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"The Crane, the Peacock, and the Reading of Walther von der Vogelweide 19,29"
Stephen L. Wailes
Modern Language Notes, 88:5 (October), 1973, 947-955
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"Walther's poem celebrating the patronage of Philip of Swabia is based on images of the crane and the peacock. ... The poem was written sometime between the death of Frederick in April, 1198, and Philip's festival in Magdeburg, Christmas, 1199. Explanation of the imagery in this poem has followed a tradition of medieval studies by seeking precedents and authorities. ... The only passage...brought forward in 140 years of scholarship which antedates the poem and provides a reasonable parallel comes from the first book of 'De bestiis et aliis rebus,' attributed to Hugh of Folieto... There is no reason to think that Walther knew Hugh's treatise on birds itself, but is there any evidence that the ideas of the treatise were sufficiently widespread to allow the assumption that Walther and his audience knew them? To answer this question one must read a good deal of medieval animal lore. I have reviewed Pliny, Eustathius (the translator of Basil), Hrabanus Maurus, Hildegard von Bingen, Guillaume le Clerc, Richard de Fournival, Pierre le Picard, the anonymous Bestiaire d'amour rime, the Physiologus (Latin and German), Bartholomaeus Anglicus, Arnoldus Saxo, Thomas of Cantimpré, Vincent of Beauvais, and Albertus Magnus. ...Having cleared away from the poem the unhelpful texts which have been used to explain it, we find the imagery original, coherent, and subtle. Though it is true that traditional lore about animals was often incorporated into medieval literature, such lore is not automatically pertinent to all instances of animals as medieval poetic devices. When the poet is a man of Walther's creativity, it is only just and prudent that we scrutinze his work as closely as we would a poem of the present day before we resort to explanations based on usages in other texts. There is nothing conventional, yet nothing forced, in the fresh images of birds used by Walther to convey his good fortune and bad, for the subject was his own life and the birds were chosen as personal symbols by this poet von der Vogelweide." - author

Language: English

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