Neidhart


Neidhart
(ca. 1180–ca. 1240)
   The poetic generation after WALTHER VON DER VOGELWEIDE is clearly dominated by the Austro-Bavarian poet Neidhart (only in his poetry he calls himself, with tongue-in-cheek, von Reuenthal, or “of the dale of sorrow”). In his songs he mentions many names of places and towns in Austria, and there are references in his poems to Duke Frederick II of Austria (1230–46) as his patron, to political events in the 1230s, and to a Crusade. This Crusade could have been the expedition of Leopold of Austria in 1217 and 1218, or Emperor Frederick II’s Crusade in 1228 and 1229. WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH mentions Neidhart in his Willehalm epos (ca. 1220) as a well-known singer, whereas Wernher der Gartenære talks in his Meier Helmbrecht (ca. 1260–70) about Neid-hart as already dead. This gives us a framework for his life from ca. 1180/1190 to ca. 1240. The Manessische Liederhandschrift (ms. C, early 14th century) includes a fictionalized portrait of the poet standing between some peasants. Neidhart is famous for the introduction of two specific types of love songs, the Summer song and the Winter song.Whereas in the former the figure Neidhart is highly successful in winning the love of the country girls (by itself a grotesque parody of traditional COURTLY LOVE poetry), in the latter his economic woes prove to be his greatest hindrance as the rich peasant lads (many are named) are the clear winners in the competition for the village girls. Neidhart also offers remarkable motherdaughter dialogue poems, describes winter sport, formulates harsh criticism of peasants, and satirizes old women who display uncontrollable sexual desires. Neidhart projects humorous, but also very negative images of peasant life, but it seems that the true target of his criticism is the lower nobility, here cast in the image of peasants.Neidhart enjoyed tremendous popularity, documented not only by 25 manuscripts and three early-modern prints, but also by a large number of pseudo-Neidhart songs, grotesque and obscene verse novellas about the Neidhart figure, and Neidhart-Shrovetide plays from the later Middle Ages. Remarkably the melodies of many of his songs have been preserved in several 15th-century manuscripts.
   Bibliography
   ■ Shockey, Gary. “ ‘Gein wem solt ich mich zâfen?’: The Peasant Lady Speaks in Summer Lay 14 of Neidhart,” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 102, no. 4 (2001): 469–481.
   ■ Simon, Eckhard. Neidhart von Reuental. Boston: Twayne, 1975.
   ■ Traverse, Elizabeth. Peasants, Season and Werltsüeze: Cyclicity in Neidhart’s Songs Reexamined. Göppingen, Germany: Kümmerle, 1997.
   ■ Wießner, Edmiund, ed. Die Lieder Neidharts. Fortgeführt von Hanns Fischer. 4th rev. Edited by Paul Sappler. Altdeutsche Textbibliothek, 44. Tübingen, Germany: Niemeyer, 1984.
   Albrecht Classen

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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