A new edition about the seals of the Staufer

AThe Castel del Monte shines on the cover of the book. Of the many buildings with which Frederick II (1194 to 1250) manifested his rule, the octagonal crown of Apulia is the best known and most fascinating. The historical greatness of the Hohenstaufen, which his contemporaries called “stupor mundi”, marvel of the world, combines many aspects and goes beyond diplomatic and military actions: as an innovator who built up an effective administration and jurisdiction, as a scientist who wrote a treatise wrote the hawk hunt and founded the first university in Naples without a papal bull. As a scholar who maintained communication with the Islamic world and spoke several languages, including Arabic, he was already a myth during his lifetime. Nietzsche called him “that great free spirit, the genius among the German emperors”, Jacob Burckhardt the “first modern man on the throne”.

But Emperor Friedrich, and this is little known, wrote poems and songs like his father Heinrich VI., His sons Enzo (Heinz) and Manfred and his grandson Konradin and founded the Sicilian poetry school in Palermo, to which a fixed circle of civil servants belonged and whose head was a notary at his court, Giacomo da Lentini, who is considered to be the inventor of the sonnet. Its literary historical and cultural-political significance, even if the standard Sicilian language (volgare illustre) was lost during the Tuscanization by the following generation, was emphasized by none other than Dante: “Because the royal seat was in Sicily”, so the Sommo poeta in his linguistic work ” De vulgari eloquentia “(1304/05),” everything that our ancestors recited in the vernacular was called ‘Sicilian’, a designation that we also retain and which our descendants cannot change either. “

Longing and fulfillment

In the volume “Because you like it, oh love”, the Romanist Sebastian Neumeister has brought together the poems of the Staufers, written in Middle High German and Old Italian, for the first time in a bilingual edition that takes earlier translations and the latest research into account. At the beginning there is Heinrich VI, enthroned at the top of the Manessian manuscript: in his songs he celebrates the happiness he has experienced, which the lover of the later minstrel may still grant to a limited extent, and places it above imperial power.


“Since you like it, dear.” The seals of the Hohenstaufen. Bilingual edition. Edited by Sebastian Neumeister.
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Image: University Press Winter

The central star, however, is Emperor Frederick II, who, by turning away from the standard Latin language, but also from the vernacular of the Provencal Trobadors, brought Italian poetry on the road. One of his songs describes the relationship between love and power, person and office, which Heinrich VI. appeals to the conflict; another shows it in a network of intercultural references and especially Arab influences; in a third he uses the genre of the sonnet for a moral program: “Measure, foresight and merit”, so the guiding values, “make you wise and knowledgeable.” Three texts cannot be clearly attributed to the emperor; there are astute hypotheses on two others . By weighing the arguments for and against, Neumeister discusses the poetics of the Minnesian poetry: the tension between longing and fulfillment, the correspondence between inner and outer beauty, worship rituals.

Balance between ease of reading and philology

A poem about the pain of separation and one about the existential suffering of his imprisonment in Bologna, where he lived in a golden cage for the last 23 years, as well as a sonnet from happier days in Palermo have come down to us from Frederick’s favorite son Enzo, while his brother Manfred’s canzons have not been preserved are. Two poetic attempts are known from Konradin, the last Staufer, whom Karl von Anjou had beheaded in Naples at the age of sixteen, which are in the Codex Manesse: in one he admits to his inexperience in minned things, which he probably in the other is incomplete, poetically corrected conventionally.

The tableau is completed by authors who made Staufer the subject of poems: Aimeric de Peguilhan, who praises Friedrich as a (political) doctor, Guilhem Figueira, who once hymnically praised the emperor and once sharply criticized, Walther von der Vogelweide, who expected him Confronted with attention, Reinmar von Zweter, who first strikes panegyric tones and then calls for his election, finally the (biographically inconceivable) Marner with an idealization of Konradin, who is supposed to win back power for the Hohenstaufen.

The beautifully designed and illustrated book, which maintains the balance between reading friendliness and philology, is also a contribution to the Dante year. In the epilogue Neumeister takes up the passage from the second book of the Divine Comedy, in which a group of souls appears, one of which identifies himself as Friedrich’s son Manfred: “Manfred does not complain about his fate and that of his tribe, no, he report with held head what has happened to him. His long speech at the end of the third chant, shortly before the ascent to higher regions, is therefore much more the lament that Dante raises about the end of an empire from which he had promised the unification of Italy, a worthy swan song to a great sex . “

“As you like it, oh love”. The seals of the Staufer. Bilingual edition. Edited by Sebastian Neumeister. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2021. 168 pp., Ill., Hardcover, 26, – €.

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