Trent, William P., ed., Henry the Leper (Der Arme Heinrich) paraphrased by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1911.
This work, something between a translation and a paraphrase, dates from sometime in 1846. It was the last and most demanding of DGR's works either translated from the German or inspired by German, a language he never really mastered. He made considerable headway with a translation of Niebelungenlied in 1845, a work that WMR much admired, but none of it seems to have survived. This poem's story of the leper knight would have drawn DGR's interest for at least two reasons: first, it belonged to the medieval romance tradition, a favorite cultural source for DGR from his earliest days and throughout his life; and second, the central action and climax of the story would have seemed to DGR —as indeed it still must seem—a singularly arresting amalgam of strange Roman Catholic medieval ideology. The central figures, hero and heroine, are both presented as maniacal characters whose virtues are in need of spiritual correction, which the action of the plot delivers.
The only surviving manuscript is the fair copy, with minor corrections, now in the Huntington Library. This text was printer's copy for the first printing as well as for its separate 1905 reprinting.
This romance ballad was first published by WMR after DGR's death in volume II of the 1886 Collected Edition of DGR's works and it was collected thereafter. In 1905 the Bibliophile Society produced an edition of the same text along with a facsimile of the manuscript and an editorial introduction. The poem was kept by WMR in all his collected editions.
The author of the original work was the celebrated minnesinger Hartmann von Aue (1160?-1205?), one the three most important German authors of the middle ages (along with Wolfram von Eschenbach and Gottfried von Strassburg). Von Aue wrote several long narrative works as well as many songs, but “Der Arme Heinrich” is probably his most distinguished work.