Die Klage, c. 1180 (The Lament, 2001)
Erek, c. 1190 (Erec, 1982)
Iwein, c. 1190-1205 (Iwein: The Knight with the Lion, 1979)
Gregorius, c. 1190-1197 (English translation, 1955, 1966)
Der arme Heinrich, c. 1195 (English translation, 1931)
Arthurian Romances, Tales, and Lyric Poetry: The Complete Works of Hartmann von Aue, 2001
Hartmann von Aue (HAHRT-mahn fawn OW-uh), or Ouwe, belongs, with Gottfried von Strassburg and Wolfram von Eschenbach, among the foremost writers of the Middle High German court epic, and he has been widely praised for his crystalline style. Little is known of his life, but it is believed that he spent his youth in a monastery and later served a noble at Aue, somewhere in Swabia. He became a knight and at some time during the last two decades of the twelfth century went with a band of crusaders to Palestine.
His Erec is one of the earliest known poems in German on the Arthurian cycle, the tale of an uxorious knight who neglects his chivalric duties. Iwein: The Knight with the Lion tells of a knight who, mindful of Erec’s example, errs at the other extreme and overstays his time at King Arthur’s court, although he had promised his wife to return in a year. Both of these somewhat didactic tales, which were patterned after those of Chrétien de Troyes, describe knights whose sin is superbia and who learn through their suffering the wisdom of moderation, or mâze, a key virtue in the medieval system of thought.
Der arme Heinrich is Hartmann’s most famous narrative poem, and in it he brings German to an early point of full literary expression. It was later retold by Henry Wadsworth, Longfellow, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It tells of a knight who, stricken with leprosy, is miraculously cured by the faith of a poor virgin who is willing to sacrifice herself for him. Hartmann is also recognized for shorter lyrics, poems of the crusades, and Gregorius, a medieval version of the Oedipus myth, about a militant knight who, after unknowingly committing incest with his mother, returns sanctified from a long period of penance and becomes pope. This legendary tale provided the plot of Thomas Mann’s novel The Holy Sinner (1951).