Rufst du, mein Vaterland

"Rufst du, mein Vaterland" is the former national anthem of Switzerland. It had the status of de facto national anthem from the formation of Switzerland as a federal state in the 1840s, until 1961, when it was replaced by the Swiss Psalm.[1]

Rufst du, mein Vaterland
English: When you call, my Fatherland

National anthem of   Switzerland
Also known asÔ monts indépendants (English: Oh independent mountains)
LyricsJohann Rudolf Wyss (Henri Roehrich), 1811 (1857)
MusicUnknown composer (the melody of "God Save the King", 18th century)
Adoptedc. 1848
Audio sample
"Rufst du, mein Vaterland"

The text was written in 1811 by Bernese philosophy professor Johann Rudolf Wyss, as a "war song for Swiss artillerymen". It is set to the tune of the British royal anthem "God Save the King" (c. 1745), a tune which became widely adopted in Europe, first as the German hymn "Heil, unserm Bunde Heil" (August Niemann, 1781), somewhat later as "Heil dir im Siegerkranz" (Heinrich Harries 1790, originally with Danish lyrics, the German adaptation for use in Prussia dates to 1795), and as anthem of the United States, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" (1831).

In Switzerland during the 1840s and 1850s, the hymn was regularly sung at patriotic events and at political conventions. It is referred to as "the national anthem" (die Nationalhymne)in 1857, in the contest of a "serenade" performed for general Guillaume Henri Dufour.[2] The Scottish physician John Forbes, who visited Switzerland in 1848, likewise reports that the tune of 'God save the king' "seems to be adopted as the national anthem of the Swiss also".[3]

As in the American "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", the lyrics replace the image of the monarch with that of the fatherland, and the promise to defend it "with heart and hand" (mit Herz und Hand), the "hand" replacing the "voice" praising the king of the original lyrics. The pact to defend the homeland militarily is made explicit in the first verse,

Rufst du, mein Vaterland?
Sieh uns mit Herz und Hand,
All dir geweiht
Heil dir, Helvetia!
Hast noch der Söhne ja,
Wie sie Sankt Jakob sah,
Freudvoll zum Streit!

Are you calling, my Fatherland?
See us, with heart and hand
all dedicated to you.
Hail unto you, Helvetia!
Who still has such sons
as Saint Jacob saw them,
going to battle joyously!

The German lyrics were translated into French in 1857, as the result of a competition sponsored by the Societé de Zofingue of Geneva. The competition was won by Henri Roehrich (1837– 1913), at the time a student of philosophy,[4] whose text is less explicitly martial than the German lyrics, beginning Ô monts indépendants / Répétez nos accents / Nos libres chants "O free mountains / echo our calls / our songs of liberty" and comparing the Rütli oath with a Republican Liberty Tree.

Yet in spite of the Republican sentiment in the lyrics, the tune remained more strongly associated with royalism and conservativism, and it remained the anthem of the British, the German and the Russian empires.[5] This fact, and the lack of association of the tune with Switzerland in particular, led to the desire to find a replacement, which came in the form of the Swiss Psalm (composed 1841), from 1961 as a provisional experiment, and since 1981 permanently.



The poem by Wyss was first printed in 1811 in a collection of "war songs" (Kriegslieder), under the title of Vaterlandslied für Schweizerische Kanonier ("patriotic song for Swiss artillerymen").[6] The original poem as printed in 1811 had six verses. From as early as 1819,[7] Wyss' fifth verse was lost, with two final verses added, for a total of seven verses. The first of the added verses makes reference to William Tell, and the second one invokes the rewards of peace after war (while in the original version, the final two verses compare the report of artillery and the impact of canister shot to thunder and avalanches, respectively).

The 1819 version is under the title of "war song for Swiss defenders of the fatherland" (Kriegslied für schweizerische Vaterlandsvertheidiger). It does not credit Wyss, and indicates the tune as that of "God save the king, etc." In this particular version, Wyss' reference to the Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs is replaced by reference to the Battle of Laupen, because of the immediate context of the publication, dedicated to a commemoration of this latter battle.[7] Similarly, an 1825 variant inserts reference to the Battle of Dornach.[8]

A version printed in 1833 in a collection of traditional and patriotic songs gives the title An das Vaterland ("To the Fatherland"), with the tune identified as that of "Heil! unserm Bunde Heil!".[9]

The following gives the original text of the 1811 version alongside the text of the full seven verses as current in the 1830s. Abridged versions of the lyrics as used in the role of national anthem often reduce the text from seven to three verses, giving either verses 1, 2, 6 or alternatively 1, 3, 6 (as numbered below). Since the hymn never had official status, there are slight textual variants even between these surviving verses. A version printed in 1867, well after the song had become established as de facto national anthem, still gives five verses, omitting only verses 4 and 5 (as numbered below).[10]

German lyrics (1811) German lyrics (1833) Close translation Singable translation[11]

Ruf'st du, mein Vaterland?
Sieh' uns mit Herz und Hand
All dir geweiht!
Heil, o Helvetia!
Noch sind der Männer da,
Wie sie Sanct Jakob sah,
Freüdig zum Streit!

1. Rufst du, mein Vaterland?
Sieh uns mit Herz und Hand
All dir geweiht!
Heil dir, Helvetia![12]
Noch sind der Söhne da,[13]
Wie sie Sankt Jakob sah,[14]
Freudvoll zum Streit!

Do you call, my Fatherland?
See us with heart and hand
All devoted to you!
Hail to you, Helvetia!
You still have sons,
Like St. Jacob saw them,
Joyfully hasten to the battle.

Call'st thou, my Fatherland?
See us with heart and hand
Vowed to thee, all!
Helvetia! hail to thee!
True still thy sons shall be,
Like them Saint James did see,
Leap at war's call!

Ja, wo der Alpen Kreis
Nicht dich zu schützen weiß
O Schweizerland!
Steh'n wir, den Alpen gleich,
Nie vor Gefahren bleich,
Froh noch im Todesstreich,
Für's Vaterland.

2. Da, wo der Alpenkreis
Nicht dich zu schützen weiss
Wall dir von Gott,
Stehn wir den Felsen gleich,
Nie vor Gefahren bleich,
Froh noch im Todesstreich,
Schmerz uns ein Spott.[15]

There where the circle of the Alps
Does not protect you,
Rampart made by God,
There we stand like rocks,
Never turn pale, facing the danger,
Happy even in the lethal stroke,
Agony a jest to us.

There where no Alpen-bound
Circling thy land around,
God's hand hath thrown,
Steadfast we stand alike,
Blenching not, mountain-like,
Still, even though death should strike,
Scorning to groan.

Hegst uns so mild und treu,
Zeihst uns so stark und frey,
O du mein Land!
Lust drum, am Tag der Noth,
Sey uns für dich der Tod,
Wenn dir Verderben droht,
Du theures Land!

3.[16] Nährst uns so mild und treu,
Hegst uns so stark und frei,
Du Hochlands Brust!
Sei denn im Feld der Not,
Wenn Dir Verderben droht,
Blut uns ein Morgenrot,
Tagwerks der Lust.[17]

You nourish us mild and true,
Raise us so strong and free,
You highland's bosom!
So be then in the field of danger,
When destruction threatens you,
Blood us a dawn
Labour of joy.

Still ruht der Alpensee,
Hoch an der Gletscher Schnee; —
So wir im Land!
Wild tobt er aufgeschreckt,
Wenn ihn Gewitter deckt; —
So wir, zum Kampf geweckt,
Für's Vaterland!

4. Sanft wie der Alpensee,
Sturmlos am Gletscherschnee
Weht unser Mut.[18]
Graus tobt der See geschreckt
Wenn ihn Gewitter deckt;
So wir zum Kampf erweckt:
Wut wider Wut.

Gentle like the alpine lake,
Stormless on the glacial snow
Our courage moves.
Dreadfully the lake rages, startled,
When thunderstorm covers it,
So do we, when awakened to the battle,
Rage against rage.

Laut wie der Donner grollt,

Wenn er im Sturme rollt
Durch's Alpenland! —
So der Geschosse Wuth,
Wenn deiner Feinde Brut
Trotzt mit verwegnem Muth,
O Vaterland!

Wie der Lavinen Fall
Stürzt von der Felsen Wall
Furchtbar ins Land:
Stürze Kartätschen-Saat
Rings auf der Alpen Pfad,
Wenn dir ein Dränger naht,
Mein Vaterland!

5. Und wie Lawinenlast
Vorstürzt mit Blitzeshast –
Grab allumher –
Werf in den Alpenpfad,
Wenn der Zerstörer naht,
Rings sich Kartätschensaat
Todtragend schwer.

And like avalanche's load
Crashes down with the speed of lightning –
all around a tomb –
May into the alpine path,
When the destroyer advances,
Canister shell's seed be thrown all around
Fatally heavy.

6.[16] Frei, und auf ewig frei,
Ruf' unser Feldgeschrei,
Hall' unser Herz!
Frei lebt, wer sterben kann,
Frei, wer die Heldenbahn
Steigt als ein Tell hinan.
Nie hinterwärts!

Free, forever free!
may this be our battle cry,
may this echo in our hearts!
Free lives, who is ready to die,
Free, who unto the hero's path
ascends like a Tell,
Never moving backwards!

Free and for ever free!
This shall our war-cry be—
Heart's cry — for ever!
Free lives who dreads not death,
Free, who the hero's path
Tell-like upmounted hath,
Falteringly never!

7. Doch, wo der Friede lacht
Nach der empörten Schlacht
Drangvollem Spiel,
O da viel schöner, trau'n,
Fern von der Waffen Grau'n,
Heimat, dein Glück zu bau'n
Winkt uns das Ziel!

But where peace smiles,
After the raging battles
Crowding game;
O, there be more beautiful in store,
Far from the weapon's horror
Home, to build your fortune,
Be our goal!


The 1857 French version by Henri Roehrich (1837– 1913) has four verses, which are not direct translations of the German text.[4]

French lyrics English translation

Ô monts indépendants,
Répétez nos accents,
Nos libres chants.
A toi patrie,
Suisse chérie,
Le sang, la vie
De tes enfants.

O independent mountains,
Repeat our words,
our free songs.
To you, fatherland,
Dear Switzerland,
The blood,
The life of your children.

Nous voulons nous unir,
Nous voulons tous mourir
Pour te servir.
Ô notre mère !
De nous sois fière,
Sous ta bannière
Tous vont partir.

We want to unite,
We all are ready to die
At your service
O our mother!
Be proud of us,
Under your banner
We all will leave

Gardons avec fierté
L'arbre au Grutli planté
La liberté !
Que d'âge en âge,
Malgré l'orage,
Cet héritage
Soit respecté.

Let us guard with pride
The tree planted in Grütli,
The freedom!
From generation to generation,
In spite of the storm,
This heritage
Is respected

Tu soutins nos aïeux,
Tu nous rendra comme eux,
Victorieux !
Vers toi s'élance
Notre espérance,
La délivrance
Viendra des cieux.

You supported him our ancestors
You make us like them,
Victorious! To you rushed Our hope
The issue will come of heaven.


Towards the end of the 19th century, when the song's status as de facto national anthem had become fixed, it was desirable to have a singable version in Italian, the third official language of Switzerland (Romansh was not officially recognized as a separate language until 1938). An Italian version printed in a 1896 songbook for schools has two verses, a close translation of the first two versions of the German lyrics.[19]

Italian lyrics English translation

Ci chiami, o Patria?
Uniti impavidi
snudiam l'acciar!
Salute Elvezia!
Tuoi prodi figli,
Morat, Sant' Giacomo,
non obliar

Are you calling us, o fatherland?
United and fearless
we unsheathe the sword!
Hail, Helvetia!
Your brave sons,
Murten, St. Jacob,
do not forget!

Laddov'è debole
dell'Alpi l'egida
che il ciel ci diè.
Ti farem argine
dei petti indomiti:
È dolce, o Elvezia
morir per te!

Where is weak
The Alps' aegis
that heaven gave us,
We'll make your bank
by indomitable chests:
It is sweet, Helvetia
to die for you!


  1. ^ Kreis, Georg, (1991), Der Mythos von 1291. Zur Entstehung des schweizerischen Nationalfeiertages. Basel: F. Reinhardt, 67–69.
  2. ^ Allgemeine Zeitung, Augsburg, 15 January 1857 (Nr. 15), p. 237.
  3. ^ John Forbes, A Physician's Holiday; or, a month in Switzerland in the summer of 1848 (1850), p. 53.
  4. ^ a b Nanni Moretti, Journal Intime, 1979, p. 261
  5. ^ Estebán Buch, Beethoven's Ninth: a political history, University of Chicago Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-226-07812-0, p. 23.
  6. ^ Kriegslieder, gesammelt zur Erholung für das Artillerie-Camp im Sommer 1811, printed with Maurhofer and Dällenbach, Bern, cited after: Ludwig Hirzel, Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 21 (1877), p. 206. The text was reprinted by Otto von Greyerz (ed.), Blumenlese [anthology] (1872).
  7. ^ a b Die Feyer der Laupenschlacht: gehalten den 28ten Juny 1818 (1819), 59–61.
  8. ^ Der aufrichtige und wohlerfahrne Schweizer-Bote 22 (1825), p. 243.
  9. ^ Allgemeines Schweizer-Liederbuch: eine Sammlung von 352 der beliebtesten Lieder, Kühreihen und Volkslieder (1833), 181–183.
  10. ^ Das Rütli: ein Liederbuch für Schweizersänger (1867), p. 497.
  11. ^ "The excellent and spirited translation is by a friend, and will be seen to be very close, as all translations ought to be" (Forbes 1850, p. 53)."
  12. ^ variant: "Heil, o Helvetia!" (1819)
  13. ^ The variant "Hast noch der Söhne ja" (1819, 1825) is always invariably used from the 1850s.
  14. ^ variant: "Wie sie dein Laupen sah" (1819), "Wie sie einst Dornegg sah" (1825).
  15. ^ variant: "Stehn sie [viz., the sons mentioned in the preceding verse] den Felsen gleich [...] Schmerz ihnen Spott" (1819); the 1833 version erroneously changes the first pronoun to the second person but leaves the second one in the third person.
  16. ^ a b Verses 3 and 6 have the following variants in version published in the 1850s: 3. "Nährst uns so mild und treu, / Bildest uns stark und frei, / Glück dir und Heil! / Mutig in Drang und Not! / Wenn dir Verderben droht, / Hilft dir der Väter Gott, / Er ist dein Teil!" 6. "Vaterland, ewig frei / Sei unser Feldgeschrei / Sieg oder Tod! / Frei lebt, wer sterben kann, / Frei, wer die Heldenbahn / Steigt als ein Tell hinan. / Mit uns ist Gott!" (recorded in Louise Otto-Peters, Heimische und Fremde: ein Gemälde aus der Schweiz vol. 2 (1858), p. 180). Der Erzähler, 28 January 1857.
  17. ^ variant: "Tagwerk der Lust"
  18. ^ variants: "Webt user Mut" (1819), "Weht unser Mut" (1833).
  19. ^ Edmondo Brusoni, Libro di canto per le Scuole del Cantone Ticino, vol. 1, Tip. e Lit. Eredi Carlo Colombi, Bellinzona 1896, p. 18.

External linksEdit