by Eduard Mörike (1804 - 1875)
Translation © by Sharon Krebs

Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): CAT ENG FRE FRE ITA ITA
[Bei Nacht im Dorf]1 der Wächter rief: 
Ein ganz kleines Elfchen im Walde schlief --
    Wohl um die Elfe! --
Und meint, es rief ihm aus dem Tal 
Bei seinem Namen die Nachtigall,
Oder Silpelit hätt' ihm gerufen.
Reibt sich der Elf' die Augen aus,
Begibt sich vor sein Schneckenhaus
Und ist als wie ein trunken Mann,
Sein Schläflein war nicht voll getan,
Und humpelt also tippe tapp
Durch's Haselholz in's Tal hinab,
Schlupft an der Mauer hin so dicht,
Da sitzt der Glühwurm Licht an Licht.
»Was sind das helle Fensterlein?
Da drin wird eine Hochzeit sein:
Die Kleinen sitzen bei'm Mahle,
Und treiben's in dem Saale.
Da guck' ich wohl ein wenig 'nein!« 
-- Pfui, stößt den Kopf an harten Stein!
Elfe, gelt, du hast genug?
    Gukuk! Gukuk!

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Hetsch: "Des Nachts im Dorfe"; further changes may exist not shown above.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , "Cançó de l’elf", copyright © 2019, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Sharon Krebs) , "Elf song", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Chant de l'elfe", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Stéphane Goldet) (Pierre de Rosamel) , "Comptine de l'elfe", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Canto dell'elfo", copyright © 2013, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Gianni Franceschi) , "Canzone dell'Elfo", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Last modified: 2015-04-10 19:00:39
Line count: 23
Word count: 128

Elf song
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
At night in the village the watchman called out:
A tiny little elf was sleeping in the forest --
    Just at eleven o’clock! --
And he thinks that from out the valley
The nightingale must have called him by name,
Or that [Silpelit]1 might have called to him.
The elf rubs his eyes,
Steps out in front of his snail-shell house,
And is like a drunken man,
[For] his little sleep was not long enough;
And he hobbles about thus, tip tap
Through the hazelwood down into the valley,
Slips along closely beside the wall;
There sits the glow-worm, light upon light.
"What bright windows are those?
There must be a wedding celebration inside;
The little folk are sitting at the feast
And carousing about in the ballroom.
I shall just peep inside a bit!"
-- Faugh! he bumps his head against hard stone!
Well, elf, I guess you’ve had enough?
    Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

View original text (without footnotes)
Note: The German word "elf" means both "eleven" and "elf"
1 Silpelit is the king of the elves.


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 2016 by Sharon Krebs, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on


Text added to the website: 2016-03-08 00:00:00
Last modified: 2016-03-08 16:34:16
Line count: 23
Word count: 151