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In Heine's Im Walde wandl’ ich und weine, there is the following verse: Warum ist dir so weh?

What is the correct translation for Warum ist dir so weh? (What I actually don't make any sense of in this verse is the function of dir).

Im Walde wandl’ ich und weine,

Die Drossel sitzt in der Höh’;

Sie springt und singt gar feine:

Warum ist dir so weh?


„Die Schwalben, deine Schwestern,

Die können’s dir sagen, mein Kind;

Sie wohnten in klugen Nestern,

Wo Liebchens Fenster sind.“

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2 Answers

"Jemandem ist weh" is an old-fashioned way to say "jemand ist traurig".

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In principle this is the same construction as English

Woe is me

except it is second person singular, not first, and a question not a statement. "Woe is" / weh ist is the subject of the sentence, it describes a condition; "me" is the objective case, dir is the dative case.

Nothing complicated about it.

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For a delightful discussion of "woe is me" that backs me up on it being an equivalent to weh ist mir, see Language Log. I had actually forgotten how much fun LL can be; too much Stack Exchange (outside of its natural Stackoverflow habitat) tends to make one stupider. And as this thread provides yet another example of the consistent undervoting of my answers (the other answer has two upvotes to my one, despite it being later and less informative), this is as good a time as any to announce that I'm taking a long break from GLU. I won't miss you. –  Eugene Seidel Jul 22 '13 at 12:33
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