Minnesang

The Minnesang (Middle High German – minne = love) is the German courtly love poem of the 12th to 14th century. The German equivalent to the Provencal troubadors, the minnesingers were the writers and performers of the Minnesang. The verse was cultivated by the nobility, and often built around the theme of a brave knight’s attempt to court a lady who doesn’t return his favor. This stanzaic form was influenced by the Canzone and other poetic works that these poet-performers picked up in their travels. The Minnesang was meant to be sung but the melodies were not well documented and mostly only lyrics are left.

The defining features of the Minnesang are:
• stanzaic, written in uniform stanzas although the number of lines in the stanza per poem is variable, sixains were popular.
• metric, often iambic tetrameter with the last line of each stanza a longer Germanic line, iambic heptameter or octameter.
• rhymed, variable rhyme schemes were used, ababcc was common another was abbcaa dxd x being unrhymed.

Here is the 1st 2 stanzas of a Minnesang written by Albrecht von Johansdorf and translated into English which I found at a website for Emory College.

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Ich vant âne huote
die vil minneclîchen stân.
sâ dô sprach diu guote
“waz welt ir sô eine her gegân?”
“frouwe, ez ist alsô geschehen.”
“saget, war umbe sît ir her? des sult ir mir verjehen.”

“Mînen senden kumber
klage ich iu, vil liebe frouwe mîn.”
“wê, waz saget ir tumber?
ir mugt iuwer klage wol lâzen sîn.”
“frouwe, ichn mac ir niht enbern.”
“sô wil ich in tûsent jâren niemer iuch gewern.”

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I found my lady all alone,
standing without a chaperone.
She said, so only I could hear,
“What do you think you’re doing here?”
“Dear Lady, I just happened by.”
“Don’t lie to me, and don’t hold back, but tell me why!”

“My pain and longing come from you;
complain is all I ever do.”
“Alas, you stupid man, you’d best
leave off complaining; let it rest.”
“Without you, Lady, I can’t live.”
“My favors in a thousand years I’ll never give.”

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Pasted from <http://www.poetrymagnumopus.com/index.php?showtopic=1900>
My thanks to Judi Van Gorder for years of work on this fine PMO resource

German and Austrian Poetic Forms:

Bar Form, Dinggedicht, Goliardic VerseKnittelvers, Minnesang, Nibelungen,Schuttelreim

My example

Serve King and Heart (Minnesang)

I have a tale that I must tell
although I know it’s not unique,
about my love for Abigail
and for her sister Dominique.
I’ve known them both since we were youths;
Our families served the court and catered to the King’s own truths.

l left the castle to engage
in training duty would require;
returned at four-teen years of age.
a well regarded kingdom squire.
I saw both girls then frequently –
their teen-age beauty was extolled. I kissed them secretly.

Quickly beknighted by the King
my prowess so esteemed in games,
my physicality the thing
quite feared by men- admired by dames.
In tournaments I had to choose
whose favors to accept each game and I would never lose.

Oh how I longed for Abigail
but family motives barred our way.
Her father raised most holy hell
when favored on my lance one day.
The King by then had eyes on her
as paramour (how can the man be blamed? It would occur.

Some contact though with her was cleared
I didn’t even have to ask;
the King would use me for his beard
to escort Abby to the masque.
She warmed me when we twirled and bowed
She warned me though she shared my heat, no love could be allowed.

“Please wed my sister, Dominique,
she loves you as I do dear knight,
then for her safety you’d bespeak
when soon our King sends you to fight.”
I loved them both, I have to say
the politics of power in this case worked out okay.

© Lawrencealot – November 15, 2014

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