Deciphering Schumann’s “Lotosblume”

Tips for Your Struggle through German Grammar and Libretti (III)



The poem Die Lotosblume which Robert Schumann set into music was written by Heinrich Heine in the 1820s. It is a simple text, but easily misunderstood if you do not notice the little grammatical trap that is waiting for you in the second verse. Eventually, you will master it and the poem’s passion will open up to you as the flower opens its blossom. Just, follow these steps:

1. Mark all nouns.

2. Identify the verbs (activity words) and look how they are conjugated (changed in spelling according to ich, du, er, wiretc.).

3. Look at the meaning of the verb (activity) and find the thing, person (name, function) or pronoun that is doing this activity.

4. Find the thing, person (name, function) or pronoun to whom the activity is directed.

5. Look at the vocabulary below the poem, read the poem again and try to understand its meaning.

6. Answer the questions below.

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.


ängstigen sich vor = to be afraid of
(Reflexive: ich ängstige mich, du ängstigst dich, die Lotosblume ängstigt sich)
der Sonne Pracht – die Sonne (sun), die Pracht (magnificence, splendor). Both words are combined in a genitive case, “the poet’s genitive”
der Sonne Pracht. Today, we say die Pracht der Sonne.
gesenkt = participle from
senken, to lower, here: lowered
das Haupt = (old) head
der Buhle = (old) love
Possessive pronouns: ihr = her, seinem = his
entschleiern = to unveil (der Schleier = veil)
fromm = pious, here: angelic
in die Höhe = up into the heights/skies
das Liebesweh = lover’s grief


– Who is active (the subject) in verse no 1?
– What are the two activities (verbs) the subject is doing?
– What is the third activity/verb turned into an adjective (participle present)?

– What is the Monddoing in verse no 2?
– Who unveils (entschleiert) his or her face,
Blumengesicht? (Be aware of the word order and the pronoun. The dativ pronoun ihmnever does anything, and therefore does not entschleiern!)

– What is “she”, the flower doing in verse no 3?










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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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