Tune of the Day: Ave Maria
Still as popular as ever for wedding services, this 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 Scott's poem the character Ellen Douglas, the “Lady of the Lake” 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 opening words and refrain of Ellen's song, namely “Ave Maria” (Latin for “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.