World poetry: An die Freude, Friedrich von Schiller (2)

Translated by Lauren Valentine, proofread by Charlotte Borne

In ‘World Poetry’, discover a piece of poetry accompanied by a brief analysis. This month, it’s the turn of ‘Ode to Joy’, written in 1785 by Friedrich von Schiller.

 

The poet

Born in 1759 and deceased in 1805, Friedrich von Schiller is a German writer, philosopher and poet. A true classic of Germanic literature, his work is notably marked by his great friendship with Goethe. He, even more so than the latter, strongly influenced and impacted German romanticism, and allowed for a renaissance and reinvention of theatrical form.

Schiller – Anton Graff (1785)

The poem

The poem ‘Ode to Joy’ calls for unity of mankind and fraternity between the people. Schiller thus shares his vision of a more united world. His secret? Most simply: joy. For the poet, it is joy that can “bind together, what we by custom wrench apart.” He also looks to the divine, which he perceives as a way to access this famous joy, and calls for the people to look for the “Maker.” The poem’s verses have been partly reused by composer Ludwig van Beethoven for the fourth and final movement of his Symphony n°9. In 1985, after being chosen as a European hymn by the European Council, it became the official hymn of the European Union.

In terms of style, the poem is composed of octosyllables with alternating rhyme, which is quite a classic form. The lexical fields of joy, quite extreme since it goes as far as elation, and of the divine provide a glimpse of early romanticism. This aspect is supported elsewhere by the use of several exclamative that portray a certain euphoria.

 

 

 An die Freude

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen
und freudenvollere.
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Wem der große Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!
Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
Froh,
wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such’ ihn über’m Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muß er wohnen.

Ode to Joy

Joy! A spark of fire from heaven,
Daughter from Elysium,
Drunk with fire we dare to enter,
Holy One, inside your shrine.
Your magic power binds together,
What we by custom wrench apart,
All men will emerge as brothers,
Where you rest your gentle wings.

If you’ve mastered that great challenge:
Giving friendship to a friend,
If you’ve earned a steadfast woman,
Celebrate your joy with us!
Join if in the whole wide world there’s
Just one soul to call your own!
He who’s failed must steal away,
shedding tears as he departs.

All creation drinks with pleasure,
Drinks at Mother Nature’s breast;
All the just, and all the evil,
Follow down her rosy path.
Kisses she bestowed, and grape wine,
Friendship true, proved e’en in death;
Every worm knows nature’s pleasure,
Every cherub meets his God.

Gladly, like the planets flying
True to heaven’s mighty plan,
Brothers, run your course now,
Happy as a knight in victory.

Be embraced, all you millions,
Share this kiss with all the world!
Way above the stars, brothers,
There must live a loving father.
Do you kneel down low, you millions?
Do you see your maker, world?
Search for Him above the stars,
Above the stars he must be living.

 

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