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English Adaptation by Tracy K. Smith

Carnegie Hall

When Beethoven incorporated Friedrich Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy” into his Ninth Symphony, it was a radical call for equality, freedom, and brotherhood. In celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, Carnegie Hall commissioned former United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to reimagine Schiller’s poem as a contemporary meditation on community, politics, and spirit. This adaptation will be performed at the All Together culminating concert in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage.

Explore the inspiration and artistic process behind Tracy K. Smith’s adaptation of “Ode to Joy.”

Tracy K. Smith Shares Her Understanding of Joy

Former US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith explores the idea of joy through her adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy.”

“Ode to Joy”

O friend, my heart has tired
Of such darkness.
Now it vies for joy.

Joy, bright God-spark born of Ever
Daughter of fresh paradise—
Where you walked once now walk rancor,
Greed, suspicion, anger, fright.
Joy, the breeze off all that’s holy,
Pure with terror, wild as flame.
Make us brothers, give us comfort,
Bid us past such fear and hate.

If you’ve loved another’s beauty
If you’ve craved the warmth of flesh,
If your spirit is invested
In another’s sense of worth,
Lift your voice to touch my voice now,
Let our song bring joy to earth.
Lift your voice to touch my voice now,
Let our song bring joy to earth.

Joy like water, milk of mothers.
Kind and wicked all deserve
Joy’s compassion freely given,
Joy which can’t be sold or earned.
In the depths of blackest soil
In the lightless atmosphere
In the atom and the ether,
Animating all that is.

Let us feel it, let us heed it,
Let us seek its deepest kiss.
Let us live our brief lives mining
That which joy alone can give.

Battered planet, home of billions,
Our long shadow stalks your face.
All we’ve fractured, all we’ve stolen,
All we’ve sought blind to your grace.

Earth, forgive us, claim us, let us
Live in humble thanks and joy.
Let our hearts wake from our stupor,
Let us praise you in one voice.

“Ode to Joy” Texts and Translations

Original German Text by Friedrich Schiller


Standard English Translation

Portuguese Translation by Arthur Nestrovski

São Paulo Symphony Orchestra
São Paulo, Brazil

English Adaptation by Anthony Anaxagorou

Southbank Centre
London, United Kingdom

English Adaptation by Wordsmith

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Baltimore, United States

Chinese Translation by Deng Yingyi

China NCPA Orchestra and Chorus
Beijing, China

English Adaptation by Tracy K. Smith

Carnegie Hall
New York City, United States

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