Ava, a German poetess, the first woman known to have written in German and probably identical with a recluse of that name who died in Austria in the vicinity of Melk, A.D. 1127. Almost nothing is known of her life or personality. She herself tells us in a passage in her work that she was the mother of two sons who helped her in procuring the material for her poems. These poems are metrical versions of stories from the New Testament and consist of a “Life of Jesus”, “Antichrist”, “The Gifts of the Holy Ghost”, “The Last Judgment”, and “John the Baptist”. They are preserved in two manuscripts, one at Verona, the other at Gorlitz. The “John the Baptist” is found only in the latter manuscript. Ava’s authorship of this poem, as well as that of the “Life of Jesus” has been questioned, but hardly on sufficient grounds. The poems are naive in tone and display deeply religious sentiments, but, except for occasional passages, they are destitute of poetic merit. Their technique is often crude, assonance taking the place of rhyme and alliteration being not infrequent. The chief source from which Ava drew her material was the New Testament, but she also made use of older German poems, and possibly other writings such as the Apocryphal Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior by the Pseudo-Matthew.
ARTHUR F.J. REMY