Under der linden – English

I know I usually write about German literature being from the middle ages (I’m a bit obsessed, what can I say?); it’s kind of a habit. So if you want to read auf Deutsch, that’s the German version link to this post. I’ve been reading a lot of medieval German literature though, and thus goes the theme of my German-related writing at the moment.

So, I’ve written about Minnesänger before. I like them, I like that style. And one of the most famous of the group (arguably the most famous) is Walther von der Vogelweide. I heard that name long before I ever studied his work or anything that he had written or anything to do with Middle High German literature or even that time period. So, suffice to say that at least from an American college perspective on medieval German literature: he’s vastly important and famous.

His piece “Under der linden” is particularly famous, or at least among my American studies.

Middle High German

Under der linden
an der heide,
dâ unser zweier bette was,
dâ muget ir vinden
schône beide
gebrochen bluomen unde gras.
Vor dem walde in einem tal,
schône sanc diu nahtegal.

Ich kam gegangen
zuo der ouwe,
dô was mîn friedel komen ê.
Dâ wart ich enpfangen,
hêre frouwe,
daz ich bin sælic iemer mê.
Kuster mich? Wol tûsentstunt:
seht, wie rôt mir ist der munt.

Dô het er gemachet
alsô rîche
von bluomen eine bettestat.
Des wirt noch gelachet
kumt iemen an daz selbe pfat.
Bî den rôsen er wol mac,
merken, wâ mirz houbet lac.

Daz er bî mir læge,
wessez iemen
(nû enwelle got!), sô schamt ich mich.
Wes er mit mir pflæge,
niemer niemen
bevinde daz, wan er und ich,
und ein kleinez vogellîn –
daz mac wol getriuwe sîn.

I particular enjoy this one. It’s not too difficult for me to understand, not with my knowledge of modern, Standard High German. And I’ll admit I’m a sucker for anything I can easily understand (or at least with minimal effort). Low hanging fruit and all that jazz, or so goes one argument.

But that’s not the only reason. Sure, easy reading makes for more time spent analyzing. But the real reason I like this: I’m a bit of a romantic at heart (or so I like to tell myself to assuage my cold, icy heart). I have a soft spot for this type of literature, because it is all so sappy and loving…and ridiculously cloying. If someone were to talk like this to me, I’d hate it.

But when it comes to literature: nope. I love this kind of stuff. Which is a bit amusing, really. Still, I suppose everyone has that thing or two they like just for aesthetics, even if it is totally impractical and useless in daily life.

This is a modern version translation by Raymond Oliver. It’s poetic, which suits the mode of the original. And definitely gets the point across quite well; fits the whole theme and style in how it is presented.

Modern German

Under the lime tree
On the heather,
Where we had shared a place of rest,
Still you may find there,
Lovely together,
Flowers crushed and grass down-pressed.
Beside the forest in the vale,
Sweetly sang the nightingale.

I came to meet him
At the green:
There was my truelove come before.
Such was I greeted —
Heaven’s Queen! —
That I am glad for evermore.
Had he kisses?
A thousand some:
See how red my mouth’s become.

There he had fashioned
For luxury
A bed from every kind of flower.
It sets to laughing
Whoever comes upon that bower;
By the roses well one may,
Mark the spot my head once lay.

If any knew
He lay with me
(May God forbid!), for shame I’d die.
What did he do?
May none but he
Ever be sure of that — and I,
And one extremely tiny bird,
Who will, I think, not say a word.

Happy Reading!

Text from Raymond Oliver here.


Posted by

I'm a bibliophile who loves collecting books. Definite cat person. Amateur historian and major geek, who loves all things Tolkien and Star Trek. I'm also fluent in German.

One thought on “Under der linden – English

  1. I had to study Walther’s works and the Icelandic “Edda” at school – and it immediately put me off. Now however I find Medievsl literature extraordinarily beautiful. My next stop will be the legend of “Tristan et Yseult” in an early French edition. 😄


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