A Concise Survey of German Literature by Henry B. Garland

By Henry B. Garland

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Over and over again Amis mocks at and scores off a slow-witted 'Establishment'. In face of this increasing amoralisation, clerics, including gifted and popular preachers, foremost among them Berthold von Regensburg (c. 12 15-72 ), denounced the growing corruption and admonished their hearers to an honest and humble Christian life. And a generation or more later the great mystics Meister Eckhart (c. 126o-1327), Heinrich Seuse (c. 12931366) and Johannes Tauler (c. 13oo-61) turned away from the sensual and material world to the inner life of the soul in unity with God.

Initially the Thirty Years War was a war of religions, the climax of the Counter-Reformation, the last attempt of the Catholic Habsburgs to impose their own religious solution upon the Empire. As it dragged on and on its issues became obscured, ambitious men exploited it for their own ends, and 1 See below, p. 54· foreign powers took a hand in order to augment their power and extend their possessions. Germany, and especially the common people of Germany, was caught up in an apparently unending sequence of harassment, rapine and destruction.

Certainly political forces were also implicated in the new trend and the territorial princes soon saw in the new movement a chance to augment power and accumulate wealth; but the main driving force was an intense religious conviction. The Reformation, when it came, developed out of a comparatively minor incident. Martin Luther ( 1483-1546), a monk seconded as a professor to the young University of Wittenberg, grew indignant at a high-powered and particularly shameless fund-raising campaign - the sale of indulgences.

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