Freidank (Vrîdanc or Vrîgedanc, literally "Freethought") was a Middle High German lyric poet of the early 13th century.
He is presumed to be of Swabian origin and was probably born at the end of the 12th century in the Alemannic (Southwest German) linguistic region. As he was educated in writing and proper speech, later generations have imputed him with the romantic life of a wandering unordained cleric or scholar, who earned a living by his poetry on his travels.
It seems likely that in 1228–1229 he was involved in the Sixth Crusade of the Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick II; the poems Von Âkers ("from Acre", see the W. Grimm edition), which form part of his major work Bescheidenheit, are also from this period. During the crusade he may have reached Jaffa and was probably a witness of the conclusion of the peace treaty with Sultan Al-Kamil on 18 February 1229 at Jerusalem and Frederick's self-coronation as King of Jerusalem. Like most people who took part in the crusades, he perceives the often cynical and brutal realities of such undertakings and this disillusion often influences his works.
Freidank may have died in 1233, if he was the magister Fridancus whose death was reported in the annals of the Cistercian monastery at Kaisheim. The chronicler Hartmann Schedel however claimed to have seen a monument with the inscription Freydanck at Venetian Treviso in 1465.
His work Bescheidenheit ("Modesty" or "Experience"), created between 1215 and 1230, has survived. It is a collection of rhyming aphorisms in 53 thematic divisions and about 4,700 verses which encapsulate the folk wisdom and experience of the period. Due to its linguistic elegance, the work was very popular for an extremely long time and was thought of as a "Bible of the world". It has been transmitted in numerous manuscripts and also in a Latin translation ("Fridangi Discretio") and was quoted by contemporary authors, including Hugo von Trimberg and Rudolf von Ems. As late as 1508 Sebastian Brant published a new edition of it. Some quotes have survived as proverbs up to today
A critical edition of "Vridankes Bescheidenheit" by Wilhelm Grimm appeared in 1834 (although he assumed that Freidank was identical with Walther von der Vogelweide). A more recent edition is that of H.E. Bezzenberger, originally published in 1872 and reprinted in 1962.
- German Wikiquote has quotations related to: Freidank
- Freidank in the German National Library catalogue
- Vridankes Bescheidenheit, 1834 W. Grimm edition at Google Books (German)
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Freidank". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press