Walther von der Vogelweide

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That which they call love, it is nothing except the pain of longing.

Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1170 – c. 1230) was an Austrian, or perhaps a German, Minnesinger: a lyric poet and musician who wrote in Middle High German. His most famous song is "Under der linden".


  • Daz si da heizent minne,
    Deis niewan senede leit.
    • That which they call love, it is nothing except the pain of longing.
    • "Friuntlîchen lac", line 19; translation from Gale Sigal Erotic Dawn-Songs of the Middle Ages (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996) p. 36.
  • Jâ leider desn mac niht gesîn,
    daz guot und weltlich êre
    und gotes hulde mêre
    zesamene in ein herze komen.
    • But sadly, I can see no way
      for goods and worldly reputation
      and the grace of God
      to join together in one heart.
    • "Ich saz ûf eime steine", line 16; translation by Roon Lewald.
  • Mir ist verspert der sælden tor
    dâ stên ich als ein weise vor
    mich hilfet niht swaz ich dar an geklopfe.
    • To me, the gate of paradise is shut.
      I stand an orphan there, locked out;
      however much I knock, it's all in vain.
    • "Mir ist verspert der sælden tor", line 1; translation by Tim Chilcott.
  • Owê war sint verswunden alliu mîniu jâr
    ist mir mîn leben getroumet oder ist ez wâr.
    • Alas, where have they gone to, year on weary year?
      Was it all a dream then, my life's, my love's career?
    • "Owe war sint verswunden alliu mîniu jâr", line 1; translation by Graeme Dunphy.
  • Diu welt ist ûzen schoene wîz grüen unde rôt
    und innân swarzer varwe vinster sam der tôt.
    • The world is beautiful outside: white, green, and red; but inside it is black and dark as death.
    • "Owe war sint verswunden alliu mîniu jâr", line 37; translation from George Fenwick Jones Walther von der Vogelweide (New York: Twayne, 1968) p. 136.
  • "Sît willekomen herre wirt" dem gruoze muoz ich swîgen,
    "sît willekomen herre gast", sô muoz ich sprechen oder nîgen.
    wirt unde heim sint zwêne unschamelîche namen,
    gast unde herberge muoz man sich dicke schamen.
    • "Welcome, I'm master of the house" – a greeting I fall silent at.
      "Welcome, my guest" – I have to answer, or give a bow.
      Master, House – two names that have no shame attached;
      but Guest and Lodging – the sense of shame you feel.
    • "'Sît willekomen herre wirt' dem gruoze muoz ich swîgen", line 1; translation by Tim Chilcott.
  • Dich heizet vater maniger vil,
    swer mîn ze bruoder niht enwil.
    • For many call Thee Father, who
      Will not own me as brother too.
    • "Swer âne vorhte, hêrre got", line 4; translation by I. G. Colvin, from James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin (eds.) The Portable Medieval Reader (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977) p. 194.
  • Wer kan den hêrren von dem knehte gescheiden,
    swâ er ir gebeine blôzez fünde,
    het er ir joch lebender künde?
    • And when their bones into confusion fall,
      Say ye, who knew the living man by sight,
      Which is the villein now and which the knight?
    • "Swer âne vorhte, hêrre got", line 10; translation by I. G. Colvin, from James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin (eds.) The Portable Medieval Reader (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977) p. 194.
  • Under der linden
    an der heide,
    dâ unser zweier bette was,
    dâ mugt ir vinden
    schône beide
    gebrochen bluomen unde gras.
    • Under the lime tree
      On the heather,
      Where we had shared a place of rest,
      Still you may find there,
      Lovely together,
      Flowers crushed and grass down-pressed.
    • "Under der linden", line 1; translation by Raymond Oliver.
  • Swer guotes wîbes minne hât,
    der schamt sich aller missetât.
    • He who has a good woman's love is ashamed of every ill deed.
    • "Waz sol ein man, der niht engert", line 11; translation from Henry John Chaytor The Troubadours (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912) p. 128.


  • He is equally great whether his theme be religion, patriotism, or love. As a political poet he is one of the greatest of all time.
    • H. G. Atkins, in Edgar Prestage (ed.) Chivalry (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1928) pp. 99-100.
  • He has no equal in medieval German lyric poetry and perhaps not even in European lyric poetry of the Middle Ages.
    • Ingeborg Glier, in Boris Ford (ed.) Medieval Literature: The European Inheritance (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983) p. 184.
  • The greatest of the Minnesinger, all of whom he surpasses both in the range and in the humanity of his poetry.
  • He was known to his countrymen as the Nightingale, but his own sweet-sounding name of Bird's-meadow (Vogelweide) suggests even more directly the pure, true, flute-like strain which he poured into Europe’s choir of voices.
    • Laurie Magnus A General Sketch of European Literature in the Centuries of Romance (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1918) pp. 27-28.
  • The mouthpiece of the half-inarticulate, all-suggesting music that is at once the very soul and the inseparable garment of romance.
    • George Saintsbury The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1923) p. 258.

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Selected poems translated by Graeme Dunphy Selected poems translated by Tim Chilcott