The song of the bell

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Magnificent binding by Alexander von Liezen-Mayer
The finished bell (illustration by Liezen-Mayer)

The song of the bell is a poem published in 1799 by Friedrich Schiller . For a long time it was part of the canon of German literature and is one of the best-known, most quoted and parodied German poems.


Schiller bell in Schaffhausen

Schiller came into contact with the craft of bell casting as a schoolboy, because Georg Friderich Neubert, the son of the Ludwigsburg bell founder, was Schiller's schoolmate at the Latin school, and the Schiller family lived only a few houses away from the foundry. It is also considered certain that Schiller visited the Neubert family again during his stay in Ludwigsburg in 1793/94.

As Schiller's sister-in-law Caroline von Wolnahm reports, Friedrich Schiller visited the Mayer bell foundry in Rudolstadt several times as early as 1788 and wrote in a letter to Christian Gottfried Körner “I found a very inspiring subject for a lyrical poem, which I used for my most beautiful hours put back "( grains ). This quote is generally related to “The Song of the Bell”, but it wasn't until 1797 that the project seemed to have taken concrete shape. It took more than ten years from the first conception of the poem to its completion.

In 1787 Schiller spoke of Caroline von Wolhaben and Charlotte von Lengefeld about a planned “Glockengießerlied” as a poem from which he expects a special effect. After Schiller reread Homer's Odyssey and Iliad in German transmissions, he strove to become the national epic poet of his time. This ideal of a folk singer was specified by Schiller himself in the review of the poems of Gottfried August Bürger in the " Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung " of 1790 to the effect that "an artist can become a true folk poet with a happy choice of material and the greatest simplicity in handling it" ( Citizen ). To do this, he took a close look at the workflow in a bell foundry. In the family of the Rudolstadt bell founder Johann Mayer, the story goes on from generation to generation, “[...] how Schiller repeatedly visited the foundry and asked the casting master how the ancestor was not particularly happy about the disruption of work, that the pale scholar but has taken a considerate seat in the high-backed chair on the wall so as not to disturb the work ”( Glockengiesser Mayer ).

The source mentioned by Schiller himself was the Economic Encyclopedia by Johann Georg Krünitz , published in Brno in 1788 . Here Schiller found the precisely described work processes and technical terms such as Schwalch, Glockenspeise or Damm. He also took the preceding motto from this work: “ There is also a large bell on the cathedral of the city of Schaffhausen, in Schweitz, which was cast in 1486 and has 29 shoes in size. [...] The legend is: Vivos voco, mortuos plango, fulgura frango ”( Krünitz , German:“ I call the living, I lament the dead, I break the lightning. ”) The fact that the peal of lightning drives away lightning is based on an old popular belief, also reported by Krünitz. There you can also find the inscription of the bell of the Schaffhausen Minster , cast in Basel in 1486 , which he chose as the motto.

Probably Schiller had known this motto for a long time, because the Ludwigsburg bell founder Neubert had spent his apprenticeship in Schaffhausen and certainly knew the cathedral bell there. The house in which the Ludwigsburg foundry was located is adorned with a plaque with the inscription:

Stand, wanderer, still! Because here it emerged
that no second would be possible,
built by Schiller's master hand,
the largest bell shape on earth.

Another suggestion for the composition of the song was the description of the cast of Perseus in Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography, the penultimate transmission of which the translator Goethe had sent him on February 1, 1797 for the magazine Die Horen . Now Schiller developed a clear plan for Das Lied von der Glocke .

In a letter dated July 7, 1797, he informed Goethe that he “had now gone to my Glockengießerlied and has been studying Encyclopedia in Krünitz since yesterday, from which I am profiting a great deal. This poem is very close to my heart, but it will cost me several weeks because I need so many different moods for it and a large number of them have to be processed ”( Schiller ).

In a letter to Goethe dated February 23, 1798, Schiller wrote, alluding to Goethe's essay on Laocoon : “With the way you do your work now - (what is meant) - you always have a nice double profit, first of all that Insight into the object and then, secondly, into the operation of the spirit, as it were a philosophy of business, and the last is almost the greater gain, because a knowledge of the spiritual tools and a clear knowledge of the method already makes a person to a certain extent the master of all objects " ( Schiller ).

The poem was not finished in time for the Musenalmanac's editorial deadline. Schiller wrote to Goethe on September 22nd, 1797: “My last letter told you that I had to leave the bell lying around. I confess that this, since it had to be that way, is not entirely unpleasant to me. Because by carrying this object around with me for another year and keeping it warm, the poem, which is really no small task, must first acquire its true maturity. Also this is once the ballad year, and the next one seems to be the song year, to which class the bell belongs ”( Schiller ).

But the year 1798 also passed without Schiller finishing his song about the bell. It was not until September 1799 that he took up the poem again and quickly finished it. Presumably the so-called master's sayings were finished first. The original name of the poem was " Glockengießerlied ". “The song of the bell” has only been called since it was first published in the Musenalmanac.


Schiller combines the knowledgeable presentation of a handcrafted bell casting with a general view and commentary on human life, its possibilities and dangers.


Germanists distinguish two types of stanzas in the structure of the poem:

Master or work stanzas Stanzas for reflection or contemplation
number 10 9
length 8 verses different lengths
content spoken by the master about the craftsmanship
five stanzas about the preparatory work up to the start of the casting
five stanzas about the activity after the casting
Reflections on life
further associations
shape four - footed troches,
four verses with crossed, four with parallel rhymes


Motto (illustration by Ludwig Richter )

The first indented line between the title and the first stanza is in Latin and reads:

“Vivos voco. Mortuos plango. Fulgura frango. "

“I call the living. I lament the dead. I'll break the lightning. "

A bell cast for the Catholic parish church of St. Leodegar in Friedingen in 1670 received the German defense formula - which was very rare:


Three bells cast for the Hoffnungskirche Berlin-Pankow in 1913 were probably the last bells on which the above-mentioned motto was applied. The motto was divided between the three bells with the names "Faith", "Love" and "Hope": Faith - vivos voco, hope - mortuos plango, love - fulgura frango.

The "Faith" bell in the Hope Church in Berlin-Pankow

Look at the prepared form

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

Firmly bricked in the earth
stands the form, made of clay.
Today the bell has to be.
Fresh, fellows! be at hand.
sweat must run hot from the forehead ,
Let the work praise the master!
But the blessing comes from above.

8 verses
(verses 1 to 8)
1st stanza total
(1st working stanza )

The first stanza indicates the preparatory work that has been done, which is now to be followed by the actual casting. The clay mold is located in the dam pit and is now to be filled with the metal to be melted. The so-called coat lifting process is described here. Since the model form are destroyed in the course of this process as well as is called this a procedure with lost form .

Meaning of work

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

A serious word is probably appropriate to the work we are seriously preparing ;
When they are accompanied by good speeches
, the work goes on happily.

12 verses
(verses 9 to 20)
2nd stanza in total
(1st contemplation stanza )

The first contemplation stanza is to be seen as the actual introduction to the poem. No one who does a job should do the job thoughtlessly, but has to put his heart into it. The iambus gives the first four contemplative stanzas a calm character.

Preparation of the bell dish

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

Take wood from the spruce trunk,
But let it be quite dry, So
that the pressed-in flame
strikes the swallow.

8 verses
(verses 21 to 28)
3rd stanza overall
(2nd working stanza )
Karl von Schiller

According to Schiller's eldest son, Karl von Schiller , who was a forester , his father made a factual mistake when he wrote “Take wood from the spruce trunk ...” because he was choosing the spruce wood that was just unsuitable for heating : “My father was certainly a great poet , but he didn't understand anything about wood. Otherwise he would not have written in the song about the bell, 'Take wood from the spruce trunk!', Because that is the worst wood! ”( Schiller's son ). In fact, spruce is not ideal for creating hot, clean embers in a home heating fireplace. Even if spruce wood has a high calorific value relative to its weight , it burns down quickly and it is also very resinous. At most , it is a good choice for heating up and promoting the fire in stoves loaded with hardwood . However, from the experience of heating the apartment, it cannot be concluded that Schiller had obtained poor or no information. Because burning with a strong flame has advantages for the special conditions in the furnace, bell founders in traditional wood-fired furnaces do in fact use spruce wood. So it did z. B. 1923 Heinrich Ulrich for the Petersglocke of Cologne Cathedral or 2012 Rudolf Perner for four bells of the Döbelner St. Nicolai Church .

This stanza also contains the outdated technical term "Schwalch", which is actually only known from this poem. Schwalch or Schwalg is the opening of the melting furnace through which the flame sweeps over the metal. When the pot is closed, the flame is forced to draw into the furnace.

Right next to the pit, the reader should imagine the casting furnace on which the metal, initially only the copper , lies. As soon as the copper is liquid, the more easily meltable tin is added.

Testimony to the change of fate

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

What the
hand builds with fire help in the embankment's deep pit ,
High on the bell-tower of the tower
There it will testify loudly of us.

12 verses
(verses 29 to 40)
4th stanza in total
(2nd contemplation stanza )

The second consideration describes the theme of the whole in more detail. The bell made in the depths of the dam pit will announce the praise of the master in the bell house above. It will survive many genders and accompany every change in human life.

Liquefaction of the metal

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

I see white bubbles jumping,
well! the masses are in flux.
Let it penetrate with ash salt, that
quickly promotes the casting.

8 verses
(verses 41 to 48)
5th stanza overall
(3rd working stanza )

If the so-called bell dish (three parts copper , one part tin ) is in motion, a whitish foam forms on the surface, in which impure admixtures are secreted. This foam formation is accelerated by the addition of potash .

From the christening bell to first love

Illustration by Hans Kaufmann: "The boy proudly tears himself off the girl"
Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

Because with the joy of Feyerklange
she greets the beloved child
On the first walk of his life, which
it begins in sleep's arm;

31 verses
(verses 49 to 79)
6th stanza in total
(3rd contemplation stanza )

The third consideration begins with the description of childhood. The bell solemnly welcomes the child to the baptism. However, the fate of the young person is uncertain. His mother watches over the first years of his life. But then the boy separates himself from the girls and goes out into the world. On his return he falls in love with the grown girl and experiences the ephemeral "beautiful time of young love".

Testing of the metal mixture

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

How tan the pipes are!
I dip this stick in, if
we see it appear overglazed, it
will be early for the cast.

8 verses
(verses 80 to 87)
7th stanza overall
(4th working stanza )

There are “wind whistles” on the stove, draw holes that can be opened and closed. After the metal has been in the oven for twelve hours, the pipes will turn yellow and it is time to cast. But first a test is made with a stick that is dipped into the liquid metal. If the stick appears to be covered with a glaze, the more brittle copper has combined with the softer tin.

Wedding bell and roles

"Lovely in the brides curls"
Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

For where the severity and the delicate,
where the strong and the mild are paired,
there is a good sound.
Therefore check who binds himself forever,
Whether the heart finds itself to the heart!
The madness is short, the regret is long.

59 verses
(verses 88 to 146)
8th stanza in total
(4th contemplation stanza )

This stanza continues seamlessly from the previous working stanza, which ends with the following verses:

Whether the brittle and the soft
unite to form a good sign.

In the fourth consideration, the bell invites you to the wedding celebration, with which the first happiness in love closes in order to make room for family life. This verse, in which a traditional picture of the family is portrayed, also says that the man must "go out into hostile life" while inside the house "the chaste housewife" rules.

Start of casting

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

Well! Now the casting can begin,
the break is nicely jagged.
But before we let it flow,
pray a pious saying!

8 verses
(verses 147 to 154)
9th stanza overall
(5th working stanza )

Before starting the casting, after a little prayer, a small amount of metal is poured into the cavity of a warm stone. Once it has cooled down, it is broken through. The size of the prongs on the fracture surface indicates whether the melting process can be considered complete - if the prongs are too small, copper must be added, if the prongs are too large, tin must be added.

In order to let the metal into the mold, the conical pin is pushed inwards. The metal beam shoots out of the horizontal mortise in an arc, first into a channel and then into the shape of a bell.

Fire bell

Illustration by Hans Kaufmann: "He counts the heads of his loved ones"
Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

The power of fire is benevolent,
When man tames and guards it,
And what he forms, what he creates,
He thanks this heavenly power;

72 verses
(verses 155 to 226)
10th stanza in total
(5th contemplation stanza )

The fifth consideration shows how impermanent happiness is. Based on the fire that melts the bell mass, Schiller also describes the destructive power of fire in very lively sequences: "Cracking beams, falling posts, clinking windows, children whining, mothers are wrong" and "Everything runs, saves, escapes ".

After his house burns down, the father of the family stands in front of the smoking ruins of his property and only has one consolation that his family is complete:

He has been left with a sweet consolation,
He counts the heads of his loved ones
And look! he lacks no dear head.

Filling the bell shape

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

It is absorbed into the earth
, the form is filled happily,
Will it come to
light well, That hard work and art will reward it?

8 verses
(verses 227 to 234)
11th stanza overall
(6th working stanza )

The form is filled. Now we have to wait and see whether the work has succeeded. The master can therefore not yet be happy about his work, because he does not know whether the casting was really successful.

Grave bells when the woman dies

Hans Kaufmann: "The dark womb of the holy earth"
Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

In the dark bosom of the holy earth
we trust the hands of the deed,
the sower
trusts his seed and hope that it will germinate
For a blessing, according to heaven's advice.

31 verses
(verses 235 to 265)
12th stanza in total
(6th contemplation stanza )

Just as the master entrusts the pouring of the earth, the farmer entrusts the seeds to the earth and so the dead are buried in the earth so that they can be resurrected in the hereafter.

The bell now also has a serious purpose and rings for the last escort:

Oh! it's the wife, the dear,
oh! it is the faithful mother,
whom the black prince of shadows leads
away from the arm of the husband,
from the tender crowd of children ...

The three alternating vowels o, e and a in the verses "From the Dome / Heavy and bang / Tönt die Glocke / Grabgesang" imitate the different sounds of the bells and are intended to evoke a mood of seriousness and sadness.

In Goethe's epilogue to Schiller's bell , the motif of the death knell is taken up again and applied to Schiller's own death:

Then I hear the frightful midnight ringing,
The dull and heavy swelling of the tones of mourning.
Is it possible? Shall it mean our friend
To whom every wish is clinged?
Should death steal the worth of life?
Oh! how such a loss confuses the world!
Oh! what does such a rift destroy his own!
Now the world is crying, and shouldn't we cry?

Cooling the bell

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

Until the bell cools off
Let the strict work rest,
As the bird plays in the leaves,
Let everyone do themselves amicably.

8 verses
(verses 266 to 273)
13th stanza total
(7th working stanza )

After the hard work, there is calm while the metal cools down. The workers enjoy the break while the foreman prepares the next work step:

When the Pursch hears vespers,
Master always has to struggle.

Peaceful end of the day

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

Lively promotes his steps
away in the wild forest of the hiker to the dear home hut.

60 verses
(verses 274 to 333)
14th stanza in total
(7th contemplation stanza )
"Black covers the earth"

This stanza describes the peaceful autumn evening in a country town. A hiker returns to his home through the forest. At the same time, herds of sheep and cattle are driven back into their stables. A heavily loaded harvest wagon drives through the gate, male and female servants go to the harvest dance. It is slowly getting dark and the city gate is closed. The dark does not frighten the good citizen, he can sleep the sleep of the righteous, because the night watchman, "the eye of the law", patrols the streets. This “holy order” only lasts as long as there is peace.

Schiller found inspiration for this description of life in a country town in 1793 during a visit to the imperial city of Heilbronn . The orderly freedom of this community offered him, who had previously only known the German people from residences, princely country towns and villages, an insight into the life of an imperial city with urban order and civil liberty, untouched by princely rule .

This stanza describes the idyllic life of the good citizens:

Black covers
the earth,
But the secure citizen is
not frightened by the night ...

But the wicked must be afraid of the night, “for the eye of the law watches.” A song of praise for work is also sung here:

Work is the citizen's adornment,
blessing is the price of labor
honor the king, his dignity, honor us the diligence of the hands.

The blessings of society are best presented in the quiet of the evening.


Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

Now break the building for me,
It has fulfilled its purpose,
That heart and eye feast
on the well-made picture.

8 verses
(verses 334 to 341)
15th stanza total
(8th working stanza )

After cooling down, the bell casing made of burnt clay begins to peel off, which is then smashed with a hammer. In allusion to the resurrection , it says: "If the Glock 'is to rise / the form must go in pieces."

Storm bell and overthrow

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

The master can break the form
With a wise hand, at the right time,
But woe when the
glowing ore frees itself in torrents!

40 verses
(verses 342 to 381)
16th stanza in total
(8th contemplation stanza )
Illustration by Hans Kaufmann on the subject of the French Revolution

But even social happiness does not rest on unshakable supports. Schiller addresses the French Revolution of 1789 and criticizes the inhuman Jacobin excesses, because "[d] a women become hyenas / and joke with horror". Here Schiller shows a very pessimistic view of man:

It is dangerous to wake the leu
, the tiger's tooth is perishable, but
the most terrible of horrors
That is man in his madness.

Finished bell

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

God gave me joy!
See! like a golden star
From the sleeve, bright and even,
the metal core peels.

8 verses
(verses 382 to 389)
17th stanza overall
(9th working stanza )

Now the bell gradually comes out and the audience can admire the coats of arms on its outer surface. August Wilhelm Schlegel warned that the bobbin was missing , and other authors have also commented on it.

Bell baptism

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

In! in!
join the ranks, That we consecrate the bell christening,
Concordia should be her name,

28 verses
(verse 390 to 417)
18th stanza in total
(9th contemplation stanza )

The master calls the journeymen together to baptize the bell. It should be called Concordia , it should call to unity (Concordia is the Latin word for unity). This name denotes the enduring purpose of the bell. Their sounds should only be dedicated to eternal and serious things.

The christening of the bell on a Hamburg medal by August Fischer and Christian Schnitzspahn on Schiller's 100th birthday in 1859 .

Pulling up the bell

Opening verses Number of verses Verse / content

Now with the power of the
rope, the bell cradles me out of the crypt,
That it rises into the realm of sound
, into the heavenly air!

8 verses
(verses 418 to 425)
19th stanza overall
(10th working stanza )

The master orders the bell to be pulled out of the pit. Now it is drawn up to serve its real purpose. He encourages his companions: “Pull, pull, lift! / It moves, it floats. "And the" Song of the Bell "closes with the words:

The joy of this city means that
peace must first be rung.

Goethe prefixes these two verses to his epilogue on Schiller's bell from 1815, which begins with the words:

And so it happened! The land
moved to the peaceful sound , and blessed
A fresh happiness appeared:
we greeted the young princely couple in high songs;


First reactions

The first reactions to Das Lied der Glocke were consistently positive. Wilhelm von Humboldt praised it as follows: “The song about the bell brought you back to my eyes very vividly. It is a very special and extremely enjoyable production. Individual passages touched me deeply ”( Humboldt ).

Wilhelm Heinrich von Gleichen-Rußwurm, a relative of Schiller in Rudolstadt, wrote: "The song of the bell moved us to tears" ( Gleichen-Russwurm ). The literary world had already formed its judgment before public criticism began.


In 1830, Caroline von Wolhaben stated that Das Lied von der Glocke is “a favorite poem of the Germans”: “Everyone finds touching life tones in it, and the general fate of people is dear to the heart” ( Wolzüge ). She hit exactly the recipe for success of the poem, because it is precisely this generality that allows everyone to find their own in the poem.

Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote in 1830: “I am not aware of a poem in any language that opens up such a wide poetic circle on such a small scale, goes through the scale of all the deepest human feelings and in a very lyrical way life with its most important events and epochs such as shows an epic enclosed by natural boundaries ”( Humboldt ).

At the solemn meeting of the Royal Academy of Sciences for the year of Schiller in 1859, Jacob Grimm praised the "incomparable poem that other peoples from afar have nothing to match" and stylized it as a national symbol of unity.

Thomas Mann's laudatory attempt on Schiller on the poet Des Lied von der Glocke begins with a depressing description of the burial in May 1805 at the Jacobsfriedhof in Weimar and ends with a haunting lament. The raw, rapacious humanity not become wise through two world wars, upgraded the Cold War on - with the hydrogen bomb . The essay is not just a song of thanks to the dead poet. It also contains polemics against the cheeky romantics who laughed at Schiller's pathos. Tieck is mentioned several times. Goethe's announcement on this, rattled down from Olympus: “I take the liberty to consider Schiller a poet and a great one!” ( Goethe ).

In 1859, German emigrants in Moscow donated the large Schiller Concordia bell in the tower of the Alexander Church to Schiller's hometown of Marbach am Neckar .


Caroline von Boehmer-Schlegel-Schelling

Despite all the enthusiasm for Schiller's longest poem, it should not be overlooked that the number of negative voices was not small at the beginning. A quote from Caroline Schlegel from the year 1799 should be cited as an example, which says: “About a poem by Schiller, the song about the bell, we almost fell from our chairs yesterday at noon with laughter, it's à la Voss , à la Tieck, à la Teufel, at least to become the devil ”( Caroline Schlegel ).

August Wilhelm Schlegel complains about the chatty nature of Schiller's song, in which everything and everyone is mentioned. In addition, he proves the factual error that although the bell is mentioned, it is not the clapper. The mixture of the components - in the case of bell casting, it is tin and copper - is also wrong.

Friedrich Schlegel wrote:

Oh how do the people like the “bell” and “the dignity of women”!
Because everything sounds moral and flat in time.

With these words Schlegel criticizes not only Schiller, but also his audience.

Bertolt Brecht wrote in his poem, published in 1951 but already written in 1938, about Schiller's poem “Die Glocke” , in which he practices the new look at old texts:

read that fire is a blessing As long as man tames and guards
it, But unrestrained, it eats him.
I ask myself: what was he thinking of?

The "chaste housewife"

When Hans Magnus Enzensberger published a selection of Schiller's poems for Insel-Verlag in 1966 , literary critics soon complained that Enzensberger had left out a number of Schiller's best-known ballads and poems without any justification, including “The Song of the Bell”. The critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki wrote then in the time of 9 September 1966:

“The bell” or “the guarantee”, that is, poems from which the German bourgeoisie was accustomed to draw their life maxims for a century and a half, have - however one may judge these verses - definitely deserve it, the second or, if you like to be exposed to the hundredth glance. An editor who unceremoniously removes this and similar ballads makes his job too easy, I fear: instead of correcting the traditional Schiller image, he ignores it. Instead of revising, he liquidates. "

- Rich Ranicki

Enzensberger felt itself compelled a rationale for its selection nachzureichen, and published in time on October 28, 1966 his essay but hard Wall Surround dispensable , in which he stated "That the process of the bell casting points beyond itself, from the text of these ten Stanzas without further ado. An early industrial process is here related to the artist's work; the author sees a poetological parable in the bell casting. ”Enzensberger regrets that Schiller did not limit himself to the description of the workflow and that it was necessary to comment on the workflow. In doing so, he simply makes too many words for Enzensberger: “A bad poem is no more than a bad bell to be helped with 'good speeches'; a good work can dispense with it. ”But most of all Enzensberger criticizes Schiller's striking language:“ The author's failure is most strikingly revealed in his language. A glance at the adjectives with which he adorns his no-man's figures is enough. The child is 'loved', the boy 'proud', the virgin 'chaste', the housewife ditto, the wife 'dear', the mother 'loyal', the citizen 'calm'. All other stipulations seem to be aimed at avoiding every stipulation. ”It bothers Enzensberger that the two parts of the poem (working stanzas and contemplative stanzas) do not match. “Between the actual Glockengießerlied and that part of the poem that I call the 'commentary', there is an extreme difference in level, formally and substantially. On the one hand, extreme economy, on the other, endless slogans; fixed rhythmic form, listless rhyming; strict knowledge of the matter, non-binding ideology; discreet insight, placarded triviality; Size in restriction, piled junk. The poem fails because of the incompatibility of one with the other. "

Wulf Segebrecht writes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 25/26. May 1967 under the heading “Insel-Glocke”: “Schiller's Lied von der Glocke and his most famous ballads are in conversation again. Not that they are read more than usual. On the contrary. Because you can no longer read them, at least in 'Insel-Schiller', you talk about them ”( Segebrecht ).


Goethe wrote his epilogue to the Lied von der Glocke shortly after Schiller's death in order to have it performed by the actress Amalie Becker at the end of a memorial service in the Lauchstadt theater . After the last three acts of Mary Queen of Scots, The Song of the Bell was declaimed with roles distributed. The September issue of the Journal des Luxus und der Moden said about this event : “The stage presented the bell caster's workshop, with all the apparatus and machines. [...] The imaginative reflections were spoken alternately by the journeymen and nine fantastically dressed women who were going on and off. The pin was ejected and the metal flowed in the right way; but before that a pious saying was prayed, which was accompanied by a harmony of wind instruments. […] The form was happily filled, and everyone was amicable in the background, accompanied by cheerful music. When in the end the building was broken down and the bell really rose, they hurried to decorate it with flowers and tie it with garlands, and after it had reached a certain height, Madame Becker (who had previously delighted us as Maria Stuart) stepped in. under the bell, from there to the proscenium and spoke the epilogue written by Goethe. [...] After the last words of the speaker, there was a short funeral music (it is said to have been composed by Zelter), with the curtain slowly rolling down during the last bars. ”Goethe is supposed to take Amalie Becker by the arm with tears in his eyes and walk to her during a rehearsal have said: "I can, I cannot forget people."

Further performances of the bell took place in the 19th century, especially in schools. In Hamburg, the bell was depicted by citizens for the Schiller Year 1859 in so-called "living pictures".

At the Burgtheater in Vienna , the bell was performed with the music of Peter Joseph von Lindpaintner, also in the form of “Living Pictures”. In the foreground of the stage was the bell foundry workshop, while in the background the members of the ensemble presented seven “living images” one after the other: first meeting, wedding, domestic happiness, conflagration, funeral, harvest festival and going to church. The master and the senior journeyman appeared as speaking persons. This production was repeated 63 times in total by 1882.

Part of the German educational canon

In the 19th century, Schiller was read and venerated not only by high school professors, but also by craftsmen and workers as the initiator of national unity.

The song was indispensable in grammar school until around 1950 and a universal German educational asset. In the face of a court actor reciting the bell , Thomas Mann said : "He was the only one in the whole hall who wasn't quite sure about the bell."

In 1954, the poet Paul Celan wrote in a letter to Hans Bender : “In connection with the question of the why of my poetry, I tried to remember my first encounter with poetry: I was six years old and could 'Das Lied von der 'Recite' the bell ... Who knows whether the impression that this made on my audience triggered everything else ... "

Brecht's long poem The education of the millet

Even Bertolt Brecht has his long poem The education of sorghum as a corresponding bell written -Ersatz for the GDR and it is oriented to Schiller template. His poem ends with the following verses:

And the field extends to the last horizon!
The earth shall bear ears of wheat.
Peaceful, happy be the world!
Death to the fascists!
Weed up the weeds!

Winged words from the "bell"

Critical voices viewed the bell as a “quotation pit” à la Büchmann. In his collection of quotations, Winged Words, Georg Büchmann lists a large number of verses from the song of the bell , which are still part of the German educational heritage and are quoted without always being aware of where the respective quotation comes from. Büchmann collected around forty sentences "for the studbook of German educators".

Many formulations of the poem have long since passed into the "linguistic usage of those who know nothing about Schiller or who no longer want to know anything":

  • "Women become hyenas"
  • "For the eye of the law watches"
  • "The man must go out into hostile life"
  • "The years flee at the speed of an arrow"
  • "But the blessing comes from above"
  • "The heart indulges in bliss"
  • "It is dangerous to wake the leu"
  • "O tender longing, sweet hope, the golden age of the first love"
  • "The sweat must run hot from the forehead"
  • "Woe if you let go!"
  • "Where raw forces rule senselessly"
  • "Inside the chaste housewife rules"
  • "He counts the heads of his loved ones"
  • "Blushing he follows their tracks"
  • "Whether the brittle and the soft combine to create a good sign"
  • "So check whoever binds himself forever, whether the heart finds its way to the heart"
  • "The madness is short, the regret is long"
  • "But there is no eternal bond to be made with the powers of fate"
  • "Oh! It's the wife, the dear one "


Schiller's song of the bell has been translated into many languages. As early as 1877, translations into French, Norwegian, English, Italian, Latvian, Hungarian, Hebrew, Czech, Danish, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Slovenian, Dutch, Wendish and Romanian could be proven. Transmissions in German dialects were not even counted.


Particularly noteworthy here is the translation into Latin, because it speaks of the spirit of the 19th century, which approaches the poem with humanistic education and tries to do it justice:

Formam coctilem in solo
Rite tenent lateres.
Hodie Campanam volo!
Praesto este, juvenes!
  Sudor calidus
  Fluat frontibus,
Ut auctorem ars commendet:
At a Deo salus pendet.

English, French, Finnish

One of several English translations is by Marianna Wertz. The French translation by the writer Gérard de Nerval is more in the form of prose, while the Finnish translation is rhyming.

English: "Song of the Bell" French "La Chanson de la Cloche" Finnish: "Kello-laulu"

Walled up in the earth so steady
Burned from clay, the mold doth stand.
This day must the bell be ready!
Fresh, O workmen, be at hand!
  From the heated brow
  sweat must freely flow,
that the work may praise the master,
Though the blessing comes from higher.

Le moule d'argile s'est affermi
dans la terre qui l'environne:
aujourd'hui, la cloche doit naître.
Compagnons, vite au travail!
   Que la sueur baigne
   vos fronts brûlants!
L'œuvre honorera l'ouvrier,
si la bénédiction d'en haut l'accompagne.

Syvään muurattu on maahan
kellonkaava torvineen.
Valutyöhön joutukaahan!
Joka lousy nyt paikalleen!
   Toimeen hikipäin
   kaikki käsikkäin:
Tulos palkitsevi vaivas,
siunauksen suokoon taivas!


Well over 100 parodies of the bell can be proven. Schiller's words (and their fame) were always parody models because they could be assumed to be known. The parodies of the 19th century do not necessarily show a critical attitude towards the original, but rather of admiration. Most of the authors who imitated the song did not question its quality, but used this well-known song for their own purposes. Most parodies preserved and maintain the formal structure of Schiller's poem when the content is exchanged and thus correspond to a traditional parody concept represented in the early 19th century . In this sense, the parody opens up the possibility of including objects or processes of daily use.

The power of coffee is benevolent,
if it is considered with understanding,
cheerfulness and good wit are found
in the heart.

In the Schiller year 1905, a "Secundus" targeting "[d] es German Spießers Schillerfeier" by borrowing from formulations from the song of the bell :

Get my skirt out of my closet,
it must be well-brushed,
because I'm going to the Schiller party,
and the audience is fine.

During the First World War, the poem was used for war propaganda . This is how an SH Cramer wrote:

Solidly bricked in the earth,
the front stands in the west and east,
everything becomes ruins where the storm thundered.

A comic abbreviation is known, with which the poem memorized by generations in school is condensed into four lines. At the same time, all the rules of parody are ignored. Although the anonymous author of the text, also named Schiller for those in a hurry , retained the content of the Schiller text, it was apparently avoided by the chosen external form:

Hole in earth,
bronze rin.
Bell done,
bim, bim, bim

In an Austrian bell parody Die Kanone printed in 1849 , the view is that, where the big words fail, cannons must speak:

Take wood from the trunk of the oak,
Coarse log wants coarse wedge,
Save the soft for fine cast,
Our armor demands speed.

The power of the mouth is benevolent
when its owner guards it,
For what it says, what it speaks, is
often clever, and often not.

original parody

He has been left with a sweet consolation,
He counts the heads of his loved ones
And look! he lacks no dear head.

He counts the heads of his loved ones
And look! instead of six, there are seven.
He counts them again carefully,
and look! instead of seven, eight.


The writer Eduard Boas prefers his song of the bell clapper from 1866 Schlegel's criticism of a sexton regarding the missing clapper as a motto and rhymes:

Master! I've conquered myself for a long time,
But now hear my word:
Your work has failed,
For the high bell
hanging there rigidly de-souls,
Because it lacks the sound.
Don't be so presumptuous in the future!
Look! the head is forgotten.

The Polish-German satirist Alexander Moszkowski wrote a poem about Schiller's failure to mention the clapper of the bell, entitled Was Schiller Forgot (Das Lied vom Glockenklöppel) :

When he came to this point:
"Peace be with you first, '' the
senior journeyman said:
Master, you are too distracted!
Done, did you think,
if the bell were here,
and in the meantime you have
completely forgotten the clapper!

For where the severity and the delicate,
where the strong and the mild are paired,
there is a good sound;
So check, before the time is up,
whether there is a clapper in the bell,
otherwise you will not be thankful for your work.

It is dangerous to wake the leu
, the rhinoceros thrust is perishable,
but the most terrible of horrors,
That is the bell, clapless,

And wherever one brings a bell,
which is incomplete, there approaches, oh horror,
The client with the stick
And calls indignant: "The man has to go out!"

Because what the knife is without a handle,
and what the stage is without a game,
and what the stove is without coal,
and what the boot without a sole,
and what the globe is without an ax,
and what the thurn is without taxis,
and what acoustics without sound is,
and what Switzerland is without Valais,
and what the tsarina is without tsar,
and what Helene is without Paris,
and what the house cock is without Henn,
and what the lawn is without tennis,
and what the whale is without a throat ,
And what the piscis without panis,
And what the shirt is
without a clapper - That's the bell without a clapper!

So let's make it out of iron.
A hammering stick, long and heavy,
That it might crack with a sound ,
When it dangles back and forth.
So now he's here,
greet him with hurray!
Wait for the highest praise,
For now the bell is ready!

Alexander Moszkowski allowed himself another joke with the bell by presenting a "broken bell", in which Schiller's verses as the alleged "result of an accident in the printing works, through which lines, words and letters in the sentence got mixed up", changed Order appear:

The boy proudly tears himself away from the girl,
He storms into the foreign, devoid of love, Crosses
the world on a walking stick
And stretches around like a choke band.
And gloriously in the youth,
like a picture to wake the Leu,
If he sees her standing with cheeky cheeks,
That is the most terrible of horrors!
A nameless longing takes
hold. Woman becomes a hyena!
The man must go out
to the grave of his possessions,
must create and plant,
dance with reapers.

The comedian Heinz Erhardt wrote a short text about the origin of the song from the bell, according to which Schiller found the support of Goethe in his urge to write , who helped him out with his goose quill. After two hours, Goethe asked for his writing utensil back (“Just think of all the lovely schoolchildren who might one day have to learn your bell by heart!”) And prevented Schiller from describing the clapper.

Schiller's Glocke still invites you to parody at the moment : Around 2015 the following excerpt was found on an Internet portal.

original parody

It is absorbed into the earth,
the form is happily filled,
Will it also come out beautifully,
That it will reward hard work and art?
What if the casting failed?
When the form broke?
Oh! maybe while we hope,
disaster has already hit us.

It's taken into the tin
, the shape is happily filled.
Will it also come to light
that hard work and art are rewarded?
What if the cake failed?
What if the stove broke?
Oh! Perhaps by hoping
that disaster has already hit us.


  • Andreas Romberg : Das Lied von der Glocke op. 25. 1808. Romberg was a colleague of Beethoven's from the Electoral Cologne court orchestra in Bonn (1790–92). Beethoven set Schiller's Ode to Joy to music .
  • Carl Haslinger : The Song of the Bell 1866.
  • Max Bruch : The Song of the Bell, Op. 45. Bruch's work is called the "Bible of the Petty Bourgeois" set to music.
  • Vincent d'Indy : Chant de la Cloche. Free editing of the basic text.
  • The band “ Die Ärzte ” quotes in their song Madonna's colon , which begins with the verses “I would like to be Madonna's colon, / because then I would always be full”, incoherently the beginning of the song from the bell : “Solidly walled in the earth ... "
  • Rock opera Das Lied von Schillers Glocke , joint project by Marbach and Ludwigsburg artists, .
  • The song of the bell , cooperation Ev. City Church Karlsruhe and Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. Staging and direction: Donald Berkenhoff, Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe, organ: Christian-Markus Raiser, bells of the Protestant City Church Karlsruhe, manuscript and conception: Kurt Kramer, .


Franz Hofer based his silent film melodrama from 1917 with the title Die Glocke on the ballad.


  • Robert Hippe: Explanations of Friedrich Schiller's "Song of the Bell". Bange, Hollfeld 1966.
  • Heribert Hoffmeister: Treasure trove of anecdotes. From antiquity to our days. Peters, Berlin 1974.
  • Norbert Oellers (Ed.): Poems by Friedrich Schiller. Interpretations. Reclam, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-15-009473-9 .
  • Wulf Segebrecht : What Schiller's bell struck. From the echoes and echoes of the most parodied German poem. Hanser, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-446-20593-4 .

Web links

Commons : The Song of the Bell  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: The Song of the Bell  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Margarete Schilling : The business with the bell . In: Art, ore and sound - the works of the bell foundry families Ulrich and Schilling from the 17th century to the present . Henschel, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-362-00617-5 , pp. 86-89 (-> p. 88) . At the former Mayer foundry in Rudolstadt there is a plaque with the saying: Stand still, wanderer; because here it was found that no other would be possible, built by Schiller's master hand, the largest bell shape on earth .
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Wulf Segebrecht: What Schiller's bell struck . 1st edition. Hanser Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-446-20593-4 (review in ).
  3. a b Robert Hippe: Explanations of Friedrich Schiller's "Song of the Bell" (=  Dr. Wilhelm König's Explanations of the Classics . Volume 36 ). Bange, Hollfeld (Obfr.) 1966, DNB  730147118 .
  4. a b Rainer Apel: Schiller Festival 1998: "Peace be her first peal". Program for Schiller's birthday in 1998. In: Dichterpflänzchen. Schiller-Institut, Vereinigung für Staatskunst eV, accessed on October 31, 2018 .
  5. Heribert Hoffmeister: Treasure of anecdotes . Verl. Practical knowledge, Berlin 1957, p. 177 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  6. spruce firewood. Firewood from spruce - information & tips. In: Retrieved November 2, 2018 .
  7. Grassmayr bell foundry : Bell foundry. accessed on November 3, 2019.
  8. Gerhard Heruth: Bells for St. Nicolai. In: Traditional and sponsoring association Lessing-Gymnasium Döbeln e. V., May 2012, accessed August 1, 2019.
  9. ^ "Pieces" as the original form, later editions often only "Pieces", picture of the original: c: File: Schiller Musenalmanach 1800 268.jpg on Commons
  10. a b c Norbert Oellers (Ed.): Poems by Friedrich Schiller.
  11. ↑ No receipt!
  12. Paul Celan: “something entirely personal”. Letters 1934–1970. Selected, edited and commented by Barbara Wiedemann. Berlin 2019. p. 179.
  13. Klaus L. Berghahn. In: Norbert Oellers (Ed.): Poems by Friedrich Schiller.
  14. a b Dieter Hildebrandt (Ed.): Hole in Erde, Bronze rin ... - Schiller parodies or Der Spottpreis der Sublheit. Munich: Sanssouci / Hanser, 2009, ISBN 3-8363-0163-6 .
  15. a b epilogue , in: Christian Grawe (ed.): Who dares Knappersmann or ride - Schiller parodies of two centuries. Stuttgart: JE Metzler Verlag 1990, ISBN 3-476-00684-0 , pp. 232-233.
  16. Heinz Erhardt: The origin of the Schiller bell or Why Schiller's bell has no clapper . In: The great Heinz-Erhardt-Buch , Hannover 1970, ISBN 3-7716-1283-7 , pp. 18-21.
  17. Found on .