The diver

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Muses Almanac 1798

The ballad The diver wrote Friedrich Schiller in ballads year 1797 for which he edited Muses Almanac for 1798 . It describes the daring of a noble boy who plunges into the sea whirlpool known as the Charybdis ' chasm in order to win the golden cup that his king thrown into it. He succeeds in bringing the cup back, and he reports in detail about the horrors of the depths that he has lived through, but without reaching the sea floor ( It is happy who breathes in the rose light. / But man does not try the gods ... ). The king promises him a precious ring with the cup if he tries the descent again and brings him news of the deepest sea bottom . The king's daughter begs her father to stop the cruel game . But the king throws the cup into the vortex again and promises the young man not only to make him the most excellent knight , but also to give him his daughter as a wife. The youth cannot resist this temptation. Again he plunges down to life and death , but this time the rising surf does not bring him back to the surface.

Start of text

Who dares, Rittersmann or Knapp,
to dive into this gorge?
I throw down a golden cup,
the black mouth has already devoured it.
Whoever can show me the cup again,
he may keep it, it is his own.

The king spoke it, and threw the cup in the Charybde howling from the height of
the cliff, which
hangs steeply and steeply in the infinite sea . Who is the brave one, I ask again, To dive into this depth?

... full text at Wikisource

To the history of the motif

The ballad is based on an older mythical subject. The place of the incident is Sicily (cf. the Charybde howling ). Schiller, who never saw the sea his entire life, found out about the " pointed corals ", the " prickly Roche ", the " cliff fish " , " the hammer's grayish shape " and the " horrific Hay " names the ballad, presumably from the "two fish books" that Goethe had lent him and had him picked up on June 16, 1797.

In the meantime the ballad had been completed with Goethe's lively sympathy: “Live well and the sooner your diver would rather drown”, he had written to Schiller on the 10th and on the 14th: “I [...] wish that the diver would like be happily completed "; In between, Goethe's diary notes on June 11th: "To Schiller, various things about characters, his diving romance, about comedy." On June 19th, Schiller had already finished his "little follow-up to the diver ", The Glove , and was with him the following day sent a letter to Goethe dated the 18th.

It remains to be seen what inspired Schiller in portraying the Charybdic vortex. Goethe was so impressed by it that he remembered it when he saw the Rhine Falls , which he visited on September 18, 1797 on his trip to Switzerland. On 25/26 In September he wrote to Schiller from Stafa on Lake Zurich: “I would soon have forgotten to tell you that the verse: it billows and boils and roars and hisses pp has been excellently legitimized at the Rhine Falls; it was very strange to me how he grasps the main moments of the monstrous apparition. I immediately tried to grasp the phenomenon in its parts and as a whole as it is represented, and separately noticed the considerations which one makes as well as the ideas which it arouses. One day you will see how those few poetic lines loop like a thread through this labyrinth. "

Schiller's template for the fable is the children's book Table Prayers and Conversations in Songs and Verses, especially dedicated to the youth by Christian Gottlieb Göz (1746–1803), which was printed and published in 1790 by the Hof- und Canzlei Buchdruker Christoph Friedrich Cotta had been. The Schiller family lived in a house belonging to Cotta in Ludwigsburg from 1767–1775 , and Cotta had published both Schiller's father in 1767–1769 and Schiller's medical dissertation in 1780. The aforementioned children's book tells the diving legend in the section Conversations with Children about Tables on pp. 50–52. Excerpt: “ See, said the king, I throw in this large golden cup - it will be yours when you take it out! The diver quickly jumped into the back -! "

Apparently the diver only has no name in this version and in Schiller's ballad. Otherwise it is called Nicolaus or Nicola Piscis or Pesce ( Nikolaus or Niklas Fisch), Cola (Klaus) Pesce or similar (from the Sicilian legend of Colapesce ). However, this name was completely alien to Schiller, as he wrote to Goethe on August 7, 1797: “ Herder has now also sent back to me our ballads which I had communicated to him; but what impression they made I cannot find out from his letter. On the other hand, I learn from it that in the diver I only refined a certain Nicolaus Pesce, who must either have told or sang about the same story. Do you know this Nic. Pesce, with whom I am so unexpectedly put into competition? "

In view of this, a printed model by Schiller can only have been Göze's children's book. Of course, this does not rule out that Schiller could have come across the material through oral narration, for example Goethe, who did not give the diver a name.

Christian Gottlieb Göz, for his part, used the book Useful Allerley by Quedlinburg pastor Johann August Ephraim Goeze (1731–1793), in which the diver Cola Pesce and Niklas Fisch is mentioned, as a source.


The text was set to music by Johann Heinrich Carl Bornhardt († 1843) for piano and also for guitar accompaniment.

Furthermore, the text was used by Franz Schubert for his ballad setting 'Der Taucher' (first version 1814; second version 1815).

Riccardo Zandonai's first opera La coppa del re has Der Taucher as a literary model. Gustavo Chiesa wrote the libretto .


Heinz Erhardt used the topic in his own way.

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Friedrich Schiller (ed.): Musenalmanach for the year 1798, with contributions by Goethe, Schlegel, Humboldt, Mereau, Schiller and others. a., JG Cottaische Buchhandlung, Tübingen
  2. cf. the comprehensive presentation by Klaus Joachim Heinisch
  3. cf. the essay by Reinhard Breymayer
  4. An experiment on the connection between the animal nature of man and his spiritual nature.
  5. Johann August Ephraim Goeze: Useful all things from nature and common life for all kinds of readers [...]. First ribbon . Leipzig, bey Weidmann's heirs and Reich. 1785. On pp. 49-55 there is the diving story within the section “What are people able to do for money?”.
  6. Heinz Erhardt - The diving nothing


  • Reinhard Breymayer : The author of a model for Schiller's “Taucher”, finally found: Christian Gottlieb Göz (1746-1803), pastor in Plieningen and Hohenheim, friend of Philipp Matthäus Hahn ? In: Leaves for Württemberg Church History , 83/84 (1983/1984). Stuttgart [1985], pp. 54-96; Pp. 83-96: literature review.
  • Mary Garland: Diver, The . In: The Oxford Companion to German Literature. By Henry (Burnand Garland) and Mary Garland. Third Edition by Mary Garland. (Oxford; New York; Athens [etc.] 1997), p. 820, col. 2. [Adopts Breymayer's view that the “most likely source” of Schiller's ballad can be found in the children's book by Pastor Christian Gottlieb Göz.]
  • Klaus Joachim Heinisch: The water man. Development history of a legend motif. (Stuttgart 1981), pp. 313-336: Bibliography.
  • Carl Aldenhoven : To Schiller's diver. (1887.) In: Carl Aldenhoven: Gesammelte Aufsaetze , ed. By A (rthur) Lindner. (Leipzig [1911]), pp. 428-437.
  • Andreas Alsleben: Finds and researches of a book friend , I-IV. In: magazine for book lovers. NF 12 (1920). Leipzig 192 = / 1921, issue 1/2, pp. 42-48; here pp. 42–44: I. On Schiller's divers.
  • Paul Beck : Another template for Schiller's poem: Der Taucher. In: Diözesanarchiv von Schwaben , 23 (1905), p. 160.
  • Robert Boxberger : A poetic adaptation of the diving saga before Schiller . In: Archiv für Litteraturgeschichte , 1 (1870), pp. 504–506.
  • H. Braune: Where did Schiller get the material for his 'diver' from? In: Journal for German Education , 20 (1906), pp. 230–233.
  • Hilde D. Cohn: The 'baseless depth'. A study on Schiller's 'Taucher'. In: The German Quarterly 32 (1959), pp. 199-210.
  • August Döring : A contemporary side piece to Schiller's diver . In: New Year Books for Pedagogy , 12 (1909), pp. 140–149.
  • Alfons Egen: An ancient counterpart to Schiller's diver . In: Journal for German Education , 23 (1909), pp. 687–691.
  • Arthur Fleischmann: A new source for Schiller's divers . In: The free word. Frankfurt bi-monthly publication for progress in all areas of intellectual life 5 (April 1905 - April 1906), No. 9 (August 1, issue 1905), pp. 360–362.
  • Arthur Fleischmann: Origin and meaning of Schiller's ballad: The diver. In: Journal for German Education , 21 (1907), pp. 574–578.
  • Maximilian Wilhelm Götzinger: German poets , 5th edition, edited and largely reworked by Ernst Götzinger, vol. 2. Aarau 1877, pp. 174-183: Der Taucher. (v [on]. 1797.)
  • Johannes Hermanus Gunning, Junior: Schiller's Diver. Eene study . Amsterdam: Van Kesteren [1871]. - XXIX, 71 pp.
  • Heinrich Jungwirth: Divers. In: Concise dictionary of German superstition . Ed. [...] by Hanns Bächtold-Stäubli , Volume 9. Berlin 1938/1941, Col. 789.
  • Gerhard Kaiser : From Arcadia to Elysium. Schiller Studies. Göttingen (1978), pp. 59-78; here p. 61–65 on “Diver”.
  • Gerhard Kaiser: Jump into consciousness In: Norbert Oellers (Hrsg.): Interpretation. Poems by Friedrich Schiller. (= Universal Library No. 9473). Reclam, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-15-009473-9 , pp. 196-216.
  • Ernst Kayka: To Schiller's 'diver'. In: Journal for Comparative Literature History , NF 16 (1906), pp. 227–230.
  • Albert Leitzmann (editor): The sources of Schiller's and Goethe's ballads . Compiled by Albert Leitzmann. Bonn 1911, pp. 3–5: Der Taucher; the explanations on p. 48; 2nd edition Bonn 1923, pp. 3–5; the explanations on p. 56.
  • Albert Leitzmann: To Schiller's "Taucher". In: Hundred Years A [dolph] Marcus and E [duard] Weber's publishing house 1818-1918. With a preface by Albert Ahn. Bonn am Rhein 1919, pp. 136-139.
  • Felix Liebermann: The original figure of Schiller's “Taucher”. In: Archive for the Study of Modern Languages ​​and Literatures, vol. 78, vol. 146 = Neue Serie, vol. 46, booklet 1 and 2 (1923), p. 115.
  • Wilhelm Loock: Friedrich Schiller. The diver . In: Ways to the poem , part 2. Interpretations of ballads. With an introduction by Walter Müller-Seidel . Ed. by Rupert Hirschenauer / Albrecht Weber (new edition). Munich and Zurich (1968), pp. 229-239.
  • Hugo Mareta : Where did Schiller get the material for his 'diver' from? In: Ceremony dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Schottengymnasium by former Scottish students. Vienna 1907, pp. 179–186.
  • Ernst Müller: The source of Schiller's 'diver'. In: Studies on the comparative history of literature , 8 (1908), pp. 239–244.
  • Beate Otto: Underwater Literature. Of water women and water men . Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2001 (Epistemata, Literary Studies Series, 348). P. 195 ff.
  • Dierk Puls: Schiller's source for the 'diver'. In: Mutterssprache , 69 (1959), pp. 353-356.
  • Reinhold Röhricht : Comments on Schiller's ballads . In: Journal for German Philology , 26 (1894), pp. 105-107 (there also on the diving legend).
  • Berthold Schulze: A forgotten poet ( Franz von Kleist ) . In: North and South. A German monthly publication 65. Breslau (1893), pp. 322–343.
  • Berthold Schulze: On the essay by A (ugust) Döring : A contemporary side piece on Schiller's diver (Book III 140 ff. [140 - 149]). In: New Yearbooks for Pedagogy , 12 (1909), p. 335.
  • Hinrich C. Seeba, Hinrich: The working word in Schiller's ballads . In: Yearbook of the German Schiller Society, 14 (1970), pp. 275–322.
  • Wulf Segebrecht : The deadly slogan "Long live the king". To Schiller's ballad “Der Taucher” . In: Poems and Interpretations. German ballads. Ed. by Gunter E. Grimm. Stuttgart: Reclam 1988 (RUB 8457).
  • Hans-Günther Thalheim : "And humans don't try the gods ...". On the core motif in Schiller's "Taucher" . In: Goethe-Jahrbuch , 98 (1981), pp. 62–71.
  • Hermann Ullrich: To Schiller's ballads . In: Archives for the history of literature , 10 (1881); Pp. 220-235; here pp. 220–228: The diver. - See the improvements and addenda ibid, 15 (1887), p. 449.
  • Hermann Ullrich: Contributions to the history of the diving legend. In: Program of the teaching and education institute for boys, secondary school II. Order (with grammar school and elementary classes) by Ernst (Alexander) Zeidler, formerly Albani, Dresden [...], which means that on April 2nd and 3rd [1884] […] is sincerely invited to public examinations. Dresden 1884 (1884. Progr [amm]. - No. 509), pp. 3–8.
  • Hermann Ullrich: The diving legend in its literary and popular development . In: Archiv für Litteraturgeschichte , 14 (1886), pp. 69-102.
  • Heinrich Viehoff : Schiller's poems explained and traced back to their instigation, sources and models together with collection of variants , 5th edition, vol. 1. Poems of the first and second period , Stuttgart 1876, pp. 244–266: Der Taucher. 1797.

Web links

Wikisource: Der Taucher  - Sources and full texts