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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 3:35 pm    Post subject: Poetic Translation: Lichtenawer's Blossfechten Zettel         Reply with quote

I've decided to write a poetic translation of the famous first stanza of Master Lichtenawer's Blossfechten Zettel, in order to give English readers an idea of what the poem sounds like in a rhyming form in English. As with all poetic translations, I have taken a certain amount of liberty with the text, (particularly with the penultimate line), but in general I have tried to keep the rhyme scheme consistent with the German and to remain true to the spirit and character of the text. I am indebted to Christian Tobler and David Lindholm for their various translations of the text, without which my own interpretation could not have been written.

Poetic Translation

Young knight, learn
to love God and revere women,
so honour shall you earn.
Practice well your chivalry,
the art that brings you
honour in wars and dignity.
Wrestle well, with all your might,
wield the spear, the sword, and knife,
in a manly way,
whose use in other's hands you take away.
Strike in and hasten forth;
rush to, let it hit, or go by.
Those who are wise
loath to defend, when fighting for their lives.
This you should know (and in that knowledge take pleasure):
that all arts have length and measure.

Mittelhochdeutsch (from In Service of the Duke)

Junck ritter lere
Got lieb haben frawen io eren
So wechst dein ere
Ube ritterschaft und lere
Kunst die dich zyret
Und in kriegen zu eren hofuret
Ringess guet fesser
Glefen sper schwert und messer
Manlich bederben
Und in andern henden verderben
Haw drein und hurtt dar
Raush him trif oder la faren
Das yn die weyssen hassen
Dye mann sicht preysen
Dar auff dich fasse
Alle kunst haben leng und masse

English Translation (from In Service of the Duke)

Young knight, learn
to love God and revere women;
thus your honour will grow.
Practice knighthood and learn
the Art that dignifies you,
and brings you honour in wars.
Be a good grappler in wrestling;
lance, spear, sword and messer
handle manfully,
and foil them in your opponent's hands.
Strike in and hasten forth;
rush to, let it hit, or go by.
Those with wisdom loath
the one forced to defend.
This you should grasp:
All arts have length and measure.





Lindholm, David. Sigmund Ringeck's Knightly Art of the Long Sword. Boulder: Paladin Press, 2003.

Tobler, Christian Henry. In Service of the Duke: The 15th Century Fighting Treatise of Paulus Kal. Highland Village: Chivalry Bookshelf, 2006.

Tobler, Christian Henry. Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship: Sigmund Ringeck's Commentaries on Johannes Liechtenauer's Verse. Highland Village: Chivalry Bookshelf, 2001.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 7:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very cool, Craig! It's a good idea, too.

On a slightly related tangent, a number of German speakers have commented to me that Liechtenauer's original merkeverse is really bad poetry. Eek! I've been told the same of Peter Falkner's, where the rhymes are very forced. :shrug: Oh, well, they couldn't be good at everything I suppose. Happy

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree, this is pretty cool.

However Bill, I don't think Liechtenauer's verse is poetry at all, let alone bad poetry. I recently came to this conclusion by reviewing Marianne Hansen's translation of the verses for the 'Children of the Planets', the astrological lore that appears, among dozens of other places, in the Castle Wolfegg Hausbuch. Ms. Hansen refers on her website to the verses as "bits of doggerel" - pretty dreadful poetry. Or is it?

This got me to thinking: none of these little rhymes are intended to be poetry; they're simply a sing-songy memory device, rather like "in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Dreadful as poetry or lyrics, but every schoolchild of my acquaintance in the 1970's knew this by heart. As a memory device, it was fantastic.

This is a common motif in the late medieval scholastic tradition. The Planetenkinder verse works just like Liechtenauer's does. And there's merkeverse for all kinds of arts and sciences, and none of it is poetic - it merely rhymes enough to make it stick in your head.

I'm quite convinced that if we were to tell Liechtenauer he was a bad poet, he'd simply say "what poetry?"

All the best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
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Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 10:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, I completely understand, Christian. Still, it made me chuckle when more than one native German speaker I've shown this too has made the same comment on it. Happy
Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 11:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When I was in Germany, I asked a guy I know there why I almost never heard any music with German lyrics on the radio; pretty much all the stuff there was in English. He told me that German is a difficult language to rhyme in, which is why a lot of artists these days prefer English. Could this difficulty also be why the merkverse is "bad poetry"?
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Wed 13 Jun, 2007 6:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
Oh, I completely understand, Christian. Still, it made me chuckle when more than one native German speaker I've shown this too has made the same comment on it. Happy


Understood. And, I said the same thing for years. I think there might be value in someone doing an academic survey of the use of similar verse in various manuscript traditions.

Best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
Order of Selohaar

Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Wed 13 Jun, 2007 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
When I was in Germany, I asked a guy I know there why I almost never heard any music with German lyrics on the radio; pretty much all the stuff there was in English. He told me that German is a difficult language to rhyme in, which is why a lot of artists these days prefer English. Could this difficulty also be why the merkverse is "bad poetry"?


Yeah, when I was there, everything was bad 80's music from America. When I asked, a German told me it's because Germans have no taste. Laughing Out Loud

But seriously, I don't know about the rhyming. There certainly are plenty of modern German songs, whether they are popular or not. I suspect it has more to do with trends than anything else (I heard American 80's pop in most of Europe, not just Germany).

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Wed 13 Jun, 2007 7:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Craig,

Again, I don't think it was ever intended as poetry at all. The priority is to have just enough rhyme while including the technical vocabulary. There's plenty of good poetry in German from the period.

All the best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
Order of Selohaar

Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Wolfgang Armbruster





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PostPosted: Wed 13 Jun, 2007 11:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mr. Tobler is right.
It's just a "merkvers" making it easier for students to remember teachings. It's definitely not peotry (assuming that my judgement of middle high german is correct Big Grin)
Concerning the 80's thing etc.: yes it's true, a lot of germans have incredibly bade taste in music (and fashion), as i must admit *g* (things are changing, though). In the last few years there has been a kind of revival of music with german lyrics (and i'm not talking about rammstein). having said that english is still the first choice for most artists, at least in Germany and Scandinavia. Italians, French and other nations who do not have the same linguistic roots tend much more to use their own languages. At least that's my impression.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 13 Jun, 2007 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The other thing too is that the merkverse, while seemingly vague in nature, must contain enough detail and specific information for Lichtenawer's students to recall their instructions. In poetic form, one is tied up by constraints such as rhyme and meter, which seriously limits true poetry's value for "instructional" matters.
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