Heine’s Lotus in Schumann’s Music

Near Schlesisches Tor, Berlin

Robert Schuman deployed a vast range of poets for his song cycle Myrthen (die Myrthe = myrtle) which he dedicated to his bride Clara Wieck: from the German writers Goethe, Heine, and Rückert to the English poet George Gordon Byron, and the Irish poet Thomas Moore. Die Lotosblume is a poem in Heinrich Heine’s first collection of poetry Das Buch der Lieder. With its clarity and simplicity this book, published in 1827, marked a new style in German poetry.

There are many different interpretations of the song. Below you can listen to the late Rudolf Schock, a tenor from Duisburg.

Vocabulary and Grammar:

die Lotosblume = lotus flower
In German, the lotus flower is feminine. (pronoun: sie)
ängstigen sich vor (reflexive) = to be afraid of
(Reflexive: ich ängstige mich, du ängstigst dich, die Lotoblume ängstigt sich)

die Sonne = sun, die Pracht = glory, magnificence
Der Sonne Pracht is in the genitive case, meaning one noun (Pracht) depends on the other noun (die Sonne). Today, we say “die Pracht der Sonne.” The old bards said “der Sonne Pracht” which sounds poetically for modern ears.

gesenkt = lowered
das Haupt = (old) head

der Mond = moon.
Unlike in many other language, the moon is masculine in German. (pronoun: er)

der Buhle = (old) lover
ihr (possessive pronoun) = her
einem (possessive pronoun) = his
ihm (dative pronoun, indirect object) = to him
entschleiern = unveil
fromm = pious
in die Höhe = up into the heights/skies
das Liebesweh = lover’s grief

The text:

Die Lotosblume ängstigt
Sich vor der Sonne Pracht,
Und mit gesenktem Haupte
Erwartet sie träumend die Nacht.

Der Mond, der ist ihr Buhle,
Er weckt sie mit seinem Licht,
Und ihm entschleiert sie freundlich
Ihr frommes Blumengesicht.

Sie blüht und glüht und leuchtet,
Und starret stumm in die Höh;
Sie duftet und weinet und zittert
Vor Liebe und Liebesweh.





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Bernd Hendricks. Born in Duisburg, Germany. Based in Berlin. Writer, German Language Educator. I was six years old when I went to the opera for the first time. My Grandma took me to Hänsel und Gretel at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duisburg. The first time I met an opera singer personally was during my time as foreign correspondent in New York when at a Christmas party a baritone pelted me with questions about the language of Zauberflöte. He was preparing for his role as Papageno. After my return to Berlin in September 2010, I have been giving German lessons to singers on their audition tours. My workshops in Berlin, Vienna, and London are based on my widely read book Ach, ich fühl’s—German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing. My latest book, Die Frist ist um—Navigate the Language of 10 German Operas, takes you on a journey through the language of the most popular and often performed operas in the German-speaking countries. I am also the author of several non-fiction books and two novels.

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