Publications of the Journal of Medieval Latin 6 – Insignis Sophiae Arcator: Essays in Honour of Michael W. Herren on his 65th Birthday, 2006.
The Waltharius (which could be translated and Anglicized as Poem of Walter) is fairly well known in Germany, even outside the small siblinghood of Medieval Latinists. Its publication and publicization by Jacob Grimm and Andreas Schmeller helped to secure it a niche in German literature already in the nineteenth century, when German scholars were eager to expand the corpus of medieval Germanic literature by coopting Latin texts. What the Carmina burana became to German lyric poetry, the Waltharius is, or should be, to German(ic) epic literature. The “should be” must be appended, because the poem has not yet found its Carl Orff. Although by being published in the Reclam paperback series it has achieved a distinction unusual within Medieval Latin belles lettres, work on it has often become enmired in questions of date and authorship that, although undeniably important, have not been the best way to seize public attention. Sometimes lost in the shuffle has been the fact that, whatever its date and whoever its author, this work of 1456 dactylic hexameters stands, along with Beowulf, as the only substantial older Germanic epic extant in its entirety. It is also anentertaining story. How do “blood, sweat, and tears” enter into the Waltharius? Let me confess at the outset that the Latin equivalent of the phrase does not occur in the epic. Yet though these three secretions do not come together verbally, they are nonetheless the only ones to appear in the text, and they serve functions that are well worth investigating.