Here the author has adapted his tale with psychological acumen, and liberal helpings from a florilegium. He makes fun of human peccadillos, drawing a pompous lecher of a churchman, a husband eager to stray, and a vain, scatterminded beauty, as each tries to cover his and her tracks into and out of the same disreputable adventure.
But it is gentle fun. He helps us all, himself included, to feel some forgiveness for his sinning characters first by making them just plain human, and then by giving us a scapegoat. The loathsome procuress earns her pay by taking the blame for the others' illicit lusts and flees in the last scene right over the narrative horizon.
In so protecting them, the author shares and merges with his creations, confessing himself to be of the same common flesh. And surely it would have cost a greater poet qualms to conclude such a tale with such a moral. But our man, and with him, we must suppose, the audience of his day, is content to see God's hand at work even in such low business as this. Pure womanhood is rescued despite the impulses of the woman in which presumably it dwells.
The poet announces himself and clubs home his moral yet again in a rather crude epilogue:
This is the story that Poor Konrad has composed. May God frown on him who slanders lovely ladies and strips them of honor, and despicable he who never has a good word for pure women! `Amen' to this says he who is wise. So drink, my friend--let's see you match your thirst for wine with a fistful of sausage. And now my story's done; God bless us, every one!
In conjunction with the setting, the city of Würzburg, the name can't fail to call to mind one of the most famous German poets of the thirteenth century. Konrad von Würzburg (d. 1287) produced three massive epics and a large body of lesser narrative and lyric verse. We should not mistake Poor Konrad for his famous namesake (or should we?--scholars differ), nor, I think, did he intend any forgery. He was only doing the master the honor of imitating him. The remarks about love's power to numb scruples, joined with divine tolerance of the result, unmistakably echo a theme favored by the earlier Konrad, who, however, was himself rehearsing the work of a still greater master. Gotefrit (modern Gottfried) von Strassburg (d. 1215?) in his immortal story of Tristan and Isolt said what remains still the last word on the conjoined power and corruption of love. A stronger mark of Poor Konrad's hackdom is his ostentation of axioms swept up from popular florilegia of his day.
Only two manuscripts of Poor Konrad's work remain. But the story of the accidentally-procured spouse has a long and almost universal tradition, traceable through many languages and versions all the way back to the threshold of preclassical folklore. Could a real (but now forgotten) Heinrich von Rotenstein have found himself the butt of an ancient joke? We don't know. But the pompous canon of Würzburg, like other heroes of this storytelling age, made by any name a target too broad to be missed. Look not to the heads of church or family, nor even the poets, for good sense. Try your maid.