Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The King of Thule

IN Thule lived a monarch,
Still faithful to the grave,
To whom his dying mistress
A golden goblet gave.

Beyond all price he deem’d it,
He quaff’d it at each feast;
And, when he drain’d that goblet,
His tears to flow ne’er ceas’d.

And when he felt death near him,
His cities o’er he told,
And to his heir left all things,
But not that cup of gold.

A regal banquet held he
In his ancestral ball,
In yonder sea-wash’d castle,
‘Mongst his great nobles all.

There stood the aged reveller,
And drank his last life’s-glow,—
Then hurl’d the holy goblet
Into the flood below.

He saw it falling, filling,
And sinking ‘neath the main,
His eyes then closed for ever,
He never drank again.


Written in 1774 as part of Faust, where it is sung by Margret. Translation by Edgar Alfred Bowring, published 1853. Thule is a mythical island in the far north of Europe, often identified with Iceland or Greenland.

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