If One Can Save One’s Soul by Lying

In honor of the German holiday, Three Kings Day, we present this work by one of Medeival Germany’s most significant poets.

Hartmann von Aue
1165 – 1210


If one can save one’s soul by lying,
Then I know someone who is holy.
He has often sworn false oaths to me.
His shrewd cunning overwhelmed me
And I chose him as a friend.
I thought I had found in him constancy.
But my own good sense deserted me,
As I now announce to the world:
He is as free of duplicity
As the sea is free of waves.

Why should I seek help from others
Since it was my own heart that deceived me?
It led me to the one
Who is worthless to me or to any good woman.
It hardly honors men
How this man conducts himself with regard to women.
He is so well versed in uttering sweet phrases
That one could not write them down.
I followed them even onto slippery ice.
Now I am suffering the harm they caused.

If I were now to begin to detest all men,
I would do so out of hatred of him alone.
But how are they all at fault for this?
Many men show better gratitude to their ladies.
One lady, by using her good sense,
Chose a friend who makes her happy.
She is laughing while I am sad.
Our lives play themselves out quite differently.
I have begun with suffering.
May God, the mighty One, ease my pain.

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