I read in the first chapter of Auf Den Marmorklippen (Ernst Jünger, 1939) the following sentences (edition: Ullstein Taschenbuch, 9. Auflage 2008):

Zweimal im Jahr ließen wir indessen das rote Futter durchleuchten – einmal im Frühling und einmal im Herbst.

Im Herbste zechten wir als Weise und taten den köstlichen Weinen, die an den Südhängen der Großen Marina gedeihten, Ehre an.


But twice a year we gave a glimpse of the brilliance of its red inner lining - once in the spring and once in the autumn.

In the autumn we feasted like sages and did honour to the exquisite wines in which the southern slopes of the Marina abound.

What strikes me is the alternance of Herbst and Herbste. I know that the dative singular may be followed by an -e like in Dem deutschen Volke (dedication on Reichstag building):

Dative forms with the ending -e, known in German as the Dativ-e (dem Gotte, dem Manne) are mostly restricted to formal usage, but widely limited to poetic style. Such forms are not commonly found in modern texts, except in fixed expressions (such as im Stande sein: to be able) and for certain words (e.g. (dem) Hause, Wege or Tode) which are, however, quite numerous; in these cases, omitting the -e would be similarly unusual.

I checked various editions like this one: I always found the same text.

My best guess: Jünger wanted to avoid the repetition of the words im Herbst. But I suspect some rhythmical reasons.

  • Are you by any chance French? In German, there are no spaces before a colon or a question mark.
    – Jan
    May 9, 2016 at 10:16
  • You're right, I forgot about it.
    – suizokukan
    May 9, 2016 at 10:31

1 Answer 1


Whatever the intended difference is, it is not a semantic one. You've already named two different alternative motives for varying the form: variation (exact repetitions are dispreferred because they might be mistaken for accidental duplication) and rhythm ("Im Herbste zechten wir als Weise" alternates stressed and unstressed syllables, while "Im Herbst zechten" would have two stresses collide).

There might also be euphony ("Herbst zechen" involves a lot of consonants bunched together, which would be a bit much even for Germans, and using the optional 'e' avois that).

Normally you would also have to consider connotation: while both forms mean the same thing, the longer form evokes a more archaic impression, which Jünger might very well do deliberately. But since both forms occur immediately after one another in the same text, that can't be the main reason, since they obviously stem from the same time.

  • Most probably it's the rithm in this case, maintaining the iamb. May 9, 2016 at 7:36
  • But the text doesn’t read iambic at all … @Ralph
    – Jan
    May 9, 2016 at 10:16

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