Schiller's Ode To Joy

This is the familiar version of the poem as used by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony.

Freude, Schöner Götterfunken, 
Tochter aus Elysium, 
Wir betreten feuer-trunken,
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.   
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 embracéd, 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.


This is a slightly revised version of a translation I produced for the programme notes of a performance of Beethoven's Ninth by Wokingham Choral Society in 2001, under the baton of Edward Gardner.

I wrote it because I didn't like the translations I could find (and to avoid the trouble of getting copyright permission). I wanted a translation that was fairly literal line-by-line, as the purpose was to help the audience follow the German words, but that was also poetic. To produce a translation that was sufficiently literal I had to abandon any idea of following the rhyming scheme, but I felt that it should be possible to stick to the metre of the original: ideally producing a text that could be sung to Beethoven's tune.

The pace of the original changes dramatically in the last 12 lines; the rhyming scheme changes from ABAB to ABBA, and the rhythm from a jubilant 8-7-8-7 to a more pensive 8-7-7-8. My revised 2013 translation attempts to capture this change in mood; though I cannot reproduce the change in rhyming pattern, the change in metre is reflected faithfully, and the repetitive use of the same words in the German is also retained.

Copyright © 2001-2013 Michael Kay