The line is from a translation of Shakespeare:

Der Mann, der nicht Musik hat in ihm selbst

I could understand if it was written like this:

Der Mann, der nicht Musik in ihm selbst hat

Either I don't understand grammar rules or hat does not refer to der or it is something else. Why is it written that way and what does it mean?

  • 12
    We are talking here about a 200 year old translation of a 400 year old text, which btw is part of a poem. You can't use the rules for modern prosaic texts to analyze it. Dec 11, 2017 at 6:01

2 Answers 2


The original Shakespeare text is

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus:

The German line

Der Mann, der nicht Musik hat in ihm selbst,

is a nearly verbatim translation of the first English line, into Schlegel’s High German of the early 19th century. Schlegel’s word order is poetic, with all the freedom you gain from that, but it’s not uncommon to have that word order in everyday speech:

Da kommt ein Mann, der einen Koffer trägt, in seinen Händen.

By using that word order you emphasize on the line of events. First you report a man coming, then you report he’s carrying a suitcase, then you report he’s carrying it with his hands. Mind the comma. Other than that, the meaning is exactly the same as with the standard word order.

Oh, in addition to all that, modern High German prefers explicit marking of the reflexive nature of phrases:

Der Mann, der nicht Musik in sich selbst hat,

  • 1
    Nice explanation, but shouldn't the translation in modern German be better: Der Mann, der keine Musik in sich selbst hat?
    – clemens
    Dec 11, 2017 at 6:18
  • 1
    If you go that way, the modern idiomatic phrase is …, der keine Musik in sich hat, …, skipping the selbst.
    – Janka
    Dec 11, 2017 at 10:53

You have to take the meter into account.

Der M'ann, der n'icht Mus'ik hat 'in ihm s'elbst

preserves the original meter, the blank verse, which means alternating stressed and unstressed syllables, with 5 stressed syllables per line. I marked the stressed syllables with apostrophes in front of the vowels.

The alternatives

Der Mann, der nicht Musik in sich selbst hat,


Der Mann, der keine Musik in sich selbst hat,

have a more natural word order, but don't preserve the blank verse.

  • Aber "Der Mann, der nicht Musik hat in sich selbst" täte es. Dec 12, 2017 at 0:36

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