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promised but not given—"a home and a hearth-side.” Walther's request was not granted immediately ; but the pressing circumstances of the moment may well excuse some delay on the part of the generous monarch. Shortly after the battle of Bouvines, however, the minstrel's highest ambition is reached. Frederick grants him a fief, and his joy breaks forth in song. He wishes the whole world to hear of his good fortune. He no longer fears the frost of February for his toes ; he needs never again dance attendance on mean, miserly patrons; his neighbours will not run from him as from a cobold now. Too long has he lain stricken with the “disease of poverty;" he has repined and scolded so often and so bitterly “that his breath stank;" but now the King's bounty has dispelled all that made life bitter.
Walther's estate was at Würzburg. The site is still indicated, and is in the Elephanten Gasse, in the very midst of the town as it now stands. The sum which it brought was thirty marks-barely sufficient for his wants, the poet says. Now, according to his own valuation, "a noble horse” which he lost at Eisenach through the clumsiness of Sir Gerhardt Atze was worth three marks. Surely, a property to which was attached a yearly rent-roll of ten times the value of a war steed cannot be considered so insignificant. But Walther's cry of poverty was intended as a protest against the tax imposed in 1215 by the Council of Lateran for the purpose of defraying the expenses of a Crusade, and it is not impossible that if he did not go beyond the truth, at least he stretched it to its furthest limits.
After the bitter disappointments which Walther had experienced in Otto's service, it was but natural that his first feelings at the possession of an imperial fief should have been those of unbounded delight and heartfelt gratitude. Neither was it unnatural, however, if we consider his early career, that his new style of life, when the gloss of novelty had worn off, should have lost much of its charm. The monotony of his idyllic retreat and his rural surroundings were but little suited, if not to his nature, at least to the habits which, with length of years, had acquired the force of a second nature. His enthusiasm for “the sweet birds' strains," for "fields and flowers," for “the lily and the rose,” for “the stately linden," was more poetical and, we may perhaps say, more fashionable than true. In reality, his heart was rather taken up with the splendour of courts than with the beauties of nature. And thus, but a short time, at most a few years, after his retirement from public life, we find him leaving the manor he had so earnestly prayed for and so gratefully accepted, to mix once more in the busy, active world. About the year 1217 Walther again appears in his beloved Vienna. But the change in his
worldly circumstances is apparent. He is no longer an ardent partisan. Prosperity, no less than adversity, has toned down his opinions, and he has become a calmer observer of the great events of the day. No longer dependent on the liberality of patrons and on his own poetical success for his daily bread, he is less impatient of the petty jealousies of rival minstrels.
When Walther left the seclusion of his manor for the Court of Vienna the system of rigid economy which had virtually banished the poet from the Austrian capital still prevailed, but Walther accepted it in a very different spirit from that which had inspired his farewell address some years before. A good-natured joke at the expense of the poor court—so poor, that it had not even ladies to adorn its dances-takes the place of his former complaints.
It was presumably during his visit to the Austrian capital that Walther took the opportunity of visiting both Medlick and Aquileia. The kindness and hospitality with which he was received both by Prince Henry and by the venerable Patriarch, are acknowledged in verses which show that, though the poet was now independent of the bounty of patrons, he had not lost a minstrel's appreciation of those who were as able as they were willing to exercise the liberality—“the Milde”-of which his earlier poems make such frequent mention.
Shortly after Duke Leopold's return from the Crusade, probably about the beginning of 1220, Walther again left Vienna, this time never to return to it again. It seems probable that he left Austria in accord. ance with the wishes of his Imperial patron and liege Frederick II., for it is to his court that we must now follow the aged poet.
When Frederick at last resolved to undertake, or at least to pretend to undertake, the Crusade for which he had taken the cross several years before, he appointed Engelbert, Archbishop of Cologne, regent of the empire, and tutor to his young son Henry. In the midst of the important business which the regency brought with it, the Archbishop was not able to afford much time to personal supervision of his ward. It was, therefore, necessary to look about for a man of mature years and experience, as well as of sufficient learning and courtly attainments, to fill the important post of actual tutor to Prince Henry. The imperial choice fell on Walther von der Vogelweide. Doubtless flattered by this mark of confidence, he accepted the responsibility, and undertook the task of educating the royal pupil on principles scarcely in accordance with those generally ascribed to the middle ages, declaring at the outset that
Youth to rule by caning
The hopes which he entertained of his scholar were soon dispelled by the precocious vices of Prince Henry. Before long the tutor, made wise by sad experience, regretted that he might not try the efficacy of the rod to enforce his authority. Out of gratitude to Frederick, who, since his departure, had bestowed a new mark of favour on him, by sending him a wax taper from Italy, Walther remained at his post till Henry's vicious conduct made it altogether untenable. But at last, wearied with trying to master a youth who, though “ too young for the sword,” was now “too old for the rod,” he threw up the ungrateful office.
It was probably about the middle of the year 1223 that Walther abandoned the Imperial Court and the profession in which he had met with so little success, for the comparative solitude of his manor at Würzburg. He was at Würzburg when, some two years later, he learned the sad fate which had overtaken his friend and patron Archbishop Engelbert. In November 1225 the regent was waylaid and treacherously murdered by his own nephew, Count Frederick von Isenburg. Except amongst a few dissatisfied nobles, there was a general and sincere grief at his untimely end. Walther, who knew Engelbert's virtues as a churchman as well as his talents as a statesman, is the eloquent exponent of the popular sorrow and indignation on this occasion, and invokes the blackest curses of hell on the murderer.
From 1225 to 1228 all Walther's interest, all his enthusiasm, seems centred in the Crusade for which Frederick had nominally started several years before, but which had not yet led him farther than Southern Italy. The aged minstrel repeatedly rebukes the dilatory German princes; he threatens them with the anger of heaven, and endeavours to excite at least their fears by recalling the signs and wonders—the darkening of the sun, the ravages caused by a fearful storm—which were supposed to portend the approaching dissolution of the world. In his zeal he chides even the angels for their want of sympathy, and actually refuses them all honour until such time as they shall rise and assist Christianity in the struggle with the heathen.
In June 1228 the Crusade really began. Frederick sailed eastwards with forty galleys, to carry out, in spite of the Pope's excommunication, that which he had been excommunicated for not doing before. Amongst those who left their homes to share the dangers of the long journey, and of an expedition which had begun under the curse of Rome, was the aged minstrel Walther von der Vogelweide. Not as a warrior, but as a pilgrim only, did he accompany the army of the cross on “the dear journey over the sea." The last of his extant poems is a cry of triumph uttered as he beholds the Holy Places. His joy was brief. Even here, in Palestine, he was to behold the corruption, the treason, the unholy feud between Church and State, which had in former days called forth his indignant protests. The Pope—it was now Gregory IX.—had sent out two Franciscan monks to Syria to forbid the Christians to have any intercourse with Frederick or his army. On their arrival, the crusaders found themselves shunned by the Templars and by the knights of St. John, and left entirely to their own resources. With 800 knights and 10,000 infantry, the German emperor could not hope to wrest Jerusalem from the Infidels. But what could not be accomplished by the sword was effected by all-powerful gold. On the 19th of March, 1229, Frederick made his entry into the Holy City, and, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, placed the crown of the kingdom of Jerusalem upon his own head. Two months later, he turned homewards with his crusaders, and landed at Apulia on the 10th of June.
With this ill-starred expedition all our knowledge of Walther von der Vogelweide ends. Even his return to his manor at Würzburg rests on no direct contemporary evidence. A chronicler of the next century records that the Knight Walther lies buried in the quadrangle of the Neumünster, under a stately linden—the Minnesinger's favourite tree. According to the same authority, the poet left instructions in his will that the birds should be fed on his grave, and that four holes should be cut in the stone to receive the daily allowance of corn and water. But clerical greed, against which he had inveighed so bitterly in his life-time, did not long respect his injunctions. The money willed to the birds was appropriated by the monks, and the daily distribution of corn was changed into a yearly distribution of rolls to the canons of the Abbey.
The stone which marked the spot of the minstrel's last restingplace has long since disappeared, but the epitaph which was carved on it has been preserved :
Pascua qui volucrum vivus, Walthere, fuisti,
[To the Editor of The GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE.]
IN this magazine for August I note an article upon Charles T Reade, which I have read with interest, because the novels of this virile and vigorous master have been amongst the few English novels in which I have ever found delight. Most English novels always appear to me to be written either for school-children or police-sergeants. Charles Reade's alone are written for men and women, and he has never been afraid to call a spade a spade. In the article to which I refer there is no lack of ardent eulogy. Most English criticism is, unfortunately, too often either only eulogy or only abuse, the analytical faculty being generally lamentably absent. But the essay in question, oddly enough, denies Charles Reade a quality that he possesses in a marked degree; and, on the other hand, attributes to him a power of delineating womanhood which he as surely has not. It denies that he writes “mirthfully" or is a cheerful writer, despite the sound laughter of “ Peg Woffington,” the mirth that ripples like clear water in “Christie Johnstone,” and the subtle if somewhat grim humour which characterises every novel he has created. The English sense of humour is, unhappily, very blunt, and needs coarse food. Like a palate which has been hardened by gross cooking, it has lost all power to discriminate, or to appreciate delicate and subtle flavours. It needs the broad farce of Wardle or Weller before it will grin, and indeed is ignorant that the keenest humour will not provoke laughter at all, but rather a delighted sense of something perfect in allusion and suggestion. This higher humour abounds in all the novels which Charles Reade has written, and is rather akin to Cervantes and Molière than to Charles Dickens.
It may indeed be said that the mind of Charles Reade always sees the humorous side of every incident, and is sometimes even so occupied with this side that it disturbs his tragic powers, although these are also of the very strongest, as a thousand passages which will recur to his readers' minds at once are there to prove. As for his not being a cheerful writer, I know not whether this is intended as a compliment or a reproach. If to be "cheerful" is to be full of