Hartmann von Aue
Lived from around 1165 to around 1215
Hartmann's Erec is the first Arthurian romance in German. Like his later Iwein, it tells of the conflict between the claims of love and the claims of chivalry. Erec marries Enite, but he is so uxorious that he neglects his knightly duties. Then, when he gets into trouble, he blames his wife. After many adventures, Erec finally learns mâze (moderation, self-restraint). The modern German for this is ‘das Maß’ = measure, moderation.
This is the tale of a ‘holy sinner’: Gregorius is the offspring of an incestuous union between brother and sister, who grows up to become Pope. The tale was adapted by Thomas Mann as Der Erwählte (literally The Chosen One, usually translated as The Holy Sinner).
Der arme Heinrich (The Poor Henry)
This poem is only 1500 lines in length. The nobleman Heinrich von Aue is struck by leprosy, and learns that the only cure is the heart’s blood of a virgin, given freely. A selfless virgin duly offers herself but when Heinrich sees her naked on the operating table, he asks the surgeon not to touch her. Heinrich is cured by the grace of God instead. There are different versions of the ending: either they marry or Heinrich becomes a monk. The following excerpt describes the life of a farmer:
Got hât dem meier gegeben
nâch sîner ahte ein reinez leben.
er hât ein erbeiten lîp
und ein wol werbendes wîp,
dar zuo hât er schœniu kint,
diu gar des mannes fröude sint
God has given to the farmer
according to his station a pure life
he has a body inured to toil
and a hard-working wife,
he also has fine children,
which are indeed a man's [pride and] joy
Iwein obtains permission from his wife, Laudine, to go away and participate in tournaments for a year, but fails to return at the appointed time. And so Laudine sends her lady in waiting, Lunete, to Arthur’s court in order to ask Iwein for her wedding ring back. Finally Iwein redeems himself and is reconciled with his wife. He also learns the great value of punctuality, and of keeping one’s word to one’s wife.
Swer an rehte güete Whoever turns his mind
wendet sîn gemüete, to true goodness,
dem volget sælde und êre. bliss and honour will follow him. (lines 1-3)
Francis G. Gentry (ed.), A Companion to the Works of Hartmann von Aue (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2004)
W. H. Jackson, Chivalry in Twelfth-Century Germany: The Works of Hartmann von Aue (Cambridge: Brewer, 1994)
Neil Thomas, ‘Hartmann’s Der arme Heinrich: Narrative Model and Ethical Implication’, Modern Language Review 90:4 (1995), 935-43
Website for Erec, giving access to the manuscript in Vienna, the Ambraser Heldenbuch