The Erl King


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

(From the opera "Die Fischerin.")

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!

For 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, thy fancy deceives;

the wind is sighing through withering leaves."

"Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?

My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care

My daughters by night on the dance floor you lead,

They'll cradle and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not see,

How the Erl King is showing his daughters to 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 aren't willing, then force I'll employ."

"My father, my father, he seizes me fast,

For sorely the Erl King has hurt me at last."

The father now gallops, with terror half wild,

He holds in his arms the shuddering child;

He reaches his farmstead with toil and with dread,

The child in his arms he finds motionless, dead.

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