Today we visit the Three Kings, well before Epiphany. Instead of the usual ‘We three Kings’ that as children went more like this:
Three Kings of Orient Are, Trying to smoke a rubber cigar! It was loaded and it exploded, and Blew the three kings afar!
I wanted to introduce you or remind you of three other versions of the Kings story. (Whose bones coincidentally live just down the street from me in the solid gold jewel encrusted box in the Cologne cathedral.)
The first carol is by German composer Peter Cornelius. In this video from Kings it is sung in English and features a baritone solo. So of course I love it, and like to sing it.
The next is by Richard Strauss and is a Lied not a carol. Although this recording is not so amazing it is seldom done and really, who can be a hater of the woman that was dressed in a French flag for the 200th anniversary of Bastille Day
Three holy kings from the land of the West
Go asking whoso passes,
“Where is the road to Bethlehem,
Ye gentle lads and lasses?”
But neither young nor old can tell.
The kings fare patient onward,
They follow a golden star o’erhead,
That bright and kind shines downward.
The star stands still o’er Joseph’s house,
Thither the pilgrims bringing;
The oxen low, the Infant cries,
The three wise kings are singing.
And finally we have a tongue in cheek Lied from Hugo Wolf sung by D.F.D (not downward facing dog, but Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
The Three Holy Kings with their star,
they eat, they drink, and do not like to pay;
they like to eat, they like to drink,
they eat, they drink, and do not like to pay.
The Three Holy Kings are come,
there are three of them, not four:
and if to the three one added a fourth,
that would be one Three Holy King more.
“I am the first, white-haired and also handsome,
you should only see me by day!
but ah, with all these spices
I’ll never win a maiden.”
“I, however, am the brown-haired one and I am tall,
known well to Woman and Song.
I bring gold instead of spices,
and therefore I will be entirely welcome.”
“And at last there’s me, black and small,
and I’d like to have a good time as well.
I like to eat, I like to drink;
I gladly eat and drink and say thankyou.”
The Three Holy Kings are kindly.
They seek the Mother and the Child;
Pious Joseph is also sitting there,
and the ox and the donkey are lying upon the straw.
“We bring myrrh, we bring gold,
and the ladies will look kindly on this frankincense;
and when we have wine from good sources,
we drink, we three, as well as six can!
But here there are fine gentlemen and ladies,
and no oxen and donkeys to be seen;
so we are clearly not in the right place.
We shall continue on our way.”