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ages, still bright and balmy, if we visit it; and opening into the first History of Europe, of Mankind. Thus all is not oblivion ; but on the edge of the abyss, that separates the Old world from the New, there hangs a fair Rainbow-land; which also, in curious repetitions of itself (twice over, say the critics), as it were in a secondary and even a ternary reflex, sheds some feeble twilight far into the deeps of the primeral Time.

GERMAN LITERATURE OF THE FOURTEENTH

AND FIFTEENTH CENTURIES.1

[1831.]

It is not with Herr Soltau's work, and its merits or demerits, that we here purpose to concern ourselves. The old LowGerman Apologue was already familiar under many shapes ; in versions into Latin, English and all modern tongues : if it now comes before our German friends under a new shape, and they can read it not only in Gottsched's prosaic Prose, and Goethe's poetic Hexameters, but also in the metre of the original, namely, in Doggerel ; and this, as would appear, not without comfort, for it is the second edition ;' doubtless the Germans themselves will look to it, will direct Herr Soltau aright in his praiseworthy labours, and, with all suitable speed, forward him from his second edition into a third. To us strangers the fact is chiefly interesting, as another little memento of the indestructible vitality there is in worth, however rude ; and to stranger Reviewers, as it brings that wondrous old Fiction, with so much else that holds of it, once more specifically into view.

The Apologue of Reynard the Fox ranks undoubtedly among the most remarkable Books, not only as a German, but, in all senses, as a European one; and yet for us perhaps its extrinsic, historical character is even more noteworthy than its intrinsic. In Literary History it forms, so

1 FOREIGN QUARTERLY REVIEW, No. 16. Reinecke der Fuchs, übersetzt von D. W. Soltau (Reynard the Fox, translated by D. W. Soltau). 2d edition, 8vo. Lüneburg, 1830.

to speak, the culminating point, or highest manifestation of a Tendency which had ruled the two prior centuries : ever downwards from the last of the Hohenstauffen Emperors, and the end of their Swabian Era, to the borders of the Reformation, rudiments and fibres of this singular Fable are seen, among innumerable kindred things, fashioning themselves together ; and now, after three other centuries of actual existence, it still stands visible and entire, venerable in itself, and the enduring memorial of much that has proved more perishable. Thus, naturally enough, it figures as the representative of a whole group that historically cluster round it; in studying its significance, we study that of a whole intellectual period.

As this section of German Literature closely connects itself with the corresponding section of European Literature, and indeed offers an expressive, characteristic epitome thereof, some insight into it, were such easily procurable, might not be without profit. No Literary Historian that we know of, least of all any in England, having looked much in this direction, either as concerned Germany or other countries, whereby a long space of time, once busy enough and full of life, now lies barren and void in men's memories, here endeavour to present, in such clearness as first attempts may admit, the result of some slight researches of our own in regard to it.

The Troubadour Period in general Literature, to which the Swabian Era in German answers, has, especially within the last generation, attracted inquiry enough; the French have their Raynouards, we our Webers, the Germans their Haugs, Gräters, Langs, and numerous other Collectors and Translators of Minnelieder ; among whom Ludwig Tieck, the foremost in far other provinces, has not disdained to take the lead. We shall suppose that this Literary Period is partially known to all readers. Let each recall whatever he has learned or figured regarding it; represent to himself that brave young heyday of Chivalry and Minstrelsy, when a stern Barbarossa, a stern Lion-heart, sang sirventes, and

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with the hand that could wield the sword and sceptre twanged the melodious strings; when knights-errant tilted, and ladies' eyes rained bright influences; and suddenly, as at sunrise, the whole Earth had grown vocal and musical. Then truly was the time of singing come ; for princes and prelates, emperors and squires, the wise and the simple, men, women and children, all sang and rhymed, or delighted in hearing it done. It was a universal noise of Song; as if the Spring of Manhood had arrived, and warblings from every spray, not indeed without infinite twitterings also, which, except their gladness, had no music, were bidding it welcome.

This was the Swabian Era ; justly reckoned not only superior to all preceding eras, but properly the First Era of German Literature. Poetry had at length found a home in the life of men ; and every pure soul was inspired by it; and in words, or still better, in actions, strove to give it utterance. •Believers,' says Tieck, sang of Faith ; Lovers of Love ;

Knights described knightly actions and battles ; and loving, 'believing knights were their chief audience. The Spring, • Beauty, Gaiety, were objects that could never tire ; great duels and deeds of arms carried away every hearer, the more surely the stronger they were painted ; and pillars and dome of the Church encircled the flock, so did

Religion, as the Highest, encircle Poetry and Reality; and every heart, in equal love, humbled itself before her.'1

Let the reader, we say, fancy all this, and moreover that, as earthly things do, it is all passing away. And now, from this extreme verge of the Swabian Era, let us look forward into the inane of the next two centuries, and see whether there also some shadows and dim forms, significant in their kind, may not begin to grow visible. Already, as above indicated, Reinecke de Fos rises clear in the distance, as the goal of our survey: let us now, restricting ourselves to the German aspects of the matter, examine what may lie between.

1 Minnelieder aus dem Schwäbischen Zeitalter. (Vorrede, x.)

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Conrad the Fourth, who died in 1254, was the last of the Swabian Emperors; and Conradin his son, grasping too early at a Southern Crown, perished on the scaffold at Naples in 1268 ; with which stripling, more fortunate in song than in war, and whose death, or murder, with fourteen years of other cruelty, the Sicilian Vespers so frightfully avenged, the imperial line of the Hohenstauffen came to an end. Their House, as we have seen, gives name to a Literary Era ; and truly, if dates alone were regarded, we might reckon it much more than a name. For with this change of dynasty, a great change in German Literature begins to indicate itself; the fall of the Hohenstauffen is close followed by the decay of Poetry ; as if that fair flowerage and umbrage, which blossomed far and wide round the Swabian Family, had in very deed depended on it for growth and life; and now, the stem being felled, the leaves also were languishing, and soon to wither and drop away. Conradin, as his father and his grandfather had been, was a singer; some lines of his, though he died in his sixteenth year, have even come down to us; but henceforth no crowned poet, except, long afterwards, some few with cheap laurel-crowns, is to be met with : the Gay Science was visibly declining. In such times as now came, the court and the great could no longer patronise it; the polity of the Empire was, by one convulsion after another, all but utterly dismembered ; ambitious nobles, a sovereign without power ; contention, violence, distress, everywhere prevailing. Richard of Cornwall, who could not so much as keep hold of his sceptre, not to speak of swaying it wisely; or even the brave Rudolf of Hapsburg, who manfully accomplished both these duties, had other work to do than sweet singing. Gay Wars of the Wartbury were now changed to stern Battles of the Marchfeld; in his leisure hours a good Emperor, instead of twanging harps, must hammer from his helmet the dints it had got in his working and fighting hours." Amid such rude

1 It was on this famous plain of the Marchfeld that Ottocar, King of Bohemia, conquered Bela of Hungary, in 1260; and was himself, in 1278,

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