Folk song stanza

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Folk songs are characterized by their formal simplicity. Their meter is not tied to any particular scheme. In German, however, the typical folksong stanza usually consists of four, sometimes six verses, which are always rhymed and quite short with three or four accents .

According to the literary scholar Horst Joachim Frank, the most common German stanza form are two pairs of rhymes , consisting of four iambi , with a male cadence :

From Hímmel hóch, there I come here .
I bring you gúte, néue Mä́r.
The good man bring me so much,
from that I am and wíll saw.

This form goes back to an old, Latin hymn stanza , such as O lux beata, trinitas / et principalis unitas, / iam sol recedit igneus, / infunde lumen cordibus from the 5th century. By translating such Latin hymns, this quatrain became a model for German hymns.

For secular poetry, however, the second most common stanza form in German is much more important - a quatrain made up of three iambes with alternating female and male cadenza and interrupted rhyme [xaxa]or cross rhyme [abab]:

At the fountain in front of the Tóre ,
there is a tree.
I dream in my treasure
so sweet dreams.

Historically, this folksong stanza can be derived as half of the eight-line Hildebrandston , a two-part long verse of the medieval heroic epic , similar to the Alexandrian in French literature. Example from the German Nibelungenlied :

The men would be míltè / from árde hóch erbórn,
with strong unmázen kǘene / die back úz Erkórn.

Following this origin, the German folksong stanza appears primarily in folk ballads such as the Tannhauserlied . As a young poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , for example - as a successor to Johann Gottfried Herder's folk songs - chose this stanza form for his famous ballad The King in Thule (1774).

The folk song stanza became even more widespread in German Romanticism, for example in Novalis , Eichendorff or Clemens Brentano's collection of folk songs Des Knaben Wunderhorn . It was probably most popular in popular wandering and travel songs by Wilhelm Müller and above all, with an ironic undertone, in Heinrich Heine's lyrical poetry .


  • H. Bausinger: Forms of "folk poetry" . Berlin 1968.
  • Horst Joachim Frank: Handbook of the German strophic forms. Munich 1980.