Constitution, equality and Beethoven's ninth symphony


With reference to Dr. Devanesan Nesiah's article "On Framing Our Constitution" in The Island today 14th July 2017, I do not usually read articles of legal import other than contributions by Dr. Nesiah and a few others. Having perused Dr. Nesiah's article carefully, may I make the following comment?

Dr. Nesiah makes the observation that the preamble of the Indian Constitution includes the desire to secure to all its citizens the following: "Equality of status and of opportunity".

It is interesting to compare this with a wish expressed in the Lyrics to Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony "Ode to Joy", which was first performed in Vienna on the 7th May 1824. The text of the Lyrics was written by the German poet, playwright and historian, Friedrich von Schiller, in the summer of 1785. Some speculate that Schiller's original poem was "An Ode to Freedom" and that this was changed to "Ode to Joy".

The original text of the poem included in the first verse the statement (in German) "beggars become brothers of lords". This wish was deemed too strong to stomach by the 19th century German aristocracy, so it was discreetly changed to "All people become brothers", which is the form used today

One wonders what the aristocratic framers of the Indian and Sri Lankan Constitutions would have had to say about the wish expressed to have "beggars become brothers of lords". (There are plenty of beggars in both countries.)

Dr. Rohan Wickramasinghe

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