In his poem "Ode an die Freude", why did Schiller use the definite article? Why not just "an Freude"?


With the definite article "die", die Freude becomes personalised, concrete. You address die Freude as if it was a person.

Without "die" the object of admiration remains abstract, unconcrete.

It would feel awkward to sing a song of praise for something unconcrete and abstract. It is more natural to imagine the praised thing as something concrete and personal.

Easier example:

Ode an den Pudding

Concrete idea of flummery. The flummery is presented as something present, tangible, close.

Ode an Pudding

Abstract idea of flummery. The flummery is presented as something abstract, remote, intangible; rather the mere concept of flummery, not a flummery that could be eaten here and now.

Quite consequently you would rather say

Ode an Gott


*Ode an den Gott

as God usually is not seen as something tangible, rather as something remote: an idea, not an object.

(Commenters stated that Gott is used like a personal name here, and therefore there is no article, and that this is the stronger reason to not use the article than considerations of proximity and tangibility. See below in the comments.)

  • 3
    Your example using Gott is not fitting. In "Ode an Gott", Gott is used as a name. You could just as well say "Ode an Maria". "Ode an den Gott" seems awkward because there is only one god in Christian belief, the Christian god is usually (always?) referred to without article.
    – Roland
    Mar 30 '20 at 13:34
  • @Roland I agree that the concept of God (and the traditions how to adress him) is different from the concepts of joy and flummery. I used it only to demonstrate that both ways of expressing oneself, with and without article, are possible, but the attitude is different. Mar 30 '20 at 13:37
  • But the explanation is off. In "Ode an Gott", God is extremely tangible, because he is addressed like a person.
    – Roland
    Mar 30 '20 at 13:38
  • @Roland :-) I would not call God "tangible" exactly, but I understand what you mean: God being seen as kind of a person. Hm. I will think about the explanation and try to phrase it better. Mar 30 '20 at 15:07
  • Ode an Pudding klingt für mich wie Bodenstation an Christian, sprich: wenn nach dem "an" kein Artikel kommt, erwartet man dahinter einen Namen. Mar 30 '20 at 21:24

An Ode is like a praise to something, and Ode and die Freude just means "Praise to the joy". The article is I think present because "Ode an Freude" Sounds a bit off, and as you hopefully know, Schiller also was a famous writer, and nobody who knows a better expression would just use something that sounds a bit awful. But the Language of Goethe and Schiller doesn't exactly follow today's rules of grammar. In fact, at that time there were no defined rules of grammar, as we have today, and that's one reason why their works are often pretty hard to understand even for native germans.

And the question asked also needs to have a certain length, so you need to describe your problem/question a bit more in detail.

  • 2
    This doesn't answer the question, why the article needs to be present. Mar 30 '20 at 11:01
  • It just sounds nicer, and I don't think I understand the grammar rules of that time well enough to give a further qualified statement Mar 30 '20 at 11:27
  • 1
    It sounds nicer because your ears are used to it. Please be advised that this is not a forum, where everybody answers. Only answer if you can actually answer the question. For other usages, please leave a comment. Mar 30 '20 at 11:29
  • 3
    I don't see, how this kind of article use changed since Schiller: One can see the same construction in 2015, cf. Youtube: Liebeserklärung an den Norden.
    – guidot
    Mar 30 '20 at 13:23

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