Monday, April 25, 2005


I had to memorize and recite this poem by Goethe in German IV in high school. I can still recite the first verse from memory! Anyway, it's a creepy lil thing, very famous, maybe you know it. (English translation follows)


Johann Wolfgang Goethe

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 den Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

Erlking - translated by Hyde Flippo

Who rides so late through the night and wind?
It's a father with his child;
He has the boy safe in his arm,
He holds him secure, he holds him warm.

"My son, what makes you hide your face in fear?" -
Father, don't you see the Erlking?
The Erlking with crown and flowing robe? -
"My son, it's a wisp of fog." -

"You dear child, come along with me!
Such lovely games I'll play with you;
Many colorful flowers are at the shore,
My mother has many a golden garment."

My father, my father, and do you not hear
What the Erlking promises me so softly? -
"Be quiet, stay quiet, my child;
In the dry leaves the wind is rustling." -

"Won't you come along with me, my fine boy?
My daughters shall attend to you so nicely.
My daughters do their nightly dance,
And they'll rock you and dance you and sing you to sleep."

My father, my father, and do you not see over there
Erlking's daughters in that dark place? -
"My son, my son, I see it most definitely:
It's the willow trees looking so grey."

"I love you; I'm charmed by your beautiful form;
And if you're not willing then I'll use force."
My father, my father, now he's grabbing hold of me!
Erlking has done me harm! -

The father shudders, he rides swiftly,
He holds in [his] arms the moaning child.
He reachers the farmhouse with effort and urgency.
In his arms the child was dead.

See, creepy lil thing, isn't it? It's not a very good translation, as it's not true to form, but it suffices. Anyway, that's the kind of stuff we had to do in high school. Excellent, eh?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve Gillette sings an awesome version of this poem... haunting and creepy and beautiful.