1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hildebrand, Lay of

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HILDEBRAND, LAY OF (Das Hildebrandslied), a unique example of Old German alliterative poetry, written about the year 800 on the first and last pages of a theological manuscript, by two monks of the monastery of Fulda The fragment, or rather fragments, only extend to sixty-eight l1nes, and the conclusion of the poem is wanting The theory propounded by Karl Lachmann, that the poem had been written in its present form from memory, has been disciedited by later philological 1invest1gation, it is clearly a transcript of an older orlginal. which the copyists-or more probably the writer to whom we owe the older version-imperfectly understood. The language of the poem shows a curious mixture of Low and High German forms; as the High German elements point to the dialect of Fulda, the inference is that the copyists were reproducing an originally Low German lay in the form in which it was sung in Franconia.

The fragment is mainly taken up with a dialogue between Hildebrand and his son Hadubrand. When Hildebrand followed his master, Theodoric the Great, who was fleeing eastwards before Odoacer, he left his young wife and an infant child behind him. At his return to his old home, after thirty years' absence among the Huns, he is met by a young warrior and challenged to single combat. Before the fight begins, Hildebrand asks for the name of his opponent, and discovering his own son in him, tries to avert the fight, but in vain; Hadubrand only regards the old man's words as the excuse of cowardice. “In sharp showers the ashen spears fall on the shields, and then the warriors seize their swords and hew vigorously at the white shields until these are beaten to pieces .... ” With these words the fragment breaks off abruptly, giving no clue as to the issue of the combat There is little doubt, however, that, as in the Old Norse Asmuudar saga, where the tale is alluded to, the fight must have been fatal to Hadubrand. But in the later traditions, both of the Old Norse Thidrcks saga (13th century), and the so-called Jungere H zldebrandslied-a German popular lay, preserved in several versions from the 1 5th to the 17th century-Hadubrand is simply represented as defeated, and obliged to recognize his father. The Old High German H ildebrandslzed is dramatically conceived, and written in a terse, vigorous style, it is the only remnant that has come down from early Germanic times of an undoubtedly extensive ballad literature, dealing with the national sagas.

The MS. of the Hddcbrandslied, originally in Fulda, is now preserved in the Landesbibliothelc at Cassel. The literature on the poem will be found most conveniently in K. Mullenhoff and W. Scherer, Denkmaler deulscher Pofsie und Prosa aus dem VIII. bzs XI. Jahrh, 3rd ed (1892), and in W. Braune, Allhochdeutsches Lesebuch, 5th ed (1902), to which authorities the reader is referred for a critical text. The poem was discovered and first printed (as prose) by j. G. von Eckhart, Commentarzz de rebus Franciae orzentalzs (1729), i 864 ff; the first scholarly edition was that of the brothers Grimm (1812). Facsimile reproductions of the MS have been published by W. Grimm (1830), E Sievers (1872), G. Konnecke in his Bzlderallas (1887; 2nd ed, 1895) and M Enneccerus (1897). See also K. Lachmann, Uber das Hzldebrandslzed (1833) in Kleme Schnften, i. 407 ff.; C. W. M Grein, Das Hzldebrandslzed (1858, 2nd ed, 1880); O. Schroder, Bemerkungfn zum Hildebrandslzed (1880); H Moller, Zur allhochdeutschen A lzteratzonspoesze (1888); R. Heinzel, Uber dw ostgotzsche field ens age (1889); B. Busse, “ Sagengeschichtliches zum Hildebrandslied, " in Paul und Braune's Beztrage, xxvi. (1901), pp. 1 ff., R Koegel, Gesehzchte der deutschen Laleratur bzs zum Ausgmg des Mittelallers, i. (1894), pp. 210 ff., and R Koegel and W. ruckner, in Paul's Grundrzss er germamschen Phzlologze, 2nd ed, ii. (1901), pp. 71 ff. (J. G. R)