The question is on für in the third stanza of Ave Maria.

Ave Maria! Reine Magd!
Der Erde und der Luft Dämonen,
Von deines Auges Huld verjagt,
Sie können hier nicht bei uns wohnen,
Wir woll’n uns still dem Schicksal beugen,
Da uns dein heil’ger Trost anweht;
Der Jungfrau wolle hold dich neigen,
Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht.
Ave Maria!


Is the child praying for his or her (human) father, and not to his or her (Heavenly) Father?


The link will give you the full poem. There was no previous mention of any father to the child. I presume das Kind is the praying Jungfrau (not to be confused with Jungfrau Maria).

Here’s a bit more on what’s motivating the question. Analogizing from English pray for I may expect German für X flehen could have for X (a) a beneficiary (“pray for our boys in the trenches”) or (b) a desired outcome (“pray for peace”), but not (c) the deity to be addressed (such as the Heavenly Father). But in the poem den Vater rather comes out of nowhere at the very end and seems to—shall we say—injure the poem. Till then, it was about the world being an inhospitable crack in the rock where we needed the rose scent from above, etc.; but suddenly our praying maiden has some specific business about her dad, who—I don’t know—embezzled or got the plague? If (c) were available in German, the poem could end as it started: in the abstract.

  • I’m going to change his in the question into his or her. Context clearly shows the speaker is female, so his is wrong; but I’ll leave both options since the OP apparently isn’t sure of this. – chirlu Apr 11 '16 at 6:55
  • Please do not answer questions in comments. Thank you. – Takkat Apr 11 '16 at 7:38
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about the content of the text, not the language in which it is written. – Carsten S Apr 11 '16 at 8:23
  • Did you read in the Wikipedia article that this text is a translation from English? The corresponding English phrase is for a father hear a child. – chirlu Apr 11 '16 at 9:41
  • 2
    I’ve just answered the core language question, which is all that is in the scope of this site. I’d like to point out, however, that already the first and second stanzas indicate the girl is not alone: She repeatedly uses we for those who are “banish'd, outcast and reviled”, referring to herself, her father and possibly others. Also note that this poem is part of a larger context, summarized by Wikipedia thus: Ellen Douglas … has gone with her exiled father to stay in the Goblin’s cave as he has declined to join their previous host … in rebellion against King James. – chirlu Apr 11 '16 at 10:38

The only possible interpretation is that the pleading happens in the interest of the Vater, or possibly in his place (if he would, but can’t do the pleading himself for some reason). This is the general scope of the preposition für.

Historically, according to the DWB entry for flehen, accusative or dative could be used to indicate the person whom the pleading is directed at (jemanden flehen, jemandem flehen). This is no longer the case; today, the transitive verb anflehen would be preferred for this (jemanden anflehen), or at the most flehen could be used with the preposition zu (zu jemandem flehen).

Regarding the desired result of the pleading, this could in former times be expressed in accusative (Gnade flehen), but again, this usage has disappeared in modern language. Either the preposition um – but never für – would be used (um Gnade flehen), or again a transitive prefix verb, erflehen (Gnade erflehen).

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.