FOURTH PERIOD ( 1300-1624). In Germany as in France the fourteenth century shows a shift ing in political life that is reflected in literature. Its beginning is distinctively aristocratic; at its close it is as distinctively bourgeois, though arti ficial still. This shifting is marked by the rise of the free cities and their literary guilds and Meistersingers. This is the century also of the founding of the first five German universities— Prague ( 1348 ) , Vienna ( 1365 ) , Heidelberg (1387), Erfurt (1392), which exist to-day, and Cologne (1388), since abandoned whose influ ence was more favorable to scholasticism than to literary art. Life grew more serious, more real istic. The drama is its chief field (Hans Sachs). Social and political satire is cultivated (Rein hart der Fuchs). Didactic poetry (Sebastian Brant) and prose narrative (Eulenspiegel) is often crassly realistic. The scholarship of Ger many expresses itself. chiefly in Latin. "This whole period, extending into the seventeenth cen tury, produced no poetic work of art that could satisfy even elementary demands in purity of form" (Scherer).
In prose, on the other hand, the early four teenth century counts three great preachers, Meis ter Eckhart (d.1328), Heinrich Suso (d.1366), and Johannes Tauler (d.1361), mystics all. Eck hart was distinguished for the boldness and orig inality of his speculations, Suso for his chival rous, if not quixotic, devotion to transcendental truth, Tauler for the sanity of his sanctity. All found readers, and each in his way helped to pre pare Germany for the Reformation and for Lu ther. Narrative prose chronicles were now writ ten in German and lay open to all readers. The Limburg Chronicle (1336-98), the Alsace Chroni cle (1386), and the Thuringian Chronicle (about 1430) have literary as well as historical sig nificance, and suggest the gradual preparation of Germany to welcome and use the invention of printing. With it came the revival of classical studies. New universities were founded in the course of the fifteenth century at Rostock, Greifs wald, Tiibingen, Leipzig. The Humanists, though they wrote almost wholly in Latin, become a force to be reckoned with in German culture. The restlessness of the people under the tyranny of princes and the abuses of the Church is wit nessed by swarms of little tales in prose and verse, Volksbileher, miracle plays, Shrove Tues day plays (Fastnachtsspiele), and polemic satire, of which the most striking examples are Thomas Murner and Geiler von Kaisersberg, both popular preachers. In such a period Emperor Maximil
ian's (d.1519) attempt to revive the taste for romance by the autobiographic Weiss Kunig and by Theuerdank (written at his suggestion by Melchior Pfinzig) was foredoomed to failure.
The literature of the Reformation period in its intensity of purpose sacrifices all charm and grace of form. It is a literature of combat, di rect, trenchant. Luther's Bible is its great monu ment; to it Germany owes the inestimable gift of a common speech. Ulrich von Hutten is the satirist of the Reformation in verse and dialogue, ardent, bold, an enthusiast of political and religious emancipation. He was chief among the authors of the cleverest satire of the period, the Epistolce Obscurortint Virorum. Allied to Hutten in aim, but with greater scholarship, was Johannes Fischart, translator of Rabelais, with whose spirit he had a strong affinity, pre ferring prose to poetry as a vehicle of thought and molding words to his purpose with singular freedom. Other prose writers of the sixteenth century were the artist Diirer (q.v.), the histo rians Thurnmeier (d.1534), Sebastian Franck (d.1545), and the Swiss Tschudi (d.1572) ; the Catholic theologian Agricola (d.1566), more noted for his collection of German proverbs; the Protestant Reformer Zwingli (d.1531), and later the successors of the religious mystics, Johann Arndt (d.1621) and Jakob Boehme (d.1624).
In poetry the sturdiest figure of the Reforma tion period is Hans Sachs (q.v.), who, as well as Fischart, wrote secular verse also. Reineke Fuchs was imitated by Rollenhagen in Der Froschmeu selcr. The drama was very widely cultivated as a means of polemic and popular appeal alike by the Catholics and Reformers, the Humanists and the vulgar. The noblest poetic expression of the time is, however, its religious lyric. Many hymns of Luther, a few of Hans Sachs, Nicolaus Her mann, Paul Ebers, and Philip Nicolai, still sur vive in popular use. These hymns were second only to Luther's Bible in their appeal to the national heart.