Medusa's Mirror: Studies in German Literature

By August Closs | Go to book overview

III
Tristan und Îsolt

GOTTFRIED VON STRASSBURG

Gottfried, not Walther, was the nightingale of perfect note. His romance of Tristan is as much song as story and has been rightly spoken of as a Hohelied der Minne, a high song of love.

M. F. RICHEY, The Medieval German Love Lyric

Tristan of Gottfried von Strassburg, which is, except for the Canterbury Tales and the Divina Commedia, the greatest poem of the Middle Ages.

R. S. LOOMIS, The Romance of Tristan and Ysolt


COURTLY LIFE AT THE TIME OF ELEANOR OF POITOU, BRERI, CHRESTIEN

GOTTFRIED'S Tristan und Îsolt (about 1210) belongs to the immortal treasures of the world's literature. His lyrical epic still makes a direct appeal to us today, for it is at once personal and impersonal as every true work of art should be.

After more than seven hundred years Tristan und Îsolt provides a mine of material for the student of comparative literature -- a material rich in legends, fairy tales, mythological, Celtic and Classical motifs, whilst modern poets are still irresistibly drawn to the fierce and passionate tale that underlies the medieval romance. But indeed the very graceful form in Gottfried's work clothes a sensibility and ideas of unexpected profundity which verge on the metaphysical and make his poem appear almost as the gospel of a religious faith, the religion of Minne.

Many scholars are unjustifiably inclined to exalt the ethical values of Wolfram Parzival at the expense of Gottfried's 'aestheticism'. Both poets in their own way created works of

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