Heinrich von Laufenberg
A German poet of the fifteenth century, d. at Strasburg in 1460
Heinrich von Laufenberg, a German poet of the fifteenth century, d. at Strasburg in 1460; he was a priest in Freiburg (Breisgau), and later dean of the cathedral. In 1445 he entered the cloister of the Knights of St. John. He was a fertile writer in prose and verse. Among his works there is a collection of sermons, also rhymed German versions of two lengthy Latin works, a “Speculum humanae salvationis”, and the “Opus figurarum” of Konrad von Alzei. The former version dates from 1437 and gives an account of the Fall and Redemption, with a number of Biblical and profane stories interspersed and symbolically interpreted. The other work is devoted to the glorification of the Blessed Virgin, stories of the Old Testament being explained allegorically and mystically with reference to Mary. All these works, however, have not come down to us, the manuscripts having been destroyed during the siege of Strasburg (1870). A metrical German version of a Latin hygienic treatise called “Regimen Sanitatis” is still extant. It dates from 1429. But the chief significance of Laufenberg is as a writer of religious lyrics. Some of these are renderings of Latin hymns, while others are original poems expressive of his love for Jesus and Our Lady. Most noteworthy are his recasts of worldly lyrics and folksongs in religious form (so-called Contrafacta). In these he adhered as closely as possible to the form and diction of the folksong, retaining the popular melodies, but infusing into them a religious spirit. While most of these poems are simple and effective, many of his original poems are marred by a labored artificiality, acrostics and other metrical devices being quite common. His translations show occasional latinisms; sometimes, too, Latin and German verses are intermingled. A number of his hymns (97) are found in Wackernagel, “Das deutsche Kirchenlied”, II (Leipzig, 1864-77), 528-612.
ARTHUR F. J. REMY