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to the better object of bringing forward the indigenous literature of the countries which formed the immediate seat of his empire. With something of a prophetic perception of their future value, he sought to preserve even the "barbara et antiquissima Carolina" of his native land, and to fix its grammar and language, rather than introduce either the favourite Latin, or the Romance dialect which had sprung from it and was spoken in the Gaulish provinces of his empire. Thus stability began to be given to the German tongue; and from that era we may date a gradual but steady progress towards maturity.
The two great original divisions of the Teutonic languages are:—first, the Low-German, which comprehends the dialects of the more northern tribes, such as the Anglo-Saxon, the old Friesic, the more modern Nether-Saxon, and the Belgic or Dutch:—second, the High-German, which prevailed in the south-west, and comprehends the Francic, Alemanic, Burgundian, Suabian, and other kindred dialects. These leading divisions are often very indistinctly marked in the most ancient specimens, probably from the multiplicity and confusion of provincial dialects; but as soon as the languages became fixed, or had been in any way devoted to literary purposes, the distinction became broad and obvious between the High-German or Suabian, in which the greater part of the poetry of the Minnesingers is written, and the Nether-German, which in many respects (especially to English readers, from its affinity to the common parent the old Friesic or Saxon,) forms a more pleasing and certainly a smoother tongue, and one which we should perhaps have been inclined, a priori, to prefer to the one which in fact became the literary language of Germany. This was the Upper-Saxon dialect, which seems to have been cultivated during the reigns of the Saxon emperors, and which, in consequence mainly of its adoption by Luther at the era of the Reformation, obtained, and has ever since preserved, the ascendancy.
The language of the court and army of Charlemagne and his immediate successors was the Francic, or that branch of the High-German which had most assimilation to the lower dialects. However pure might have been the language of Clodwig [Clovis], the necessity or expediency which Charlemagne found for forming a new version of the Salic law, shows that great alterations had taken place in the popular tongue. The constant intercourse, under the Carlovingian monarchs, with the more Northern tribes, seems very much to have inclined the bias towards their dialect; and accordingly some of the earliest reliques of that age have a great portion of Low-German words. This is particularly the case with the fragment of Hildibrant and Hathubrant, which will be mentioned hereafter. From the 9th century, the modern HighGerman, which is placed somewhat between the two extremes, appears gradually to develop itself, and to emerge from the weak and unsettled state in which it is before exhibited, till in the 11th century we find it (as in the legend of St. Anno) assuming a determinate character, approaching much nearer to the standard of Luther. During the same period, the rougher Alemanic or Suabian must also have been forming itself into that state of perfection in which it suddenly breaks upon us, as the court language of the Suabian dynasty, and the favourite dress of the poetry of the 12th and 13th centuries; while the Nether-German remained in the most pure and primitive form of all, as it appears in the specimens that have been preserved, which are not very numerous, the principal being romances.
In various periods during the Carlovingian dynasty we have valuable fragments of German poetry, which was gradually acquiring stability and importance, notwithstanding the endeavours of the learned to stop the progress of the new literature, by veiling every thing in their degenerate Latin. Many of the most valuable poetic monuments have been lost to the world by the laborious dullness of those who converted them into Latin prose; and many an author has deadened his fancy and destroyed his worth, by attempting to express in a dead language the thoughts and feelings which were the offspring of a new state of society. What a treasure might not the good nun Roswitha have left us on the deeds of the Saxon emperors, if her vanity had not induced her to display her learning in Latin verse!
Perhaps the most remarkable of all the remains of ancient German poetry is a fragment relating to the combat between Hildibrant and Hathubrant, which is assigned to the middle of the 8th century. The dialect in which it is written is the Francic, with a very great intermixture of the Nether-Saxon tongue. Bouterwek characterizes it as being just what one would suppose would be the result of a NetherSaxon trying to write Francic. But this fragment is most valuable on account of the direct and indisputable testimony which it bears to the fact, that the romances of the proper German Cyclus of the Suabian age, as well as many of the Scandinavian demimythological fables, have their basis in the ancient popular songs and traditions, current in the age of Charlemagne, and probably long previously. It is, moreover, curious, from its being written in alliterative rhythm, a circumstance which has escaped the observation of the authors of the "Illustrations of Northern Antiquities," who printed it in that work as prose.
The church was fated to become in Germany, as in many other countries, a powerful instrument, though against its will, in fixing and preserving the rising popular tongue. Louis le Debonnaire piously banished from his court the vain themes which his father had loved to collect: but the multitude were not to be diverted from the objects which the bright recollections of their childhood and their dearest associations riveted in their minds. It therefore became politic to direct the current where it could not be stopt, and to apply the vehicle of popular rime to recording the deeds of holy men and scriptural histories; and thus by degrees to wean the populace from their heathen favourites. With this view, Louis caused a poetical translation or harmony of the New Testament to be made, which is supposed to be that of which part remains in the Cottonian Library, and of which other portions have been described, and selections given, from a MS. found by M. Gley at Bamberg, in his valuable little work "Langue et Literature des anciens Francs." With the same design Otfried a Benedictine monk of Weissenburg, who flourished between 840 and 870, lamenting over the vain and frivolous amusements of his flock, conquered his aversion for the rough idiom of the country, and published poetical versions of scriptural tales, which still exist, and were published by Schilter in his Thesaurus. Three stanzas of this work may be selected as a specimen: