In the famous song "Sah ein Knab' ein Röslein stehn", in the 3rd verse,

Und der wilde Knabe brach
's Röslein auf der Heiden;
Röslein wehrte sich und stach,
Half ihm doch kein Weh und Ach,

What's the 's in the second line? Is it 'Es' referring to the Röslein? Or is it the article 'Das' ? I know the author (Goethe) put 'brach' at the end to rhyme it with 'stach'. By the way, what a beatiful lyric and song!

  • 1
    Lines are not so much blurred in this poem.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 8:30
  • The es as personal pronoun is impossible here, since the substantive is directly following and not in a different (partial) sentence - no need to refer to something, which is already there. In general (e. g. 's ist spät) 's may stand for es, however.
    – guidot
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 13:12
  • @guidot, ok I suspected 'es' as the objective workd for brach.
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 1:54
  • "what a beatiful lyric" - at least the underlying meaning as I learned it in school is not exactly "beautiful". Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 7:30
  • @O.R.Mapper I understand it's a story between a boy(der Knabe) and a girl(das Roslein). I also have an impression the boy might had done something bad the girl didn't want. But it's all metaphore and this poem doesn't say explicitly what it is. I think this peom is beautilful by itself without the metaphore. And sometimes, things are best left unsaid.
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 8:25

2 Answers 2


The 's stands for the article "das". So the long form would be

Und der wilde Knabe brach
das Röslein auf der Heiden;


The 's in the second line indeed means das.

In german, we use the apostrophe to signify that letters were omitted.

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