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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
______________________________________
Der Bucherbund

By Elsa D'Esterre-Keeling.
Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 821-831


XI. FABLE, DIDACTIC POETRY, AND SATIRE.

Very young children, even when very clever, do not sneer, and the same is true of very young nations. Song, which precedes prose, precedes satire, which is of the nature of prose, even when wrapt up in rime, and the early satirists of all nations are rimesters. As we know, poetry began in Germany with the Gotterepos, which was followed by the Heldenepos. This in its turn was followed by the Thierepos--beast-epie--which wonderful thing is the earliest form of German satire. The priests of the tenth century busied themselves with satirical animal-painting in words, and fragments of beast allegory were the result. In these the Latin language was employed, and, instead of the plain German name of Reinecke Fuchs, we have theses most singular and choice epithets, Echasis Captivi, Reinardus, Isengrinus. The first German epic version of Reynard the Fox (in its origin a French tale) appeared towards the close of the twelfth century, under the claptrap name of Isengrines Not. This was the work of an Alsatian, Heinrich der Glichesare, Henry the Glozer, and only portions of it have come down to our time. A century later another version of the story appeared, Reinhart Fuchs, by an unknown writer. The fifteenth century--in Germany, as in England, very barren in poetry--was rich in satire, and in it appeared a capital version in low German rime of the Dutch Reinaert. This poem was called Reinke de Vos, and opinions are divided as to whether Hermann Barkhusen or Nikolaus Baumann wrote it. It is a satire levelled at church and state, in which we are told sardonically of days in which dishonesty was such good policy that Reynard the rascal became Lord Chancellor. Here is a specimen of the old poem with the language modernized. Noble, the Lion, King of Beasts, proclaims an universal peace, and invites all the beasts to come to court.

*The reader will remember that German's great tragic epic was called "*der Nibelunge Noi."

Es war an einem Mayentag,
wie Blum' and Laub die knospen brach,
die Krauten sprossten.

It was upon a day in May,
When flow'r and leaf are on the spray,
And herbs are springing.

Beasts and birds, big and little, all things that walk, that creep, that fly, that run, come to Noble's court, except Reynard the Fox, who is in ill odour with the King. The many whom he has offended avail themselves of his absence to decry him, Hahn Hunning--Chanticleer--is especially bold in his laments, for Reynard has slain his daughter. "Bury her," says the King, "and then we will think of vengeance." The hen is buried, and the description of her burial is very pompous.

Als bald gebot er Jungen und Alten,

Vigilien bei der Leiche zu halten.
und kaum war das Gebot ergangen,
So ward Placebo angefangen,
Wer damals (ungern oder froh)
mit sang: Placebo Domino,
das zu erzählen war zu lang,
auch wer die Litaneyen sang
und Responsorien nach Gebühr;
darum bekurzen wir uns hier.
Man liess sie in die Gruft hinab,

und dann bedeckte man das Grab
mit eninem schonen Marmorstein,
geschliffen wie ein Glas so rein,
darauf war eine Schrift gehauen,
damit ein jeder konnte schauen
wer in der Gruft begraben lag;
Dieselbe Grabschrift also sprach;
Kratzfuss liegt hier der Hennen beste;
Stels fand man Eier in ihrem Beste.

He (the king) straightway bade both young and old,

A vigil by the corpse to hold.
The message far and near soon ran,
And the Placebo stright began.
Their names who sang (or glad or no)
The chant, Placebo Domino,
Were here too many for to tell,
And who the Litany made swell,
And each response did sing or say;--
We must make short our tale today,
They sink her in the tomb with praise,

And on the site a headstone raise;
Cut fine as glass, of marble 'tis,
And on it an inscription is,
In which is set forth, black on white,
Quite plain to everybody's sight,
Who in this grave doth buried lie;
And this is the epitaph they spy:--
"Scrape-foot here lies, of hens the best;;
We eggs found always in her nest.

This is not quite reverent, but it is too childish to be quite wicked. He who can frown at it without smiling must forego reading an old poem of which it may truly be said that it is

p823
merry and wise, the merriment laughing out of the lines, and the wisdom smiling between them.

Contemporary with the Thierepos, and enjoying large favor, there existed a species of short fable called bispel. Writers of bispel were der Strickare (the "knitter" doubtless a pseudonym) and Austrian poet who lived about 1240, the compiler of a collection of fables called Die Welt ("The World"), and Utrich Boner, a Swiss friar, who died about a century later (probably in 1349), first book printed in Germany. Very daring is old Stricker in some of his fables. In one of them he tells how a giant's wife hid behind beams in her roof twelve men who had lost their way in a wood. When the giant came home he spied them, and bade them come down. This they would not do, but threw down the weakest among them to appease the giant's anger; and then the next weakest, and then the next, and so on till there was only one of them left. Then the giant bad this one come down. "Never!" cried he, and vowed that he would fight while life was in him for his life. "You fight!" the giant sneered. "Why did you not fight when you had eleven men to help you?" And so saying he seized the lonely wight, and gobbled him, as he had gobbled the others.

"Thus does a bad mighty ruler," says the Stricker, quietly Moral: Every twelve men stick together.

Boner has a good tale, which tells of a knight and his son, the fine scholar.

Zur Schule sandt er ihn gen Pareis,
An Kunsten sollt er werden weis;
Mit grosser Kost er da was,
Doch er nicht eil der Bucher las.*

To school he sent him to far Parise,+
In arts he thought to make him wise;
At great cost he was there,
But he not much for books did care.

Meanwhile the knight though he must be becoming learned enough for a parson, and when the fine scholar came home:--

Sein Vater war unmaassen froh,
Grosse Wirthschaft macht er do;
Seine Freunde lud er alle gleich,
Mann, Frauen, Arm und Reich,
Die zusammen kamen dar:
Sie nahmen des Pffafen alle wahr;

His father was unmeasured glad,
Invited all the friends he had;
Al the people he did know,
Men, women, high and low;
Whosoever came that way,
Saw the parson on that day;

*The orthography is modernized.
+Parise; please pronounce to rime with "wise." The license, which is the same in "pares," is the German poet's, not mine.

p824
Seine Gebehrde waren klug,
Nach pfaffiglichen Sitten genug.

But, oh!

In derselben Frist
Gieng er von den Leuten aus,
Und stellt vor seins Vaters Haus,
Und schaute sehr den Himmel an,
Der Mond war gar schon aufgegahn,
Viel sehr saher sich um do,
Seine Freunde waren alle froh;
Sie wahnten alle dess sich Wesen,
Er hatt Astronomiam gelesen,
Und war ein Herr in hoher Kunst;
Doch war weder Witz nor Vernunft,
Da er den Mond ansach;
Er ging wieder hinein, und sprach:
Eines Dinges mich gross wunder nimmt,
Dess ich mich nicht hab geflissen sint,
Dass der Mond so gleich aufgaht,
Dem Monde, den ich in der Stadt
Zu Paris sah, das wundert mich;
Gen einander sind sie so gleich,
Es muss sein ein weiser Mann,
Der die zwei unterscheiden kann.

Out he went the folks before,
And stood beneath his father's door,
And to the heavens up looked he;
The moon had risen, fair to see;
He looked about as there he stood,
His friends were all in happy mood,
For certes thought they all, I wis,
A fine astronomer is this;
A master he of all the arts;--
But neither wit he had nor parts.
When he the moon had seen,
He said, with earnest mien,--
One thing surprises me,
How may it, quotha, be
That here the moon doth rise
Like that which in the skies
At Paris I did see?
They're quite alike to me.
He would be wise, I trow,
Who'd one from t'other know.

The knight is of course abased to the earth by this exhibition of fatuity, but he carries it off with a homily addressed to the company present. From it I select the following lines as significant, and as showing that Rome is not the only place in the world whence a man may return to his home a greater fool than he was when he left it.

Wer von Natur ist ungesinnt,
Und minder Witz hat, denn ein kind,
Den mag die Schule zu Paris
An sinnen nimmer machen weis.
Ist er ein Esel und ein Gauch,
Dasselb ist er zu Paris auch.

Who is by nature dense and dull,
And no more sense has than a fool
Him all the scholars of Parise
Will never learned make or wise;
If he an ass is and a clown,
He'll be the same in Paris town.

The knight's language is a little strong, but certainly he was provoked. Think of all the hopes he had built upon his son, the fine scholar!

Other forms of satire were not lacking. In Pfaffe Amis, by the Stricker, the adventures of a priest are made the subject of much mirth, and in Meier Helmbrecht, by Wernher der Gartenare, an Austrian gardener-poet, who lived contemporaneously with the Stricker, an ambitious peasant is ridiculed. The peasant made a very good butt, and is again the theme of merciless mockery with Nedihart, who in these days of the decline of Minnegesang,* made the word dorperheit (villager-hood) a term of opprobrium, and won for himself the name of Bauerfeind, the peasants' foe. The nobles, however, in their turn, met with rough treatment from Hugo von Trimberg,the schoolmaster-satirist, who died in 1309, and who has won fame through the lands (rennen durch die lant) and, consequently, called "Der Renner." In it he made rare sport of gentle-folk and gentle follies, here and there, moreover, telling a pretty tale most prettily. Thus he tells of the man who lay sick to death, and bequeathed to his son a silver coin, bidding him give it to the "greatest fool in any land." The son waited, and years went by, in the course of which no fool that he heard of seemed to him great enough to deserve the coin. At last, however, he was told of a land in which a new king was chosen every year. This king, during his twelve months' reign, might do as he pleased in everything, but at the end of that short time had to lay his head upon the block to make way for a new king. And men were found ready to do this;--here were fools indeed! The owner of the silver coin went to the coronation of the king, and bestowed on him the coin as a coronation gift.

Clever as Trimberg and other satirists of his time were, none of them approached in brilliancy Johann Fischart, a native of Mainz, who died, too young, in 1589, and whose Geschicht-klitterung (History-Scribble), dealing with the adventures of those notable heroes Gargantua and Pantagruel, is so freely imitiated from Rabelais as to be excellently German, while his "Gluckhafft Schiff von Zurich" (Lucky Ship of Zurich) tells so well what may be done by "courage, zeal and love of country" that it makes pleasant reading at this day. If any ask what may be done with the aid of these three qualities, the answer given by Fischart is that a party of bowmen may go by ship from Zurich to Strassburg in a day, and find their kettle of furmenting still warm at their journey's end. And then they can take part in a Strassburg shooting-match. Fischart could be wise and witty, and sometimes could be very serious. His rules for man and wife are excellent.

*Neidhart was the contemporary of the Stricker and Wernher.

Ein Mann soll nicht ein Sturmwind sein,
Der im Haus einstmals alls werf ein,
Sondern brauchen der Sonnen Witz,
Die allgemach wirkt durch jr Hitz

Wenn er schreiet,
Sie nur schweiget,
Schweigt er dann,
Redt sie jn an.....
Tobt er aus Grimm
So weicht sie jm,
Ist er wutig,
So ist sie gutig,
Mault er aus Grimm,
Redt sie ein jm.
Er ist der Sonn,*
Sie ist der Min;
Sie ist die Nacht,
Er hat Tays macht.

That a house ruins utterly,
But be wise as the sunbeams are,
That do by heat work from afar

If he riot,
She be quiet;
When he's meek,
Let her then speak . . .
Wrathful if he,
Distant keep she
Vexed when his mood,
Look she be good;
Sulky if he,
Softly speak she.
He is the sun,
She is the moon;
She is the night,
He has day's might.

Not that according to Fischart, she is powerless.

Was von der Sonnen
Am Tag ist verbronnen
Das kuhlt die Nacht
Durch des Mons Macht.

What the sun's ray
Parched hat at day,
Cooleth at night
By the moon's light.

Upon occasion she is to speak;

Eingesheid Frau lasst den Mann wol wüten
Aber dafur soll sie sich huten
Dass sie ihn niht lang maulen lasse

A wife's that's wise lets her husband rage,
But look she to it, if she be sage,
That not too long she let him glower,+
But use with him her gentle power,
And in a pleasing, friendly way,
What's in his heart win him to say.

Perhaps no form of satire was more popular in Reformation days than the Fable. Luther himself had translated some of Aesop's fables, and his disciples Burkhard Waldis and Alberus

*Notice the gender here given to "Sonn" (sun).
+Mauten, sulk, is the undignified German word.

p 827
both wrote fables. Rollenhagen, the pupil of Melanchthon, who died in 1609, wrote the clever Froschmausler, in which is described the wonderful court of the frogs and mice. The plan of this work is thought to have been taken from Homer's Batrachomyomachia.

The didactic, the humorous, and the satirical had gradually been finding their way into all species of poetry. There had been moralising in the days of Kunstepos in the works of Rudolf von Ems; such works as "Barlaam", dealing with an Indian Prince who is instructed in Christianity by a hermit, and "Good Gerhart," telling of a merchant of Cologne, whose character was so noble that Otto the Great took it for his model. There had been didactic poems contemporary with Minnegesang; such are "Der Winsbeck+" and Die Winsbeckin," in the former of which a knight instructs his son not quite in the manner of Chesterfield, and in the latter of which a lady instructs her daughter not quite in the manner of Madame Sevigne. Compare with the letters of the brilliant Englishman the following sweet stanzas of the mediaeval German Knightt.++

Sohn, merke: wie das Kerzenlicht,
Die weil es brennet, schwindet gar,
Ingleichen gaz awch dir geschicht
Von Tag zu Tag;--ich sag dir wahr.
Und richte hier dein Leben so
Dass deine Seele dort wohl fahr.--
Wie hoch an Gut wird auch dein Nam'
Dir fulgt von dannen nichts, denn nur,
Ein leinen Tuch fur deine Scham.

Sohn, willst du zieren deinen Leib,
So dass er sei dem Unfug gram,
So lieb und ehre gute Weib',
Alle Sorgen scheuchen sie tugendsam.

Son, mark thou how the taper's light
The while it burneth dies away.
The same, alack! is thy strange plight,
From hour to hour, 'tis truth I say.
Then fashion here thy life thou so
That thy freed soul may find the day.--
How high soe'er men prize thy name,
Thou naught canst take with thee, save this,--
A linen cloth to cover shame.

Son, if thou wouldst be happy here,
And from all evil wouldst be free,
Good women love thou and revere,
All sorrows banish they godlily.

*Died 1254.
+This work appeared about 1230.
++Nothing is known of the author of "Der Winsbecke," but one likes to think he was the knight, which some think he only posed as being. The extract which follows is of course modernized as regards orthography.

p828
Sie sind der wonniglichte Stamn
Von dem wir alle sind geboren.
Der hat nicht Zucht noch rechte Scham
Der solches nicht an ihnen preis't;
Er ist zu rechnen zu den Thorne,
Und hatt er Salomonis Geist.

The good stem they from whence we came,
To be our mothers they are fitted;
He has not breeding nor true shame
Who speaketh of them aught unkind,
He is, good sooth, but hollow-witted,
An had he Solomon's own mind.

"Der Walsche Gast" (Italian Stranger) is another old German didactic poem, and is one of the many proofs that there is nothing new under the sun, for in it, long before Tennyson had told us that "tis only noble to be good," or Burns had penned that idea about the guinea-stamp, or Pope had distinguished between "the man" and "the fellow", even before Chaucer had bid us look out for him who

"Most entendith aye
To do the gentil dedes that he can

and
Tak him for the greatest gentilman,"

Thomas von Zirkearern* had written the following brave words on nobility:--

*Thirteenth century poet. The poem is modernised.

Ist einer noch so hoch geboren,
Der Herzen-Adel hat verloren,
So sage ich euch wohl fürwahr:
Er schandet seine Abkunft gar....
Dass er auch hoch und edel thu!
Und so er sich nicht zwingt dazu,
So trifft ihn nur des Vorwurfs mehr;
Sein Adel mindert seine Ehr'.
Es wundert mich auch wahrlich sehr,
Wie nur ein tüchtiger Mann begehr',
Auf seiner Ahnen adlig Thun
Sich stolz etwas zu Got zu Thun...
Vom Vater her ist jeder Mann,
Geadelt, wer's verstehen kann:
Wer seine Abkunft stets im Sinn,
Der hat den Adel immerhin.
Denn die sind alle Gottes kind,
Die seinein Worte folgsam sind,

How high soever one be born,
If heart's nobility he scorn,
I this will tell him to his face,
He doth his origin disgrace....
Let him what's high and noble do!
If he himself not force thereto,
Let him not look for tenderness;
His title makes his honour less.
'Tis strange.--This truth I'll dare to speak,
That any honest man should seek
To make men honour him because
His father's father noble was.
His father's child is every man,
Ennobled; understand who can.
His origin who keeps in view,
Like any earl is noble too.
For, are we not God's children all,
Who are obedient to his call?

Und were misachtet sein Gebot,
Der hat den Adel, der ihm Gott
Ver lieh'n, durch eig'ne Schuld verloren,
Und hat freiwillig sich erkoren
Den einz'gen Stand, der niedrig ist....
Der Adligste zu jeder Frist,
Ist der, der wirklich edel ist
Und wie ich auch gesagt zur Zeit,
Recht thun ist rechte Höflichkeit....

He only who ignores his nod
Has lost the title which from God
He won, and hath himself to blame
For having chose, to his shame,
The only rank that lowly is....
The noble man, say what folks may,
Is he who nobly does alway,
And true it is, believe you me,
Right actions make right courtesy.

In days when "Bescheidenheit" meant knowledge, the work of Freidank called "Bescheidenheit" was held a real fount of wisdom, and was called "The Worldly Bible." The following is a pretty text from it:--

Ein Freund ist besser nahe bei,
Als in der Ferne der Freunde drei.

One friend is better near to me
Than in the distance are friends three.

Curious are these words on death:

Ein mancher eilt so sehr zum Grabe,
Als ob er sich verspätet habe;
Die Eile thale wenig not;
Er kame ganz bequem zum Tod.

I see men to their graves make speed,
As though they feared they were late, indeed.
Slack speed, I cry, and save your breath;
Quite softly you may come to death.

The time of "Meistergesang" was of course a time rich in didactic and satirical poetry. Hans Sachs, the master of all Master-Singers, himself wrote a work called Schlaraffenland (Lubberland), the mere title of which is a satire. The Priamel, in which the Master-Singer Rosenplut excelled, was essentially didactic. The word is from a Mediaeval Late word praeambulum, meaning proverb, and this species of poem consisted of proverbs or mottoes strung together, the last line being literally the clincher. I give a sample of the "Priamel" and have attached English doggerel to the German. It is a curious production which might be called "Love's Labour's Lost," and which belongs to the time at which Shakespeare gave to England the superb play so called:--

*Died about 1229.

Wer einen Raben will baden weiss,
Und darauf legt seinen ganzen Fleiss
Und an der Sonne Schnee will dorren,
Und allen Wind in einen Kasten sperren,
Und Ungluck will tragen feil
Und Narren binden an eil Seil
Und einen Kahlen will bechern--
Der tut auch unnutz Arbeit gern.

Whoso a raven would wash till white,
And thereat labours with all his might;
Whoso with a sunbeam snow would dry up.
And all the wind in a bag would tie up,
And ill-hap to sell doth hope,
And fools would bind to a rope,
And would a bald pate sheer,--
He labours in vain, 'tis clear.

This is not very brilliant and is hardly worthy of the language employed by one to whom we now come, Sebastian Brant, one of the cleverest of the world's satirists, the author of the "Narrenschiff" (Ship of Fools), which appeared in Basle in 1494, Brant being a German-Swiss. His clever satire was made by the famous preacher Geiler von Kaiserber*; the text of a series of discourses. In it we are told how a ship full of Narren (fools) sets out for Narragonia (Fool-land). The different follies of the voyagers are so marked as to be vices, and are mercilessly exposed. He who thinks himself a fool is not taken on board, the ship sailing off with 113 passengers, all wearing caps and bells, and among them Brant himself. He is the Book-Fool. The Money-Fool, the Dress-Fool, the Title-Fool, and the Old Fool are some of his co-voyagers.

Freezingly allegorical, while didactic, is the poem of "Teuerdank,"+ belonging to the early sixteenth century,++ in which we are told how Teuerdank wins Ehrenreich$, teh daughter of Ruhmreich#. Teuerdank proves his mettle by vanquishing mighty foes, among them Turwitting (Foolhardiness), Unfalo (ill-hap), and Neidelhar (Envy). A very moral poem this. It is, indeed, to borrow words from a most moral English poet, a continued allegory or dark conceit, which will seem displeasant to some who had rather have good discipline delivered plainly in way of precept, or sermoned at large, than thus cloudily enwrapt in allegorical devices. It may be added that much good discipline is delivered in all the writings of this time, so in the Schwanke (merry tales), Possen (farces), and Volksbucher (chap-books). In many of them, to speak the plain truth, the authors drop, rather too often, into sermonising at large.

----------------------

*Of him more in the next Bucherbund paper.
+The name means one whose thoughts (Gedanken) are bent on adventure (truer), and under the name is meant the Emperor Maximilian I.
++The Emperor Maximilian is believed to have planned the poem, the execution of which was the work of his secretary, Mechior Pfinzing.
$Ehrenreich, Rich in Honour, Mary of Burgundy.
#Ruhmreich, Rich-in-Glory, Charles the Bold.

------------------

Questions to be answered by Club Students.
(First Class Paper.)
1. Turn the description of the hen's burial into simple modern German prose.
2. Select ten verbal peculiarities from the poem of "The Fine Scholar," and comment on each in not less than three and not more than six lines.

(Second Class Paper.)
1. Write a short essay on fables expressing your views on what you know of the fable of Reynard the Fox. Name your three favorite fables.
2. Write comments on any five words in the poem of "The Fine Scholar."

Book of interest:--
Brant's "Narrenschiff" (Cheap Reclam Library, vols. 899 and 900.)


Typed October 2013