Reinmar of Hagenau

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Reinmar of Hagenau (German: Reinmar von Hagenau; died before 1210) was a German minnesinger of the twelfth century, surnamed in the MSS. der Alte (the old) to distinguish him from later poets of that name.

Reinmar is undoubtedly identical with the Reinmar referred to by Gottfried von Strassburg in his Tristan as the nightingale of Hagenau, the leader of the choir of nightingales, whose voice had just been hushed by death and who was to be succeeded by Walther von der Vogelweide. From this it may be inferred that the poet or his family came from Hagenau (Haguenau) in Alsace (though there is also a place of that name in Austria), and that he died shortly before 1210, when Gottfried's "Tristan" was written.

Otherwise nothing is known of Reinmar's life except what may be gathered from his verses. He certainly was in Vienna in 1195 at the Austrian court; he also participated in a crusade, presumably the Third Crusade undertaken by Duke Leopold in 1190. It seems that he lived for a long time at the Austrian court, where he enjoyed a high reputation and was much admired, even by the greatest of all minnesingers, Walther von der Vogelweide, who acknowledges himself as Reinmar's pupil, though this must not be taken in a literal sense.

Reinmar's lyrics show the Romance influence that had been predominant since Heinrich von Veldeke and Friedrich von Hausen. They are perfect in form and thoroughly "courtly" in sentiment. Passion and natural feeling are repressed, maze, correctness and propriety reign supreme. General reflections are common, concrete images and situations few. When, however, Reinmar breaks through the bounds of convention and allows his heart to speak, as in the lament for the death of the duke, which is put into the mouth of the duchess herself, he shows lyric gifts of a high order. But this does not often happen, and most of Reinmar's poems show more elegance of form than beauty of sentiment. In a society, however, where form was valued more than contents, such poetry was bound to meet with favour. Reinmar's poems are edited in Lachmann and Haupt, "Minnesangs Fruhling", XX (4th edition, Leipzig, 1888).

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