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Christian Singers Of Germany by Catherine Winkworth

The Minne-Singers

Several of the great Latin hymns were also translated into German at this time; and that these hymns and sequences were used in church is proved by a passage in a Life of St. Bernard by a contemporary and disciple, in which it is expressly mentioned that in the cathedral at Cologne the people broke out into hymns of praise in the German tongue at every miracle wrought by the saint; and the writer regrets that when they left the German soil this custom ceased, as the nations who spoke the Romanic languages did not possess native hymns after the manner of the others. Still undoubtedly their use in church was very restricted, and was always regarded with suspicion by the more papal of the clergy; but there were many other occasions in life on which they were employed: they seem to have been commonly sung at the saints' festivals and special services which were frequently held outside the church, and on pilgrimages. So St. Francis, in an address to his monks in the year 1221, says: |There is a certain country called Germany, wherein dwell Christians, and of a truth very pious ones, who as you know often come as pilgrims into our land, with their long staves and great boots; and amid the most sultry heat and bathed in sweat, yet visit all the thresholds of the holy shrines, and sing hymns of praise to God and all His saints.|

It may give us some idea of the quantity of poetry written from this time onwards, that the great collection by M. Wackernagel of religious poetry prior to the Reformation, contains nearly 1500 pieces, and the names of 85 different poets, while many of the poems are anonymous, and much no doubt has perished. Among the names still left a large number are secular, others are those of monks and priests, and the vanity of the world forms not unnaturally their frequent theme. Here is a graceful little poem of this kind by a monk of the thirteenth century, entitled

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