Gestreckt auf wildes Kraut, an die bemooste See." - Andreas Gryphius, Einsamkeit

Does he mean a lake (dialect?) or is the lake mossy?

  • 2
    Welcome to German.SE! :-) Also, note that "der See" = "the lake", but "die See" = "the sea".
    – Jan
    Jun 4, 2012 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


Especially in Bavaria, Switzerland and Austria, "Moos" is not only used for moss, but also to designate a boggy/swampy area (see also Grimm and Duden). In modern German, instead, you would use "Moor" in such a case generally. But there are still a lot of examples where "Moos" is used in toponyms, denoting not a mossy area, but a (initially) boggy one that had to be drained.

So, the setting doesn't describe an "old sea", but likely an area that's characterized by water holes and bog. No settler didn't try to drain the land to cultivate it yet, and I assume you wouldn't be very lucky trying to cast for fishes in such a place. This way, the boggy land/water mixture is a "wonderful" setting to describe a scenery far from any civilization.


Gryphius writes „die See“, not „der See“. In modern German, this would indicate that he talked about "the sea" instead of a lake. But regarding Gryphius' time and language, I think this detail isn't conclusive. According to Grimm (again), the grammatical gender wasn't as clear as in modern language. Grimm:

3) doch ist auch im nhd. die erwähnte unterscheidung erst sehr allmählich durchgedrungen; die ältere sprache kennt zwar auch das fem. neben dem masc., gebraucht aber beide ohne unterschied.

Subsequently, the Grimm dictionary offers a remarkable number of sources using „die See“ for a lake and „der See“ for the sea. So I think you can't rule out that Gryphius used „die See“ when talking about a lake or - maybe - a pond.

  • 3
    Two details might discourage this interpretation: Gryhius didn't live in southern Germany (He mostly lived and was born in the northeast of Germany, nowadays within polish borders) and thus might not have been exposed to "Moos" instead of "Moor" to refer to boggy areas. The other being that he spells it "die See", not "der See", which seems to refer to "sea" rather than "lake". Jun 4, 2012 at 18:20
  • 1
    Very good comment! Regarding „der / die See“: i've emended my answer, again with reference to Grimm.
    – tohuwawohu
    Jun 4, 2012 at 19:03
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    Good reference - we can't rule out lakes in general, then. Gryphius was clearly familiar with coastal settings of the baltic sea, but there are so many lakes in that area (and pretty much most of northern Germany is known to have been a lot more boggy in his time, before the draining frenzy to gain arable land). Jun 4, 2012 at 19:36
  • @tohuwawohu can you answer my question too ? german.stackexchange.com/q/29500/18933
    – Mehdi
    Apr 29, 2016 at 12:50

When trying to interpret die bemooste See I'd look at the contrast between Wüste and See:

In dieser einsamkeit, der mehr denn öden wüsten,

Gestreckt auf wildes kraut, an die bemooste see,

Looking for a quotable take, bemoost, to me seems more a reference to age, at least if we take the DWB entry on bemosen. This is somewhat backed by Gryphius' own use of the word Moos, as quoted in DWB, which clearly seems to refer to plants (Bryophyta, to be more precise):

weisz aber warlich nicht, dasz sie gebrechlich sind. er findet schilf und mos statt köstlicher corallen. Chr. Gryphius poet. wäld. 1, 358;

When going speculative, I'd look at colour and texture of moss as qualities to compare the sea to. Large bodies of water in the northern hemisphere can appear at an almost bottle (or moss) like green in the special lighting when there's dark, nearly violet clouds of a storm overhead and the last rays of sun are still reaching the water. This could also match the reference to wildes kraut, where wild might associate with untamed as in not domesticated. I'd then see the motionless, deserted and vast quality of the desert representing his feelings as contrasted by the wild and rogue nature of a remote place overlooking a troubled but equally vast and deserted sea.

Sources: Barocke Thematik in der Lyrik des Andreas Gryphius gave me a few ideas.


"Die See" is the sea. "Der See" means: the lake.

As Andreas Gryphius lived in the 17th century, some words may have slightly changed their meaning. I would translate

Gestreckt auf wildes Kraut, an die bemooste See.

as follows:

Stretched on wild herbs, towards the mossy sea.

Poetry is no exact science, though. ;-)

  • Das Tal von dem dann gleich die Rede ist deutet darauf hin, dass hier doch weniger die See gemeint ist. Jun 6, 2012 at 1:15

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