Liechtenauer wants the young knights to love God. As Alanus de Insula said in his Summa de arte praedicatoria relying on Ephes. 3, “Amor Dei mater est omnium virtutum, amor saeculi mater est omnium vitiorum.”, the love to God is the mother of all virtues, while the love for worldly things is the mother of all sins. A knight should not rely on worldly things but on the virtues. When Thomas of Aquin said in his summa theologica “Caritas enim est amor Dei.”, he wants us to understand that, who shows charity is loving God. Loving God includes the love for all beings.
And he wants the young knights to honour women. Already Stricker in his Frauenehre of the 13th century tells us “die ere hat in got gegeben/ daz man si uf der erde/ ze dem hoesten werde/ erkennen sol mit eren“. God blessed the women, such that man should see them as the highest gift, and honour them. But Stricker said, that the times of honour had passed, that vices and bad habits are growing. Liechtenauer reminds the young knights of their duty to honour the gift of God. “Haete diu werlt niht vrouwen/wa sollte man ritter schouwen?“ If there would be no women, you would not see any knight. Because the women are the ones, who enable the knights to be honourable.
Love God and honour women, and your good fame will grow. You will be known and remembered as a faithful, merciful and honourable knight.
Liechtenauer wants the young knights to participates in the sports of the knighthood. They should learn and exercise the art there. His art will let them win tournaments and contests. This will make them strong and healthy, and successful, and has the undeniable side effect of being admired (by whoever they prefer to be admired).
But Liechtenauer’s art is not only good for sport but extremely useful in war. Liechtenauer tells you no bullshit. His stuff is the real thing. Believe it.
Jung Ritter lerne
The first line of the poem is nearly the same in all variants differing only in spelling due dialects or other reasons. Notable is that the first syllable of Ritter is loud but not really long. Liechtenauer directly addresses the “target group” and by this embeds the poem in a knightly context. The poem is by this address not meant as a common good. It is designed to be used in the education of young knight.
Gott lieb haben
The second line is almost identical, as well. The intonation was adjusted according to the intonation of the block of the first four verses. The “amor dei” or “caritas” is defined in several volumes of religious literature and based on Ephes. 3:17 ”habitare Christum per fidem in cordibus vestris in caritate radicati et fundati”.
Frauen ja ehre
There is no notable difference in most of the sources to this line (Paulus Kal starts with “und” and Talhoffer switches “jo frawen”). But Lew especially adds “frawen und junckfrawen ere“. If we assume a knightly context in the so called “Hohe Minne”, we can differentiate between the high (noble) wife, and the young not married women. The distinction made by Lew could be, that young knights should honour the women in the family, and be honourable and courteous towards young women.
So wächst dein Ehre
This line does not exist in Beringer and the following “Übe Ritterschaft | und lerne” does not exist in Lew. All clean verses come in rhyme pairs in the poem. But here are three lines with the same phonetic ending (two times the same word). We have either two archetype versions, which had been combined by Döbringer, PvD (copied by Ringeck), Talhoffer, and Paulus Kal. Or we have a combined badly rhymed poem, which had not been liked by the other authors, so they removed a line. The latter seems very unlikely.
The definitions of honour are millions. The most matching definition in this regard may be the words of Emperor Maximilian I in the Weißkunig, “Wer ime in seinem leben kain gedachtnus macht, der hat nach seinem tod kain gedächtnus und desselben menschen wird mit dem glockendon vergessen“ – who does not create fame and memory in his life, will not be remembered after death, and forgotten with the last beat of the funeral bell. The idea to create fame and memory longer than life is coming up the 15th century. The insertion may have happened, to reflect the growing interest in fame.
Übe Ritterschafft / und lerne
In Lew this line does not exists and he puts part after the break “und lerne” to beginning of the next line. As often Paulus Kal uses “lern” instead of “ler[n]e” due different dialects. This had influence on his matching verse. We observe that this line needs a (nearly) silent “e” in “Übe” to keep rhythm. The silencing of the trailing vowel is typical for most of the German dialects. The Slash | between the two parts of the next line indicates, that the authors of PvD and Beringer had been aware of a kind of strange behaviour of the following line.
Liechtenauer now turns slowly from general advices into the martial environment of honourable knights in the folly of the clash of weapons in tournaments against each other. The term knighthood does not point back to honour and virtues, but forward to the art of fighting in sports and war.
Kunst, die dich zieret
Paulus Kal ends the line whith “ziern” to find a rhyme to his “lern”. Lew differs with “lern dinck daß sich zieret” not talking about art and making the “thing” reflexively adorning itself.
The line still holding five syllables has a good number of (medium) stressed and/or loud syllables, based on the emphasis of the “Kunst”, the diphthong in “die” and the address to the reader in “dich”. Liechtenauer separates the art in sport and earnest. The sport drawn in the picture of the knighthood called into the readers brain a line before, as tournaments of any kind, glorious knightly duels, for the young knight to win fame.
Und in Kriegen sehr hofieret
Several sources have „vnd In kriegen zu eren hofiret“ (PvD, Ringeck, Talhoffer). It does not match the rhythm of the verses and there is little concept in the respective times to win honour in war. “strîtes êre” was something to be gained in duels. If we would apply the meaning of fame in “Ehre” the meaning of the verse would change to “And in war will bring you fame”. Looking at the “honourable man” in the second part of the preface, who “needs” the art of weapon (for defence), this does not meet the idea of someone learning to fight in the wish to seek fame in battle.
The lines are advertising the art by Liechtenauer as for great in sport and extremely useful in wars. An advertisement still to found in martial art schools up today, if you replace “war” with self-defence.
The information and discussion about sources used, methods applied, and color codes ar to be found Analysis of the Liechtenauer Poem.
An introduction into the project is listed under The path to the original poem of Master Liechtenauer