Caedmon on the Continent: The Heliand Prefaces and Bernlef

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Abstract

Firstly, this article addresses the influence of the story of the Anglo-Saxon singer Caedmon by Bede on two texts about religious poets on the continent: the Bernlef episodes in the Lives of Liudger and the Heliand Prefaces. Secondly, the question will be addressed whether a connection between the Heliand Prefaces and the Bernlef episodes can be found. Finally, a new light is shed on the discussion about the identity of the poet of the Heliand.

The result of a comparison between the profiles of the Heliand poet and Bernlef is as follows: 1) they were laymen, the Heliand poet at least at the time of his divine vocation; 2) they were held in great esteem by their people/neighbours as a poet/singer; 3) they were considered the best/a very good poet in the Thiudisc language; 4) after a divine miracle they focus on the adaptation of passages from the Holy Scripture; 5) the testimony of these miracles should not be doubted because of the ‘studium’ of the poets; 6) references to the story of Caedmon by Bede; 7) tradition of their stories on the continent between approximately 845 and 875.

These similarities could imply that Bernlef was the author of the Heliand. At the very least, the poet of the Heliand (according to the Prefaces) was someone that closely resembled Bernlef.

Abstract

Firstly, this article addresses the influence of the story of the Anglo-Saxon singer Caedmon by Bede on two texts about religious poets on the continent: the Bernlef episodes in the Lives of Liudger and the Heliand Prefaces. Secondly, the question will be addressed whether a connection between the Heliand Prefaces and the Bernlef episodes can be found. Finally, a new light is shed on the discussion about the identity of the poet of the Heliand.

The result of a comparison between the profiles of the Heliand poet and Bernlef is as follows: 1) they were laymen, the Heliand poet at least at the time of his divine vocation; 2) they were held in great esteem by their people/neighbours as a poet/singer; 3) they were considered the best/a very good poet in the Thiudisc language; 4) after a divine miracle they focus on the adaptation of passages from the Holy Scripture; 5) the testimony of these miracles should not be doubted because of the ‘studium’ of the poets; 6) references to the story of Caedmon by Bede; 7) tradition of their stories on the continent between approximately 845 and 875.

These similarities could imply that Bernlef was the author of the Heliand. At the very least, the poet of the Heliand (according to the Prefaces) was someone that closely resembled Bernlef.

1 Introduction

Between the late seventh and the early ninth centuries, the Anglo-Saxons set the tone intellectually for the West-Germanic region (Levison 1949; Haubrichs 1987). They were the missionaries, monks and scholars, who showed their kinsmen the way to the new religion. Latin, the language of the Church Fathers and the Classics, was, of course, predominant in written texts, but the use of the vernacular was not entirely neglected. Missionary texts and glosses from that period show a clear Anglo-Saxon sediment (Haubrichs 1987, 391–401). The white island has also laid the foundation for Biblical epics in the vernacular, a form of art that would not develop on the continent until much later.

A story known far and wide is that of the vernacular poet Caedmon (c. 680). Like Bede and Alcuin, Caedmon was a product of the spiritually and culturally flourishing period of Northhumbria. His story is recorded in Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. Bede tells us that, sometimes at feasts, when all the guests were invited to sing in turn at the harp, Caedmon would get up from the table and leave. On one such an occasion he went out to the stables, where it was his duty to look after the animals that night. In a dream, however, he was called by a voice from heaven to sing verses in praise of God. After a proficiency test in front of Abbess Hild of Whitby, Caedmon became a lay brother and sang of many events in salvation history, which were explained to him by learned men. According to Bede, “[e]t quidem et alii post illum in gente Anglorum religiosa poemata facere temtabant, sed nullus eum aequipare potuit. Namque ipse (…) diuinitus adiutus gratis canendi donum accepit” [… after him other Englishmen tried to compose religious poems, but no one could compare to him, as he (…) had received the gift of song freely by the grace of God] (Colgrave and Mynors 1969, iv.24).

Francis Magoun (1979, 58f.) tried to offer a rational explanation for this miracle. Caedmon had obviously been intrigued for a long time by the songs he had heard. That fascination is reflected in the completely formulaic character of his first hymn, which has been preserved. But he felt a strong aversion to—or fear of—reciting things himself. The dream would have helped him to overcome that fear. One of Caedmon’s imitators was his biographer Bede, who, reputedly on his deathbed, composed a song in the vernacular.1

In the Low and High German language area, four examples of spiritual, alliterative poetry have been preserved: the Wessobrunn Prayer, Muspelli, the Heliand and the Old Saxon Genesis. They date from the end of the eighth to the first half of the ninth century. Previous hypotheses about the influence of Anglo-Saxons poems on these works could not be proven or made likely (Haubrichs 1987, 405–407; Schwab 1988, 152–154, 170–172; cf. Kartschoke 1975, 152–154, 170–172). Admittedly, there are striking parallels between two passages from the Heliand and Cynewulf’s Elene. However, as Dietrich Hofmann (1973) has demonstrated, the direction of influence is unclear and the evidence seems to point to the continent as the ‘contributing’ party rather than the other way around. The Old Saxon biblical epics in particular testify to a vivid continental oral tradition, which had a profound impact on this poetry. Formulaic similarities between these epics and spiritual and secular Anglo-Saxon poetry do not seem to indicate cross-contamination, but rather point to a common source of formulas for the entire West Germanic region (Kellogg 1979, 190; cf. Sievers 1878, 389ff.).

In the tenth century, influences between the continent and England begin to reappear. By this point, however, the Anglo-Saxons have quite clearly lost their former position of prominence. A copy of the Heliand which was—according to many scholars—transcribed in England and an Anglo-Saxon translation of the Old Saxon Genesis bear witness to this change (Haubrichs 1987, 409–412; Taeger 1996, xx).

In the meantime, major changes had taken place on both sides of the North Sea. Regular Danish invasions from about the year 800 on had severely damaged reciprocal religious contact. Huge segments of England had fallen under Viking control and, as in the Dutch coastal regions that played an important role in shipping, the ecclesiastical organisation suffered heavily under their presence. In this time, the Anglo-Saxons lost their pioneering role on the continent (Levison 1946, 166; Haubrichs 1987, 405–409; Schwab 1988, 134). It was not until 878, during King Alfred’s reign, that the treaty of Wedmore was concluded, bringing a temporary end to Danish plundering and the continuous state of war.

In his famous preface to his translation of Gregory the Great’s Cura Pastoralis, Alfred testified to the intellectual and pastoral catastrophe he had encountered at the beginning of his reign. These circumstances gave rise to an extensive translation programme, in which the vernacular epic poetry was also reinstated (Schwab 1988, 133–135; Bremmer 2012, 196f.) The writing down of this poetry would continue over the next few centuries.

In the tenth century, English interest also emerged in the Old Saxon Biblical epics, which appear to have been forgotten on the continent fairly quickly. No new examples or copies are known to have been produced in Germany after roughly 875. However, marks of use in manuscript M indicate that the poem could still be read there a hundred years later (Taeger 1996, xviii). In the second half of the ninth century, alliterative poetry also fell into decline on the continent. Otfried von Weissenburg, the monk who fiercely turned against the cantus obscenus laicorum (“scandalous singing of laymen”), which were apparently still heard in monasteries, wrote his Evangelienbuch. In doing so, he used end rhymes and thus broke away from the tradition of the epic singers. In other words, spiritual alliterative poetry on the continent flourished for a relative short period of time, when communication with the Anglo-Saxon cognates was cut off for the greater part.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons to assume that the English example also inspired vernacular religious poetry on the continent, although this influence may have been fairly general. In this article, a closer look will be taken at two instances, which seem to make this clear: (1) the story of Bernlef, the blind singer from Helwerd in Frisia, and (2) the much-discussed Praefatio and Versus of the Heliand.

2 Bernlef

The story of Bernlef is found in the biographies of St. Liudger. The first biography is that of Altfrid, probably a sister’s son of Liudger and abbot of Werden from 839–849. This work dates from the end of this period (Diekamp 1881, xx). The Vita ii s. Liudgeri was written between 850 and 863 by an anonymous monk from Werden (Ibid., xlvf.) The Vita iii s. Liudgeri, from the period shortly after 864, is also anonymous; the author writes on behalf of the ‘brothers of the monastery’ (Ibid., l). The last two biographies seem to respond to the wish to emphasize the link between Liudger and the monastery of Werden; moreover, the Vita iii features many moralistic digressions, which made it suitable for readings at the monastery table. This last vita was the most widespread in the Middle Ages (Ibid., xlvf., xlixf., lii).

The Vita ii and iii follow the narrative of Altfrid closely in the Bernlef episodes. Modest additions include more detailed explanations of some passages, such as the artistic ability and the repertoire of Bernlef.

The extracts from the Bernlef chapters in the biographies are presented below according to the edition of Diekamp from 1881. In one case, a quote from the Vita iii has been completed by the edition of Surius (1571), because the text of Diekamp was incomplete here.

Altfrid splits the story of Bernlef into two chapters. The first chapter brings us to the period 787–792, when Liudger was appointed by Charles the Great as a missionary for the present province of Groningen in the Netherlands and the western part of Germany’s province of East-Friesland:

When Liudger arrived in a village called Helwerd to preach the Gospel, a certain woman, called Meinsuit, received him in her home. While he was sitting at the table there with his pupils, a blind man called Bernlef, was brought before him. This blind man was held in great esteem among his neighbours because he was engaging and could recite the forefathers’ deeds and the kings’ wars beautifully with song and harp playing. Three years previously however he had been afflicted by such continuous blindness that no spark of light, or even the slightest eyesight, was left to him. Liudger looked at him cheerfully and asked him whether he wanted to confess; on receiving a promise, he ordered Bernlef to look for him the next day.

The next day, the blind man went to meet the clergyman, who was on his way on horseback. The servant of the Lord took Bernlef’s horse by the rein and led him to a place far from any hustle and bustle. He gave him penance, after the man had confessed his sins. Then Liudger placed the sign of the holy cross on the blind man’s eyes and asked him, while he held his hand directly in front of him, whether he could see anything. Bernlef answered with great joy that he could distinguish his hand. Liudger replied, saying: ‘Thank the almighty Lord.’

While they were in conference about the Christian faith and various needs of the soul, they arrived at a village called Warffum. Liudger asked Bernlef whether he recognised it. Bernlef replied immediately with its name and indicated that he could see the trees and houses clearly. Again, Liudger tells him: ‘Thank the almighty Lord, who has made you to see again.’

Once they arrived at the village of Usquerd, which has a chapel, he had Bernlef pray together with him and thank God. He also made Bernlef take an oath to tell no one the source of his healing until the day Liudger should die. Bernlef did as ordered: he pretended to be blind for a few more days and made use of another man’s guidance. After Liudger’s death, however, he let others know how his blindness had been healed.

i.252

In a subsequent passage, Altfrid and the other biographies provide even more information about Bernlef. In 792, the Saxons and Frisians were embroiled in their final revolt against Charlemagne. According to the biographies, this revolt also meant a return to paganism. Liudger and the other clergymen were forced to flee, but he ordered Bernlef to stay behind. Bernlef, who was a layman and enjoyed regard and popularity among the populace, was not at risk and was tasked with the alleviation of the spiritual needs of children who were terminally ill and not yet baptized. Their souls would find no rest without having been christened and would be doomed forever (cf. Halbertsma 2000, 360, n. 428). Obediently, Bernlef walked from house to house, trying to persuade mothers to allow him to baptize their sick children. He baptized eighteen children in this way, sixteen of whom died before peace returned.

Altfrid also tells us that Bernlef learned Psalms from Liudger at any time he met him afterwards and that he recited them in his own way. Bernlef survived Liudger for many years and died “senex et plenus dierum” [old and full of days], but in possession of his sight until the end of his days. On his deathbed, a sign was granted to him:

Quem cum morientem uxor sua flendo interrogaret, qualiter super eum vivere potuissset, respondit dicens: ‘Si ego a Domino aliquid impetrare potero, post meum obitum non longo tempore in hoc seculo eris victura.’ Dumque sana et incolomis hanc eius respondionem audisset, die autem quintodecimo moriendo secuta est.

i.26

[When his wife asked him in tears how she could live on without him, he answered: ‘If I can accomplish something when I’m with the Lord, you won’t live much longer after my death here on earth.’ And while she was safe and sound when she listened to this answer, she followed him fourteen days afterwards in death.]

Superficially, the story of the healing may sound as strange as it is miraculous. It has even been thought to be a kind of parable, a myth, to exemplify the transition from blind paganism to the enlightenment of the Christian religion (cf. De Rek 1983, 153, n. 1).

Be that as it may, Altfrid’s general attitude towards the recording of miracles—an essential part of a saint’s life—can be described as careful and selective. The Dutch historian Jan Romein (1932, 19), known to be a confirmed atheist, evaluated this aspect of the vita as follows:

Het zijn meest genezingen van lammen en blinden, waarbij naam, plaats, ziekte en aard der heling steeds nauwkeurig worden opgegeven en aan welker echtheid Altfried dan ook stellig niet twijfelde—en wij evenmin behoeven te twijfelen.

[Usually, they deal with healings of paralysed and blind people and names, places, diseases and the nature of the healing are specified. Altfrid definitely did not doubt their authenticity and we have no need to doubt them either.]

Romein saw Altfrid as one of the last examples of an author “[die] nog te dicht bij de vierkante persoonlijkheden der geloofspredikers [stond] om wonderzuchtig te zijn” [(who was) still too close to the unconditional personalities of the preachers of the Gospel to long for miracles] (7). This moderate attitude applies at least to the miracles and signs which are believed to have occurred during the life of the saint and were recorded at the end of the first book of Altfrid’s account. Aside from Bernlef’s healing, the reader will encounter little spectacular material: a honey pot that cracks open at the right moment to expose deceit; the catching of a rather rare fish; and a prophecy of Viking invasions during a period in which they had already been stalking the English coast. In a second book, which deals with the miracles and signs that occurred after Liudger’s death (e.g., at his grave), Altfrid appears to have been less selective (Diekamp 1881, xxvi).

Furthermore, throughout the Middle Ages a blind singer was much more than a topos. In the thirteenth-century poem Jüngere Titurel, as well as in various mediaeval books of invoices, blind people and singers of heroic legends are almost synonymous. When a man was born blind or became blind in the course of his life, he could not earn a living as a manual worker or a soldier, but he could become a singer and in this way save himself and his family from starvation (Wehrli 1983, 64; Heinzle 1978, 89).

Finally, there is a simple and plausible explanation for the healing miracle. Bernlef was not blind by birth, but acquired this handicap in the course of his life. What his healing probably consisted of was some primitive form of cataract stitch, a skill Liudger may have mastered. The eyes were actually cut during this procedure. The troubled lens mass was moved—and sometimes even removed—to restore some of the patient’s sight (Museum Boerhave 1992, 9; cf. Rouge 1987, 362f.). Some statements from the Second and Third Life also support this conclusion. In the Vita ii we read: “… signans eum signo sanctae crucis …” (i.21). Here, “signans eum” means: “while he provided him for a mark or incision”.

The Vita iii remarks about Liudger’s healing skills:

Habuit gratiam curationum, qua incommoditatibus et infirmatibus corporum plerumque medicatus est.

i.40

[He had the gift of healings by which the greater parts of the physical ailments and diseases could be cured.]

The explanation of the miracle presented in this article may look like a modern, somewhat anachronistic rationalization of what occurred. However, this interpretation is supported by an eleventh-century copy of the Second Life with beautifully made miniatures (Berlin, Staatbibliothek, Ms. Theol.Lat.Fol.323; Vita St. Liudgeri 1993). The subject of one of the illustrations is the healing of Bernlef. Liudger is depicted here with the instruments of an oculist: two elongated pieces of metal. Evidently, it was felt that there was no contradiction between healing skills and divine intervention: from the heavens appears a blessing hand in the midst of a flock of geese.3

figure 1
figure 1

Vita Sancti Liudgeri. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ms. Theol.Lat.Fol.323, fol. 12r.

Citation: Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 77, 3-4 (2017) ; 10.1163/18756719-12340089

© staatsbibliothek zu berlin – pk.4

The oath of secrecy that Liudger demanded from Bernlef reflects an ideal emulation of Christ and the abandonment of worldly vanity. This is a rather familiar topos in hagiography.5

3 Caedmon and Bernlef

Liudger had studied in Northumbria, in York, under the guidance of Alcuin. In all likelihood, he became acquainted there with Caedmon’s tradition and the work of his followers. When Liudger met Bernlef, he did not respond negatively about his art of poetry. Rather, he recognized its potential uses immediately, uses that, until then, were barely known on the continent (Quispel 1975, 13f.).

Altfrid makes no explicit mention of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica as a source. However, according to Van Berkum he imitates the English historian from a distance. He places the life of Liudger explicitly in the context of 150 years of Frisian church history, the reason why his work could be called a ‘Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Frisonum’, even though this claim is perhaps somewhat exaggerated (Van Berkum 1984, 75). At any rate, the book of Bede was well-known in Werden; it was consulted by the author of the Vita Lebuini Antiqua, which was produced in the same monastery between 850 and 864 (Hauck 1964, 225f.).

The passages about Caedmon in Bede and Bernlef in the Lives of Liudger partly show a similarity in structure. In the opening, the qualities of both poets are enlarged in superlative terms. This is followed by a description of the divine miracles that revolutionize the lives of the two poets. A third section discusses events in the later years of the key figures that reflect their pious lives and studies. Here too, a difference emerges that is connected with the structure of both books. Bede devotes particular attention to the working method used by Caedmon and the biblical passages about which he sang. The Lives of Liudger mainly limit themselves to events that bear a direct relationship with the life and work of Liudger: the christening of children and the Psalms that the poet had learned from the missionary.

What is striking are the similarities at the end of the stories, where the deathbed scene of the poets is described. In both cases, a crucial fourteen-day period precedes an unexpected death, which is put in a miraculous light. Caedmon feels the onset of physical weakness fourteen days before his death, though not severely enough to give up his daily routine entirely. On the evening before his death, he asks the attendant at the hospice to prepare a resting place for him. The attendant is surprised at such a request from a man who does not appear likely to die anytime soon. The fact that pious and devout people have premonitions about their own death is, of course, a familiar topos. Bede next emphasizes that the poet receives the last sacrament, takes leave of his fellow brethren in peace and passes away that very night.

The deathbed scene of Bernlef also features a fourteen-day period. As mentioned earlier, Bernlef promises his wife to intercede on her behalf before the Lord. She dies fourteen days later, although she was still healthy when her husband passed on. Altfrid here uses the phrase die quintodecimo, ‘on the fifteenth day’, a common way in the Middle Ages to indicate an interval of fourteen days.

The passage about the deathbed experience of Bernlef is remarkable, since it constitutes—apart from a brief characterization of his secular poetry—the only passage in the story of Altfrid in which no connection is made with the life and work of Liudger.

For a closer examination of these possible links, it is important to compare some key text sections from Bede and the Lives of Liudger with each other.

3.1 About the Method of the Poets

Bede:

… iussitque illum seriem sacrae historiae doceri. At ipse cuncta, quae audiendo discere poterat, rememorando secum et quasi mundum animal ruminando, in carmen dulcissimum conuertebat …

iv.24

[… and (the abbess) ordered him to be instructed in the events of sacred history. Thus, Caedmon stored in his memory all that he could learn by listening, and like one of the clean animals chewing the cud, turned into (such) melodious verse…]

Altfrid:

Ipse vero Bernlef, ubicumque postea servum Dei reperisset, didicit ab eo psalmos …

i.25

[And the same Bernlef truly learned, wherever he met the servant of God, Psalms from him.]

Vita ii:

… sedulo Liudgeri se comitatui iungens, orationes et psalmos, quos poterat, ediscens

i.22

[… while he joined the company of Liudger obligingly and learned by rote as many prayers and Psalms as he could.]

Vita iii:

… post suam inluminationem tamen eruditos quosque viros frequentare et psalmos ab eis, vel si quid aliud ex Scripturis poterat, discere consuevit.

i.29 (D)

[… nevertheless he used to visit after his illumination all learned men regularly and to learn Psalms from him or if he could something else of Scripture.]

The word (e)discere, for vernacular poets like Caedmon and Bernlef, obviously meant that a passage from the Holy Scripture was taught to them, after which they learned it by rote and returned after some time—e.g., the next day, as Bede writes about Caedmon—with a poetical version.

The link between Bede on the one hand and the Vita ii and iii particularly catches the eye: in all three the texts, we encounter a combination of (e)discere, poterat and a relative pronoun. Moreover, the “eruditos quosque viros” [all learned men], which Bernlef frequented according to the Vita iii, have an equivalent in the history of Caedmon, who is instructed by “multis doctoribus viris” [many learned men] in passages from the Old or New Testament (“sacrae historiae siue doctrinae”) (iv.24). Altfrid and the other Lives of Liudger use the verb (e)discere in the meaning Bede gives to it in the story of Caedmon. Thus, Bede not only influenced Altfrid, but also inspired the two later Lives.

3.2 About the Deathbed Scene of Both Poets

In his closing sentence, the author of the Vita iii underscores once again his dependency on Bede’s text. The latter concludes his account of Caedmon’s deathbed experience with the following sentence:

… praescius sui obitus extississe ex his quae narrauimus uidetur.

iv.24

[… that he had a premonition of his death, seems to come forward from what we have told.]

The monk from Werden who was responsible for the Vita iii closes less elegantly:

Quod ideo licet extraordinarie positum alicui possit videri narravimus, ut factae illuminationis testimonium ex merito attestantis probetur.

i.29

[Although this may seem to some an extraordinary deathbed [experience], we have told it, in order that the testimony to the successful healing of blindness may be proven by the merit of the witness.]

Such a comment is lacking in the vita of Altfrid. Only in one of the three preserved manuscripts of the Vita ii one finds a to some extent comparable consideration:

Unde tam ex religiosa eius vita quam ex hoc indicio cognosci potest, non fuisse eum contemptibilem Deo eiusque probabile esse testimonium.

i.22

[Therefore, from his pious life as well as from this sign can be known that he was no minor person in the eyes of God and that his testimony is trustworthy.]

trans. diekamp 1881, 67, n. i

The combination of “narravimus” and “uidetur/videri” in the closing sentence in both texts suggests that the Vita iii may have been influenced here by Bede.

4 Caedmon and the Heliand Prefaces

The only fairly direct source of information about the Heliand author is the Praefatio to this poem in combination with a poetical preface, called the Versus. The adverb ‘fairly’ is called for here, because both texts are not without controversy, since these Prefaces were not handed down in manuscript. The Lutheran theologian, Flacius Illyricus first printed them in his Catalogus testium veritatis, which dates to 1562. A contemporary account reveals that the Prefaces preceded a Gospel harmony in the vernacular, undoubtedly the Old Saxon Heliand (Hannemann 1973, 5–7).

The authenticity of the Prefaces has long been the subject of debate. It was conceivable that they were humanistic forgeries produced for the purpose of propaganda (cf. Andersson 1974; Hofstra 1996). However, the arguments for the authenticity of the texts—next to the historic research of Hannemann (1973) the use of the mediaeval words ‘vitteas’ in the Praefatio and ‘menando’ in the Versus—are convincing (Taeger 1996, xxxiv, xxxviii n. 88).

It has often been argued that the Versus date from the end of the ninth century, since 65% consists of leoninic inrhymes (Taeger 1996, xxxiv). However, this verse type has already been found in the East-Francian region too about the middle of the ninth century, namely in Werden, a monastery which has often been related to the origin of the Heliand. A series of four of such epitaphs is dated between 840 and 850 (Hauck 1986, 20–22).

Haubrichs (1973) argues that the Praefatio comprises of two textual parts, A and B. Both parts seek to offer an explanation for the creation of the poem. The Praefatio A presents this literary creation as a historical process stemming from the ambitions of an Emperor Louis (“Ludouicus piissimus augustus”) to exhort his subjects to piety, a process that culminated when he bid the poet to translate the Holy Scripture poetically into the vernacular. The Praefatio B and the Versus look for a legendary explanation for the origin of the poem. The Praefatio B is considered an interpolation by Haubrichs, aimed at bringing Versus and Praefatio A into line with each other.6 It also mentions an Old Testament poem composed by the same author; in all probability, the latter poem was the Old Saxon Genesis. According to Haubrichs, the Praefatio A was part of the original proclamation of the poem, while the Versus and the Praefatio B have been added later. He identifies Hrabanus Maurus as the author of the Praefatio A, on the basis of a stylistic and contextual comparison with other prologues of this scholar, in particular the Praefatio of his Commentary on Matthew, which was an important source for the Heliand.

Haubrichs dates the presentation of the poem to about 850, but in 2004 Hummer made a strong case for the thesis that “Ludouicus piissimus augustus” could be no other than Louis the Pious (778–840), because it concerns a common and also exclusive designation of this monarch. Furthermore, the broad dissemination and ramification of manuscripts around 850 makes an origin before 840 probable.

Taeger (1996, xxxivxxxvii) advocates the unity of the Praefatio. In his view, there is no need to hypothesize a contradiction between an order of the emperor and a divine vocation, because both elements can strengthen each other. He assumes a considerable distance in time between the poem and the Praefatio, as the latter attributes the Old Testament Poem (the Old Saxon Genesis) to the poet of the Heliand, something he believes to be out of the question. There are, however, publications which take another stand in this last matter (cf. Bruckner 1929).

The Praefatio A also mentions that the poet was already considered to be a very famous poet by his contemporaries. B seems to suggest, on the contrary, that the poet—like Caedmon—is a novice. However, this apparent contradiction is explainable considering that this remark may refer only to the biblical epic (Taeger 1996, xxxvii). The works by which the Heliand poet obtained his earlier fame would then have been secular, possibly completed with short hymns that did not claim to reproduce a substantial part of biblical history. Taeger assumes that the Versus was added afterwards, according to his dating about the end of the ninth century (xxxiv). However, this late dating is not necessary, in view of the previously mentioned research of Hauck. The finding of fragment L from about 850, according to Sahm (2007, 97) and Price (2010, 222) most likely part of manuscript *L, which included the Prefaces, is also reason to significantly advance the dating of the Versus.

The conclusion that the story of the divine vocation of Caedmon inspired the Heliand Prefaces and the Versus in particular, is generally accepted. Bede provided the author(s) of this prologues with a model that could also grant a supernatural legitimacy to the Heliand (Krogmann 1973, 40–44; Taeger 1996, xxvii; Schwab 1988, 140).

One similarity to the story of Caedmon is that the Praefatio and the Versus also depict the Heliand poet as a simple layman, who is called upon by a heavenly voice in his sleep to reproduce the Holy Scripture in poetry, although he never dealt with this kind of art before. Hellgardt (2004, 203) points out another parallel between Bede and the Praefatio: after the divine vocation, a human order (of the abbess and the emperor respectively) follows to realize this task. However, there are differences as well, which stress the continental poet’s own identity. According to the Praefatio, he already is a famous poet at that time, while Caedmon had never sung at the harp before. In the Versus—which, by the way, keep silent about his earlier works—the shepherd is replaced by a simple farmer, who ‘cleaved the land with his plough without worry and placed all his hope in his modest ground’ (vv. 14f.). Furthermore, this farmer receives his vocation by day instead of by night and finally does not resist like Caedmon, who initially hides behind his inability to sing and only tries when the voice insists.

5 The Heliand Prefaces and Bernlef

One further possible connection needs to be discussed in this article: the relationship between the traditions surrounding the Heliand poet and Bernlef. Below, I compare some text sections from the Prefaces and the Lives of Liudger.

5.1 About the Background of the Poet

Fon Weringha (1965, 10 n. 51) mentions “a remarkable simularity in the traditions about the background of the Heliand poet and Bernlef” as one of the indicators for the authorship of Bernlef of the Heliand.

He refers to the following phrases in the Praefatio, in Altfrid and the Vita iii:

… cuidam viro de gente Saxonum, qui apud suos non ignobilis vates habebatur, …

Praef. (A)

[… a man from the nation of the Saxons, who was considered by his people to be a very famous poet, …]

… Bernlef, qui a vicinis suis valde diligebatur, eo quod esset affabilis et antiquorum actus regumque certamina bene noverat psallendo promere.

Altfrid, i.25

[… Bernlef, who was held in great esteem among his neighbours because he was engaging and could recite the forefathers’ deeds and the kings’ wars beautifully with song and harp playing.]

Etenim quia Thiudiscae linguae poëta erat optimus et antiquorum gesta bene cantare sciens, morum insuper rationabilium et iocundus in verbis, mediocribus et divitibus valde charus erat

Vita ii, ic.21

[He certainly was the best/a very good poet in the Thiudisc language and was held, because he could sing of the forefathers’ deeds beautifully and besides was of refined morals and engaging in his words, in great esteem among poor and rich …]

Is Bernleef cognomento, vicinis suis admodum charus erat: q[ui]a antiquorum actus regumque certamina, more gentis suae, non inurbane cantare noverat …

Vita iii, i.29 (Is … q[ui]a according to Surius (1571))

[This man, called Bernle(e)f, was held in great esteem among his neighbours, because he could sing of the forefathers’ deeds and the kings’ wars very cultivated according to the custom of his nation …]

A similarity in structure can be noticed: “apud suos”/“a vicinis suis”/“vicinis suis” followed by “non ignobilis”/“valde diligebatur”/“valde charus”/“admodum charus” and “vates” and a description of the poetic skill, respectively. The first part of this structure relates to ‘his people’, ‘his neighbours’ and the second part to his fame as poet, at which superlative terms are used in all cases.

In addition to ‘famous’ and ‘excellent’, nobilis can also mean ‘noble’, but the context makes clear that it concerns the abilities and reputation of the poet here.7 The phrase “valde diligebatur” which Altfrid uses for this second part not only has the connotation ‘in great esteem’, but also that of ‘beloved/popular’, which refers to both his capability as a poet and to his character; the Vita ii and Vita iii adopt this connotation (“valde/admodum charus”).

This similarity in structure is so strong that it cannot be based on chance. At the least it is clear that a similar background is attributed to both the Heliand poet and Bernlef about the middle of the ninth century. The Praefatio (A) ought to be dated a bit earlier than the Bernlef episodes, given the fact that the work of Altfrid was written about 848/849 (Diekamp 1881, xx).

Like the Praefatio the Vita iii also uses a litotes with regard to the background of the poet: “non ignobilis” and “non inurbane”, respectively. This finding is not conclusive enough to assume that the author of this work refers to the Praefatio. However, another quote from this Vita iii, in which the nation of the Saxons gets the epithet “non ignobilis” in spite of their pagan activities, is remarkable:

Interea a Saxonibus, gente et agilitate et virtute non ignobili, Christianis, qui illis in locis erant, persecutione commota, Frisiae pars maior a fide defecit.

Vita iii, i.17

[Meanwhile most of Friesland abandoned the faith, while the Christians who lived in those places were driven away by the Saxons, a nation which is very famous in decisiveness and virtue.]

With regard to the Vita ii, the following has to be considered. The author uses the phrase “Etenim quia Thiudiscae linguae poëta erat optimus” [He certainly was the best/a very good poet in the Thiudisc language] (1.21) and then further varies on the words of Altfrid. Compare this to the following phrase in the Praefatio (B): “ut cuncta Theudisca poëmata suo vincat decore” [that it exceeds all Theudisc poems in beauty]. These phrases confirm the assumption that people in religious circles in and around Saxony about 850 thought in the same kind of superlatives about the poetic skills of both Bernlef and the Heliand poet.

Thus, both men were considered very famous poets /singers in their own environment. The concepts vates and poeta in this context refer to an elevated class of poets and singers, who are at the service of the noble culture and sing about the heroes of the old ages, praise the sovereigns and sometimes sing the praises of saints (Haubrichs 1988, 89–91).

Both poets were no clergymen, at least not from childhood. In the Praefatio, the poet is indicated as “cuidam viro”; any reference to a clerical status is lacking. Besides, clergymen were forbidden to practice the profession of minstrel, to entertain their company with the recitation of singing or even to sing along—in England from the eighth century and on the continent from 813 (Haubrichs 1988, 83). As far as any doubts were still possible, the Versus confirm the lay status of the poet: he is “prius agricola” (v. 28). An earlier (secular?) oeuvre is not mentioned here, perhaps because it was still somewhat controversial. In short, he was a layman, at least at the time of his divine vocation. Bernlef was also a layman and remained so until the end of his life, “bound by his marriage”.

5.2 About the “studium” of the Poet

Praefatio and Versus praise the “studium” of the poet:

Quam admonitionem nemo veram esse ambigit, qui huius carminis notitiam studiumque eius compositoris atque desiderii anhelationem habuerit.

Praef. (B)

[Nobody, who has become acquainted with this poem and knows the study of its poet and his intense yearning, doubts the genuineness of this exhortation.]

Fortunam studiumque viri laetosque labores

carmine privatam delectat promere vitam

Versus, 1–2

[It is joyful to bring forward the fate and the study of the man and his rich works, his personal life in a poem.]

Compare this to the following phrase from the Vita iii:

De cuius testimonio minus hesitabit, qui vitae eius probitatem et pium in Domino studium recognoscit. Nam quamvis coniugali esset vinculo alligatus, post suam inluminationem tamen eruditos quosque viros frequentare et psalmos ab eis, vel si quid aliud ex scripturis poterat, discere consuevit. Cuius studio sanctus Liudgerus delectatus eius industria in fidei quoque causa utendum putavit.

Vita iii, 1.29

[He will doubt the less the witness of this man, who reminds the virtue of his life and his pious study in the Lord. For although he was bound by his marriage, nevertheless he used to visit after his illumination all learned men regularly and to learn Psalms from them, or if he could, something else of Scripture. Joyful about his study, the holy Liudger took the view that his diligence also should be utilized in the matter of the faith.]

There are similarities in content and syntax between the first line of this quote from the Vita iii and the phrase from the Praefatio. In both cases, the testimony of a miracle should not be doubted because of the “studium” of the poet. In the Vita iii, “studium” refers to poetical activities (revising passages from the bible to poetry in the vernacular) and for Praefatio and Versus this meaning is also the most probable.8 Furthermore, the quotes from Versus and Vita iii show a combination of “vita”, “studium” and “delectat/delectatus”.

5.3 “Iussis (…) libenter obtemperans”

The next quotes relate to the expression “iussis (…) libenter obtemperans” in the Praefatio and similar phrases in the Bernlef episodes:

Qui iussis Imperialibus libenter obtemperans nimirum eo facilius, quo desuper admonitus est prius, ad tam difficile tanque arduum se statim contulit opus, potius tamen confidens de adiutorio obtemperantiae, quam de suae ingenio parvitatis.

Praef. (A+B)

[He, obeying the imperial orders of his own free will and all the more obligingly because he had been urged before to do that from above, immediately has dedicated himself to such a difficult and laborious undertaking, in which he more trusted in the aid of his obedience than in his small talent.]

At ille iussis eius libenter oboediens

Altfrid, i.26

[And he, who obeyed his orders of his own free will …]

Qui iussa sollerter inplere satagens …

Vita ii, i.22

[He, who made an effort to carry out his orders skillfully…]

… persuasis matronis, quarum ingenium naturali conditione ad credendum esse facilius noverat, morituros earum infantulos benedicta simpliciter aqua in nomine Domini cum invocatione sanctae Trianitatis baptizaret. Cuius ille iussis libenter obtemperans …

Vita iii, i.29

[(Liudger entrusted Bernlef) … to baptize, after having convinced the mothers, of whom he knew that they are more obliging to believe because of their natural disposition, children of them, who were doomed to die simply in water, consecrated in the name of the Lord, under the invocation of the holy Trinity. He, obeying his orders of his own free will …]

The expression “iussis (…) libenter obtemperans” in the Praefatio reflects an important tenet that is also expressed in the Heliand. Just as Christ undertook the death on the cross of his own free will, every man has the choice between obedience to God and his secular lord on the one hand and pride and rebellion on the other hand (Quispel 1975, 41–49; Cathey 2002, 13–15).

Altfrid comes close to the expression used by the Praefatio. Bernlef does not join the revolt, which drives all clergymen into exile, and does not abstain either, but chooses to perform the order of Liudger. The author of the Vita ii edits the quote of Altfrid to such an extent that the connection almost disappears. It is noteworthy that the Vita iii just like the Praefatio uses a combination of “iussis”, “libenter” and “obtemperans”.9 In the phrase from this Vita also the words “ingenio/ingenium” and “facilius” from the Praefatio quote occur once again. The phrase about the mothers, who would be more obligingly to believe because of their “ingenium”, has no parallel in the earlier biographies.10

These connections might not bear enough evidential value in themselves, but reinforce the impression that many similarities can be found between the Prefaces on the one hand and in particular the Bernlef episode in the Vita iii on the other hand.

5 Conclusions and Interpretation

The Bernlef episodes in the biographies of Liudger have been influenced by the story of Caedmon in Beda. Similarities in the passages about the deathbed scene and the method of both poets make this clear. The fact that Beda also influenced the Praefatio and Versus of the Heliand has already been demonstrated by various authors in the past.

This article also addressed the question of whether there is a connection between the Heliand prologues and the Bernlef episodes. Firstly, the structure of the description of the background of both poets turns out to be similar. The first part of this structure relates to “his people”/“his neighbours” and the second part to the fame of the poet, at which superlative forms are used. Furthermore, a number of similarities between Praefatio/Versus and the Bernlef episodes, in the Vita iii in particular, attract attention.

We can conclude from these similarities that the Heliand poet (according to the Praefatio) was someone like Bernlef. The result of a comparison between the profiles of both poets is as follows:

  1. (H): a layman, at least at the time of his divine vocation; (B): a layman
  2. (H): “who was considered by his people to be a very famous poet”; (B): “who was held in great esteem among his neighbours [as singer/poet]”:
  3. (H): “it exceeds all Theudisc poems in beauty”; (B): “the best/ a very good poet in the Thiudisc language”
  4. (H): after a miracle of God (divine vocation), he focusses on the adaptation of passages from the Old and New Testament; (B): after a miracle of God (healing from blindness) he focusses on the adaptation of Psalms and other passages from the Holy Scripture.
  5. (H): the genuineness of a miracle (divine exhortation) should not be questioned because of the “studium” of the poet; (B): his testimony of a miracle (healing from blindness) should not be questioned because of the “studium” of the poet.
  6. (H): references to the story of Caedmon (simple peasant; divine vocation); (B): references to the story of Caedmon (“learning [if] he could” from Scripture under the leadership of many scholars; miraculous deathbed experience).
  7. (H): tradition in manuscripts on the continent between approximately 845 and 875; (B): coverage in the Lives of Liudger between approximately 845 and 875.

Was the Heliand composed by somebody like Bernlef or was it perhaps Bernlef himself? Various arguments have been brought forward against the equating of both poets. Firstly, it has been argued that the Heliand poet must have been younger than Bernlef (Koegel 1894, 283f.; Drögereit 1970, 15f.). However, Bernlef died “senex et plenus dierum”, a phrase which has also been used by Alcuin for Willibrord, who reached the age of 81 (Krusch and Levison 1920, I.24; Porck 2016, 3; cf. Diekamp 1881, xxii). If the poet died about or shortly after 840 (between the terminus ante quem for the Heliand and the death year of Altfrid), his birth year should be about 760. He would have been about 30 years old at the time of the meeting with Liudger, which is plausible. Liudger was born in 742 and the teacher-pupil-relationship that developed between the missionary and the poet makes an age difference probable (Fon Weringha 1965, 10, n. 51).11

A second objection, ethnic by nature, is more important (Klein 1990, 199; cf. Veenbaas 1992, 162–164). Bernlef would have been a true-born Frisian and the Heliand poet “cuidam viro de gente Saxonum”.

From the nineteenth century onwards, after centuries of oblivion, the ways of the reception of the Bernlef episodes and the Heliand parted. Bernlef was crowned as the symbolic Urheber of the Frisian poetry, although had to be noted melancholically that nothing of his ancient epics had been preserved (Ten Broecke Hoekstra 1813, 140; Piebenga 1939, 8). The Heliand went from the first edition in 1830 onwards, in the absence of a Saxon nation, predominantly down in history as a German poem (Meijering 1978, 16, 24).

However, since the end of the Second World War a radical change in scholarly thinking about ethnicity has occurred: ethnicity is no longer seen as a biological fact, but as a cultural construction. According to this vision nations are heterogeneous collections of people, who constantly are subject to change by absorption of outsiders, assimilation with other groups and division in sub-groups. Alongside a small nucleus of ‘full’ carriers of an identity there is a large, heterogeneous and changing body of people surrounding it, who came to share this identity but may also have retained previous allegiances (Wenskus 1977, 54–82; Flierman 2015, 16f.; James 1990, 13f.).

The borders between Saxons and Frisians were fluent. Groups of Saxons and Frisians revolted in the war together against Charles the Great. The Saxon and Frisian nobility were closely connected; the Liudgerids were an example of such a mixed Frisian-Saxon noble family (Rembold 2014, 2–4, 40f., 209; Halbertsma 2000, 291).

The Vita ii mentions that Bernlef joined the company of Liudger after his healing, which moved to Saxony after the rebellion of Frisians and Saxons in 792. In that way, Bernlef can be included in the tribe of the Saxons. We know from the Anglo-Saxon poem Deor that a traveling singer could even be granted with a fief (Voorwinden 1986, 41f.). In his years in Saxony, he “would have no difficulty in getting familiar with whatever differences there may have been between ‘the’ Saxon dialect and his own (…) at that time” (Fon Weringha 1965, 10 n. 51). Besides, if the Heliand poet was a (former) professional singer, the specific linguistic colorization of the dialect of the Heliand archetype could be the product of the scribe rather than of the poet himself.

A third objection against Bernlef as the poet of the Heliand is that the Bernlef episodes seem to be silent about the Heliand or a repertoire similar to the Heliand (cf. Klein 1992, 175; Hofstra 1992, 178). However, the Heliand was an anonymous poem and it would have been strange, if the authors of the Lives of Liudger would not have respected this anonymity—undoubtedly (also) inspired by religious motives.12 The authors of the Vita ii and the Vita iii remain anonymous themselves and demonstrate in this way that they also avoid vanitas terrestris. Furthermore, it should be considered that the person of Liudger is central in these episodes. Only in the Vita iii we are informed about a spiritual repertoire of the singer, which is partly beyond this scope. According to this Vita it becomes clear that he visited after his illumination ‘all learned men to learn from them’ not only ‘Psalms’—in which Liudger went ahead—, but also ‘if he could something else of Scripture’. The phrase ‘to learn’ was used here in the ‘Caedmon’ meaning of the word. In short, he was a traveling singer who was of more than local significance and was in touch with the important scholars of his time to sing about the Holy Scripture. A project like the Heliand could fit into this profile. The orthography would then be the product of a scribe, who travelled with him or lived in the monastery where the Heliand had been produced.

A fourth objection which has been brought forward is that the Heliand probably is the product of a poet who was a scholar, because of his huge theological knowledge (Hofstra 1992, 181; Rathofer 1962). Important sources for the Heliand were the Gospel harmony of Tatianus and the Gospel commentaries of Hrabanus Maurus and of Paschasius Radbertus on Matthew, of Bede on Luke and of Alcuin on John. However, rather recently, Haferland (2002) breathed new life into the opinion that the poet had a background in the field of the oral epic poetry and was instructed by scholars like Caedmon was. He points out that the poet employs an oral point of view; when he mentions writing he does so from an outsider’s perspective. According to this author the irregular beginning of fitts, often in the middle of a long line, is also an indication that the poet could not write and left it to the scribe to deal with these unusual consequences of his composition (Haferland 2002, 30–36).

The view of a scholarly poet presupposes a mastership in two métiers: a clergyman from childhood, grown up in a monastery and experienced in knowledge of Latin and theology, would have developed into a famous singer among the people of the Saxons, with an excellent mastery of the idiom of the secular poetry including a very vast stock of formulas of the oral singers (Kellogg 1979, 190). The alternative of a poet in the vernacular who developed in the way of Caedmon into a spiritual singer at an advanced age and worked in a team on a special project like the Heliand solves this apparent contradiction. The fact that recent research shows that Praefatio and Versus are virtually contemporary, contributes to this view.

A poet of the calibre of the Heliand author can hardly have remained unnoticed. Three monasteries have been connected to the origin of the Heliand for a wide variety of reasons: Fulda, Corvey and Werden. Various names of poets from that time have been preserved from Fulda, like Hrabanus Maurus, Walahfrid Strabo, Gottschalk of Saxony and Otfrid of Weissenburg. Poets’ names from Corvey only appear in the last quarter of the ninth century: Agius of Corvey and possibly the Poeta Saxo. None of them has a profile that is even remotely close to that of the Heliand poet from the prologues. In Werden, only Bernlef was honoured as a poet.

The previously mentioned similarities between the profiles of Bernlef and the Heliand poet are an indication for the authorship of Bernlef, which can hardly be disregarded. At the very least, the poet of the Heliand (according to the Prefaces) was someone that closely resembled Bernlef.

Should Bernlef be the poet of the Heliand, it is not a given fact that the Bible epic was produced in Werden (exclusively). The abundant use of theological sources makes the origin of the Heliand in a monastery plausible. But Bernlef was not bound by a monastic vow and could for instance also have travelled to Fulda, which was an important center of theological and vernacular scholarship at that time, in order to fulfill his imperial order. It is even possible that the Heliand was produced in cooperation between two monasteries like Fulda and Werden, as Haubrichs (1973, 434f.) once put forward.

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  • Magoun 1979: Francis P. Magoun Jr, “Bedas Bericht über Caedmon. Die Fallstudie eines angelsächsischen Sängers,” in: Oral Poetry. Das Problem der Mundlichkeit mittelalterlicher epischer Dichtung, eds. Norbert Voorwinden and Max de Haan, Darmstadt: 4670.

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  • Meijering 1978: H. D. Meijering, Oudere germaanse literatuur als nationaal erfdeel. Nationale motieven bij de bestudering van de gotische bijbelvertaling, de oudsaksische Heliand en Genesis, en de oudfriese rechtsliteratuur. (…), Amsterdam.

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  • Mostert 2010: Marco Mostert, In de marge van de beschaving. De geschiedenis van Nederland, 0–1100, Amsterdam.

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  • Piebenga 1939: Jan Piebenga, Koarte Skiednis fen de Fryske Skriftekennisse, Dokkum.

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  • Price 2010: Timothy Blaine Price, The Old Saxon Leipzig Heliand Manuscript Fragment (ms L): New Evidence Concerning Luther, the Poet, and Ottonian Heritage, Berkeley.

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  • Quispel 1975: Gilles Quispel, Tatian and the Gospel of Thomas. Studies in the History of the Western Diatesseron, Leiden.

  • Rathofer 1962: Johannes Rathofer, Der Heliand. Theologischer Sinn als tektonische Form. Vorbereitung und Grundlegung der Interpretation, Cologne and Graz.

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  • De Rek 1983: J. de Rek, Van Hunebed tot Hanzestad i. Sesam Geschiedenis der Nederlanden 1, Baarn.

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  • Sahm 2007: Heike Sahm, “Neues Licht auf alte Fragen. Die Stellung des Leipziger Fragments in der Überlieferungsgeschichte des “Heliand”,” in: Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie 126: 8198.

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  • Schönbach 1904: Anton E. Schönbach, “Über die poetische Vorrede zum Heliand,” in: Drei Proömien unserem Freunde Wilhelm Gurlitt überreicht zum 7. März 1904, eds. Adolf Bauer, Anton E. Schönbach and Bernhard Seuffert, Graz: 617.

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  • Schwab 1988: Ute Schwab, Einige Beziehungen zwischen Altsächsischer und Angelsächsischer Dichtung, Spoleto.

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  • Taeger 1996: Burkhard Taeger, “Einleitung,” in: Behaghel 1996: XXVIIIXLIV.

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  • Vita St. Liudgeri 1993: Vita Sancti Liudgeri. Ms.Theol.Lat.Fol.323 Staatsbibliothek Berlin—Preussischer Kulturbesitz, (Facsimile-edition), Graz and Bielefeld.

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  • Voorwinden 1986: Norbert Voorwinden, “Van hofzanger tot speelman. Dichter en hof ten tijde van de Germaanse volksverhuizing en de Duitse middeleeuwen tot ca. 1250,” in: Dichter en hof. Verkenningen in veertien culturen, ed. J. P. T. de Bruin, Utrecht: 3955.

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  • Wenskus 1977: Reinhard Wenskus, Stammesbildung und Verfassung. Das Werden der frühmittelaterlichen gentes, 2., unveränderte Auflage, Cologne and Vienna.

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  • Wehrli 1984: Max Wehrli, Literatur im deutschen Mittelalter. Eine poetologische Einführung, Stuttgart.

  • Fon Weringha 1965: Juw fon Weringha, Heliand and Diatesseron, Assen.

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1

According to Cuthbert’s Letter on the death of Bede (Colgrave and Mynors 1969, 580–583).

2

The translation of the Lives of Liudger and Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica are my own.

3

The goose, which refers to a miracle, is a symbol associated with Liudger (Sierksma 1995, 50 n. 2; 279f.).

4

The manuscript has been digitized and can be accessed here: http://resolver.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/SBB0000664700000025.

5

E.g., in Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert, referring to Matth. 17:9 (Colgrave 1940, x).

6

According to Haubrichs the Praefatio B comprises in the edition of Behaghel (1996, 1f.) of the second paragraph (“Ferunt—demulceat”), including two short allusions to divine inspiration in the first paragraph.

7

In the Old High German Isidor the term adhalsangheri occurs; adhal- here constitutes the translation of egregius (‘excellent’, ‘glorious’) (Hofstra 1992).

8

With regard to the Versus cf. Schönbach 1904, 12: “studium wird hier die Beschäftigung mit der Dichtkunst bedeuten”, with reference to Ovidius’ Tristia 5,3,10 and 3,7,53: “Tu quoque, quam studii maneat felicior usus” [You also, may a happier use of poetry await you]. See also Hellgardt 2004, 221.

9

Sievers (1927, 421v.) pointed out a number of quotes of Hrabanus Maurus which are related in his view to the phrase “iussis (…) libenter obtemperans” from the Praefatio. None of these quotes comes as close to this phrase as the Vita iii.

10

It concerns here a topical opinion, which has already been ascribed to Pythagoras.

11

The Vita ii uses for this relationship the phrase “sedulo (…) se (…) iungens” [while he joined obligingly (the company of Liudger)] (i.21, quoted in 3.1), the same phrase, which Altfrid (i.10) uses to denote the teacher-pupil-relationship between Liudger and his master Alcuin. The particular condition which Liudger imposes on Bernlef, namely “to tell no one the source of his healing until the day Liudger should die”, also seems to indicate an age difference. (Altfrid i.21).

12

An additional motive for the Heliand poet could have been that the traditional epic poems of the vernacular singers also were anonymous.

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  • Piebenga 1939: Jan Piebenga, Koarte Skiednis fen de Fryske Skriftekennisse, Dokkum.

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  • Schönbach 1904: Anton E. Schönbach, “Über die poetische Vorrede zum Heliand,” in: Drei Proömien unserem Freunde Wilhelm Gurlitt überreicht zum 7. März 1904, eds. Adolf Bauer, Anton E. Schönbach and Bernhard Seuffert, Graz: 617.

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  • Schwab 1988: Ute Schwab, Einige Beziehungen zwischen Altsächsischer und Angelsächsischer Dichtung, Spoleto.

  • Sievers 1927: Eduard Sievers, “Heliand, Tatian und Hraban,” in: pbb 50: 416429.

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  • Taeger 1996: Burkhard Taeger, “Einleitung,” in: Behaghel 1996: XXVIIIXLIV.

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  • Vita St. Liudgeri 1993: Vita Sancti Liudgeri. Ms.Theol.Lat.Fol.323 Staatsbibliothek Berlin—Preussischer Kulturbesitz, (Facsimile-edition), Graz and Bielefeld.

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  • Voorwinden 1986: Norbert Voorwinden, “Van hofzanger tot speelman. Dichter en hof ten tijde van de Germaanse volksverhuizing en de Duitse middeleeuwen tot ca. 1250,” in: Dichter en hof. Verkenningen in veertien culturen, ed. J. P. T. de Bruin, Utrecht: 3955.

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  • Wenskus 1977: Reinhard Wenskus, Stammesbildung und Verfassung. Das Werden der frühmittelaterlichen gentes, 2., unveränderte Auflage, Cologne and Vienna.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wehrli 1984: Max Wehrli, Literatur im deutschen Mittelalter. Eine poetologische Einführung, Stuttgart.

  • Fon Weringha 1965: Juw fon Weringha, Heliand and Diatesseron, Assen.

  • Ijssennagger 2013: Nelleke L. Ijssennagger, “Between Frankish and Viking: Frisia and Frisians in the Viking Age,” in: Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 9: 6998.

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    Vita Sancti Liudgeri. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ms. Theol.Lat.Fol.323, fol. 12r.

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