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GIFT or





A HISTORY



OF



GERMAN LITERATURE



A HISTORY



OF



GERMAN LITERATURE



V



BY



JOHN G. ROBERTSON



LECTURER IN THE UNIVERSITY OF STRASSBUEC




WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

EDINBURGH AND LONDON

M C M II



OENiCK£



,>^,^?r






PREFACE.



While the general object and scope of the present
History of German Literature are sufficiently obvious,
some explanation is necessary with regard to the
illustrative passages which form one of its features.
Such passages are accompanied, in the case of older
dialects, by a literal German version, which is to be
considered as a glossary rather than as a translation.
It is believed that by this means the reader will be
able better to appreciate the meaning and poetic value
of the extracts than if he were offered an English
version or an actual translation into modern German.
Medieval literature cannot be approached through the
medium of translations, and, as F. Pfeiffer remarks in
the introduction to his edition of Walther von der
Vogelweide, " Mittelhochdeutsche Gedichte auch nur
ertraglich ins Neuhochdeutsche zu iibersetzen, ist ein
Ding der Unmoglichkeit." Old High German, Old
Saxon and Middle High German extracts are based
on standard texts ; but, from the Early High German
period onwards, titles of works and quotations are
taken from original editions — that is to say, the

t7m



VI PREFACE.

orthography is not modernised. The bibliographical
notes are restricted to references which are likely to
be of service to the English or American student.
As a work which is to be found in every larger
library, and consequently generally accessible, the
collection of Deutsche Nationallitteratur^ edited by J.
Kiirschner, is — irrespective of the unequal value of the
individual volumes — referred to throughout.

For what I owe to other workers in the field, and
for invaluable hints and suggestions from those who
have helped me in reading the proofs — especially my
friend Professor F. H. Wilkens of Union College,
Schenectady — I have to express my hearty thanks.
Above all, I am indebted to the Universitats- und
Landes-Bibliothek in Strassburg, which has enabled
me, in almost all cases, to write from a first-hand
acquaintance with the literature.

JOHN G. ROBERTSON.
Strassburg, July i, 1902.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

Preface ........ v

Introduction ....... xv



PART I.
Clje ©lb J^ig!) ©etman Jpcriotj.

Chapter I.— Early Germanic Culture; The Migrations.

The Germanic races. Tacitu s's . ac count of the West^ermans. The
Goths ; Wulfil^ a's translation of the Bible. The Mi gration s.
Beginnings of tlic national epic . . . T . 3

Chapter II.— Christianity. Literary Beginnings under
Charles the Great.

The High German Soundshifting. The Merovingian epoch. Intro-
duction of Christianity. Charles the Great. Translations of the
liturgy. The IVasobruntur Gebet and the Hildcbrandslied . 10

Chapter III. — Charles the Great's Successors. Biblical
Poetry.

Ludwig the Pious. Tatian's Evangelienhartnonie. The Old Saxon
Heliand and Genesis. Ludwig the German. The Muspilli,
Otfrid's Evangelienbuch. The Lttdiuigslied . . .18

Chapter IV. — Latin Literature under the Saxon Emperors.
NoTKER. The Liturgic Drama.

The Saxon emperors. The Spielleute. St Gall ; Waltharius and
Ecbasis captivi. Hrotsuith of Gandersheim. Ruodlieb. Notker.
The origin of the drama. Religious plays . . • 27



viii CONTENTS.

PART II.

ffli'titjle J?icjb ©erman literature (10504350).

Chapter I.— Asceticism. The Beginnings of the Popular Epic.

Monastic reform. " Mariendichtung " and theolc^ical mysticism.
The Annolied and Kaiserchronik. Konig RoiHer. ITerzog £mst.

Tlio Spiclmann's epic . . . . . '39

Chapter II.— The Poetry of Knighthood; The Beginnings

OF THE MINNESANG.

Influence of the Crusades. The Alexanderlied and the Rolandslied.
Eilhart von Oberge. The Beast epic. Beginnings of the
Minnesang. " Spruchdichtung " . . . . -SO

Chapter III.— The Nibeluscenued.

The Nibelungen saga and Nibelungenlied. Siegfried and Kriemhild ; /

Gunther and Brunhild. Siegfried's death. The Burgundians at
Elzel's Court ; Kriemhild*s revenge. Diu Klage . . 59

Chapter IW.—Gudrun and the Heldenbvch.

Hilde and Gudrun. Gudrun in Normandy ; her deliverance. Com
parison of Gudrun witli the Nibelungenlied. The Hddenbuch.
The Dietrich cycle of epics. Ortnit z.xi^ Wolf diet rick , . -jz

Chapter V. — The Court Liic : Hkinkk n von VKi.nKKF.,

HaRTMAN and WOI.KKVM.

Heinrich von Veldekc's Entit. Ilerbort von Fritzlar and Albrecht
von Halbcrstadt. Arthurian romance. Hartman von Auc.
Wolfram's Panival^ Titurel and WilUhalm .8a

Chapter VI.— Gottfried von Strassburo ; Thb Decay of the
Court Epic

Gottfried's Tristan. The later Cotirt epic The influence of
Hartman, Wolfram and Gottfried. Ulrich von Liechtenstein.
Mti4r Helmbrcht. Rudolf von Ems and Konrad von Wiirzburg 99



CONTENTS. ix



Chapter VII.— The Mixnesang.

Minnesang and Minnedienst. Friedrich von Hausen, Heinrich von
Morungen and Reinmar von Hagenau. Walther von derVogel-
weide. Neidhart von Reuenthal. Later Minnesingers . . 115

Chapter VIII. — Didactic J'oetry and Prose.

Der Winsbekcy Thomasin von Zircliere's IVchcher GastzxiA Freidank's
Bescheidenheit. Hugo von Trimberg. The sermons of David of
Augsburg and Berthold of Regensburg . , . .133



r^ PART III.

ISarlg iXt^ J^igi) ®erman Hiterature (13504700).

Chapter I. — The Decay of Roman'ce. Satire and Beast Fable.

The decay of chivalry and the rise of the middle classes. Prose
romances. Anecdotal literature. The Beast fable : Keynkc de
Vos. Brant's Narrenschiff. *' Reimsprecher " . . . 143

Chapter II.— Meistergesang and Volkslied.

Hugo von Montfort and Oswald von Wolkenstein. The Meister-
singers and their " Singschulen." The Volkslied. Historical
ballads; love songs and drinking songs. The religious Lied . 156

Chapter HI.— Mysticism and Humanism ; The Reformation.

The Mystics : Eckhart and Tauler. Geiler, The literature of
humanism : Erasmus. Martin Luther. Luther's Bible ; his
Geistliche Liedcr and Tischreden. Ulrich von Hutten. Murner 166

Chapter IV.— The Reformation Drama.

Early " Fastnachtsspiele." Influence of the Reformation. The
Latin school comedy. Swiss dramatists. Rebhun and Frischlin.
Hans Sachs ; his Fastnachtsspiele and longer dramas . . iSo

Chapter V.— Satire and Drama in the Later Sixteenth
Century.

Wickram, Ringwaldt and Rollenhagen. Fischart. The Volksbuch
of Faust. Revival of the drama under English influence ; Duke
Heinrich Julius of Brunswick and Jakob Ayrer . . . 192



CONTENTS.



Chaiter VI.— The Renaissance.

Humanists in Heidelberg. Martin Opitz and his Buck von eUr
lieutschen Poelcrey. The literary societies. Dach, Fleming and
Rist. The dramas of Gryphius ..... 203

Chapter VH.— Religious Poetry; Epigram and Satire.

Angelus Silesius and Spec. The Protestant hymn : Gerhardt.
Logau's epigrams. Satirists : Lauremherg and Rachel. Schupp
and Abraham a Santa Clara . . .217

Chapter VHI.— The Novel in the Seventeenth Century.

Moscherosch. Giimmelshausen's Simplicissimus. Weise and
Reuter. The ** Robinsonaden." Zesen. Ziegler's Asialische
Banise. Hofmannswaldau and Lohenstein . . 226



PART IV.

W^t £ig))tetnt6 Century.

Chapter L— Rationalism and English Influence.

Revival of Pietism : Spener. Rationalism : Thomasiu^ Leibniz
and Wolff. Gunther. Brockes and Hagedorn. Ilaller. The
'* Moralischen Wochenschriftcn " .... 237

Chapter II.— Leipzig am» /,i kh h as Literary Centres.

Gottschcd : his Critische Dichtkttnst. Conflict with Bodmer and
Breitingei. The Bremer Beyf^age ; J. E. Schlcgcl, Zacharia,
Rabeuer and Gellert Fable urii,-r>; . 245

Chapter III.— The 1 ki >ma.> ii-hi.^, ixlopstock.

Halle as a literary centre : Pyra and Lange ; Gleim, Uz and Giitz.
E. C. von Kleist. Ramler. Frcdericic the Great. Klopstock ;
h\% Ahsiias a.nA Oiiett. The " bards." Gessner . . . 256

Chapter IV.— Lessing.

Early <ti.uii.is .uA v nticism. His Leipzig friends. Die LitUraiMr-
brieft, Winckelmann. Laokoon, Minna von BarttheifH and the
Hamhutin%(he Dramatunn't: Emilia Calotii and Nathan der
H< 268



CONTENTS. xi



Chapter V.— \Vieland; Minor Trose Writers.

Wieland's novels and verse ronrances : Agathojt, Die Abderiten,
Oberon. Wieland's influence. The novel : imitations of Richard-
son. Popular philosophers. Lichtenberg . . . 283



Chapter VI.— Herder; The GOttingen Bund.

I lamann. Herder's Fragmente and Von deutscher Art und Kumt,
Volkslieder. Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte. The Gottingen
Dichterbund. Voss and Holty. Claudius, Gcickingk and Burger 293

Chapter VH.— "Sturm und Drang"; Goethe's Youth.

The "Geniezeit." Goethe as a student in Leipzig and Strassburg.
Early writings. His Sesenheim lyrics. "Gotz von Berlichingen^
Werther and Clavigo. Faust in its earliest form. Egtnont . 307

Chapter VHI.— The Minor^Bturmer und Dranger";
Schiller's Ej^ly Years.

Gerstenberg. Lcnz. Klinger's first period. Leisewitz, Wngner and
Maler Miiller. Schiller's youth : Die Kiiiiber, Ficsco and Kabale
und Liebe. Schubart ...... 323



Chapter IX.— Schiller's Second Period. End of the
"Sturm und Dran^."

Don Carlos. Schiller as historian. The drama : Schroder and
Iflland. The " Ritterdrama." The tlM|tre in Austria. Ileinse.
Klinger's novels. Moritz and Forste* .... 33^



Chapter X. — Goethe's First Twenty Years in Weimar.

Goethe as minister of State. Frau von Stein, Goethe's lyrics of this
period. His visit to Italy. Iphigenie and Tasso. Return to
Weimar. Wilhebn Meislers Lehrjahre .... 348

Chapter XI.— The Critical Philosophy. Goethe and
Schiller's Friendship.

Kant's three Kritiken, Schiller's writings on esthetics ; his philo-
sophic lyrics. Humboldt. Schiller's friendship with Goethe.
Die Iloren. Die Xenien. IVallenstein . . • 3^1



Xll CONTENTS.



Chapter XII.— Goethe's Classicism ; The First Part of Faust.

Hermann timi Doiothea. The *' Halladenalmanach." Schiller's
Lied von der Glocke, Goethe and the French RevoUition : his
Natiirliche Tochter and Pandora. Faust^ ersttr Theil . 374

Chapter XIII.— Schiller's Last Dramas.

The Weimar Court theatre. Kotzebue. Schiller's A/ana Stuart,
Jungfrau von Orleans, Braut von Messina, Wilhelm Tell and
Demetrius. Schiller's death . . . . • 387

Chapter XIV.— Minor Poets of the Classical Period. The
Transition to Romanticism.

Matthisson. Tiedge. Kosegarten. Seume. From Classicism to ^^ —
Romanticism : Fichte, Richter and Holderlin. Dialect litera-
ture : Ilebel and Usteri . . • . . . . 399



PART V.
5rf)e i^inttccntfj Centuru.

Chapter I.— The Romantic School.

Founding of iho school. A. W. Schlegel as critic ; his translation of
Shakespeare. F. Schlegel. Tieck and Wackcnrcxlcr. Novalis,
Schelling and Schleiermacher 4^5

Chapter II.— Romantic Drama and Patriotic Lyric.

The " Schicksalstragodie " : Werner, Milliner and Houwald. Kleist.
Lyric of the ** Hefreiungskrieg " : Kiirner, Arndt and Schcnken-
dorf. RUckert and Hoflfmann von Fallersleben . . 430

Chapter III.— Goethe's Later Years.

Goethe and Napoleon. Die Wahlvenvandtsckaften, Diihtung und
Wahrheit. Scientific interests. Der W^st-bstliche Divan, Wilhelm
Meisters Wandetjahre. Faust^ vtveiter Theil , .^ . 443

Chapter IV.— The Hridblbrrr Romanticists.

The Hcidellwrg school : Brcnlano, Amim and Gorrcs. Des A'nahen
Wunderhorn. The hrolhcrs (irimm ; (icrnmn philology. Arnim's
KronenttHuhter and Brcntano's Grii$ulmig Frags 458



CONTENTS. xiii

Chapter V.— Romanticism in Berlin. The Philosophic
Movement.

Berlin as a literary centre. La Motte Fouque. Chamisso. Eichen- "*
dorflPs lyrics and novels. Gentz and Miiller. Savigny. The
philosophy of Hegel and Schopenhauer .... 468

Chapter VI. — The Decay of Romanticism.

E. T. A. HofTmann. Tieck's later " Novellen." Schulze. Riickert.
W. Miiller. Poetry of the Greek Revolt. Gaudy and Mosen.
"Polenlieder" . . . . . . .480

Chapter VII. — Historical Fiction and Drama. Immermann
AND Platen.

The historical novel : HaufiF and Hiiring (Alexis). Zschokke. The
drama : Grabbe, Beer and Iloltei. The Romantic opera :
Weber and Marschner. Immermann and Platen . . 491

Chapter VIII.— "Young Germany."

" Das junge Deutschland." Wienbarg. Borne. Heine ; his lyrics
and ballads. As a prose-writer. Gutzkow's novels and dramas.
Laube. Mundt, Gervinus and Menzel. Bettina von Arnim . 501

Chapter IX.— The Swabian School.

Romanticism in Swabia. Uhland^j, his ballads and dramas. Kerner, —
Schwab and Waiblinger. Morike as lyric poet ; his Maler Nolten.
Kurz. Vischer . . -. . . . . 518

Chapter X. — Literature in Austria; Grillparzer.

The Metternich rigime. Collin and Schreyvogel. Grillparzer; his
dramatic work. Ilalm and Bauernfeld. Raimund and Nestroy.
Zedlitz, Griin and Lenau . . . . . ' . 5^9

Chapter XI. — The Political Lyric.

Becker and Prutz. Herwegh. Freiligrath. Dingelstedt. HofTmann U^
von Fallersleben. Revolutionary poets in Austria. Kinkel.
Geibel. Strachwitz. Annette von Droste-Hiilshoff . . 544



XIV CONTENTS.



Chapter XII.— Literature of the Province. The Drama.

The novel of peasant-life : Gotthelf and Auerbach. Slifier. Reuter
and Groth. Dramatic literature: Ilebbel ; his plays. Ludwig
as dramatist and novelist. Minor playwrights . . . 557

Chapter XIII. — The Novel from 1848 to 1870.

The philosophic movement Freytag ; his dramas and novels.
Spielhagen. The historical and antiquarian romance. Keller
and Storm. Women-writers. Jordan .... 572

Chapter XIV. — The Munich Group. History and Criticism.

Geibel in Munich. Schack. Bodenstedt. Leuthold and Lingg.
Scheffel and his imitators. Lorm and Ilamerling. Heyse.
Wilbrandt and Jensen. Humourists. Historians and critics . 586

Chapter XV.— From 1870 10 1890 ; Richard Wagner.

German unification. Wagner and his dramatic work. The Bayreuth
Festspiele. The ** Meininger." Wildenbruch. Anzengrulier.
C. F. Meyer. Austrian novelists, Fontane . . 598

Chapter XVI.— The End of the Nineteenth Century.

Nietzsche and individualism. The lyric : Liliencron. The realistic
movement. Sudermann and Ilauptmann. Minor dramatists.
The novel at the end of the century . .611



Index . . . . . . . .623



INTRODUCTION.



Although the criteria of poetic excellence in Germany have
often differed widely from those acknowledged elsewhere, the
historical development of German literature has naturally
many features in common with that of other European
literatures ; and, while its periods of flourishing and decay
have rarely coincided with those in France, in England, or
even in Scandinavia, they have, in general, been rooted in
social and intellectual movements, the significance of which
was more than national. In Germany, as in other lands, for
example, a shadowy pre-Christian epoch w^as followed by an
age of rigid monasticism ; the knight of the Crusades receded
before the burgher of the rising towns, and Reformation was
intimately associated with Renaissance. And in more recent
centuiies, Germany has responded even more quickly than
her neighbours to the social and intellectual changes which,
heedless of national or linguistic barriers, have, from time
to time, swept across Europe. While no modern literature
has grown up in entire independence, none is bound by
closer ties or is more indebted to its fellows than that of
Germany. Before entering on the study of this literature,
it is consequently important to make clear, oy means of a
comparative survey, the position which it occupies in Europe
and the relations in which it stands to other literatures; to
establish in how far divergences in the evolution of German

d



XVI IMKUUUCTUJN.

letters are to be ascribed to national temperament, in how
far to accidents of social or political history,
visions Historically regarded, German literature^ admits of a

irature" natural division into three epochs, each of which is dis-
tinguished by special linguistic characteristics : an Old High
German period, in which the dialects of South Germany re-
tained the wide range of vowel sounds to be found in all the
older Germanic languages; a Middle High German epoch,
beginning about 1050, in which that diversity of vowel sounds
and grammatical forms had in great measure disappeared ;
and, lastly, a New High German or n^odern German period,
which began about the middle of the fourteenth century.
During the second of these periods, the High German dialects
gained an ascendancy over those of the North and of Central
Germany, while, in New High German times, German litera-
ture is practically restricted to High German.

Setting out from the fact that the "Bliitezeit" of German
, poetry, at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, was
followed by a period of depression, which, ultimately, towards
the end of the eighteenth century, made way for the crowning
age of German classical poetry, Wilhelm Scherer attempted
to establish for German literature a general law of evolution.*
He regarded it as oscillating between "periods of flourish-
K ing," which recurred at regular intervals of six hundred years;
according to his hypothesis, the epoch which touched its

1 Cp. A. Koberstein, Grumiriss xur Geschichte der deutscken National'
ii/fera/ur {1B27), 5th cd., by K. U.irtsch, 6 vols., Leipzig, 1873-74 (vol. i. of a
sixth edition appeared in 1884) ; G. C. Gervinus, GeschichU der deutschen
Dichtung {\Zll - ifi\ 5th ed., by K. Bartsch, 5 vols., Leipzig, i87x-74; A. F.
C. Vilniar, Geschichte der dcutschen Nationaliitteratur (\%j^'B\ 24th ed., with a
continuation by A. Stem, Marburg, 1894 ; W. Wackrmagcl, Geschichte der
deutschen Litteratur (iB^S-ss), and cd., by E. Martin, lUslc, 1879-94 ; K.
Gocdeke, Grundriss tur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung (iQ^y-Si), and ed.,
Dresden, 1884 ff. (seven volumes have appeared) ; W. Scherer, Geschichte der
deutschen Littera(ur {1883), 9th ed., Berlin, 190a; F. Vogl and M. Koch,
Geschichte der deutschen Litteratur von den dUesten '/.titen bis xur Cegenwart,
L<tipzig. 1897 ; K. Francke, German Literature, as determined by Social Forces,
4tl» ed., New York, 1901. Cp. also J. KUrschncr, Deutsche A'ationa/tttteratur,
222 vols., StuttKarl, i88a-98 (referred to in the present volume as 1>.N.L.)

s Gtichichteder deutichtn Litteratur, 9th ed., x8 f.



INTRODUCTION. , xvii

zenith in 1200 was preceded by an earlier " Bliitezeit " of
unwritten literature, which reached its highest point about
600. Literary evolution, however, is too complicated a
phenomenon to be explained by laws simple as those which
Kepler applied to the planetary system ; in any case, Scherer's
first "period of flourishing" is only a hypothesis. (^Other
Germanic races, such as the Goths, had, as early as the
fourth century, acquired a certain facility of literary expres-
sion, and the Anglo-Saxon epic of Beowulf dates from the
seventh or eighth century; but, considering only the West
Germanic races of the continent — those which especially con-
cern us here — we possess but one fragment of a heroic lay, ^
the Hildebrandslied^ and a couple of pre-Christian charms, I
as a testimony to the nation's imagination previous to the J
Carlovingian epoch. y The themes of the German national
epic had originated, it is true, in the period of the Migra-
tions ; but whether the traditions had, in that age, taken a
fomi which could be described as literary, is open to doubt.

/^The Old High German period of German literature^ ex- The 01
tended from about 750 to 1050; but, as the chief literary Qefmai
remains date only from the ninth century, this epoch may, period,
roughly speaking, be said to lie between the age in which
Anglo-Saxon poetry flourished and the age of Anglo-Saxon
prose. It was essentially a period of monkish ascendancy, and
— if we except the epic poetry of the Saxons — the Germanic
imagination was held rigidly in check by Christianity^. In
the unequal battle between the World and the Church, the
former succumbed, and the Latin Renaissance of the eleventh
century finally crushed out the weak beginnings of a national
literature) Meanwhile, however, the Romance literatures of

1 Cp. J. Kelle, Geschichte dcr deutschen Litteratur, i (to the middle of the
eleventh century), Berlin, 1892; R. Koegel, Geschichte der deutschen Litieratur bis
zum Ausgatig des Mittelalters, i (in two parts), Strassburg, 1894-97; also R.
Koegel and W. Bruckner, in Paul's Grundriss der gcrmanischen Philologie,
2nd ed., 2, I, Strassburg, igor, 29 fF. ; W. Golther, Geschichte der deutschen
Litteratur von de?i ersten Anfdngcn biszum A usgang des Mittelalters (D.N.L.,
163, i), Stuttgart [1892].



XVlll INTRODUCTION.

the South and West of Europe^ were developing more
rapidly than those of the North. AVhile, early in the twelfth
century, Germany was still engaged in freeing herself from
monastic asceticism, and England was being remodelled by the
Normans, French singers were composing the first national
chansons, the lyric of the troubadours was flourishing in Prov-
cace, and the Poema del Cid had taken shape in Spainy
/ The revival of German poetry — now known as Middle High
uerman ^ — was late in setting in, but when it did come, it
advanced with all the more rapidity. In the coursj^ C)f Jhe.
twelfth century, the iron rule of the Church began to yield,
worldly themes ^ook the place of religious legends as subjects
for poetry, and wandering singers or "Spielleute" became
a factor of importance. Had German literature been left
wholly to itself, its history in the thirteenth century might
possibly have been analogous to that of Ehglish literature of
the same period ; but, towards the close of the twelfth cen-
tury, German poets came under the influence of their French
contemporaries, and, within a few decades. Middle High
German literature had far outstripped all its neighbours.
The Arthurian epic became in Germany, what it already was
in France, the chosen form of courtly romance, and the
national sagas were remodelled under the stimulus of the new
ideals : even the German lyric was indebted to Provencal
singers. Thus, it might be said that the zenith of Middle
HTgTT German poetry fell a little later than that of medieval
literature in France, and a full century before French chivalric
literature awakened an echo in England.
( Middle High German poetry was exposed to the same
causes of decay as those to which all pre- Renaissance litera-

» < p. I'. Khull, Geschkhte der alldeutschen Dichtuui,', Graz, 1886; K Vogt
in Paul's iirundriss der germanischen Pkilologit^ and ed., a, i, Stnissburg,
190 1, 161 ff. The beginning of the period is discussed by J. Kellc in liis
CeichUhic der dcutschen I.itteratur^ 2, Berlin, 1896, and in W. Scherer,
Gesehichte der deutscken OichtuHs^ im 11. ««</ ta. Jahrkmndert {QuelUn ukd
I-'onchunjien, 13). Stnissbur};. 1875, an«! Geistluhe PotUn der dtutscken Kaiser^
zeit (same series, x and 7). Strussburg, 1874-75.



INTRODUCTION. XlX

\

tures were subject ; in Germany, as elsewhere, the change
which came over medieval society — the disappearance of
knighthood and the rise of the middle classes; ^;^ left deep
traces on literature : verse yielded ..to prose, relative form
to formlessness, and the naive art of the ^ourtly:_singers te
didacti cism a nd satire . But there was also another reason
for the rapid decay of what was the richest, because the
most concentrated, of all medieval literatures. .The Middle^__
High German period was, as will be seen, almo§t_exclusiye]y.
an epoch of poetry ; Germany had no prose writers, no Ville-
hardouin or Joinville, no Duns Scotus or Roger Bacon ; she
had only poets, neither thinkers nor historians, and before the
thirteenth century had reached its close, her literature, like
a plant without adequate roots, had withered away. And in
the following century — the fourteenth — when Italy could point
to Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, when, in France, the long
age of medieval romance was followed by a period of satire
and allegory, and English poetry was steadily advancing,
towards the poetic efflorescence associated with Chaucer,
^ermany fell back into comparative darkness ; her writers
appealed only to the crass tastes of the people. /Not, indeed,
"until after the early Italian Renaissance and the culture of
the Humanists^ had spread beyond the Alps, did the Ger-
mans begin to do what their neighbours had done before
them, namely, to establish universities and thus lay a solid
basis for a national literature. At a time when Froissart was
writing French history, and Wyclif was fighting for reforma-



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