When I say “Beethoven” I bet most of you think “da da da DUM” and the strikingly innovative opening to the Fifth Symphony. But for me, it’s this – Ode to Joy.
I first waxed poetic about it on November 1st, noting the joy of the music and the lyrics by Henry Van Dyke. And while Van Dyke’s lyrics are more well know. it is these lyrics, by German dramatist, poet, and historian Friedrich Schiller, that Beethoven included in the Ninth Symphony.
Joy, thou goddess, fair immortal, offspring of Elysium,
mad with rapture, to the portal of thy holy fane we come!
Fashion’s laws, indeed, may sever, but thy magic joins again;
humankind is one forever ‘neath thy mild and gentle reign.
Joy, in nature’s wide dominion, mightiest cause of all is found;
and ‘tis joy that moves the pinion, when the wheel of time goes round;
from the bud she lures the flower, suns from out their orbs of light;
distant spheres obey her power, far beyond all mortal sight.
Freude, schóner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium,
wir betreten feuertrunken, himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder, was die Mode streng geteilt,
alle Menschen werden Brúder, wo dein sanfter Flúgel weilt.
Freude heiefst die starke Feder in der ewigen Natur.
Freude, Freude treibt die Ráder in der grossen Weltenuhr.
Blumen lockt sie ausden Keimen, Sonnen aus dem Firmament,
Spháren rollt sie in den Raumen, die des Sehers Rohr nicht kennt.
I love that we have to verses of the German, along with two English verses. The first line, “Freude, schóner Götterfunken” translates directly as “Joy, beautiful spark of God, daughter of Elysium” – the English translation we use appears to be uncredited (at least according to my Google search).
I could talk more about the theology of this versus Joyful, Joyful – and I’m sure it’s worthy of analysis. But today, in the midst of the Goldmine Youth Leadership School (with incredible youth and their incredible minds and enthusiasm), I don’t have the energy for deep thought. I do also wonder about attributing gender to an abstract – but I am not sure how I feel about it. Maybe someday.
Meanwhile, JOY! In a big, famous, broad, triumphant German way.
One response to “STLT#327, Joy, Thou Goddess”
Translation is by Edgar Alfred Bowring, 1826-1911. See his Poems of Schiller, 1851, page 63.