True that monasteries and convents were the education hub and the centre of all literary activities in middle age Europe, but all the ladies who wrote poems, wrote on religious matters only? A Carolingian capitulary of 789 AD forbids women other than nuns, who stayed in the convent without taking a vow, from writing or compiling love poems. When something was needed to be forbidden, how shall we deny its existence? Writing to express love towards human beings was a desire religious organization didn’t allow; probably found no other option but to pass explicit order against them. No, poem documenting expression of love between people is not found in the beginning of the history of poems written in German. Anyway we find the trace of a didactic poetry in13th century which is a motherly suggestion to the daughter of the poetess, Winsbeckin. Guess love between mother and daughter like that between father and son (ref. Didactic poem by the Knight Winsbecke to his son) was considered acceptable that time.
Another area really difficult to explore is the Minnensong – a middle age practice of venerating distinguished ladies by noblemen, usually knights or war heroes. The songs were written ritualistic way, at a time when expressing love for revered ladies was considered a proof of a man’s cultural and educational competence; hence not exactly women’s domain. But there used to be women’s part – lyrics written on behalf of the noble ladies. In this section, the man’s admiration is viewed from the perspective of the woman who has been addressed. She accepts the reverence and regrets that she must reject him.
There was also another kind of Exchange lyrics (Wechsellied) where the man and the lady expresses own emotion for the other, but ironically never talks to each other.
In dialogs\conversational lyrics we find exchange of dialogue between a man and a lady but the lady had to be an allegorical figure or a fictitious character.
Interesting is, in the list of names of lyricists, we don’t find any women poets name in 12\13th century. Is it because women were not allowed to take part in writing court-poems or publishing women’s’ names as composer of poems was taboo? We find personal letters between the knight Ulrich, his lady and his niece in 1255 AD, which proves that women of noble families were well-versed in writing skill. It’s little difficult to imagine that in the land where women lyricist-singer won the title like ‘magician of music’, ‘nightingale’ etc in 19th century, no sign of their predecessors are found in 13th\14th century.
Later, in 1471, we find one book of Lyrics written by Klara Hätzlerin. But she was only a professional writer, not the composer. She had written the book under a contract given by a patron from Augsburg. Why are the composer’s name hidden? Another work of this type was published in 1606, in which poems are claimed to be written by “Respectable ladies” – married and unmarried. This is a collection of love poems exclusively. But how to ascertain whether these were written by women or men who probably wanted to be published as women-poets to attract attention?
(To be cont.)