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More German Love Poems

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German Love Poems from the time of Medieval Courtly Love: (ca. 1050 – ca. 1450)

Translated from the Middle High German by peter krey 01/24/2012


A Knight was Mine

“A knight served me.” said a wife,

“For my every wish he lived his life.

Before the seasons changed

Weren’t his benefits arranged?

I think about winter and the snow,

green clover and how flowers grow,

when I let my captive go.

Even if the world filled up with sorrow

Anything he wishes is his, tomorrow.”

In German

Mir hat ein Ritter“ …

Mir hat ein Ritter,“ sprach ein Weib,

„gedienet nach dem Willen mein.

Verwandelt  hat sich je die Zeit,

so muss es ihm doch gelohnet sein.

Ich denk an Winter und den Schnee

schöne Blumen und den Klee,

schon wann ich ihn befreit habe.

Und wäre alle Welt voll Leit versehn, 

so muss sein Wille an mir ergehn.“


In Middle High German

Mir hât ein ritter“ …

„Mir hât ein ritter,“ sprach ein wîp,

„gedienet nâch dem willen mîn.

Ê sich verwandelôt diu zît,

sô muoz im doch gelônet sîn.

Mich dunket winter unde snê

schœne bluomen unde klê,

swenn ich in umbevangen hân.

und wærez al der werlte leit,

sô muoz sîn wille an mir ergân.“


I’ve a Yearning Need

I’ve a yearning need

hurting me so!

It makes the winter cold

and whitens all the snow.

When summer finally comes

I’ll bind my body and my life

to an oh-so beautiful and lovely wife.

In Modern German

Ich hab eine sehnende Not …

Ich hab eine sehnende Not,

die tut mir all so weh;

Das macht mir ein Winter kalt

Und auch so weis der Schnee:

Kommt mir die Sommerzeit,

so wollte ich binden meinen Leib

an ein so-sehr-schönes Weib.


In Middle High German

Ich hân eine senede nôt …

Ich hân eine senede nôt,

diu tuot mir alsô wê;

Daz machet mir ein winder kalt

Und ouch der wîze snê:

Kœme mir diu sumerzît,

sô wolde ich prîsen mînen lîp

umb ein vil harte schœnez wîp.

N.B. Das Wort „harte“ bedeutet stark oder sehr.


Beautiful Summer-Time

I never thought the summer could be

so radiantly beautiful for me.

Many flowers in the heather

adorn the meadow altogether.

The forest is full of song,

sweet birds singing all day long.

In Middle High German:

Ich gesach den sumer nie…

Ich gesach den sumer nie,

daz er sô schône dûhte mich.

Mit menigen bluomen wol getân

Diu heide hât gezieret sich.

Sanges ist der walt sô vol:

Diu zît diu tuot den kleinen vogelen wol.

Compare the Latin:

Estas non apparuit

preteritus temporibus

que sic clara fuerit:

ornantur prata floribus.

aves nunc in silva canunt

et canendo dulce garriunt.

(The Latin is from the Carmina Burana.)


In Modern German:

Ich sag, der Sommer ist nie…

Ich sag, der Sommer ist nie,

gewesen so schön für mich.

Mit einer Menge von Blumen wohl

hat die Heide jetzt gezieret sich.

Mit Gesang ist der Wald so voll:

Die Zeit die tut den kleinen Vöglein wohl.

If you like these, check out “Were this Whole World Mine.”

And for a real favorite, see “Du Bist Mein, ich Bin Dein”

 [1] From the Heath Anthology of German Poetry, edited by August Closs and T. Pugh Williams, (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, Undated, 1950?), pages 74-75.


Written by peterkrey

January 25, 2012 at 8:06 am

12 Responses

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  1. […] And also see three more: More German Love Poems. […]

  2. All three of these poems are so nice. The first is a bit cryptic to me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but from what I got it seems like a wife’s thoughts on a knight who goes above and beyond in terms of chivalry, but there’s a hint of bitterness or lack of equality. this thought was inspired by her saying she’ll let her slave go. Is the slave this knight that seems so hellbent on honoring her? Or it could be in fact the other way around. A woman despairing at her roving man, who is here today with his kisses and gone tomorrow without even a simple goodbye. I’m not sure, but it’s definitely a poignant poem. I like.
    I think I love the 2nd one, “I have a yearning need”, the most. While I love the 3rd since it paints the perfect picture of a summer’s day and equates it to a good mood so perfectly, they 2nd one “I have a yearning need” is passionate. It seems to take place deep in the winter but the burning love and desire to find a soul mate found in the poem could melt all that snow. The way these poems link human emotions and the natural earth and seasons touches me to the soul. The promise of Summer is the promise of love. The green glorious plants growing out of what was thought to be black dead snow covered earth, is like love growing in the heart of one who thought their heart had gone cold. These are such beautiful poems!


    February 21, 2012 at 6:27 am

    • dear Mark,

      See my comment explaining medieval chivalry and courtly love in a comment after “I Say to You, I Say to You, Come with Me.”
      The poem that is cryptic to you, “The Knight Was Mine,” has to be understood in these medieval times. The knights seldom killed each other in the battles they fought. They captured each other for the sake of ransoms. Thus an enemy knight sat at the table, while the ransom was being worked out. He was a captive. But the husband did not love the wife, the knight under the code of chivalry did. When his ransom was paid, he was released, but also from the chivalry of adoring the lady. His leaving must have torn her up and she feels that she will go through disgrace if he only returned to her. She does reproach him, however, because with what he got out of their relationship, he still changed over time and left her. I put in the word “benefits” like “friends with benefits” but it may have been a Platonic but completely romantic love of the knight, who then was free to return to his castle.
      I love your insight about how the poet melts his feelings of love into the seasons on the “Yearning Poem.” You say, “They link human emotions and the natural earth and seasons.” In a way the earth and the climate are personalized or the emotions of the persons of the day are also expressed by the climate. Maybe if they grieved they could cause it too rain. You know, “In the days of old, when knights were bold and ladies came a-riding.” (I don’t know if it goes that way!)




      February 22, 2012 at 2:10 am

  3. […] For other German love poems from this period, click here. […]

  4. The poems are so good haha


    April 19, 2013 at 10:50 am

  5. […] If you like these, see three more German love poems. […]

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