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The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/The Minstrel

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THE MINSTREL.

[This find poem is introduced in the second book of "Wilhelm Meister."]

"What tuneful strains salute mine ear
Without the castle walls?
Oh, let the song reëcho here,
Within our festal halls!"
Thus spake the king, the page out-hied;
The boy returned; the monarch cried:
"Admit the old man yonder!"

"All hail, ye noble lords to-night!
All hail, ye beauteous dames!
Star placed by star! What heavenly sight!
Who e'er can tell their names?
Within this glittering hall sublime,
Be closed mine eyes! 'tis not the time
For me to feast my wonder."

The minstrel straightway closed his eyes,
And woke a thrilling tone;
The knights looked on in knightly guise,
Fair looks toward earth were thrown.
The monarch, ravished by the strain,
Bade them bring forth a golden chain,
To be his numbers' guerdon.

"The golden chain give not to me,
But give the chain to those
In whose bold face we shivered see
The lances of our foes.
Or give it to thy chancellor there;
With other burdens he may bear
This one more golden burden.

"I sing, like birds of blithesome note,
That in the branches dwell;
The song that rises from the throat
Repays the minstrel well.
One boon I'd crave, if not too bold—
One bumper in a cup of gold
Be as my guerdon given."

The bowl he raised, the bowl he quaffed:
"Oh, drink, with solace fraught!
O house thrice-blest, where such a draught
A trifling gift is thought!
When Fortune smiles, remember me,
And as I thank you heartily,
As warmly thank ye, Heaven!"