Friedrich Schiller

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He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times.

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (10 November 1759 - 9 May 1805) was a German poet, historian, dramatist, and playwright; usually known as Friedrich Schiller.


Only through Beauty's morning gate, dost thou enter the land of Knowledge.
  • I feel an army in my fist.
  • The joke loses everything when the joker laughs himself.
    • Die Verschwörung des Fiesco (The Conspiracy of Fiesco), Act I, sc. vii (1783)
  • Did you think the lion was sleeping because he didn't roar?
    • Die Verschwörung des Fiesco (The Conspiracy of Fiesco), Act I, sc. xviii (1783)
  • The lemonade is weak, like your soul.
  • There are three lessons I would write,
    Three words as with a burning pen,
    In tracings of eternal light
    Upon the hearts of men.
    • Hope, Faith, and Love, st. 1 (c. 1786)
  • Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht.
  • Translation: World history is the world's court.
    • Resignation (1786)
  • What one refuses in a minute
    No eternity will return.
    • Resignation (1786)
  • What the inner voice says
    Will not disappoint the hoping soul.
    • Hope, last stanza (1797)
  • If you want to know yourself,
    Just look how others do it;
    If you want to understand others,
    Look into your own heart.
    • Tabulae Votivae (1797)
  • Man is created free, and is free,
    Though he be born in chains.
    • Die Worte des Glaubens (The Word of the Faithful), st. 2 (1797)
  • Virtue is no empty echo.
    • Die Worte des Glaubens (The Word of the Faithful), st. 3 (1797)
  • O tender yearning, sweet hoping!
    The golden time of first love!
    The eye sees the open heaven,
    The heart is intoxicated with bliss;
    O that the beautiful time of young love
    Could remain green forever.
    • The Song of the Bell (1799)
  • Appearance should never attain reality,
    And if nature conquers, then must art retire.
    • To Goethe, when he put Voltaire's Mahomet on the stage (1800)
  • Who dares impede my progress? Who presume
    The spirit to control which guideth me?
    Still must the arrow wing its destined flight!
    Where danger is, there must Johanna be;
    Nor now, nor here, am I foredoomed to fall;
    Our monarch's royal brow I first must see
    Invested with the round of sovereignty.
    No hostile power can rob me of my life,
    Till I've accomplished the commands of God.
  • Folly, thou conquerest, and I must yield!
    Against stupidity the very gods
    Themselves contend in vain.
    Exalted reason,
    Resplendent daughter of the head divine,
    Wise foundress of the system of the world,
    Guide of the stars, who art thou then if thou,
    Bound to the tail of folly's uncurbed steed,
    Must, vainly shrieking with the drunken crowd,
    Eyes open, plunge down headlong in the abyss.
    Accursed, who striveth after noble ends,
    And with deliberate wisdom forms his plans!
    To the fool-king belongs the world.
    • Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans), Act III, sc. vi (as translated by Anna Swanwick) (1801)
    • Variants of the most commonly quoted portion:
      Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.
      Against stupidity the gods themselves labor in vain.
      Against stupidity the gods themselves fight unvictorious
      Against stupidity even the gods contend in vain.
      Against stupidity gods themselves contend in vain.
      With stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.
      With stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain.
  • Pain is short, and joy is eternal.
    • The Maid of Orleans, last line
  • I am better than my reputation.
    • Maria Stuart, Act II, sc. iv (1801)
  • Life is only error,
    And death is knowledge.
    • Cassandra (1802)
  • What are hopes, what are plans?
    • Die Braut von Messina (The Bride of Messina), Act III, sc. v (1803)
  • Don't let your heart depend on things
    That ornament life in a fleeting way!
    He who possesses, let him learn to lose,
    He who is fortunate, let him learn pain.
    • Die Braut von Messina (The Bride of Messina), Act IV, sc. iv (1803)
  • On the mountains there is freedom!
    The world is perfect everywhere,
    Save where man comes with his torment.
    • Die Braut von Messina (The Bride of Messina), Act IV, sc. vii (1803)
  • Only through Beauty's morning gate, dost thou enter the land of Knowledge.
    • Die Künstler (The Artists)
  • Der Menscheit Würde ist in Eure Hand gegeben, bewahret Sie!
    Sie sinkt mit euch! Mit euch wird sie sich heben!
    • The dignity of mankind is in your hands; protect it!
      It sinks with you! With you it will ascend.
      • Die Künstler (The Artists)
    • Variant translation: The dignity of mankind is in your hands, preserve it!
  • Threefold the stride of Time, from first to last!
    Loitering slow, the Future creepeth —
    Arrow-swift, the Present sweepeth —
    And motionless forever stands the Past.
    • Sentences of Confucius.

Don Carlos (1787)

Love is only known by him who hopelessly persists in love.
  • O who knows what slumbers in the background of the times?
    • Act I, sc. i
  • O the idea was childish, but divinely beautiful.
    • Act I, sc. ii
  • Grosse Seelen dulden still.
    • Great souls endure in silence.
      • Act I, sc. iv ; as translated by R. D. Boylan and Joseph Mellish (1902)
      • Variant: "Great spirits suffer patiently"; as translated by A. Leslie and Jeanne R. Willson (1983)
  • A moment lived in paradise
    Is not atoned for too dearly by death.
    • Act I, sc. v
  • I am called
    The richest monarch in the Christian world;
    The sun in my dominion never sets.
    • Act I, sc. vi
  • Love is only known by him who hopelessly persists in love.
    • Act II, sc. viii

An die Freude (Ode to Joy; or Hymn to Joy) (1785)

This poem is most famous as providing the inspiration for Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and the lyrics to the choral portion of that work.

  • Joy, thou spark from Heav'n immortal,
    Daughter of Elysium!
    Drunk with fire, toward Heaven advancing
    Goddess, to thy shrine we come.
    Thy sweet magic brings together
    What stern Custom spreads afar;
    All men become brothers
    Where thy happy wing-beats are.
    • Stanza 1
  • Be embraced, ye millions!
    This kiss is for the whole world!
    Brothers, above the arch of stars
    A loving Father surely dwells.
    • Stanza 5
  • Welcome, all ye myriad creatures!
    Brethren, take the kiss of love!
    • Chorus 1
  • He, that noble prize possessing—
    He that boasts a friend that's true,
    He whom woman's love is blessing,
    Let him join the chorus too!
    • Stanza 3
  • Bow before him, all creation!
    Mortals, own the God of love!
    Seek him high the stars above,—
    Yonder is his habitation!
    • Chorus 3
  • 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
    • Stanza 4
  • Joy from truth's own glass of fire
    Sweetly on the searcher smiles;
    Lest on virtue's steeps he tire,
    Joy the tedious path beguiles.
    High on faith's bright hill before us,
    See her banner proudly wave!
    Joy, too, swells the angels' chorus,—
    Bursts the bondage of the grave!
    • Stanza 5
  • To the Gods we ne'er can render
    Praise for every good they grant;
    Let us, with devotion tender,
    Minister to grief and want.
    Quenched be hate and wrath forever,
    Pardoned be our mortal foe—
    May our tears upbraid him never,
    No repentance bring him low!
    • Stanza 6
  • Sense of wrongs forget to treasure—
    Brethren, live in perfect love!

    In the starry realms above,
    God will mete as we may measure.
    • Chorus 6
  • Courage, ne'er by sorrow broken!
    Aid where tears of virtue flow;
    Faith to keep each promise spoken!
    Truth alike to friend and foe!
    • Stanza 8
  • Lo, the dead shall rise to heaven!
    Brethren hail the blest decree;
    Every sin shall be forgiven,
    Hell forever cease to be!
    • Stanza 9

On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794)

Letters Upon The Aesthetic Education of Man (online at the Modern History Sourcebook)
  • We are citizens of an age, as well as of a State; and if it is held to be unseemly, or even inadmissable, for a man to cut himself off from the customs and manners of the circle in which he lives, why should it be less of a duty, in the choice of his activity, to submit his decision to the needs and the taste of his century?
    • Letter 2
  • The voice of our age seems by no means favorable to art, at all events to that kind of art to which my inquiry is directed. The course of events has given a direction to the genius of the time that threatens to remove it continually further from the ideal of art. For art has to leave reality, it has to raise itself bodily above necessity and neediness; for art is the daughter of freedom, and it requires its prescriptions and rules to be furnished by the necessity of spirits and not by that of matter. But in our day it is necessity, neediness, that prevails, and bends a degraded humanity under its iron yoke. Utility is the great idol of the time, to which all powers do homage and all subjects are subservient. In this great balance of utility, the spiritual service of art has no weight, and, deprived of all encouragement, it vanishes from the noisy Vanity Fair of our time. The very spirit of philosophical inquiry itself robs the imagination of one promise after another, and the frontiers of art are narrowed, in proportion as the limits of science are enlarged.
    • Letter 2 Variant translation of a passage: Utility is the great idol of the age, to which all powers must do service and all talents swear allegiance.
  • It is through beauty that we arrive at freedom.
    • Letter 2
  • When man is raised from his slumber in the senses, he feels that he is a man, he surveys his surroundings, and finds that he is in a state. He was introduced into this state, by the power of circumstances, before he could freely select his own position. But as a moral being he cannot possibly rest satisfied with a political condition forced upon him by necessity, and only calculated for that condition; and it would be unfortunate if this did satisfy him. In many cases man shakes off this blind law of necessity, by his free spontaneous action, of which among many others we have an instance, in his ennobling by beauty and suppressing by moral influence the powerful impulse implanted in him by nature in the passion of love.
    • Letter 3
  • Nothing, it is true, is more common than for both Science and Art to pay homage to the spirit of the age, and for creative taste to accept the law of critical taste.
    • Letter 8
  • The greater part of humanity is too much harassed and fatigued by the struggle with want, to rally itself for a new and sterner struggle with error.
    • Letter 8; Variant: The greater part of men are much too exhausted and enervated by their struggle with want to be able to engage in a new and severe contest with error. Satisfied if they themselves can escape from the hard labour of thought, they willingly abandon to others the guardianship of their thoughts.
  • They have founded the whole structure of their happiness on these very illusions, which ought to be combated and dissipated by the light of knowledge, and they would think they were paying too dearly for a truth which begins by robbing them of all that has value in their sight. It would be necessary that they should be already sages to love wisdom: a truth that was felt at once by him to whom philosophy owes its name.
    • Letter 8; Variant: They would need to be already wise, in order to love wisdom.
  • As noble Art has survived noble nature, so too she marches ahead of it, fashioning and awakening by her inspiration. Before Truth sends her triumphant light into the depths of the heart, imagination catches its rays, and the peaks of humanity will be glowing when humid night still lingers in the valleys.
    • Letter 9
  • No doubt the artist is the child of his time; but woe to him if he is also its disciple, or even its favorite.
    • Letter 9
  • Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.
    • Letter 15
  • While the womanly god demands our veneration, the godlike woman kindles our love; but while we allow ourselves to melt in the celestial loveliness, the celestial self-sufficiency holds us back in awe.
    • On the famous statue "Juno Ludovisi", Letter 15
  • The Greeks put us to shame not only by their simplicity, which is foreign to our age; they are at the same time our rivals, nay, frequently our models, in those very points of superiority from which we seek comfort when regretting the unnatural character of our manners. We see that remarkable people uniting at once fullness of form and fullness of substance, both philosophising and creating, both tender and energetic, uniting a youthful fancy to the virility of reason in a glorious humanity.
    • Letter 35

Wallenstein (1798)

Translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Prologue - Wallensteins Lager (Wallenstein's Camp)

  • Posterity weaves no garlands for imitators.
    • Prologue
  • He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times.
    • Prologue
  • Life is earnest, art is gay.
    • Prologue
  • Whatever is not forbidden is permitted.
    • Prologue

Part I - Die Piccolomini (The Piccolomini)

  • What is the short meaning of the long speech?
    • Act I, sc. ii
  • Der Krieg ernährt den Krieg.
    • Translation: War nourishes war.
    • Act I, sc. ii
  • The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
    The fair humanities of old religion,
    The power, the beauty, and the majesty
    That had their haunts in dale or piny mountain,
    Or forest by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
    Or chasms and watery depths,—all these have vanished;
    They live no longer in the faith of reason.
    • Act II, sc. iv
  • In thy breast are the stars of thy fate.
    • Act II, sc. vi
  • You say it as you understand it.
    • Act II, sc. vi
  • When the wine goes in, strange things come out.
    • Act II, sc. xii
  • The dictates of the heart are the voice of fate.
    • Act III, sc. viii
  • The hat is the pride of man; for he who cannot keep his hat on before kings and emperors is no free man.
    • Act IV, sc. v, Kellermeister (Master of the Cellar)

Part II - Wallensteins Tod (The Death of Wallenstein)

  • The empire of Saturnus is gone by;
    Lord of the secret birth of things is he;
    Within the lap of earth, and in the depths
    Of the imagination dominates;
    And his are all things that eschew the light.
    The time is o'er of brooding and contrivance,
    For Jupiter, the lustrous, lordeth now,
    And the dark work, complete of preparation,
    He draws by force into the realm of light.
    Now must we hasten on to action, ere
    The scheme, and most auspicious positure
    Parts o'er my head, and takes once more its flight,
    For the heaven's journey still, and adjourn not.
    • Act I, sc. i
  • Man is made of ordinary things, and habit is his nurse.
    • Act I, sc. iv
  • I have only an office here, and no opinion.
    • Act I, sc. v
  • Virtue has her heroes too
    As well as Fame and Fortune.
    • Act I, sc. vii
  • Many a crown shines spotless now
    That yet was deeply sullied in the winning.
    • Act II, sc. ii
  • There's no such thing as chance;
    And what to us seems merest accident
    Springs from the deepest source of destiny.
    • Act II, sc. iii
  • What is life without the radiance of love?
    • Act IV, sc. xii
  • Time is man's angel.
    • Act V, sc. xi

Wilhelm Tell (1803)

  • The strong man is strongest when alone.
    • Tell, Act I, sc. iii, as translated by Sir Thomas Martin
  • The mountain cannot frighten one who was born on it.
    • Act III, sc. i
  • Who reflects too much will accomplish little.
    • Act III, sc. i
  • You saw his weakness, and he will never forgive you.
    • Act III, sc. i
  • This feat of Tell, the archer, will be told
    While yonder mountains stand upon their base.
    By heaven! The apple's cleft right through the core.
    • Act III, sc. iii
  • No cause has he to say his doom is harsh,
    Who's made the master of his destiny.
    • Gessler, Act III, sc. iii, as translated by Sir Thomas Martin
  • What's old collapses, times change,
    And new life blossoms in the ruins.
    • Act IV, sc. ii
  • A gloomy guest fits not a wedding feast.
    • Act IV, sc. iii, as translated by Sir Thomas Martin
  • The most pious man can't stay in peace
    If it doesn't please his evil neighbor.
    • Act IV, sc. iii

The Philosophical Letters

Online text at Project Gutenberg
  • The reason passes, like the heart, through certain epochs and transitions, but its development is not so often portrayed. Men seem to have been satisfied with unfolding the passions in their extremes, their aberration, and their results, without considering how closely they are bound up with the intellectual constitution of the individual.
    • Prefatory Remarks
  • The present age has witnessed an extraordinary increase of a thinking public, by the facilities afforded to the diffusion of reading; the former happy resignation to ignorance begins to make way for a state of half-enlightenment, and few persons are willing to remain in the condition in which their birth has placed then.
    • Prefatory Remarks
  • Rarely do we arrive at the summit of truth without running into extremes; we have frequently to exhaust the part of error, and even of folly, before we work our way up to the noble goal of tranquil wisdom.
    • Prefatory Remarks
  • Truth suffers no loss if a vehement youth fails in finding it, in the same way that virtue and religion suffer no detriment if a criminal denies them.
    • Prefatory Remarks
  • The universe is a thought of God. After this ideal thought-fabric passed out into reality, and the new-born world fulfilled the plan of its Creator—permit me to use this human simile—the first duty of all thinking beings has been to retrace the original design in this great reality; to find the principle in the mechanism, the unity in the compound, the law in the phenomenon, and to pass back from the structure to its primitive foundation. Accordingly to me there is only one appearance in nature—the thinking being. The great compound called the world is only remarkable to me because it is present to shadow forth symbolically the manifold expressions of that being. All in me and out of me is only the hieroglyph of a power which is like to me. The laws of nature are the cyphers which the thinking mind adds on to make itself understandable to intelligence—the alphabet by means of which all spirits communicate with the most perfect Spirit and with one another. Harmony, truth, order, beauty, excellence, give me joy, because they transport me into the active state of their author, of their possessor, because they betray the presence of a rational and feeling Being, and let me perceive my relationship with that Being.
    • Letter 4: Theosophy of Julius, Variant portion: "The universe is one of God's thoughts."
  • I speak with the Eternal through the instrument of nature, — through the world's history: I read the soul of the artist in his Apollo.
    • Letter 4: Theosophy of Julius
  • Each state of the human mind has some parable in the physical creation by which it is shadowed forth; nor is it only artists and poets, but even the most abstract thinkers that have drawn from this source. Lively activity we name fire; time is a stream that rolls on, sweeping all before it; eternity is a circle; a mystery is hid in midnight gloom, and truth dwells in the sun. Nay, I begin to believe that even the future destiny of the human race is prefigured in the dark oracular utterances of bodily creation.
    • Letter 4: Theosophy of Julius


  • A merely fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.
  • A noble heart will always capitulate to reason.
  • Aesthetic matters are fundamental for the harmonious development of both society and the individual.
  • All things must; man is the only creature that wills.
  • Appearance rules the world.
  • Art is the right hand of Nature. The latter has only given us being, the former has made us men.
  • As freely as the firmament embraces the world, or the sun pours forth impartially his beams, so mercy must encircle both friend and foe.
  • Be noble minded! Our own heart, and not other men's opinions of us, forms our true honor.
  • Dare to err and to dream. Deep meaning often lies in childish plays.
  • Disappointments are to the soul what a thunderstorm is to the air.
  • Every true genius is bound to be naive.
  • Freedom can occur only through education.
  • Full of wisdom are the ordinations of fate.
  • Glory to Women! They weave and entwine heavenly roses into an earthly life.
  • Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.
  • Happy he who learns to bear what he cannot change.
  • He who considers too much will perform little.
  • Honesty prospers in every condition of life.
  • I am better than my reputation.
  • I see before me the father of my parents.
  • In the society where people are just parts in a larger machine, individuals are unable to develop fully.
  • It does not prove a thing to be right because the majority say it is so.
  • It hinders the creative work of the mind if the intellect examines too closely the ideas as they pour in.
  • It is base to filch a purse, daring to embezzle a million, but it is great beyond measure to steal a crown. The sin lessens as the guilt increases.
    • Variant: It is criminal to steal a purse, daring to steal a fortune, a mark of greatness to steal a crown. The blame diminishes as the guilt increases.
  • It is difficult to discriminate the voice of truth from amid the clamor raised by heated partisans.
  • It is easy to give advice from a port of safety.
    • Variant: One can advise comfortably from a safe port.
  • It is often wise to reveal that which cannot be concealed for long.
  • Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.
    • Variant: Keep true to the dreams of your youth.
  • Knowledge, the object of knowledge and the knower are the three factors which motivate action; the senses, the work and the doer comprise the threefold basis of action.
  • Live with your century; but do not be its creature.
  • Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine.
  • Mankind is made great or little by its own will.
  • No emperor has the power to dictate to the heart.
  • Not without a shudder may the human hand reach into the mysterious urn of destiny.
  • Nothing leads to good that is not natural.
  • Of all the possessions of this life fame is the noblest; when the body has sunk into the dust the great name still lives.
  • Opposition always inflames the enthusiast, never converts him.
    • Variant: Opposition inflames the enthusiast, never converts him.
  • Peace is rarely denied to the peaceful.
  • Posterity weaves no garlands for imitators.
  • Power is the most persuasive rhetoric.
  • Revenge is barren of itself: it is the dreadful food it feeds on; its delight is murder, and its end is despair.
  • That which is so universal as death must be a benefit.
  • The key to education is the experience of beauty.
  • The rich become richer and the poor become poorer is a cry heard throughout the whole civilized world.
  • The voice of the majority is no proof of justice.
  • The will of man is his happiness.
  • The world is ruled only by consideration of advantages.
  • There is no such thing as chance; and what seem to us merest accident springs from the deepest source of destiny.
  • There is room in the smallest cottage for a happy loving pair.
  • To gain a crown by fighting is great, to reject it divine.
  • Truth exists for the wise, beauty for the feeling heart.
  • Utility is the great idol of the age, to which all powers must do service and all talents swear allegiance.
  • Votes should be weighed not counted.
  • When faced with a mountain, I will not quit! I will keep on striving until I climb over, find a pass through, tunnel underneath — or simply stay and turn the mountain into a gold mine, with God's help!
  • Who dares nothing, need hope for nothing.
  • Worthless is the nation that does not gladly stake its all on its honor.
  • Youth covets; let not this covetousness seduce you.

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