Verse > Anthologies > Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans. > A Harvest of German Verse
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Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans.  A Harvest of German Verse.  1916.
 
The Singer
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
 
“OUTSIDE the gate what do I hear,
What on the bridgehead ringing?
Let it resound upon my ear
Within the hall—this singing!”
Thus spake the king, the page ran out,        5
The boy came back, the king did shout:
“Let in the aged singer!”
 
“Right noble masters that you are,
Fair ladies, I salute you!
Ah, what a heaven! Star by star!        10
Who knows the names that suit you?
Before this splendour, light sublime,
Close, eyes; for this is not the time
To gaze in joyous wonder.”
 
Full chords he struck, and closed his eyes,        15
His voice in gladness raising;
The knights looked up in gallant wise,
The ladies down were gazing.
The king, delighted with the lay,
To honour him for song and play,        20
A golden chain then gave him.
 
“Oh, give me not the golden chain!
Your knights it fitly graces,
For hostile lances split in twain
Before their dauntless faces;        25
Give it your chancellor to wear,
Let him with all his burdens bear
One more—this golden burden.
 
“I sing just as the wild bird sings
That in the boughs is living,        30
The song, while from the heart it springs,
Its own reward is giving.
Yet one request alone be mine:
Pray, let me drink your rarest wine
From a pure golden goblet.”        35
 
He took the cup, he quaffed it all:
“Such wine is sweetest pleasure!
Upon your house all blessings fall
Where this is deemed small measure!
If you fare well, remember me,        40
And thank your God as heartily
As for this wine I thank you.”
 
 
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