By Henry B. Garland
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Additional resources for A Concise Survey of German Literature
It left a weak Empire and a multiplicity of sovereign states; and this fragmentation obstructed, not only political development but also the growth of sizeable cities which could offer a soil for the fruitful unfolding of a living literature. This is certainly one reason why in the second half of the century German writing has often a heavyhandedness and a provincial narrowness which contrast unfavourably with France or England. The century had begun in a climate which leaned towards mysticism and, on a lower level, towards superstition.
One of the most popular poems of that age was the lay of the Nibelungs (Nibelungenlied), which, though its characters display courtly manners, is heroic and tragic, evincing at times a ferocity, a martial aggressiveness and a brutality which are worlds away 31 from the polite fantasy of Arthurian romance. The ingredients from which it is brewed belong to a remote and shadowy past. But the story has been refurbished and successfully transplanted to a 'modern' environment, the knightly world of the late twelfth century.
A man of education, and familiar with high society, he settled in London, serving first the royal then 50 the Commonwealth government and, in the last year of his life, assisting Milton, the 'Latin Secretary', in his incipient blindness. Some of Weckherlin's verse is ceremonial poetry, odes celebrating festivals or funerals; all of it has a certain pomp and elevation, an assured use of rhetorical technique and an aristocratic flair. Thirteen years younger than Weckherlin, who was living remote in self-chosen exile, Martin Opitz (1597-1639), a Silesian without conspicuous poetic gifts, succeeded by his talent for organisation and propaganda and by his readiness to accept a limited and easily understood goal in impressing his stamp upon the next generation in German literature and directing its course.
A Concise Survey of German Literature by Henry B. Garland