A German Version of the Thief-Legend

Jessie Crosland
1905 Modern Language Review  
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more » ... MONGST the many medieval legends of the Virgin Mary which have been preserved to us, that of the thief who was saved from the gallows by the intervention of the Virgin seems to have been particularly popular, for there is hardly a collection which does not contain it in some form'. The Thief-story existed, however, in its main outlines before the cult of the Virgin became so wide-spread as to cause many of the miraculous occurrences, formerly attributed to the intervention of saints or to other causes, to be placed without discrimination to the credit of Our Lady. In the life of St Bernard, for example, we read that that saint, happening to meet a thief who was about to be crucified for his sins, saved him from the physical punishment of the cross in order that he might take up the true cross of religion2. There is a more interesting story contained in the Vitas patrum, which tells of a robber-chief named Cyriacus, surnamed 'the wolf,' whose life was preserved for ten years as a reward for having saved the lives of some little children; there is no mention of the Virgin, or even of a saint, but the children appear to him frequently in his dreams, saying: 'Noli timere, nos pro te satisfacimus3.' In the collections of Latin legends, however, the story has already assumed a more definite form, and has developed into a legend of a very common type. A thief, generally called Eppo or Ebbo, is sustained for three days on the gallows by the Virgin, who places her hands beneath his feet, as a reward for his having venerated her 'ex corde' during his lifetime. The attempt to cut the thief's throat is also frustrated by the Virgin who wards off the sword with her hand. The thief is released in recognition of the miracle and im-1 Some idea may be formed of its popularity by reference to Mussafia's Classification of the Mary-Legends in the Wiener Sitzungsberichte, vols. 113, 115, 119. Cp. also Ward's Catalogue of Romances, ii, p. 586 f. 2 Vita prima: Liber vii, Cap. xv: De latrone a cruci supplicio per S. B. liberato, sed cruci religioso deinceps addicto. 3 Migne, Vitas patrum, vol. 74, p. 202. Cap. clvi: Vita latronis nuncupati Cyriaci. This content downloaded from 91.220.202.155 on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:00:33 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Da er daz sin hatte verdan, Da miiste ez an ein rauben gan. Daz sprechwort uns leret: 10 Wer daz sin verzeret Daz er numme enhat, Ander (lude) gut er nachgat*, Den sinen ist er unwert! Er ist ein dor[e der] des gert. 15 Der ritter, als ich han gesaget, Hatte sich verdobet und verjaget. Er gedachte: 'du must dich fristen Diner nachgebtire kisten: Sie sint so vol von gude.' 20 In dem bosen mude, So stal er alles daz er fant. [323 a] Da(r) begunde er altzii hand Morden und[e] rauben, Doch hatte er cristen glauben. 25 War er quam in daz lant, Daz yme die glocken daten bekant Die rechten syben gezyde(n), Nit langer wolt er byde(n), Wie so er were in bosheit, 30 Ein paternoster waz yme bereit Und ein avemaria: Die zwene formet er yesa Zu alien syben stiinden Gotdes heiligen funff wiinden, 35 Daz er numer miiste ersterben, Er ensolte da myde herwerben Den lycham und daz [frone] brot Daz die sele spyset vor den dot. Vorbas endet er numer gut, 40 Aber quam in sinen milt, Er muste stein umb lybes nar. Dez die lute wurden gewar. After line 12 in the MS. follow two lines which are an evident interpolation: So er dan nume enhat So enhulffet dan nit alle verdat. 22 Da begunde etc.] MS. Dar altzu hant Begunde er morden und rauben. 32 zwene] MS. zwey. 42 die lute wurden] MS. wurden die lute. Und sagen ich uch besiinder 120 Daz also gros[e] wunder, Wie Maria die here konigin Kan der sunder troster sin. Wer zwyfelt nu daran, Sit Maria yren dynstman 125 Also wol hatte getrost Daz er off der hellen rost, Oder ye quenme (dan) in daz fegefuer Von der reinen maget duer. Nu merckent alle gottes kind 130 Wie mylt(e) got und sin(e) mutter sind. Daz der dyep sie eret syben stiintd Tegeliches, des wart yme kiintd, Ane alle myssewende, Die hymelsche freyde an ende, 135 Ane leit und ane not. Dez hylff uns (auch) Crist durch dinen dot. AMEN. 132 des] MS. daz.
doi:10.2307/3712796 fatcat:syjyxo5cqzbpravqlicdgzy27u