The Minnesingers

Here’s my lat­est trans­la­tion of one of my favorite Heine poems!

I’ve been work­ing on this trans­la­tion, off and on, for a few months now, since the orig­i­nal is so song­like. Min­nesang, or min­nesing­ing, was, accord­ing to Wikipedia, a tra­di­tion of lyric and song in the Mid­dle High Ger­man peri­od, from around the 12th to the 14th cen­tu­ry. Minne, from Mid­dle High Ger­man, means love, which was what most of these songs were about. Heine’s poem is about a fic­tion­al min­nesing­ing com­pe­ti­tion, and the toll that singing of love osten­si­bly demands of the singers.

The Min­nesingers

By: Hein­rich Heine,
Trans­lation: Daniel Joslyn

In the singing-com­pe­ti­tion
Min­nesingers take their place
Oh, what a strange exhi­bi­tion
What a strange show­ing of face

Wild, foam­ing Fan­ta­sy, they wield
Min­nesingers as their steed
And art as their shield is styled
And words are their sword, indeed.

Pret­ty women gaze, they’re mer­ry
In car­pet-clad gal­leries
No true winner’s here to car­ry
As his crown true lau­rel-wreaths

And oth­er kinds of jousters spring
Enjoy hur­dles and their life
But as we singers jump, we bring
With us mor­tal wounds and strife

And the per­son who’s most able
To squeeze song-blood from their breast
They will win, for all their sable
Pret­ti­er praise than all the rest.

Here’s a link to the orig­i­nal.

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