What is the sentence structure of these lyrics?

What is the sentence structure of these lyrics?

I’m trying to understand the following lyrics:

Eine Stimme aus dem Licht
  Fällt dem Himmel vom Gesicht

How does that second line work, syntax-wise?
“Falls the sky from the face” doesn‘t sound like a good translation.
I guess it would make sense if dem Himmel and vom Gesicht were swapped, but I’m not sure how that helps.

Solutions/Answers:

Answer 1:

The main phenomenon you are encountering here is the so-called dativus commodi or Dativ des Vorteils which is a rather rare construction in German that indicates to whose advantage or disadvantage (dativus incommodi or Dativ des Nachteils) something is happening, or more generally to whom something is happening. This is a free dative that is not related to a certain verb requiring this case.

A few simple examples:

Der Krug zerbrach ihm.
literally: The jug broke and this happened to him.
freely: He (unintentionally) broke the jug.

Er putzte ihr die Schuhe.
literally: He cleaned the shoes for her.
freely: He cleaned her shoes.

Now let’s look at your sentence and add sentence parts one-by-one:

Eine Stimme fällt.
A voice falls.

Eine Stimme fällt vom Gesicht.
A voice falls from the face.

Eine Stimme fällt dem Himmel vom Gesicht.
literally A: A voice falls from the face to the sky’s disadvantage.
literally B: A voice falls from the face and this is happening to the sky.
freely: A voice falls from the sky’s face.

Eine Stimme aus dem Licht fällt dem Himmel vom Gesicht.
A voice from the light falls from the sky’s face.

As already noted by O.R. Mapper, switching the order of dem Himmel and vom Gesicht would not change the meaning, but result in an unusual or marked sentence structure, emphasising Himmel.

Answer 2:

“Gesicht” is used as a poetic synonym for visible surface or front, so the mentioned voice is simply falling from the visible portion of the sky.

In a semantic translation / one focused on meaning, I’d drop the face part: “Is coming from the sky”. In a “lossless” translation / one focused on syntax or vocabulary, I’d use “Is falling from the face of the sky”.

References

The use of an infinitive with the pronoun “es”

The use of an infinitive with the pronoun “es”

I have seen a few examples where one uses an infinitive with the pronoun es.
Namely, in the movie Downfall (Der Untergang), Hitler says:

Es bleiben im Raum: Keitel, Jodl, Krebs und Burgdorf.

Never before the day I watched that movie, had I ever seen an infinitive used with es.  Could someone explain he chose bleiben over the finite-verb bleibt?

Solutions/Answers:

Answer 1:

It is not the infinitive form, but present tense, 3rd person, plural:

Keitel, Jodl, Krebs und Burgdorf bleiben im Raum.

“Es” is only used as a syntactic expletive and not as a subject.

Answer 2:

Ich bleibe
Du bleibst
Er-Sie-Es bleibt
Wir bleiben
Ihr bleibt
Sie bleiben

It’s not completely obvious but @jarnbjo’s 3rd person plural rule is the correct explanation.

“Es fehlen zwei Karten. Schaut doch noch mal unterm Sofa nach.” — That is just a descriptive statement.

“Es glauben mehr Menschen an Gott als an ….”

“Es fahren nach Mitternacht keine Züge mehr.”

In the context of the movie scene, the construct is used as an imperative, i.e. an order.

“Es bleiben im Raum: Keitl, ” etc.

It’s not an unusual construction at all. The shift foreman will frequently use it like this.

“Es sind morgen in der Frühschicht: Müller, Berger und Schmitz. Die anderen können ausschlafen.”

References