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Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (God Save Emperor Francis) was an anthem to Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austriamarker. Lorenz Leopold Haschka (1749-1827) wrote the lyrics, and Joseph Haydn composed the melody. It is sometimes called the "Kaiserhymne" (Emperor's Hymn).

The melody, along with several variations, is also the second movement of one of Haydn's most famous string quartets, nicknamed the "Emperor Quartet". The melody was later used in Das Lied der Deutschen, which is still Germanymarker's national anthem.

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 1797.

The English translation of the above verse is:

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 Francis the Emperor, our good Emperor Francis!


The song was written when Austria was seriously threatened by Francemarker and patriotic sentiments ran high. The story of the song's genesis was narrated in 1847 by Anton Schmid, who was Custodian of the Austrian National Library in Vienna:

In England, Haydn came to know the favourite British national anthem, 'God Save the King', and he envied the British nation for a song through which it could, at festive occasions, show in full measure its respect, love, and devotion to its ruler.

When the Father of Harmony returned to his beloved Kaiserstadt, he related these impressions to that real friend, connoisseur, supporter and encourager of many a great and good one of Art and Science, Freiherr van Swieten, Prefect of the I. R. Court Library, who at the time was at the head of the Concert Spirituel (supported by high aristocracy) and likewise Haydn's particular patron. Haydn wished that Austria, too, could have a similar national anthem, wherein it could display a similar respect and love for its Sovereign. Also, such a song could be used in the fight then taking place with those forcing the Rhine; it could be used in a noble way to inflame the heart of the Austrians to new heights of devotion to the princes and fatherland, and to incite to combat, and to increase, the mob of volunteer soldiers who had been collected by a general proclamation.

Freiherr van Swieten hastily took counsel with His Excellency, the then President of Lower Austria Franz Count von Saurau ...; and so there came into being a song which, apart from being one of Haydn's greatest creations, has won the crown of immortality.

It is also true that this high-principled Count used the most opportune moment to introduce a Volksgesang, and thus he called to life those beautiful thoughts which will delight connoisseurs and amateurs here and abroad.

He immediately ordered the poet Lorenz Haschka to draft the poetry and then requested our Haydn to set it to music.

In January 1797, this double task was resolved, and the first performance of the Song was ordered for the birthday of the Monarch.

Saurau himself 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 unofficially as Austria's first national anthem.


As elsewhere in Haydn's music, it has been conjectured that Haydn took part of his material from folksongs he knew. This hypothesis has never achieved unanimous agreement; the alternative being that Haydn's original tune was adapted by the people in various versions as folk songs. For discussion, see Haydn and folk music.

One claimed folk source of "Gott erhalte" is a Croatianmarker song, known in Međimurjemarker and northern regions of Croatia under the name "Stal se jesem". The version below was collected by a field worker in the Croatian-speaking Austrian village of Schandorfmarker.

Irrespective of the original source, Haydn's own compositional efforts went through multiple drafts, discussed by Rosemary Hughes in her biography of the composer. Hughes reproduces the draft fragment given below (i.e., the fifth through eighth lines of the song) and writes, "His sketches, preserved in the Vienna National Library, show the self-denial and economy with which he struggled to achieve [the song's] seemingly inevitably climax, pruning the earlier and more obviously interesting version of the fifth and sixth lines, which would have anticipated, and so lessened, its overwhelming effect."

Haydn's own view of the song

Joseph Haydn seems to have been particularly fond of his creation. During his frail and sickly old age (1802-1809), the composer often would struggle to the piano to play his song, often with great feeling, as a form of consolation; and as his servant Johann Elssler narrated, it was the last music Haydn ever played:

The Kayser Lied was still played three times a day, though, but on May 26th [1809] at half-past midday the Song was played for the last time and that 3 times over, with such expression and taste, well! that our good Papa was astonished about it himself and said he hadn't played the Song like that for a long time and was very pleased about it and felt well altogether till evening at 5 o'clock then our good Papa began to lament that he didn't feel well...

Elssler goes on to narrate the composer's final decline and death, which occurred on May 31.

Later uses of the tune in classical music

Use in national anthems, alma maters, and hymns


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!").There were versions of the hymn in several languages of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (e.g., Czech, Slovene, Hungarian, Polish, Italian). The tune stopped being used for official purposes in Austria when monarchy was abolished in 1918.


Long after Haydn'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".


University hymns

Various American Universities and colleges use Haydn's music as the tune for university hymns. For example, The University of the South in Sewaneemarker, Tennesseemarker uses the tune for its ("God of Light, Whose face beholding ..."). Other universities that do so include Columbia University,the University of Pittsburghmarker, Illinois State Universitymarker, College of Charlestonmarker and Adrian College.

Full text

Original version (1797)

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 Enkel Chor.

: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,

Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|


God keep Francis the emperor,

Our good Emperor Francis!

Long live Francis the emperor,

In the brightest splendor of happines!

May springs of laurel bloom for him

As a garland of honor, wherever he goes.

God keep Francis the emperor,

Our good Emperor Francis!

From the tips of his flag

May victory and fruitfulness shine!

In his council

May knowledge, wisdom and honesty sit!

And with his Highness's lightning

May justice but prevail!

God keep Francis the emperor,

Our good Emperor Francis!

May the abundance of thy gifts

Pour over him, his house and Empire!

Break the power of wickedness, and reveal

Every trick of rogues and knaves!

May thy Law always be his Will,

And may this be like laws to us.

God keep Francis the emperor,

Our good Emperor Francis!

May he gladly experience the highest bloom

Of his land and of his peoples!

May he see them, united by the bonds of brothers,

Loom over all others!

And may he hear at the edge

Of his late tomb his grandchildren's chorus.

God keep Francis the emperor,

Our good Emperor Francis!

During Haydn's lifetime, his friend the musicologist Charles Burney, made an 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.

Burney's penultimate couplet about sheep has no counterpart in the original German and appears to be Burney's own contribution.

For translations into several of the languages that were spoken in the Austrian Empire, see Translations of Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser.

1826 version

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 Franz den 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 Franz den 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 Franz den Kaiser,

Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

1854 version

Source: [51291]:

1. Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze
Unsern Kaiser, unser Land!
Mächtig durch des Glaubens Stütze,
Führt er uns mit weiser Hand!
Laßt uns seiner Väter Krone
Schirmen wider jeden Feind!
|: Innig bleibt mit Habsburgs Throne
Österreichs Geschick vereint! :|

2. Fromm und bieder, wahr und offen
Laßt für Recht und Pflicht uns stehn;
Laßt, wenns gilt, mit frohem Hoffen
Mutvoll in den Kampf uns gehn
Eingedenk der Lorbeerreiser
Die das Heer so oft sich wand
|: Gut und Blut für unsern Kaiser,
Gut und Blut fürs Vaterland! :|

3. Was der Bürger Fleiß geschaffen
Schütze treu des Kaisers Kraft;
Mit des Geistes heitren Waffen
Siege Kunst und Wissenschaft!
Segen sei dem Land beschieden
Und sein Ruhm dem Segen gleich;
|: Gottes Sonne strahl' in Frieden
Auf ein glücklich Österreich!

4. Laßt uns fest zusammenhalten,
In der Eintracht liegt die Macht;
Mit vereinter Kräfte Walten
Wird das Schwere leicht vollbracht,
Laßt uns Eins durch Brüderbande
Gleichem Ziel entgegengehn
|: Heil dem Kaiser, Heil dem Lande,
Österreich wird ewig stehn! :|

An des Kaisers Seite waltet,
Ihm verwandt durch Stamm und Sinn,
Reich an Reiz, der nie veraltet,
Uns're holde Kaiserin.
Was als Glück zu höchst gepriesen
Ström' auf sie der Himmel aus:
|: Heil Franz Josef, Heil Elisen,
Segen Habsburgs ganzem Haus! :|

Heil auch Öst'reichs Kaisersohne,
Froher Zukunft Unterpfand,
Seiner Eltern Freud' und Wonne,
Rudolf tönt's im ganzen Land,
Unsern Kronprinz Gott behüte,
Segne und beglücke ihn,
|: Von der ersten Jugendblüthe
Bis in fernste Zeiten hin. :|

1922 version

After the last Emperor, Charles I, died in 1922, monarchist created an original stanza for his son Otto von Habsburg. Since Austria had deposed its emperor in 1918 and become a republic, this version never had official standing.

In Verbannung, fern den Landen
Weilst Du, Hoffnung Österreichs.
Otto, treu in festen Banden
Steh'n zu Dir wir felsengleich.
Dir, mein Kaiser, sei beschieden
Alter Ruhm und neues Glück!
|: Bring den Völkern endlich Frieden,
Kehr zur Heimat bald zurück!:|


  1. Quotation from Robbins Landon and Jones, 1988, p. 301.
  2. German: 'city of the emperor'.
  3. "Concert Spirituel" normally denotes an important orchestra of Paris in Haydn's time; see Concert Spirituel. Here, however, it is more likely that Schmid was using the term to refer to the Gesellschaft der Associierten, a concert-sponsoring society of noblemen that Swieten had organized in Vienna. Swieten was not active in Paris.
  4. German: "people's song"
  5. Hughes 1970, p. 124.
  6. Robbins Landon and Jones 1999, p. 314.

See also

Audio versions


  • Hughes, Rosemary (1970) Haydn. London: Dent.
  • Robbins Landon, H. C. and David Wyn Jones (1988) Haydn: His Life and Music, Thames and Hudson.

External links

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