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This is about the construction of the title of the popular German Christmas song: "Süßer die Glocken nie klingen."

My understanding is that the verb is supposed to go into the second position in most sentences. That might imply a construction like Süßer klingen die Glocken nie, or Die Glocken nie klingen Süßer.

Normally, when the verb is at the end, it is because of a so-called "relative pronoun," such as wer or was. But I don't see "Süßer" as performing that function.

What is the rationale for the construction, "Süßer die Glocken nie klingen?" Is it a "standard" construction using a formula I've missed, or is a form of "poetic license" that violates ordinary grammar rules?

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Poetry!! Ignoring "standard" rules of language since mankind learned to wield the featherquill... –  Vogel612 Dec 22 '13 at 23:36
    
"Die Glocken nie klingen süßer" -> The verb would be in 3rd position ;) –  Em1 Dec 22 '13 at 23:38
    
@Em1: So the correct construction would be "Die Glocken klingen nie Süßer"? I was never clear on whether or not the negative was "part of" or separate from the verb, and at some level, posted it like that to "find out." –  Tom Au Dec 22 '13 at 23:42
    
@tom in this case also poetic freedom applies. Yes the correc version separates Verneinung and Verb, but it is not uncommon to keep them together for stylistic or metral reasons –  Vogel612 Dec 22 '13 at 23:52
    
Just check out translations of old Greek drama if you want to see what German can REALLY do. There is no word order. –  Emanuel Dec 24 '13 at 12:56

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Rather than continue the string of comments, I will place an answer.

Yes, this is sheer poetic license.

However, some emphasis is being placed on the "süßer", putting it first to emphasize the fact that the bells never ring sweeter than at Christmastime ("als zu der Weihnachtszeit", to complete the stanza).

Normal grammar would indeed then place the verb second, but with music and poetry there is a lot of wiggle room in German as well as English (and other languages) to follow the flow of the musical notes or to evoke a certain emotion or whatever. That's all that is happening here.

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