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Songs

Ballade des Harfners (1849) Op. 98a no.2


Part of a series or song cycle:

Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister (Op. 98a)


Ballade des Harfners

„Was hör’ ich draussen vor dem Tor,
Was auf der Brücke schallen?
Lass den Gesang zu unserm Ohr
Im Saale wiederhallen!“
Der König sprach’s, der Page lief;
Der Knabe kam, der König rief:
„Bring ihn herein den Alten!“
„Gegrüsset seid ihr hohen Herrn,
Gegrüsst ihr, schönen Damen!
Welch reicher Himmel! Stern bei Stern!
Wer kennet ihre Namen?
Im Saal voll Pracht und Herrlichkeit
Schliesst, Augen, euch; hier ist nicht Zeit,
Sich staunend zu ergötzen.“
Der Sänger drückt’ die Augen ein
Und schlug die vollen Töne;
Die Ritter schauten mutig drein,
Und in den Schoss die Schöne.
Der König, dem das Lied gefiel,
Liess, ihm zu Lohne für sein Spiel,
Eine goldne Kette holen.
„Die goldne Kette gib mir nicht,
Die Kette gib’ den Rittern,
Vor deren kühnem Angesicht
Der Feinde Lanzen splittern;
Gib’ sie dem Kanzler, den du hast,
Und lass ihn noch die goldne Last
Zu seinen andern Lasten tragen.
„Ich singe, wie der Vogel singt,
Der in den Zweigen wohnet;
Das Lied, das aus der Kehle dringt,
Ist Lohn, der reichlich lohnet!
Doch darf ich bitten, bitt’ ich eins:
Lass einen Trunk des besten Weins
In reinem Glase bringen.“
Er setzt’ es an, er trank es aus:
„O, Trank der süssen Labe!
O, dreimal hochbeglücktes Haus,
Wo das ist kleine Gabe!
Ergeht’s euch wohl, so denkt an mich,
Und danket Gott so warm, als ich
Für diesen Trunk euch danke.“

The Harper's ballad

‘What do I hear at the gate,
What sounds on the bridge?
Let that song for our ears
Echo in this hall!’
So said the king, the page ran;
The page returned, the king cried:
‘Let the old man be admitted!’
‘Hail to you, noble lords,
Hail to you, fair ladies!
How rich a Heaven! Star upon star!
Who shall tell their names?
In this hall of glory, of splendour,
Close, eyes; now is no time
To feast yourselves and marvel.’
The minstrel shut tight his eyes
And with full-blooded tone did play;
Manfully the knights gazed on,
And the beautiful lady looked down.
The king, pleased by the song,
To praise him for his music,
Sent for a chain of gold.
‘The chain of gold give not to me,
The chain give to your knights,
Before whose bold countenance
The enemy lances splinter;
Give it to your chancellor,
And let him bear that golden burden
Together with his others.
‘I sing as sings the bird
That lives amongst the branches;
The song that bursts from the throat
Is its own rich reward.
But if I may, one thing will I ask:
Let me be served your best wine
In a clear glass.’
To his lips he put it, drank it off:
‘O draught of sweet refreshment!
O thrice highly-favoured house
Where that is but a small gift.
Should you fare well, then think of me,
And thank God as warmly as I
Thank you for this draught.’
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Composer

Robert Schumann was a German composer and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. He had been assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.

Schumann's published compositions were written exclusively for the piano until 1840; he later composed works for piano and orchestra; many Lieder (songs for voice and piano); four symphonies; an opera; and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. Works such as KinderszenenAlbum für die JugendBlumenstück, the Sonatas and Albumblätter are among his most famous. His writings about music appeared mostly in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music), a Leipzig-based publication which he jointly founded.

In 1840, Schumann married Friedrich Wieck's daughter Clara, against the wishes of her father, following a long and acrimonious legal battle, which found in favor of Clara and Robert. Clara also composed music and had a considerable concert career as a pianist, the earnings from which formed a substantial part of her father's fortune.

Schumann suffered from a lifelong mental disorder, first manifesting itself in 1833 as a severe melancholic depressive episode, which recurred several times alternating with phases of ‘exaltation’ and increasingly also delusional ideas of being poisoned or threatened with metallic items. After a suicide attempt in 1854, Schumann was admitted to amental asylum, at his own request, in Endenich near Bonn. Diagnosed with "psychotic melancholia", Schumann died two years later in 1856 without having recovered from his mental illness.

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Poet

Johann Wolfgang Goethe was a German writer and statesman. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him exist. A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August in 1782 after first taking up residence there in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe served as a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace, which in 1998 were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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