition popular remembered the times and glories of heroic paganism: hence the documents that reached us of ancient poetry, transcribed in this time, are few and scarce fragments: not to mention the so-called Magic Formulas of Merseburg (Merseburger Zaubersprüche), in the Franco dialect of the century. VIII, and some other similar one, it is due to a fortunate chance that a document much more important for the history of the epic, namely the Song of Ildebrando (Hildebrandslied), written around 800 on the exergue of the cartoons of a prayer book, in a language that is a mixture of High and Low German: a poetic composition of great value in which, on a legend motif of the Ostrogothic cycle, two of the greatest moral forces of Germanic paganism, the sentiment of consanguinity and heroic honor, are in conflict.

But the literature of the century. IX mainly had the aim of spreading the new faith, that is, of Christianizing Germany, the first and greatest concern of the Carolingians, so that the literary cult of the national epic was completely lost under the successors of Charlemagne; indeed, from the Canto di Ildebrando it is necessary to reach the middle of the 12th century to find in the King Rotari (König Rother) another document of the national epic in the vernacular entrusted to writing. All the remainder that came to us from the time of Frankish domination in the German language is of religious content, therefore foreign to the spirit of national literature. Alongside fragments of little value, such as the short Wessobrunn Prayer (Wessobrunner Gebet) of the century. IX, in Bavarian dialect, in which some critics, on the basis of some verses which are a poetic definition of eternity and the omnipotence of God and in which some words of a verse of the first Eddic song resound, believed to trace the cosmogonic concepts of paganism; next to the so-called Muspilli, a fragment of a hundred verses, also in Bavarian dialect, and also from the 18th century. IX, where we speak of the fate of souls after death, of the struggle of celestial and infernal spirits for possession of the soul and of Elijah’s struggle with the Antichrist, and in which they wanted to trace reminiscences of the ancient pre-Christian eschatological concepts, we also works of considerable historical and artistic value have arrived: namely the Heliand and Otfried’s Amionia degli Evangeli (Harmonia Evangeliorum or Evangelienharmonie), which represent the two different tendencies of the popularization of Christianity, the popular and the learned. The first, which can be called the literary masterpiece of Old German, is a vast poem in the Saxon language, composed, based on the then famous Harmony of Taziano and of the comments of Rabano Mauro, Alcuin and Beda, by a monk of the monastery of Fulda, perhaps on behalf of Louis the Pious, intended to definitively gain the new faith, with a Christian work, that people however secretly faithful to the divinities pagan, and to obtain by the persuasive means of art what Charlemagne had not been able to achieve with iron and fire. It is a translation of the Gospels, or rather a free elaboration of the events narrated in the Gospels: its main attraction lies in the naive effort, quite common in the Middle Ages, to adapt the biblical account to the conditions and circumstances of life, and above all to the mentality of the Saxon people of the 9th century. Everything has such a distinctly Germanic tint that it sometimes seems, in the words of Christ, in the answers of the disciples, and in the same cadence of the alliterate verse, rich in all the qualities of the traditional epic style, to hear the warriors of some very ancient saga. The work is the most distinguished example of the Germanization of poetry and of the doctrine of Christianity. Some fragments of a Genesis in ancient Saxon, discovered towards the end of the last century, and certainly by the same author, show that the work began with the creation of the world. According to relationshipsplus, opposite the Heliandstands the Harmony of the Gospels – or Krist, according to the title it had in the edition of 1831 – in the lingua franca of the Upper Rhine, made directly from the four Gospels, is made up mostly of exegetical digressions, and only from time to time, for certain additions and omissions, ‘feels a certain effort to adapt to local conditions; it is the work of a learned man, in whom the childish artifices of form abound alongside scholarship or doctrinal allegory. Indeed, this was Otfried’s main innovation, who, wanting to replace the “obscene” pagan songs in the minds of the people, broke with the traditional epic verse and created a verse composed of two hemistiches, of four bars each, joined together. by means of the rhyme, which thus appears for the first time in German poetry, and grouped in couplets; Heliand.

When to these main works of religious content we add the Song of King Ludwig (Ludwigslied), composed in 882 in the Franco-Rhenish dialect, in praise of Ludwig III, brother of Carlomanno, for his victory of Saucourt over the Normans, interpenetrated also of a Christian spirit and not immune to theological digressions (and of which Herder gave a translation into modern German), the mention of the vulgar poetic works of the century is almost complete. IX: during which prose, even more than poetry, was almost exclusively at the service of the Christian church (translations of Scripture, or comments on it, formulas of abjuration or confession, prayers or declarations of prayers or rules of monastic orders), and has an exclusively linguistic interest.

Germany Literature - From the Origins to 1180 2