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Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellens Gesang III, D839, Op 52 no 6, 1825), Ellen's third song in English, composed by Franz Schubert in 1825, is one of Schubert's most popular works, although some misconceptions exist regarding its provenance.

"The Lady of the Lake" and the "Ave Maria"

The piece is often referred to as Schubert's Ave Maria; but it was originally composed as a setting of a song from Walter Scott's popular epic poem The Lady of the Lake, in the German translation by Adam Storck, and thus forms part of Schubert's "Liederzyklus vom Fräulein vom See". In Scott's poem the character Ellen Douglas, the "Lady" of "the Lake" (Loch Katrinemarker in the Scottish Highlands) has gone with her father to hide in the "Goblin's cave" nearby to avoid drawing the vengeance of the King on their host, the Clan-Alpine chieftain Roderick Dhu, who has been affording them shelter since the King had exiled them. She sings a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary, calling upon her for help. Ellen is overheard by Roderick Dhu who is higher on the mountain, raising the clan for war.

The piece is said to have first been performed at the castle of Countess Sophie Weissenwolff in the little Austrian town Steyregg and dedicated to her, which led to her subsequently becoming known as the lady of the lake herself.

The opening words and refrain of Ellen's song, namely "Ave Maria" (Latin, "Hail Mary"), may have led to the idea of adapting Schubert's melody as a setting for the full text of the traditional Roman Catholic prayer Ave Maria. The Latin version of the Ave Maria is now so frequently used with Schubert's melody, that it has led to the misconception that he originally wrote the melody as a setting for the Ave Maria.

Recordings of the Latin version of Ave Maria set to Ellens dritter Gesang include:

Position within the cycle

Schubert composed in 1825 a selection of seven songs from Scott's The Lady of the Lake. They were published in 1826 as his op. 52. The songs are not intended for a single performer: the three songs of Ellen are piano songs for a woman's voice, the songs for Norman and the Count of Douglas ones were planned for the baritone Johann Michael Vogl. The remaining two songs are written for one male and a female ensemble.

  1. Ellens Gesang I D 837 „Raste Krieger, Krieg ist aus“/„Soldier rest! the warfare o’er“
  2. Ellens Gesang II D 838 „Jäger, ruhe von der Jagd“/„Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done“
  3. Bootgesang D 835 „Triumph, er naht“/„Hail to the chief“, Männerquartett (TTBB)
  4. Coronach (Song of the dead of women and girls) D 836 „Er ist uns geschieden“/„He is gone to the mountain“, Chorlied (SSA)
  5. Normans Gesang D 846 „Die Nacht bricht bald herein“/„The night soon breaks in“
  6. Ellens Gesang III (Hymne an die Jungfrau) D 839 „Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild!“/„Ave Maria! maiden mild!“, Lied für Frauenstimme
  7. Lied des gefangenen Jägers D 843 „Mein Roß so müd“/„My steed is tired“

Schubert composed the songs on the transfers of the German texts. With the exception of No. 5, the songs were to be performed with the original English texts to be released. The right-free transfers of Adam Storck had to be set accordingly, which was not without small difficulties.

The words of "Ellens dritter Gesang"

Storck's translation used by Schubert   
Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild,

Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen,

Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild

Soll mein Gebet zu dir hinwehen.

Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,

Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind.

O Jungfrau, sieh der Jungfrau Sorgen,

O Mutter, hör ein bittend Kind!

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Unbefleckt!

Wenn wir auf diesen Fels hinsinken

Zum Schlaf, und uns dein Schutz bedeckt

Wird weich der harte Fels uns dünken.

Du lächelst, Rosendüfte wehen

In dieser dumpfen Felsenkluft,

O Mutter, höre Kindes Flehen,

O Jungfrau, eine Jungfrau ruft!

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Reine Magd!

Der Erde und der Luft Dämonen,

Von deines Auges Huld verjagt,

Sie können hier nicht bei uns wohnen,

Wir woll'n uns still dem Schicksal beugen,

Da uns dein heil'ger Trost anweht;

Der Jungfrau wolle hold dich neigen,

Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht.

Ave Maria!
Hymn to the Virgin by Sir Walter Scott
Ave Maria! maiden mild!

Listen to a maiden's prayer!

Thou canst hear though from the wild;

Thou canst save amid despair.

Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,

Though banish'd, outcast and reviled -

Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;

Mother, hear a suppliant child!

Ave Maria

Ave Maria! undefiled!

The flinty couch we now must share

Shall seem this down of eider piled,

If thy protection hover there.

The murky cavern's heavy air

Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;

Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer,

Mother, list a suppliant child!

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled.

Foul demons of the earth and air,

From this their wonted haunt exiled,

Shall flee before thy presence fair.

We bow us to our lot of care,

Beneath thy guidance reconciled;

Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,

And for a father hear a child!

Ave Maria.

Use in Disney's Fantasia

Walt Disney used Schubert's song in the final part of Fantasia, where he chained it to Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, in one of his most famous pastiches. The end of Mussorgsky's work blends with almost no change right into the beginning of Schubert's song, and as Deems Taylor remarked, the bells in "Night on Bald Mountain", originally meant to signal the coming of dawn, now seem to be church bells signalling the beginning of religious services. The text for this version is sung in English, and was written by Rachel Field, who based it on Schubert's original. This version also had three verses, like Schubert's original, but only the third verse made it into the film (one line in the last verse is partially repeated to show how it is sung in the film):

Ave Maria!

Now your ageless bell

so sweetly sounds for listening ears,

from heights of Heaven to brink of Hell

in tender notes have echoed through the years.

Aloft from earth's far boundaries

Each poor petition, every prayer,

the hopes of foolish ones and wise

must mount in thanks or grim despair.

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria!

You were not spared one pang of flesh, or mortal tear;

So rough the paths your feet have shared,

So great the bitter burden of your fear.

Your heart has bled with every beat.

In dust you laid your weary head,

the hopeless vigil of defeat was yours

and flinty stone for bread

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria!Heaven's Bride.

The bells ring out in solemn praise,

for you, the anguish and the pride.

The living glory of our nights,

of our nights and days.

The Prince of Peace your arms embrace,

while hosts of darkness fade and cower.

Oh save us, mother full of grace,

In life and in our dying hour,

Ave Maria!

The arrangement was made by Leopold Stokowski especially for the film, and unlike the original, which is scored for a solo voice, the version heard in Fantasia is scored for soprano and mixed chorus, accompanied by the string section of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The soloist is Julietta Novis.

The liner notes for the soundtrack LP of Fantasia, released by Disneyland Records (mono) and Buena Vista Records (stereo), and the booklet for the CD, released by Walt Disney Records, do not contain the Rachel Field lyric.

Ave Maria (set to Schubert's music)

There is at least one additional set of lyrics for Schubert's Ave Maria / Ellens dritter Gesang. One particular set is used in an arrangement titled Ave Maria, performed by the Zurich Sängerknaben, with Daniel Perret as the soprano voice. Although less widespread in use, this set of lyrics received some attention due to its use as the theme song for the Hitman: Blood Money video game. A version is used in the soundtrack for the Hitman movie (a film based on the video game franchise), sung by Christina England. Contrary to popular belief, Jesper Kyd did not arrange either composition.

Original German

Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild,

Erhöre deiner Kinder Flehen,

im Tal der Tränen sei uns Schild

lass mein Gebet zu dir hinwehen.

Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,

dein Sternenmantel deckt uns zu.

O Jungfrau, siehe unsere Sorgen,

O schenke unsern Herzen Ruh!

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Reine Magd!

Wir wollen gläubig dir vertrauen

du süsse Jungfrau, unverzagt

voll Hoffnung zu dir aufwärts schauen,

und still uns Gottes Willen beugen,

da uns dein heilger Trost anweht.

O Jungfrau, wolle hold dich neigen

dem Kind, das bittend zu dir fleht.

Ave Maria!
Direct English translation

Ave Maria! Maiden mild,

Heed your children's prayers,

In the valley of tears, be our shield

Let my prayer waft to you.

We sleep safely until morning,

Your cloak of stars covers us.

O Maiden, see our worries,

O give peace to our hearts!

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Pure maidservant!

We want to trust in you faithfully

You, sweet maiden, undaunted

Full of hope, to you gaze upward,

And calmly bend God's Will to us,

That your holy solace may drift to us.

O Maiden, full of grace, tend to us

The child, that suppliantly entreats you.

Ave Maria!

The 'Ave Maria' is used on the soundtracks of the popular computer games Raven Shield and Hitman: Blood Money


Walt Disney's Fantasia, a book written by Deems Taylor and published in 1940 in conjunction with the film's original release. The text was later adapted for the liner notes in the booklet accompanying the 1957 LP release of the film soundtrack album.


Performed by American Mezzo-Soprano Dorothea Fayne, accompanied by Uwe Streibel (Piano).


  1. p. 114, Spaeth (2005) Sigmund. Whitefish, Montana Stories Behind the World's Great Music Kessinger Publishing
  2. cf. The Schubert Institute (UK)

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