Music: European Union National Anthem

We discussed Schiller's "·Hymn to Joy", music by Beethoven, as the EU anthem. Ed Jajko makes a proposal
about the operetta "Die Fledermaus" The bat does not fly because is refers to  time Falke was fooled into walking around town dressed as a bat. Ed's proposal won't fly either.  He writes: Rather than the Ode to Joy as the EU anthem, what about Falke's paean to brotherhood (and sisterhood), from the second act of Die Fledermaus.  It begins with a glass of champagne; it refers to both brothers and sisters, albeit to both in the diminutive; it urges familiarity with a friendly use of "Du;" and it ends with a kiss:

From, with the translation of Falke's words

Follow my example:  glass in hand,
Each turns and sings to his neighbor:
Little brothers, little brothers and sisters
We all want to be,
All will agree with me!
Little brothers, little brothers and sisters,
Address each other with the familiar "Du"
For all eternity, just as today,
When we think about it again tomorrow!
First a kiss and then a "Du"
Du, Du, Du, forever!

RH: The idea of all Europeans kissing each other, glass in hand, and calling each other "Du" on an evening out before one is sent to jail scarcely seems to tell the world what the EU is about.

From the UK George Sassoon comments on my posting about Schiller's "Hymn to Joy" as the European anthem:
Thanks for this text of the EU anthem.  I found the music at the site whence I downloaded the file eu.wav (646 kB) and played it several times, to familiarise myself with it in case I hear it played and have to stand to attention and salute. The question is: if singing these German words, which type of salute should I use?

RH: Well, not the Nazi salute. George does not answer that language he will sing it in. I suppose it has been translated into Catalan, Basque, Flemish, Gaelic etc.  Singers will have l'embarras du choix.
The text is insolubly sexist: Alle Menschen werden Brüder,  "Mensch" means a human, and includes both male and female.  How then can all of them become brothers?  The poem must be rewritten in a sexless way.

Speaking of the European anthem, Schiller's ·"Hymn to Joy", I said: The text is insolubly sexist: Alle Menschen werden Brüder,  "Mensch" means a human, and includes both male and female.  How then can all of them become brothers?  The poem must be rewritten in a sexless way. George Sassoon comments; I agree!  The language is obscenely sexist.  Can it be rewritten using Geschwister (siblings) without upsetting the scansion?  No doubt a WAISer knowing better German than I can rewrite it and submit the amended text to Brussels.

RH: It should of course be submitted in all the European languages, including the four dialects of Catalan, not to mention Valencian and Majorcan, and of course Minorcan.  This will give rise to so many nasty arguments that alle menschen certainly will not be brothers, unless we mean a terrible case of sibling rivalry.

We discussed the sexism involved in Schiller's "Hymn to Joy", with its proclamation that we shall all be brothers. Hungarian Steve Torok says: The trouble, of course, is not with the hymn but with the Indo-European languages and their obsession with gender. In Hungarian , there is no problem: "Mindnyajan testverek leszunk!" is the Hungarian translation, with no trace of a gender-hangup in it!

RH: Does the proposed EU constitution say anything about the EU Anthem?

We agreed that the use of "Brothers" in Schiller's "Hymn to Joy" is sexist, but I was amazed, indeed staggered by Cameron Sawyer's comments. He has in the past belittled Western European except as a big museum, and I suspect that this view, combined with his vocal Russophoilia, explains his comments, with which I strongly disagree.  He writes: Yes, but alle Menschen werden Geschwister doesn't quite have the same ring to it, morever, the idea of Bruederschaft, brotherhood, meaning in German as in English more than just the relationship between brother and brother, is lost.
Schiller's "Ode to Joy" is as banal and trite and vacuously sentimental as any pop song of Michael Jackson, probably more so.  It is a real piece of doggerel.  Beethoven's modification is even worse.  How is it that the greatest musician of all time, possibly the greatest creative artist of all time, arguably the most sublime human spirit of all time, could have such bad taste in poetry?  Genius in one area often coexists with fatuity in another -- witness Tolstoy's essays.  I find it somewhat chilling that the EU has taken this thing as its anthem.  Unless we are meant just to listen to the music, which is indeed evidence of European cultural supremacy.

RH: Not much joy in Cameron. Beethoven would not agree with him.  For years he carried Schiller's "Hymn to Joy" around in his pocket.

Siegfried Ramler joins the argument about Schiller's "Ode to Joy" as the EU anthem: Indeed, Cameron Sawyer is right in pointing out that "Brüder" is a term which in German carries a meaning and feeling beyond male brother, more akin to a linkage of mankind.  However, I cannot agree that Schiller's "Ode to Joy" and Beethoven's interpretation in the last movement of the 9th symphony are banal and trite. Taste in poetry and music can be very personal.  For me, the verse is sublime and the music and chorus are stirring.

RH: Siegfried expresses the virtually unanimous judgment of the poem and the music.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 13, 2005