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These are the first few lines of a poem by Seidl, as adapted into lyrics by Schubert:

Ihr lieben Mauern, hold und traut,
Die ihr mich kühl umschließt,
Und silberglänzend niederschaut,
Wenn droben Vollmond ist!

How should I understand what "die" is doing here in the second line? Does it act to emphasize the nominative "ihr"?

2 Answers 2

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The die in the second line is a relative pronoun. The second line and the following lines are a relative clause introduced by this relative pronoun.

The ihr addresses the walls represented by this relative pronoun in so that the verb is in second person plural.

It would have been possible to omit the ihr. In this case, line two and the follwing lines would be in third person plural. The text then would read:

Ihr lieben Mauern, hold und traut,
Die mich kühl umschließen,
Und silberglänzend niederschauen,
Wenn droben Vollmond ist!

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  • Would it make sense to mention that this has is the poetic means of personaliszation of the walls?
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 7:43
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Maybe a translation into English might help:

You dear walls, gentle and trustworthy,
That you enclose me coolly,
and look down shining silver,
when the moon is full above!

  • die = that
    This is a relative pronoun, introducing a relative clause (lines 2 to 4 of the poem) that describes the subject of the main clause (main clause is line 1, it's subject is »Ihr lieben Mauern« = "You dear walls")

  • ihr = you
    This is the subject of the relative clause, and it doubles the subject of the main clause. This construction is rare and it is not the usual way to construct relative clauses (RHa already pointed this out in his answer). But having a doubling subject after the relative pronoun in a relative clause is a construction that you find often in prayers and poems. The official German version of Lord's Prayer (the most important christian prayer) started with such a construction before 1968:

    Vater unser, der du bist im Himmel, geheiligt werde dein Name...
    Father of us, who you are in heaven, sanctified be your name ...

    (I tried to have the English translation as close to the German grammar as possible. I know that the official English version is very different)
    This version is still in use in some churches (I learned it in the 1970'ies when I was a child), but the official ecumenical version from 1968 begins with

    Vater unser im Himmel, geheiligt werde dein Name...
    Father of us in heaven, sanctified be your name ...


Btw.: You did not post the original version of the poem. You changed some words. Here is the original Text, different words are marked bold:

Ihr lieben Mauern, sanft und traut,
Die ihr mich kühl umschließt,
Und silberglänzig niederschaut,
Wann droben Vollmond ist:

  • sanft
    This word is still in use in modern German. It means: gentle, soft, mild, bland, ...
  • hold
    This word is outdated. I wonder how it came in your version of the poem, because Seidl didn't use it. He wrote »sanft«. The German adjective »hold« means: lovely, gainly, comely, graceful, faithful, ...
  • silberglänzig
    This might have been correct 200 years ago, when Seidl wrote this poem, but in modern German this is wrong. The modern word is »silberglänzend« (shining like silver).
  • wann
    The word exists in modern German, and using it instead of »wenn« in this sentence is not really wrong, but it is outdated. »Wann« means »when«, but only in it's temporal meaning (at that time, at which time). German »wann« never means »if«! But »wenn« can mean »when« (in it's causal meaning, i.e. similar to »if«) and »if«.

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