The entire extant corpus of Old High German literature is, unfortunately, extremely limited. The period of the language's use overlapped, to a large degree, with the Carolingian Renaissance of Charlemagne and his successors. As such, works written in Latin tended to overshadow secular literature. Nonetheless, a handful of Old High German texts have survived, mostly collected in larger Latin texts.
Only two works of heroic poetry remain, the Lay of Hildebrand and the Muspilli; both are incomplete. The Lay of Hildebrand concerns a confrontation between a father and his (unrecognized) son, and consists of 68 lines of alliterative verse, with perhaps a dozen more missing. A few later sources are drawn from the same legendary material and offer some idea as to how the story might have resolved. The Muspilli, on the other hand, concerns the Last Judgement but has often been regarded as offering a Christianized account of the build-up to Ragnarök. The text is missing lines at the beginning and end. The Heliand is occasionally also regarded as part of the corpus of heroic poetry, depending on whether Old Saxon is considered a dialect of Old High German or a separate language.
There also exist a number of lyric poems, among them the Georgslied, Christus und die Samariterin, the Galluslied, and the Ludwigslied, generally considered the finest example of this genre in Old High German. In addition to these, several other works representing a few different genres survive, including the Evangelienbuch of Otfried von Weißenburg, a gospel harmony; the Abrogans, an Old High German-Latin dictionary; and the Merseburg Incantations, two incantations that represent the only direct surviving evidence for pagan practices in the language. There is also a rather larger body of brief inscriptions.
Complete list of surviving worksEdit
- The Lay of Hildebrand (Hildebrandslied)
- The Muspilli
- The Heliand (usually considered to be a work of Old Saxon literature)