Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser

From Academic Kids

Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser ("God Save Emperor Francis") is an anthem to the Emperor Francis II of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austria, written by Lorenz Leopold Haschka (1749-1827) and set to a tune written by Joseph Haydn in 1797. In English it is sometimes called the "Emperor's Hymn."


Words and music

The sound file given below (played on a piano) uses the harmony Haydn employed for the string quartet version of his song, which he prepared later in the year 1797.

Missing image
Click to hear; ogg format, 156k.

The German words can be translated approximately as follows:

God save Francis the Emperor, our good Emperor Francis!
Long live Francis the Emperor in the brightest splendor of bliss!
May laurel branches bloom for him, wherever he goes, as a wreath of honor.
(God save ...)


The song was written at a time when Austria was seriously threatened by France and patriotic feeling was high. An Austrian aristocrat, Count Joseph Franz Saurau, had the idea of commissioning the anthem. Saurau later wrote:

"I had a text fashioned by the worthy poet Haschka; and to have it set to music, I turned to our immortal compatriot Haydn, who, I felt, was the only man capable of creating something that could be placed at the side of ... 'God Save the King'."

"Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" was first performed on the Emperor's birthday, February 12, 1797. It proved popular, and came to serve as the unofficial first national anthem of Austria.


Just as on many other occasions in his career, Haydn in composing "Gott erhalte" is believed to have mined his mental store of folk songs, which he learned in childhood and perhaps also in field work during adult life. The particular folk source of "Gott erhalte" appears to be Croatian in origin, and is known in Međimurje and northern regions of Croatia under the name "Stal se jesem". The version below was collected by a field worker in the Croatian-speaking village of Schandorf-Cemba, in eastern Austria:

Missing image
Click to hear; ogg format, 41k.

The English musicologist William H. Hadow (, following the work of Franjo Kuhač, has discussed various versions of the tune, but he does not mention the most familiar of them, which is the German folksong "O wie wohl ist mir am Abend," the first line of which is virtually identical. He describes how Haydn transformed and (in the opinion of many) exalted his source material. The tonic note in the high octave near the end, felt by Charles Rosen and others to be the climax of Haydn's melody, appears in none of the folk originals.

Haydn's patriotism appears to have been unsophisticated and fully sincere. During his frail and sickly old age (1802-1809), Haydn often would struggle to the piano to play his song, often with great feeling, as a form of consolation in his long illness.

Later uses of the tune

Long after the composer's death, his melody was used as the tune of Hoffmann von Fallersleben's Das Lied der Deutschen (1841), whose text begins "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles"; see the Wikipedia article just cited for full details concerning this setting. The tune has also been used as a hymn in English, to lyrics by John Newton which begin "Glorious things of thee are spoken/Zion, city of our God." 1 (, 2 (

After the death of Francis in 1835, the tune was given new lyrics that praised his successor, Ferdinand: "Segen Öst'reichs hohem Sohne / Unserm Kaiser Ferdinand!" ("Blessings to Austria's high son / Our Emperor Ferdinand!"). After Ferdinand's abdication in 1848, the original lyrics were used again because his successor (Francis Joseph) was also named Francis. However, in 1854, yet again new lyrics were selected: "Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze / Unsern Kaiser, unser Land!" ("God preserve, God protect / Our Emperor, our country!"). The tune stopped being used for official purposes in Austria when monarchy was abolished in 1919.

There has also been uses of the tune in classical music.

  • Shortly after finishing his melody, Haydn used it as the basis for the second movement (a theme and variations) of his famous string quartet opus 76 no. 3, the "Emperor" Quartet (1797).
  • Carl Czerny wrote a set of variations for piano and string quartet, his Opus 73. This link (;internal&action=_setlanguage.action?LANGUAGE=en) offers a sound illustration.
  • Henryk Wieniawski wrote a set of variations on the tune for unaccompanied violin (Variations on the Austrian National Anthem, from L'école Moderne, opus 10), which is reputed to be one of the most difficult unaccompanied violin showpieces ever composed.
  • Tchaikovsky arranged the work for orchestra in 1876.

Full text

Haschka's poem contains many verses, reproduced below. For translations of the text into several of the languages that were spoken in the Austrian Empire, see Translations of Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser.

Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz!
Lange lebe Franz, der Kaiser,
In des Glückes hellstem Glanz!
Ihm erblühen Lorbeerreiser,
Wo er geht, zum Ehrenkranz!
|: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Laß von seiner Fahne Spitzen
Strahlen Sieg und Fruchtbarkeit!
Laß in seinem Rate Sitzen
Weisheit, Klugheit, Redlichkeit;
Und mit Seiner Hoheit Blitzen
Schalten nur Gerechtigkeit!
|: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Ströme deiner Gaben Fülle
Über ihn, sein Haus und Reich!
Brich der Bosheit Macht, enthülle
Jeden Schelm- und Bubenstreich!
Dein Gesetz sei stets sein Wille,
Dieser uns Gesetzen gleich.
|: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Froh erleb' er seiner Lande,
Seiner Völker höchsten Flor!
Seh' sie, Eins durch Bruderbande,
Ragen allen andern vor!
Und vernehm' noch an dem Rande
Später Gruft der Endkel Chor.
|: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz,
Hoch als Herrscher, hoch als Weiser,
Steht er in des Ruhmes Glanz;
Liebe windet Lorbeerreiser
Ihm zum ewig grünen Kranz.
|: Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Über blühende Gefilde
Reicht sein Scepter weit und breit;
Säulen seines Throns sind milde,
Biedersinn und Redlichkeit,
Und von seinem Wappenschilde
Strahlet die Gerechtigkeit.
|: Gott erhalte unsern Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Sich mit Tugenden zu schmücken,
Achtet er der Sorgen werth,
Nicht um Völker zu erdrücken
Flammt in seiner Hand das Schwert:
Sie zu segnen, zu beglücken,
Ist der Preis, den er begehrt,
|: Gott erhalte unsern Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Er zerbrach der Knechtschaft Bande,
Hob zur Freiheit uns empor!
Früh' erleb' er deutscher Lande,
Deutscher Völker höchsten Flor,
Und vernehme noch am Rande
Später Gruft der Enkel Chor:
|: Gott erhalte unsern Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Burney's translation

During Haydn's lifetime, the musicologist Charles Burney, a friend of the composer, made a English translation of the first verse which is more felicitous if less literal than the one given above.

God preserve the Emp'ror Francis
Sov'reign ever good and great;
Save, o save him from mischances
In Prosperity and State!
May his Laurels ever blooming
Be by Patriot Virtue fed;
May his worth the world illumine
And bring back the Sheep misled!
God preserve our Emp'ror Francis!
Sov'reign ever good and great.

The penultimate couplet about sheep lacks a counterpart in the original German and appears to be Burney's own contribution.

See also

External link

nl:Kaiserhymne sv:Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser


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