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The Knittelvers is originally a German meter , which was mainly used in the 15th to the early 17th century in the unsung , lyrical , epic and dramatic poetry, and is translated as "Reimvers" ( knittel means in early New High German " Rhyme"). Because of its supposed irregularity it was sometimes disparagingly called "Knüttelvers" (after knüttel for "stick, club "). In the (Latin) verse teachings of the time, he was called Usitatissimus ("the most common [verse]"). It is a mistaken assumption that the Knittelvers is named after the Cistercian Abbot Benedikt Knittel (1650–1732).


The only requirement for the Knittel verse was that two consecutive lines must rhyme ( pair rhyme ). Since Andreas Heusler's three-volume German history of verse (1925–1929), a distinction has been made between the strict Knittel verse , which (depending on the cadence ) consists of 8 or 9 syllables per line of verse, and the free Knittel verse , which may vary in the number of syllables.

Contrary to a long cultivated view, in the 15th and 16th centuries the Knittelvers was neither written in four parts , without filling, nor in an alternating rhythm . This misunderstanding goes back to a change in the handling of the Knittel verse by Goethe and his contemporaries. One now counted - in accordance with the prosody of New High German - no more syllables as in early New High German (based on the French metric model), but - in accordance with Opitz 's verse reform - elevations . The strict Knittelvers was converted accordingly into an alternating iambic four-lifter . The resulting irregularities in rhythm and verse length led to the concept of freedom from filling . Applying this principle of freedom from filling retrospectively to the early New High German Knittelvers would, however, be nonsensical, since a syllable-counting metric system does not know any metrically relevant accents, i.e. no elevations or drops .

The New High German Knittelvers created in this way , as he z. B. is used in Goethe's Faust , but has established itself as a separate meter in German metrics. In contrast to the old Knittel verse, not only the pair rhyme, but also cross rhyme, tail rhyme, embracing rhyme, so-called " orphans " and other rhyme forms are allowed.


In the 15./16. In the 19th century, the Knittelversus was the usual meter in drama, in narrative poems (see verse epic ) and in unsung, mostly didactic or satirical poems. (In sung poetry, on the other hand, relatively free stanzas and verse forms were common, which were included in the madrigal verse that was later named .) The knitting verse was used early by the Nuremberg carnival writer Hans Rosenplüt (1400–1460). In Sebastian Brant's (1457–1521) satirical didactic poem Das Narrenschiff (1494) and in the works of Hans Sachs (1494–1576) and Johann Fischart (1546–1590) the strict Knittel verse predominates.

The baroque poets fought against what they considered to be the artless form of the Knittelverse, whereupon the Knittelverse was used almost exclusively in popular poetry or jocular works for a long time. This only changed again with the Sturm und Drang , when authors consciously turned away from classic models and turned to German forms. The use of the Knittel verse in Goethe's Faust , where he illustrates the old German setting of Faust material, has become classic . Since the second half of the 19th century, the Knittel verse has rarely been used, and when it is, then almost exclusively for comic poetry. Accordingly, he is often z. B. to be found in hand-made speeches . Theodor Fontane, however, used it in his later years as a symbol of simple, content-emphasizing poetry without pomp and due to the freedom of its filling. The most famous poem in Knittelversen alone is Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Jedermann .


Example of the strict Knittel verse:

One evening late I looked out
at a window in my house, in
front of it I saw a
shapeless , one- eyed, disheveled old man
with a big, wide mouth
holding a plow horse.
Hans Sachs, the beginning of Hans Unfleiß

Example for the free Knittel verse:

Also, do not let this grieve you at all
when the terrible, grim, roaring lion will slide along.
Andreas Gryphius , Absurda Comica or Mr. Peter Squenz

Knittelvers poet


  • Alfred Behrmann : Introduction to the newer German verse. From Luther to the present. Metzler, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 978-3-476-00651-6 .
  • Dieter Breuer: German metrics and verse history . W. Fink / UTB, Munich 1981, ISBN 3-8252-0745-5 .
  • David Chisholm: Goethe's Knittelvers. A Prosodic Analysis. Bouvier, Bonn 1975, ISBN 3-416-01084-1 .
  • Hans-Jürgen Schlütter: The rhythm in the strict Knittel verse of the 16th century. In: Euphorion 60, 1966, pp. 48-90
  • Christian Wagenknecht: German metric. A historical introduction. CH Beck, Munich 1981, ISBN 3-406-45630-8 .

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