Sunday, January 6, 2013


Poem by Johann Wolfang von Goethe

Music by Hugo Wolf

Elizabeth Schwarzkopf - soprano
Wilhelm Furtwaengler - pianist

English Translation

The three holy kings with their star's bright ray —
They eat and they drink, but would rather not pay;
They like to eat and drink away,
They eat and drink, but would rather not pay.

The three holy kings have all come here,
In number not four, but three they appear;
And if a fourth join'd the other three,
Increased by one their number would be.

The first am I —the fair and the white,
I ought to be seen when the sun shines bright!
But, alas! with all my spices and myrrh,
No girl now likes me —I please not her.

The next am I —the brown and the long,
Known well to women, known well to song.
Instead of spices, 'tis gold I bear,
And so I'm welcome everywhere.

The last am I —the black and small,
And fain would be right merry withal.
I like to eat and to drink full measure,
I eat and drink, and give thanks with pleasure.

The three holy kings are friendly and mild,
They seek the Mother, and seek the Child;
The pious Joseph is sitting by,
The ox and the ass on their litter lie.

We're bringing gold, we're bringing myrrh,
The women incense always prefer;
And if we have wine of a worthy growth,
We three to drink like six are not loth.

As here we see fair lads and lasses,
But not a sign of oxen or asses,
We know that we have gone astray
And so go further on our way.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1810)


  1. That's a great poem. I can't comment very well upon its' "execution" in song by its' signifier, but the text by Goethe is GREAT! ;)

  2. It is great fun, Thersites, -- actually comical in its intent -- but gently so.

    Hugo Wolf's music is a perfect evocation of the tongue-in-cheek spirit in which the words were written.

    Each of the three Kings has bis own verse in which to describe or characterize, himself, and Wolf's music varies brilliantly -- particularly in the accompaniment -- to suit that characterization.

    Furtwaengler was one of the most important conductors of the early-to-mid 20th century. Schwarzkopf was world renowned for her charming, persuasive, insightful interpretations of Mozart, Richard Strauss, Hugo Wolf and Mahler -- and also for her great beauty.

    Schwarzkopf recorded this opus also with Gerald Moore, the distinguished British accompanist, and I like that version even better, but Alas! it has not yet reached YouTube.

  3. Well, dearest Lizzie, we wound up giving you short shrift, but after the glorious career you sustained for well over fifty years, and the accolades collected throughout your lifetime, I supposed our lack of full attention hasn't hurt you any. Even so, I feel I ought to apologize to you. You were great, you were famous, you were beautiful, and you lasted a long time. It doesn't get any better than that, Lizzie.

    I, personally, will always be grateful to have known you. I'll never forget the time we met backstage after you sang the Mahler Fourth at Carnegie Hall with Pitsburgh. You were so gracious to me. Your singing was as unforgettably beautiful as your appearance in shimmering white satin topped with a scarlet cloak. You close to sixty at the time and still as lovely as ever. I shall always see you as you were on that occasion.

    At least Viburnum heard you, and felt drawn to your wry interpretation of Epiphanias -- as I have been since first hearing it fifty years ago.

    Rest in peace, Lizzie. Our love for you will last forever.



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