Kamel – E.4 – IV.3 Diskursive Texte

Occasionally (though less frequently than one might expect) German texts contain interpretations of one or other of Christ’s camel parables, such as when, in Reinfried von Braunschweig (ll. 16790–9) and Des Teufels Netz (ll. 2799–801), polemics against the avaricious rich are based on associations between them and the camel’s difficulty in passing through a needle’s eye. Meanwhile the author of the thirteenth-century Mittelhochdeutsche Pilatus-Dichtung gives this parable an unusual Marian twist, by declaring that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for him, the poet, adequately to sing Mary’s praise (ll. 128–39).

Elsewhere the German versions of the Etymachia, like the Latin, use the camel as an emblem of anger (Harris 1994, pp. 125, 127, 195, 239, 241, 261) and the dromedary as an emblem of pride (pp. 109, 111, 174f., 224f., 239f., 260). Two proprietates of the former are used: the camel’s tendency to remember and avenge grudges, and its habit of drinking only dirty water (and polluting clean water to make it potable). The dromedary’s tertium comparationis is, inevitably, its speed, reminiscent of the proud person’s swiftness to commit superbia.

In Johannes Veghe’s Wyngaerden der sele, the camel is twice compared to sinners (p. 185, also p. 264). First the events of Gn 24 are recalled, with Rebekah being compared to Mary and Eliezer’s camels to the sinners on whom she pours grace; and then the animal’s bulk and propensity for carrying heavy loads are related to the burdens of the sinful.

Nigel Harris

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