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Konrad of Würzburg
A Middle High German poet, b. about 1230; d. at Basle, 1287. He was the most important of the romancers that followed the three great masters of the Middle High German epic. His especial model was Gottfried von Strassburg. He lived mostly at Strasburg and Basle. Like Gottfried he was of burgher rank and hence is called Meister, not Her. His poems consist of metrical romances, minnesongs, and Sprüche or sayings. Among his epics his "Schwanritter" is a version of the well-known Lohengrin legend. It is preserved only in fragmentary form and is based indirectly on the French poem "Chevalier au Cygne". In this version the Grail does not figure at all. Other short narrative poems are "Otto mit dem Barte" (Otto with the Beard), the story of the knight Heinrich von Kempten, and the famous "Herzemäre" (Tale of a Heart), a fantastic tale of knightly loyalty and love. A more ambitious effort is "Engelhart", one of those extravagant stories of friendship so popular in the Middle Ages. For his lengthy epics Konrad used French sources. The "Partonopier", written probably about 1277, is based on the French romance of Denis Pyramus, and has for its subject the loves of the knight Partonopeus and the fairy Meliur. The bulky epic on the Trojan War is is based on Benoit de St. More's "Roman de Troie", with additions from Ovid. It contains upwards of 50,000 verses, but not all of them are Konrad's own. The costumes and atmosphere are not at all antique but thoroughly medieval. Besides these epics Konrad wrote also poems of allegorical or legendary content. "Der Werlte Lön" (The World's Reward) is an allegory showing the vanity of things worldly. From Latin sources Konrad composed epics on the legends of St. Alexis, Pantaleon, and Pope Sylvester, also stories of asceticism and martyrdom. His most important religious poem is in honour of the Blessed Virgin, entitled "Die goldene Schmiede" (The Golden Forge). The poet conceives himself as a smith who is working a precious ornament for the Virgin out of epithets and attributes. Another allegorical poem in strophes, called "Klage der Kunst" (Complaint of Art), laments the decay of taste for poetry. There is little originality in Konrad's work; its chief merit lies in in its technical perfection. The "Partonopier", together with songs and sayings, was edited by Bartsch (Vienna, 1874); the "Schwanritter" by Roth (Frankfort, 1861); "Kaiser Otto" and "Herzemäre" by Lambel in his "Erzählungen und Schwänke" (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1883); "Der Werlte Lön", by Roth (Frankfort, 1843); "Engelhart" by Haupt (Leipzig, 1844); "Die goldene Schmiede" by W. Grimm (Berlin, 1840); "Silvester" by the same (Göttingen, 1841); the "Trojanischer Krieg" by A. von Keller (Stuttgart, 1858).
See the introduction to GRIMM'S edition of Die goldene Schmiede; also VOGT, Geschichte der mittelhochdeutschen Literatur, in PAUL, Grundriss der germanischen Philologie (2nd ed., Strasburg, 1906), 219-23; PIPER, Höfische Epik, pt. III, in Deutsche National-litteratur, ed. KüRSCHNER, IV, 165-344.
ARTHUR F.J. REMY