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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Harper’s Songs

By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)

From ‘Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship’: Translation of Thomas Carlyle

“WHAT notes are those without the wall,

Across the portal sounding?

Let’s have the music in our hall,

Back from its roof rebounding.”

So spoke the king: the henchman flies;

His answer heard, the monarch cries,

“Bring in that ancient minstrel.”

“Hail, gracious king, each noble knight!

Each lovely dame, I greet you!

What glittering stars salute my sight!

What heart unmoved may meet you!

Such lordly pomp is not for me,

Far other scenes my eyes must see:

Yet deign to list my harping.”

The singer turns him to his art,

A thrilling strain he raises;

Each warrior hears with glowing heart

And on his loved one gazes.

The king, who liked his playing well,

Commands, for such a kindly spell,

A golden chain be given him.

“The golden chain give not to me:

Thy boldest knight may wear it,

Who ’cross the battle’s purple sea

On lion breast may bear it;

Or let it be thy chancellor’s prize,

Amid his heaps to feast his eyes,—

Its yellow glance will please him.

“I sing but as the linnet sings,

That on the green bough dwelleth;

A rich reward his music brings,

As from his throat it swelleth:

Yet might I ask, I’d ask of thine

One sparkling draught of purest wine

To drink it here before you.”

He viewed the wine, he quaffed it up:

“O draught of sweetest savor!

O happy house, where such a cup

Is thought a little favor!

If well you fare, remember me,

And thank kind Heaven, from envy free,

As now for this I thank you.”

WHO never ate his bread in sorrow,

Who never spent the darksome hours

Weeping and watching for the morrow,—

He knows ye not, ye gloomy Powers.

To earth, this weary earth, ye bring us,

To guilt ye let us heedless go,

Then leave repentance fierce to wring us;

A moment’s guilt, an age of woe!