Ode to Joy

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Ode to Joy
by Friedrich Schiller
Schiller an die freude manuskript 2.jpg
Autograph manuscript, circa 1785
Original titleAn die Freude
Publication date1786, 1808

"Ode to Joy" (German: "An die Freude" [an diː ˈfʁɔʏdə], literally "To [the] Joy") is an ode written in the summer of 1785 by German poet, playwright, and historian Friedrich Schiller and published the following year in Thalia. A slightly revised version appeared in 1808, changing two lines of the first and omitting the last stanza.

"Ode to Joy" is best known for its use by Ludwig van Beethoven in the final (fourth) movement of his Ninth Symphony, completed in 1824. Beethoven's text is not based entirely on Schiller's poem, and it introduces a few new sections. His tune[1] (but not Schiller's words) was adopted as the "Anthem of Europe" by the Council of Europe in 1972 and subsequently by the European Union. Rhodesia's national anthem from 1974 until 1979, "Rise, O Voices of Rhodesia", used the tune of "Ode to Joy".

The poem[edit]

Schillerhaus in Gohlis

Schiller wrote the first version of the poem when he was staying in Gohlis, Leipzig. In the year 1785 from the beginning of May till mid September, he stayed with his publisher, Georg Joachim Göschen, in Leipzig and wrote "An die Freude" along with his play Don Carlos.[2]

Schiller later made some revisions to the poem, which was then republished posthumously in 1808, and it was this latter version that forms the basis for Beethoven's setting. Despite the lasting popularity of the ode, Schiller himself regarded it as a failure later in his life, going so far as to call it "detached from reality" and "of value maybe for us two, but not for the world, nor for the art of poetry" in an 1800 letter to his longtime friend and patron Christian Gottfried Körner (whose friendship had originally inspired him to write the ode).[3]


An die Freude

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, beautiful spark of Divinity [or: of gods],
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly one, thy sanctuary!
Thy magic binds again
What custom strictly divided;*
All people become brothers,*
Where thy gentle wing abides.

Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt,
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won a lovely wife,
Add his to the jubilation!
Yes, and also whoever has just one soul
To call his own in this world!
And he who never managed it should slink
Weeping from this union!

All creatures drink of joy
At nature's breasts.
All the Just, all the Evil
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us and grapevines,
A friend, proven in death.
Lust was given to the worm
And the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, as His suns fly
through the heavens' grand plan
Journey, brothers, on your way,
Joyful, like a hero to victory.

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss to all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Are you collapsing, millions?
Do you sense the creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy!
Above stars must He dwell.


The lines marked with * have been revised as follows:

Original Revised Translation of original Translation of revision Comment
was der Mode Schwerd geteilt Was die Mode streng geteilt what the sword of custom divided What custom strictly divided The original meaning of Mode was "custom, contemporary taste".[4]
Bettler werden Fürstenbrüder Alle Menschen werden Brüder beggars become princes' brothers All people become brothers

Ode: To freedom[edit]

Academic speculation remains as to whether Schiller originally wrote an ode "To Freedom" (An die Freiheit) and changed it to "To Joy".[5][6] Thayer wrote in his biography of Beethoven, "the thought lies near that it was the early form of the poem, when it was still an 'Ode to Freedom' (not 'to Joy'), which first aroused enthusiastic admiration for it in Beethoven's mind".[7] The musicologist Alexander Rehding points out that even Bernstein, who used "Freiheit" in two performances in 1989, called it conjecture whether Schiller used "joy" as code for "freedom" and that scholarly consensus holds that there is no factual basis for this myth.[8]

Use of Beethoven's setting[edit]

Over the years, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" has remained a protest anthem and a celebration of music.

  • Chinese students broadcast it at Tiananmen Square.[9] It was performed (conducted by Leonard Bernstein) on Christmas Day after the fall of the Berlin Wall replacing "Freude" (joy) with "Freiheit" (freedom), and at Daiku (Number Nine) concerts in Japan every December and after the 2011 tsunami.[10] It has recently inspired impromptu performances at public spaces by musicians in many countries worldwide, including Choir Without Borders's 2009 performance at a railway station[11] in Leipzig, to mark the 20th and 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Hong Kong Festival Orchestra's 2013 performance at a Hong Kong mall, and performance in Sabadell, Spain.[12]
  • The BBC Proms Youth Choir performed the piece alongside Georg Solti's UNESCO World Orchestra for Peace at the Royal Albert Hall during the 2018 Proms at Prom 9, titled "War & Peace" as a commemoration to the centenary of the end of World War One.[16]

Other musical settings[edit]

Other musical settings of the poem include:

External audio
audio icon Schubert's "An die Freude" on YouTube, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore


  1. ^ The usual name of the Hymn tune is "Hymn to Joy" "Hymnary – Hymn to Joy". Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  2. ^ "History of the Schiller House". stadtgeschichtliches-museum-leipzig.de. Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  3. ^ Schiller, Friedrich (21 October 1800). "[Untitled letter]". wissen-im-netz.info (in German). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  4. ^ Duden – Das Herkunftswörterbuch. Mannheim: Bibliographisches Institut. 1963. p. 446. ISBN 3-411-00907-1. The word was derived via French from ultimately Latin modus. Duden cites as first meanings "Brauch, Sitte, Tages-, Zeitgeschmack". The primary modern meaning has shifted more towards "fashion".
  5. ^ Kubacki, Wacław (January 1960). "Das Werk Juliusz Slowackis und seine Bedeutung für die polnische Literatur". Zeitschrift für Slawistik (in German). 5 (1): 545–564. doi:10.1524/slaw.1960.5.1.545. S2CID 170929661.
  6. ^ Görlach, Alexander (4 August 2010). "Der Glaube an die Freiheit – Wen darf ich töten?". The European. Archived from the original on 26 October 2016. Das 'Alle Menschen werden Brüder', das Schiller in seiner Ode an die Freude (eigentlich Ode an die Freiheit) formuliert, ...
  7. ^ Thayer, A. W.(1817–97), rev. and ed. Elliot Forbes. Thayer's Life of Beethoven. (2 vols. 1967, 1991) Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 895.
  8. ^ Rehding, Alexander (2018). Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Oxford University Press. p. 33, note 8 on p. 141. ISBN 978-0-19-029970-5.
  9. ^ Kerry Candaele (6 May 2015). "Following Beethoven's Ninth". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b Daniel M. Gold (31 October 2013). "The Ode Heard Round the World: Following the Ninth Explores Beethoven's Legacy". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  11. ^ Video of a "flash mob" – "Ode to Joy" sung at Leipzig railway station (8 November 2009) on YouTube
  12. ^ Megan Garber (9 July 2012). "Ode to Joy: 50 String Instruments That Will Melt Your Heart". The Atlantic. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  13. ^ "Beethoven's Flash Mobs". billmoyers.com. 14 November 2013.
  14. ^ Nougayrède, Natalie (8 May 2017). "Macron's victory march to Europe's anthem said more than words". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  15. ^ "EU anthem played at Proms' first night". BBC News. BBC. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  16. ^ "Prom 9: War & Peace". BBC Music Events. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  17. ^ Excommunication, daisakuikeda.org (undated)
  18. ^ Otto Erich Deutsch et al. Schubert Thematic Catalogue, German edition 1978 (Bärenreiter), pp. 128–129

External links[edit]