Von friunden – “About Friends” by Freidank translated 6/19/2008
Here’s a Middle High German poem by Freidank (His name means Free-Thought) Vrîdanc in MHG. He writes in the early 13th century. This is a work-in-progress and I think I have it right, but would love help, if I have translated some of it wrongly.
A friend is more useful near to me,
Than to have four pigs or three.
It’s very easy for a relative to fly,
When a friend you’ve made keeps standing by.
A sure friend and a trusted sword
In need, are worth their weight in gold.
If you have no way with words,
Be silent and as a wise man be heard.
When an ox comes into a foreign land,
He’s taken for a steer at hand.
Wash as much as a crow might,
it will never that way get white.
Poor arrogance is the slander of a clod,
Rich humility is loved by God.
Arrogance forces the short man to go
Walking about on tippy-toe.
Riches are not from a blessed source
And no good takes place by their force.
In this world there may be no sweeter rhyme
Than to say the little word, called “mine.”
I think, it’s like a bed you’re sleeping in,
Which, in your back, has stuck a spring.
Many beautiful flowers grow
With very bitter roots below.
(from Knowledge of Life)
Here it is in Middle High German:
(early 13th century)
Ein friunt ist nützer nâhe bî
dan verre zwêne oder drî.
Gemachet friunt ze noeten stât
dâ lîhte ein mâc den andern lât.
Gewisse friunt, versuochtiu swert
sint ze noeten goldes wert….
Swer niht wol gereden kan,
der swîge und sî ein wîse man.
Kumt ein ohse in fremediu lant,
er wirt doch für ein rint erkant.
Sich badet diu krâ mit allem flîz
und wirt durch daz doch niemer wîz.
Armiu hôchvart ist ein spot,
rîche dêmuot minnet got.
Hôchvart twinget kurzen man,
daz er muoz ûf den zêhen gân.
Der rîchtuom ist von saelden niht,
dâ von nieman guot geschiht.
Zer werlde mac niht süezers sîn
dan ein wort, daz heizet mîn…
Ich waene, daz iht bettes sî,
da’n sî boesiu veder bî.
Vil manic schoeniu bluome stât,
diu doch vil bitter wurzel hât.
(taken from Bescheidenheit)
From the Heath Anthology of German Poetry, edited by August Closs and T. Pugh Williams, (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, Undated, 1950?), page 96.
 The same idea as: Hättest du geschwiegen, wärst du Professor geblieben. (If you had kept your mouth closed, everyone would still have thought you were a professor.)
 Freidank has a bed with a bad feather.