Wolfram von Eschenbach

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Wolfram von Eschenbach (c. 1170 – c. 1220) was a Bavarian epic poet and Minnesinger. His romance Parzival was probably based on the Perceval of Chrétien de Troyes, and inspired Wagner's Parsifal and Lohengrin.


  • Der tac mit kraft al durh diu venster dranc.
    vil slôze sie besluzzen.
    daz half niht: des wart in sorge kunt.
    diu vriundîn den vriunt vast an sich twanc.
    ir ougen diu beguzzen
    ir beider wangel. sus sprach zim ir munt:
    "zwei herze und einen lîp hân wir."
    • Day thrust its brightness through the window-pane.
      They, locked together, strove to keep Day out
      And could not, whence they grew aware of dread.
      She, his beloved, casting her arms about
      Her loved one, caught him close to her again.
      Her eyes drenched both their cheeks. She said:
      "One body and two hearts are we."
    • "Den Morgenblic bî Wahtærs Sange Erkôs", line 11; translation in Margaret F. Richey Essays on Mediæval German Poetry (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969) p. 99.


English quotations are taken from the 1980 Penguin translation by A. T. Hatto. Page numbers refer to this translation.

  • Ist zwîvel herzen nâchgebûr,
    das muoz der sêle warden sûr.
    • If vacillation dwell with the heart the soul will rue it.
    • Bk. 1, st. 1, line 1; p. 15.
  • Daz schuof iedoch ein wîse man,
    daz alter guot solde hân.
    jugent hât vil werdekeit,
    daz alter siuften unde leit.
    ez enwart nie niht als unfruot,
    sô alter unde armuot.
    • Was that not a wise man who laid it down that age should have possessions? – "Youth has its fill of good things, eld of sighs and sorrows"! – "There never was a fate so pitiful as age cum poverty"!
    • Bk. 1, st. 5, line 11; p. 17.
  • Die sint tœrscher denne beiersch her,
    unt doch bî manlîcher wer.
    swer in den zwein landen wirt,
    gefuoge ein wunder an im birt.
    • The Waleis…are even denser than Bavarian folk, though stout men with their weapons. Whoever is born in either land will blossom into a prodigy of tact and courtesy!
    • Bk. 3, st. 121, line 9; p. 72.
  • Ôwî wan wær dîn schœne mîn!
    dir hete got den wunsch gegebn,
    ob du mit witzen soldest lebn.
    • How I wish I had your looks! If only you had some sense in you, God would have left you nothing to wish for.
    • Bk. 3, st. 124, line 18; p. 74.
  • Swa du guotes wîbes vingerlîn
    mügest erwerben unt ir gruoz,
    daz nim: ez tuot dir kumbers buoz.
    du solt zir kusse gâhen
    und ir lîp vast umbevâhen:
    daz gît gelücke und hôhen muot,
    op si kiusche ist unde guot.
    • Wherever you can win a lady's ring and greeting, take it – it will rid you of the dumps. Waste no time, but kiss and embrace her. It will bring you good fortune and raise your spirits, granted she be chaste and good.
    • Bk. 3, st. 127, line 26; p. 75.
  • Man sol hunde umb ebers houbet gebn.
    • To win a boar’s head one must sacrifice the hounds.
    • Bk. 3, st. 150, line 22; p. 86.
  • Ir sult niemer iuch verschemn.
    verschamter lîp, waz touc der mêr?
    der wont in der mûze rêr,
    dâ im werdekeit entrîset.
    • You must never lose your sense of shame. If one is past all shame what is one fit for? One lives like a bird in moult, shedding good qualities like plumes all pointing down to Hell.
    • Bk. 3, st. 170, line 16; p. 95.
  • Ir sult bescheidenlîche
    sîn arm unde rîche.
    wan swâ der hêrre gar vertuot,
    daz ist niht hêrlîcher muot:
    sament er ab schaz ze sere,
    daz sint och unêre.
    • You must be rich and poor with discretion. A nobleman who squanders his property does not display a noble spirit, while if he hoards his wealth to excess it will bring dishonour.
    • Bk. 3, st. 171, line 7; p. 96.
  • Ûf einem grüenen achmardî
    truoc si den wunsch von pardîs,
    bêde wurzeln unde rîs.
    daz was ein dinc, daz hiez der Grâl,
    erden wunsches überwal.
    Repanse de schoy si hiez,
    die sich der grâl tragen liez.
    der grâl was von sölher art:
    wol muoser kiusche sîn bewart,
    die sîn ze rehte solde pflegn:
    die muose valsches sich bewegn.
    • Upon a green achmardi she bore the consummation of heart’s desire, its root and its blossoming – a thing called "The Gral", paradisal, transcending all earthly perfection! She whom the Gral suffered to carry itself had the name of Repanse de Schoye. Such was the nature of the Gral that she who had the care of it was required to be of perfect chastity and to have renounced all things false.
    • Bk. 5, st. 235, line 20; p. 125.
  • Ôwê daz er niht vrâgte dô!
    des pin ich für in noch unvrô.
    wan do erz enpfienc in sîne hant,
    dô was er vrâgens mit ermant.
    • Alas that he asked no Question then! Even now I am cast down on his account! For when he was given the sword it was to prompt him to ask a Question!
    • Bk. 5, st. 240, line 3; p. 127.
  • Weindiu ougn hânt süezen munt.
    • Tear-filled eyes make sweet lips.
    • Bk. 5, st. 272, line 12; p. 143.
  • Artûs der meienbære man,
    swaz man ie von dem gesprach,
    zeinen pfinxten daz geschach,
    odr in des meien bluomenzît.
    • All that was ever told of Arthur, the man of the merry month of May, happened at Whitsun or at blossom-time in Spring.
    • Bk. 6, st. 281, line 16; p. 147.
  • Der schadehafte erwarp ie spot:
    sælden pflihtær dem half got.
    • Losers always meet with mockery, Heaven sides with the fortunate.
    • Bk. 6, st. 289, line 11; p. 151.
  • Frou minne, ir habt ein êre,
    und wênc decheine mêre.
    frou liebe iu gît geselleschaft:
    anders wær vil dürkel iwer kraft.
    • Mistress Love, you have one merit and no others: Mistress Affection keeps you company. Else would your rule be sadly wanting!
    • Bk. 6, st. 291, line 15; p. 152.
  • Du hôrtst och vor dir sprechen ie,
    swer dem andern half daz er genas,
    daz er sîn vîent dâ nâch was.
    • You have heard the saying from before your time that if a man saved another from death that other would be his enemy ever after.
    • Bk. 10, st. 525, line 2; p. 266.
  • Der getriwe ist friundes êren vrô:
    der ungetriwe wâfenô
    rüefet, swenne ein liep geschiht
    sînem friunde und er daz siht.
    • A loyal-hearted man rejoices at a friend's advancement; a disloyal man cries out in sorrow when something pleasant befalls his friend and he is there to see it.
    • Bk. 13, st. 675, line 17; p. 337.
  • Hie hânt zwei herzen einvalt
    Mit hazze erzeiget ir gewalt.
    • Two hearts that are but one have shown their strength in fierce enmity.
    • Bk. 14, st. 689, line 28; p. 345.
  • Mîn bruodr und ich daz ist ein lîp,
    als ist guot man unt des guot wîp.
    • Any brother of mine and I make one person, as do a good man and his good wife.
    • Bk. 15, st. 740, line 29; p. 369.
  • Von wazzer boume sint gesaft.
    wazzer früht al die geschaft,
    der man für crêatiure giht.
    mit dem wazzere man gesiht.
    wazzer gît maneger sêle schîn,
    daz die engl niht liehter dorften sîn.
    • Trees have their sap from water. Water fecundates all things made that are called "creature". We see by means of water. Water gives many souls a splendour not to be outshone by the Angels.
    • Bk. 16, section 817, line 25; p. 406.


  • Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival…was where love and marriage were brought together. It was an apple of a story. That's my favorite love story.
    • Joseph Campbell (ed. Robert Walter and Phil Cousineau) The Hero’s Journey (Novato: New World Library, [1990] 2003) p. 104.
  • By common consent, Wolfram is the greatest medieval poet before Dante.
    • Victor Duruy (trans. E. H. & M. D. Whitney) The History of the Middle Ages (New York: H. Holt, 1891) p. 338.
  • By the miracle of genius he created a masterpiece [Parzival], epic in scope, noble in purpose, humorous, humane, tender, and rational.
  • Although German writers may sometimes have mispraised or overpraised their greatest mediaeval poet, it is certain that we find in Wolfram von Eschenbach qualities, which, in the thousand years between the Fall and the Renaissance of classical literature, can be found to anything like the same extent in only two known writers, the Italian Dante and the Englishman Langland; while if he is immensely Dante's inferior in poetical quality, he has at least one gift, humour, which Dante had not, and is far Langland's superior in variety and in romantic charm.
    • George Saintsbury The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1897) p. 251.

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