The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

German Literature

Page 13

Lest we fall 'neath the hammer!

Too oft we've heard with tremor,

How pitiably it grieves

The land so pure and holy

All helplessly and fearfully!

Jerusalem, weep lowly,

That thou forgotten art!

The heathen's boastful glory

Put thee in slavery hoary.

Christ, by thy name's proud story

In mercy take her part!

And help those sorely shaken

Who treaties them would maken

That we may not be taken

And conquered at the start.

-------Tr. by Kroeger.

When from the sod the flowerets spring,

And smile to meet the sun's bright ray,

When birds their sweetest carols sing,

In all the morning pride of May,

WWhat lovelier than the prospect there?

Can earth boast any thing more fair?

To me it seems an almost heaven,

So beauteous to my eyes that vision bright is given.

But when a lady chaste and fair,

Noble, and clad in rich attire,

Walks through the throng with gracious air,

As sun that bids the stars retire,---

Then, where are all thy boastings, May?

What has thou beautiful and gay,

Compared with that supreme delight?

We leave thy loveliest flowers, and watch that lady bright.

Wouldst thou believe me,---come and place

Before thee all this pride of May;

Then look but on my lady's face,

And which is best and brightest say:

For me, how soon (if choice were mine)

This would I take, and that resign,

And say, "Though sweet thy beauties, May,

I'd rather forfeit all than lose my lady gay!"

-------Tr. by Taylor.

The Minnesingers wrote many songs in praise of the Virgin. She was the embodiment of pure womanhood, their constant object of devotion. The following extracts are taken from a hymn to the Virgin, formerly attributed to Gottfried von Strassburg. It is one of the greatest of the Minnesongs. It consists of ninety-three stanzas, of which six are given.

Stanza 1.---

Ye who your life would glorify

And float in bliss to God on high,

There to dwell nigh

His peace and love's salvation;

Who fain would learn how to enroll

All evil under your control,

And rid your soul

Of many a sore temptation;

Give heed unto this song of love,

And follow its sweet story.

Then will its passing sweetness prove

Unto your hearts a winged dove

And upward move

Your souls to bliss and glory.

Stanza 12.----

Ye fruitful heavens, from your ways

Bend down to hear the tuneful lays

I sing in praise

Of her, the sainted maiden,

Who unto us herself has shown

A modest life, a crown and throne;

Whose love has flown

O'er many a heart grief-laden.

Thou too, O Christ, thine ear incline

To this my adoration,

In honor of that mother thine

Who ever blest must stay and shine,

For she's the shrine

Of God's whole vast creation.

Stanza 19.---

Thou sheen of flowers through clover place,

Thou lignum aloe's blooming face,

Thou sea of grace,

Where man seeks blessed landing.

Thou roof of rapture high and blest,

Through which no rain has ever passed,

Thou goodly rest,

Whose end is without ending.

Thou to help-bearing strength a tower

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