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“I sat on a stone” translating Walther von der Vogelweide

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June 4th 2008

I always shook Walter’s hand in my last church and playfully called him Walther von der Vogelweide. I have just discovered some of his poems and they are written in Middle High German, and thus, they are very hard for me to understand. So of course, I’m trying my hand at one and if anybody can help me do it better with corrections, I’d be grateful.

Herr Walther von der Vogelweide

(c. 1170-12288)

Peace, Righteousness, and Gracious Favor

I sat on a stone,

I crossed my legs,

Leaned my elbow on them,

pressing my chin

and one cheek in my hand.

That way I thought, earnestly pondering

what counsel I could give

about how in this world,

one should live.

What three things could one combine,

that would not spoil over time?

Honor and material possessions, those are two,

But what harm with them we often do,

injuring one another:

the third is God’s gracious favor,

more valuable than both others,

even with golden covers.

I’d gladly place all three in a shrine.

Yet, sadly, that will not do.

Possessions, worldly honor,

and God’s gracious favor, too,

won’t fit in one heart together:

Stupid ways and paths are by it taken:

Unfaithfulness behind a sheet,

Violence happening in the street.

Peace and righteousness are seriously wounded.

Those three are not secure together.

But with the latter two,

wholeness will well up forever.

Mittelhochdeutscher Text:

Ich sâzz ûf eime steine
und dahte bein mit beine:
dar ûf satzt ich den ellenbogen.
ich hete in mîne hant gesmogen
daz kinne und ein mîn wange
dô dâhte ich mir vil ange
wie man zer werlte solte leben.
deheinen rât kond ich gegeben,
wie man driu dinc erwurbe,
der keinez niht verdurbe.
die zwei sint êre und varnde guot,
daz dicke einander schaden tuot:
daz dritte ist gotes hulde,
der zweier übergulde.
die wolte ich gern in einen schrîn.
jâ leider desn mac niht gesîn,
daz guot und weltlich êre
und gotes hulde mêre
zesamene in ein herze komen.
stîge unde wege sint in benomen:
untriuwe ist in der sâzze,
gewalt vert ûf der strâzze,
fride und reht sint sêre wunt.
diu driu enhabent geleites niht,
diu zwei enwerden ê gesunt.

From the Heath Anthology of German Poetry, edited by August Closs and T. Pugh Williams, (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, Undated, 1950?), page 86.


Written by peterkrey

June 5, 2008 at 7:27 am

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