views updated

HELIAND

The accepted editorial title of a ninth-century Old Saxon alliterative poem of 5,983 lines written, possibly at fulda, by an unknown monk. The poem is preserved almost completely in two MSS (Munich and London), and fragmentarily in two others (Jena and Vatican). The Heliand, meaning Savior, is a product of missionary activity under louis i the Pious (814840). It is thought to be the Gospel part of a larger project presenting the entire Bible in vernacular verse. References to such a project and to its almost legendary poet survive in a Praefatio and Versus published in 1562 by the Protestant apologist, flacius illyricus. Whether the documents, now lost, that he cites are authentic or not, there are extant many verses of an Old Saxon Genesis usually linked with the Heliand. Curiously, some of these Genesis verses were translated into Anglo-Saxon and constitute the interpolated Genesis B passage of the Junius MS. The Heliand and the Genesis fragments are the most important Old Saxon poetic documents in existence. The literary and scholarly associations of the Heliand are rich and broad: in general outline the poem follows the Diatessaron (Gospel Harmony) of tatian; in theological emphasis it reflects not only the scriptural commentaries of bede and alcuin but the more contemporary In Matthaeum of rabanus maurus; its poetic tradition has two observable sources, the Latin poems of Juvencus and prudentius, and the heroic songs and paraphrases of the Anglo-Saxons. Some scholars see considerable Germanization of Biblical materials in the Heliand, particularly of Christ and his Apostles, who become heroic figures in a Germanic comitatus, and of the countryside of Palestine, which becomes Saxony and northern Europe. Though there is substance to the observation, the poet is still very much the traditional Christian homilist, marking the close rather than the beginning of an era.

Bibliography: Sources. MS Cgm. 25, Staatsbibliothek, Munich, (S. IX); MS Cotton Caligula A VII, Brit. Mus., London, (S.X). o. behaghel, ed., Heliand und Genesis (6th ed. Halle 1948). Literature. j. k. bostock, A Handbook on Old High German Literature (Oxford 1955). g. ehrismann, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters, 2 v. in 4 (Munich 191835) 1:150166.

[l. k. shook]

About this article

Heliand

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article