Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

(28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832 / Frankfurt am Main)

The Erl-King - Poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

1.
WHO rides there so late through the night dark and drear?
The father it is, with his infant so dear;
He holdeth the boy tightly clasp'd in his arm,
He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm.

"My son, wherefore seek'st thou thy face thus to hide?"
"Look, father, the Erl-King is close by our side!
Dost see not the Erl-King, with crown and with train?"
"My son, 'tis the mist rising over the plain."

"Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me!
Full many a game I will play there with thee;
On my strand, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold,
My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
The words that the Erl-King now breathes in mine ear?"
"Be calm, dearest child, 'tis thy fancy deceives;
'Tis the sad wind that sighs through the withering leaves."

"Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?
My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care
My daughters by night their glad festival keep,
They'll dance thee, and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not see,
How the Erl-King his daughters has brought here for me?"
"My darling, my darling, I see it aright,
'Tis the aged grey willows deceiving thy sight."

"I love thee, I'm charm'd by thy beauty, dear boy!
And if thou'rt unwilling, then force I'll employ."
"My father, my father, he seizes me fast,
Full sorely the Erl-King has hurt me at last."

The father now gallops, with terror half wild,
He grasps in his arms the poor shuddering child;
He reaches his courtyard with toil and with dread,--
The child in his arms finds he motionless, dead.


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2.

fr om a translation by
Edwin Zeydel



--------------------------- ------------------------------------------------- ----


Who rides so late where winds blow wild?
It is the father grasping his child;
He holds the boy embraced in his arm
He clasps him snugly, he keeps him warm.


"My son, why cover your face in such fear?"
"O don't you see the ErlKing near?
The ErlKing with his crown and train!"
"My son, the mist is on the plain."


"Sweet lad, o come and join me, do!
Such pretty games I'll play with you;
On the shore gay flowers their colors unfold
My mother has made you a garment of gold."


"My father, my father, o can you not hear
The promise the ErlKing breathes in my ear?"
"Be calm, stay calm my child, lie low
In withered leaves the night winds blow."


"Will you, sweet lad, come along with me?
My daughters shall care for you tenderly;
In the night my daughters their revelry keep,
They'll rock you and dance you and sing you to sleep."


"My father, my father, o can you not trace
The ErlKing's daughters in that gloomy place?"
"My son, my son, I see it clear
How grey the ancient willows appear."


"I love you, your comeliness charms me, my boy
And if you're not willing, then force I'll employ!"
"Now father, o father, he's seizing my arm
The ErlKing has done me the cruelest harm!"


The father shudders, his ride is wild
In his arms he's holding the shivering child
He reaches home with toil and dread.
In his arms, the child was dead.


Comments about The Erl-King by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (9/12/2015 3:21:00 PM)

    Erlkönig (also called Der Erlkönig) was originally composed by Goethe as part of a 1782 Singspiel entitled Die Fischerin.
    The name translates literally from the German as Alder King rather than its common English translation, Elf King (which would be rendered as Elfenkönig in German) .
    The poem has been used as the text for Lieder by several composers, among them Franz Schubert, who composed his Lied, Der Erlkönig, for solo voice and piano in 1815. Then he revised the song three times before publishing his fourth and final version in 1821, as his Opus 1.

    (see Wikipedia) (Report) Reply

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  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (9/12/2015 3:13:00 PM)

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Erlkönig

    1. Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
    Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind.
    Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
    Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

    2. Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?
    Siehst Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht!
    Den Erlenkönig mit Kron' und Schweif?
    Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif.

    3. Du liebes Kind, komm geh' mit mir!
    Gar schöne Spiele, spiel ich mit dir,
    Manch bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand,
    Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand.

    4. Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
    Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht?
    Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind,
    In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind.

    5. Willst feiner Knabe du mit mir geh'n?
    Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön,
    Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn
    Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein.

    6. Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
    Erlkönigs Töchter am düsteren Ort?
    Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh'es genau:
    Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau.

    7. Ich lieb dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt,
    Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch ich Gewalt!
    Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an,
    Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan.

    8. Dem Vater grauset's, er reitet geschwind,
    Er hält in den Armen das ächzende Kind,
    Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not,
    In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Fairly literal tr. Frank

    1. Who rides so late through the windy night?
    The father holding his young son so tight.
    The boy is cradled safe in his arm,
    He holds him sure and he holds him warm.

    2. Why is your face so frightened my son?
    The King of elves, father, see him yon?
    The Elfin King with his tail and crown?
    It is the fog, my son, streaming down.

    3. Yes, you my dear child, come go with me!
    The games I play, you'll like them, come see.
    The shore is coloured with flow'rs in bloom,
    My mother's gold gowns, you will see soon.

    4. Oh father, father, can you not hear
    What the elfking promises? I fear!
    Be calm, stay quiet my dearest son,
    The wind blows the dry leaves of autumn.

    5. My darling boy, won't you come with me?
    I have daughters in whose care you'll be.
    My daughters dance round the fairy ring.
    Each night they'll cradle you, dance and sing.

    6. Father, dear father, can you not see
    The elf king's daughter staring at me?
    My son, my son, I see it so well:
    Gray meadows on which the moonlight fell.

    7. I love you for your beauty of course,
    If free you'll not come, I will use force.
    Father, dear father, he's touching me.
    Of elf king's hurt, father please, free me.

    8. Dread grips the father, he spurs the roan,
    In loving arms he feels the boy moan.
    At last, the courtyard, with fear and dread,
    He looks at the child; the boy is dead. (Report) Reply

  • Oilibheir Álain Christie Oilibheir Álain Christie (11/17/2014 7:01:00 PM)

    Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
    Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
    Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
    Er fasst ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

    Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht? —
    Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
    Den Erlenkönig mit Kron’ und Schweif? —
    Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif. —

    „Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
    Gar schöne Spiele spiel’ ich mit dir;
    Manch’ bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand,
    Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand.“ —

    Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
    Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht? —
    Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind;
    In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind. —

    „Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehn?
    Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;
    Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn
    Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein.“ —

    Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
    Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort? —
    Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh’ es genau:
    Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau. —

    „Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
    Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch’ ich Gewalt.“ —
    Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!
    Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan! —

    Dem Vater grauset’s; er reitet geschwind,
    Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
    Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;
    In seinen Armen das Kind war tot. (Report) Reply

  • Cassandra Jasmine Cassandra Jasmine (9/9/2013 12:49:00 PM)

    I love listening to the German version of this; with Franz Schubert's composition.
    Goethe is a great composer for words, as Schubert for music. (Report) Reply

  • Ingeborg Von Finsterwalde (7/25/2012 1:25:00 PM)

    This poem the” Erlking” has to be one of the best translated poems right down to the rhyming from German into English. It has to be a true art to master this. Nothing of the haunting saga is lost in the translation. A pleasure to read… (Report) Reply

  • Saky Ruby (4/8/2010 10:27:00 PM)

    It must be the same poem but a different transaltion of it.
    Here's a third translation, although I doubt the one you are looking for:
    http: //ingeb.org/Lieder/werreite.html

    I read a few lines off yet a fourth translation in a Theodor Geisel biography. (Report) Reply

  • Debbie Kerns (12/29/2005 5:22:00 PM)

    I am trying to find a poem I read in highschool that is something like this one. I thought it was the Elf King. It goes Who douth ride thru wind and wild. Tis a father with his child. Closely he sheild the boy in his arms. He hold him close he folds him warm. Can anyone tell me anything about this poem? I would like to know who the author is and where I can get a copy. It is very important to me. Thanks (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004



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