by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
Translation © by Knut W. Barde

Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): CAT DUT ENG ENG ENG FIN FRE ITA ITA
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er [hat]1 den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er [faßt]1 ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.
 
Mein Sohn, was birgst du so [bang]2 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]3;
[Meine]4 Mutter hat manch' [gülden]5 Gewand.«
 
Mein Vater, mein Vater, und [hörest]6 du nicht,
Was Erlenkönig mir [leise]7 verspricht? -
Sey 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]8 [wiegen und tanzen und singen]9 dich ein.«
 
Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
Erlkönigs Töchter am [düstern Ort]10? -
Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh' es genau;
Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau. -
 
»[Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt]11;
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch' ich Gewalt.« -
Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein [Leids]12 gethan! -
 
Dem Vater grauset's, er reitet geschwind,
Er hält [in Armen]13 das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit [Mühe]14 und Noth;
In seinen Armen das Kind war todt.

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with Goethe's Werke, Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand, Erster Band, Stuttgart und Tübingen, in der J.G.Cottaschen Buchhandlung, 1827, pages 183-184; and with Goethe's Schriften, Achter Band, Leipzig, bey Georg Joachim Göschen, 1789, pages 157-158.

First published in 1782 in Goethe's Singspiel "Die Fischerin" in the introductory scene (Dortchen's song).

1 Schubert (first version), Spohr: "hält"
2 Spohr: "scheu"
3 Harder: "Manch bunte Blumen stehn an dem Strand"; Spohr: "Viel bunte Blumen sind am Strand"
4 Spohr: "Mein' "
5 Spohr: "güldnes"
6 Spohr: "hörst"
7 Spohr: "heimlich"
8 Schubert (4th version, in the repetition): "Sie"
9 Harder: "singen und tanzen und spielen"
10 Harder: "düstern Port"; Spohr und Hille: "düsteren Ort"
11 Harder: "Ich lieb' dich, mich reizt dein' schöne Gestalt"
12 Harder: "Leides"
13 Reissiger: "in den Armen", Spohr: "im Arme"
14 Schubert: "Müh'"

Authorship

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

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

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

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • CZE Czech (Čeština) (Otokar Fischer) , "Král duchů"
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "Erlkoning", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Walter Meyer) , "Who's riding so late through night, so wild?", copyright © 1995, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Knut W. Barde) , "The Elfking", copyright © 1998, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Walter Scott, Sir) , "The Erl-King"
  • ENG English (Uri Liebrecht) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Le roi des aulnes", copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) [singable] (Walter A. Aue) , "Elf-King", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Il re degli elfi", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Amelia Maria Imbarrato) , "Il Re degli Elfi", copyright © 2006, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Research team for this text: Ofer Sheinberg , Peter Rastl [Guest Editor]

Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Last modified: 2019-04-30 11:34:09
Line count: 32
Word count: 233

The Elfking
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
Who rides so late through wind and night?
It is the father with his son so bright.
He holds the lad well in his arm,
he holds him safely, and keeps him warm.

"My son why are you fearfully hiding your face?"
"But Father, do you not see the elfenking's place?
The king of the elves with his court and his crown!"
"My son it is but a wisp of a fog bank in yonder down."

"Oh dearest child, come go with me,
many fine games I'll play with thee.
Many colorful flowers the river banks hold
and my mother has many robes of gold."

"My father, my father, but do you not hear
the promises that elfking sings in my ear?"
"Be quiet, be calm, my dearest child,
'tis the wind in the leaves that rustles so mild."

"Fine boy, do you wish to come with me?
My daughters will take care of thee.
My daughters lead the nightly dancing,
you will find their playing and singing entrancing."

"My father, my father, seest you not
elfenking's daughters in yon shadowy spot?"
"My son, my son, I see it so clear,
it is the gray old willows you fear."

"I love you, I'm enticed by your beautiful form
and if you are not willing then you will be torn."
"My father, my father, he touches my arm,
elfenking's come and done me great harm!"

The father shudders in fright and quickly rides on
and with his arm he shelters his moaning son.
He reaches the farm but barely and out of breath,
in his arms his child was with Death.

Authorship

  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 1998 by Knut W. Barde, (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.
    Contact: 

Based on

 

Text added to the website: 2006-04-07 00:00:00
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:02:18
Line count: 32
Word count: 270