Translation © by Malcolm Wren

Der König saß beym frohen Mahle
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): CAT DUT ENG FRE
Der König saß beym frohen Mahle,
Die Frau'n und Ritter um [sich]1 her;
Es kreis'ten [festlich]2 die Pokale,
Und manches Becken trank man leer;
Da tönte Klang von gold'nen Saiten,
Der süßer labt, als goldner Wein,
Und, sieh! - drey fremde Sänger schreiten,
Sich neigend, in den Saal hinein.

»Seyd mir gegrüßt, ihr Liedersöhne,«
Beginnt der König, wohlgemuth,
»In deren Brust das Reich der Töne
Und des Gesangs Geheimniß ruht!
Wollt ihr den edlen Wettstreit wagen;
So soll es höchlich uns erfreu'n,
Und wer den Sieg davon getragen,
Mag [unsers]3 Hofes Zierde seyn!«

Er spricht's. - Der Erste rührt die Saiten,
Die Vorwelt öffnet er dem Blick,
Zum grauen Anfang aller Zeiten
Lenkt er der Hörer [Schaar]4 zurück;
Er meldet: wie sich, neugeboren,
Die Welt dem Chaos einst entwand;
Sein Lied behagt den [feinsten]5 Ohren,
Und willig folgt ihm der Verstand.

Drauf, mehr die Hörer zu ergetzen,
Erklingt des zweyten lust'ge Mähr':
Von [Gnomen, Fei'n]6 und ihren Schätzen,
Und von der grünen Zwerge Heer;
Er singt von manchen Wunderdingen,
Von manchem Schwanke, schlau erdacht;
Da regt der Scherz die losen Schwingen,
Und jeder Mund im Saale lacht.

Und an den Dritten [trifft die Reihe]7. -
Und sanft, aus [tief bewegter]8 Brust,
Haucht er ein Lied von Lieb' und [Treue]9,
Und von der Sehnsucht Schmerz und Lust,
Und kaum, daß seine Saiten klingen,
Schaut jedes Antlitz10 in den Schooß,
Und Thränen des Gefühles ringen
Sich aus verklärten Augen los.

Und tiefes Schweigen herrscht im Saale,
Als seines Liedes Ton entschwand. -
Da steht der König auf vom Mahle,
Und reicht dem Dritten seine Hand.
»Bleib' bey uns, Freund! Dir ist's gelungen,
Du bist es, dem der Preis gebührt;
Das schönste Lied hat der gesungen,
Der unser Herz zur Wehmuth rührt.«

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with Der Sammler. Ein Unterhaltungsblatt. Sechster Jahrgang. 1814. Wien, gedruckt und im Verlage bey Anton Strauß, page 143 (Nr.36. Donnerstag, den 3. März 1814); and with Dichtungen für Kunstredner. Herausgegeben von Deinhardstein. Wien und Triest, 1815. Im Verlage der Geistingerschen Buchhandlung, pages 130-132.

Note: The author is denoted by "Friedrich B.b..k."

1 Schubert: "ihn"
2 Schubert (Alte Gesamtausgabe): "fröhlich"
3 Schubert: "unsres"
4 Schubert (Alte Gesamtausgabe): "Blick"
5 Schubert: "meisten"
6 Schubert: "Gnomen fein"
7 Schubert: "kommt die Reih'"
8 Schubert (Alte Gesamtausgabe): "tiefbewegter"
9 Schubert: "Treu'"
10 Here Schubert's autograph breaks off at the end of the last page.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "De drie zangers", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Malcolm Wren) , copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Les trois ménestrels", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Peter Rastl [Guest Editor]

Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Last modified: 2018-10-07 01:52:12
Line count: 48
Word count: 289

The king was sitting enjoying a jolly...
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
The king was sitting enjoying a jolly banquet
With ladies and knights surrounding him,
The goblet was doing the merry rounds
And many a bowl was emptied as people drank.
Then was heard the sound of golden strings,
Which offered sweeter refreshment than golden wine,
And look! Three unknown singers step forward,
Bowing as they enter the hall.

"Welcome, you sons of song!"
Begins the king, in a good mood,
"In whose breasts lives the kingdom of music,
Where you keep the secret of song!
If you would like to take up the challenge of a competition
That would give us very great pleasure,
And whoever emerges as the victor
Will be allowed to adorn our court."

As he says this the first one touches the strings,
He opens people's eyes to the primitive world,
To the grey beginning of all the ages
Back to which he directs the attention of the audience. 
He reports how the new-born
World was first wrestled out of chaos.
His song pleases most of the listeners,
Who willingly follow him with their comprehension.

In order to stimulate more delight among the audience
The second one strikes up with a funny tale
About gnomes, fairies and their treasures,
And about an army of green dwarves;
He sings of a number of miraculous things,
A number of slyly contrived pranks;
Jokes are the order of the day
And each mouth in the hall bursts into laughter.

Now it is the turn of the third one.
And gently, out of a deeply moved heart
He breathes out a song of love and devotion
And of the pain and pleasure of longing.
And no sooner do his strings resound
Than each face turns down, people look at their laps,
And tears of feeling are wrung from
The transfigured eyes.

And a deep silence holds sway in the hall
As the music of his song died away - 
Then the king stands up, leaving the banqueting table,
And he reaches out his hand to the third singer:
"Stay with us, friend! You have succeeded.
It is you that has earned the prize;
The most beautiful song was sung by the one
Who has stirred our hearts with melancholy."

About the headline (FAQ)

Translations of title(s):
"Die drey Sänger" = "The three singers"
"Die drei Sänger" = "The three singers"


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 2017 by Malcolm Wren, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on


Text added to the website: 2017-07-15 00:00:00
Last modified: 2017-07-15 09:15:13
Line count: 48
Word count: 369