THE HUSBANDMAN AND DEATH: NOTES
(In part translated from Genzmer 1984 [G]; reference is also made to the notes supplied by Wimmer 1998 [W])
Der Ackermann is divided into 33 Chapters, followed by the Ploughman’s prayer for his wife. The Christian symbolism of 33 – the supposed number of years of the life of Christ – can also be found in St. Augustine, in Dante (Divina Commedia), in Joachim du Bellay (Les Antiquitéz de Rome), and in many other writers.
- “von vogelwat is mein pflug”: that is, he is a ‘ploughman of the pen’ – a clerk (W).
- The twelfth letter is ‘M’ for Margaretha, ‘J’ not being counted as a separate letter in the Latin alphabet (W).
- In many places it was the custom for the torturer to ask forgiveness of the tortured (G).
- The Feast Day of St. Peter’s Chains is August 1. The year referred to is 1400 (G).
- The reference to the illustration in the Roman temple has not been traced (G).
- The Lion-slayer may be Samson (G).
- Tepl misconstrues Plato’s Academy as a town (G).
- Another misunderstanding is the “ship of reeds”: the boatman in question lived in a reed hut (G).
- The philosopher who taught Nero was Seneca (G).
- It was believed that sitting on an ox-skin would give insights into the future (G).
- “hauptman vom berge”. Sometimes translated into modern German as ‘Maulheld’ (‘loudmouth’, ‘blusterer’: lit. ‘gob-hero’).
- Kaiser Karl is Charlemagne.
- The Markgrave is that Willehalm who is the hero of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm (ca.1215-18).
- Boppe the strong is an often named but elusive hero. It was suggested by William Wackernagel that this man was the same as the Blackforest court poet Boppe, who was renowned for his strength (d.1320) [‘Der starke Boppe’, Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum, 8 (1851), pp. 347-8].
- Dietrich von Bern, based on misty reminiscences of the Ostrogothic King of Italy Theodoric the Great (reigned 493-526), is the hero of the first cycle of poems in Das Heldenbuch, a collection of metrical romances of the 13th century. F.E. Sandbach’s The Heroic Saga-Cycle of Dietrich of Bern (London, 1906), a study of the relationship between Dietrich and Theodoric, between legend and history, is available online at ‘Kiyo’s Repository of Mythos and Poetry’ at http://www.home.ix.netcom.com/~kyamazak/myth/dietrich/sandbach.htm and is reproduced from that site at the Northvegr Foundation: http://www.northvegr.org/lore/heroic/index.php. A prose retelling of Dietrich’s exploits in English can be found in H. A. Guerber’s Legends of the Middle Ages at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12455/12455.txt.
- Horn-skinned Siegfried is ‘Der gehörnte Siegfried’, the hero of an ultimately disappointing Volksbuch and, originally, of an ancient poem, ‘Das Lied vom Hürnen Seyfrid’ (‘The Lay of Horn-skinned Siegfried’), which presents a more positive image of the hero Siegfried than is found in the Nibelungenlied. Both are available online at the ‘Das Lied vom Hürnen Seyfrid’ site: http://www.nibelungenlied.com/HS/ritter.html.
- “kere von dem bosen vnd tue das gute; suche den fride vnd tue in stete.” Cf. Luther’s Bible, Psalm 34:15: “Laß ab vom Bösen und tu Gutes; suche Frieden und jage him nach!” (G) In the Authorised Version, this is line 14: ‘Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it’.