The text of Beethoven's 9th Symphony was largely "borrowed" from the poem "Ode to Joy" by Friedrich Schiller.

The text of the first verse of the poem (second verse of Beethoven's 9th symphony) is as follows (translation from Wikipedia):

Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, burning with fervour,
heavenly being, your sanctuary!
Your magic brings together
what custom has sternly divided.
All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover.

The next verse seems to be referring to earthly pleasures:

Whoever has been lucky enough
to become a friend to a friend,
Whoever has found a beloved wife,
let him join our songs of praise!
Yes, and anyone who can call one soul
his own on this earth!
Any who cannot, let them slink away
from this gathering in tears!

The 4th verse makes a passing reference to God, but only after a reference to the "Daughter from Elysum":

Every creature drinks in joy
at nature's breast;
Good and Evil alike
follow her trail of roses.
She gives us kisses and wine,
a true friend, even in death;
Even the worm was given desire,
and the cherub stands before God.

The final verse is much more explicitly religious:

Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, O world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

Why does this start with an explicit reference to Greek mythology and only "evolve" to talking about God later? How did the religious views of Schiller and Beethoven influence this?

1 Answer 1


It's because the Germans, at the turn of the 18th century until the time of Hitler, saw the Greeks as the fons et origo of themselves. & because Beethoven was at the cleavage of the old moral thinking, and the Romantics, or, what we know as creative thinking. The history of Mozart's Don Giovanni brings this out most sharply. With the final scene being censured for frivolity, a kind of comedy of happy endings for all but the "sinner", suggesting a lack of moral seriousness (since, in a tragedy, moral badness is not so easily overcome by those on the bad side of it.)

It's the view that identifies divine providence with progress. Think of the phrase from the American document: "nature's God". The sciences, born of Greek beginnings, are God's providence become material progress.


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