GERMANY:Johann Christoph Friedrich von SCHILLERR (1759- 1805)

The idealization of "we, the people" has led to that expression of the utmost vulgarity, pop culture, which, through TV and commercial entertainment, is reducing the world to a cesspool. We need mention only Michael Jackson in this country and Gloria Trevi in Mexico.  It was therefore a pleasant surprise to hear a large German mass choir singing Schiller's "Hymn to Joy" to the music of Beethoven.  Here is the German text:

Freude, Tochter aus Elysium,
deine Zauber binden wieder,
was die Mode streng geteilt!
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
wo dein sanfter Flügel Weilt.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, überm Sternenzelt
muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Freude, schöner Götterfunken!

Well, at this point things get more complicated. There are several variants of the text, one being that by Beethoven. It has become the hymn of the EU, but in which language is it sung? There are translations into many languages, and other musical versions in addition to Beethoven's. In a European choir, does each linguistic group sing it in its own language, the result being a mish-mash of words?

We suffer under the tyranny of pop culture, but Schiller suffered under the tyranny of a tyrant. Karl Eugen, Duke of  Wurttemberg, angered by his play "The Robbers", forbade him to write and forced him into exile. Fortunately Goethe befriended him in Weimar, but even so, deprivation had undermined his health, and he died at the age of 46, famous throughout Europe. Had he been alive today,. he might have been a Hollywood script writer.  After all, "The Robbers" would make a great movie.  Can anyone tell us is any of his plays have been made into an English-language movie? I assume that there are German movie versions. Perhaps it is better to live in a pop culture than in a tyranny. Despite the tyranny of pop culture, Germany is staging big celebrations to mark the second centennial of the death of Schiller in 1805. Former president Johannes Rau has led readings of all his works, an immense job.  Unfortunately, the "Hymn to Joy" does not express the mood of Germans today.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 16, 2005