Schiller’s first important poem, “The Conqueror,” was first published in 1777 in Schwäbischers Magazin. The poet was energetic and full of revolutionary ardor. He takes aim at despots and their ruthless ambitions. His protagonist is an evil conqueror who has devastated the land with a sword dipped in blood. The warrior dies and ascends to Heaven, where he is judged before God. With arrogance, he sits on the scales of justice, and his deeds are piled opposite him. They balance evenly until the poet invokes a curse that tips the scales, sending the conqueror to Hell. “The Conqueror” is an attack on the despised duke of Württemberg. Schiller soon learned to sublimate his fury.
Schiller’s poetry usually coalesced around a central tenet or idea. His aim was to appeal to the ear and the mind. Like the ancient Greek thinkers whom he admired, Schiller posed philosophical questions in his poetry about what is good, beautiful, and true in life and proceeded to answer them. The poet believed fully in humanity and anticipated a better future. Schiller grew as a poet, and his style changed from passionate and lyrical exultations to a classical mastery of simplicity and clarity.