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Walter von der Vogelweide

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Walther von der Vogelweide lived from 1170 to 1230. Belonging to the lower ranks of the nobility known as the ministerialis (etymological source of the word “minstrel”), he owned neither land nor title and traveled across the German lands, performing his songs for a living. In the middle of a civil war when Germany was torn into antagonistic states and factions, Walther dreamed of a united German realm under one Emperor, and many of his songs convey his vision of political harmony and idealism. But he was also a “people’s poet”, and his many years on the road gave him the taste of the true folk spirit and tradition. He composed many folk songs himself, they were widely remembered, sung, and copied in manuscript form. Walther’s greatness lies in the fact that he did not allow himself to be limited to the form of a typical Minnesang. Abandoning the stilted formulas, he went beyond the conventional theme of pure love - a disconnected ideal which no one could relate to - and wrote instead of his own feelings, thoughts, and concerns, at the same time reviving the lyrical quality of the German language itself. His songs are thus very individual and come from the heart, whether they are meditations on the global issues of humanity, or naughty little folk songs (“Under der Linden”). Perhaps his most famous song is the so-called “Palastinalied” (“Alrerst lebe ich mir verde…”), written in 1228 in honor of -and about- the Crusades.

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  • wisbech

    Please suggest correction to Walther von der Vogelweide!

    15 Feb 2012 Reply
  • mediaevalia

    Unter Mediaevisten schreibt sich Walther mit th!

    20 Dec 2007 Reply

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