by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
Translation © by Walter A. Aue

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.

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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

Elf‑King
Language: German (Deutsch)  after the German (Deutsch) 
   Who's riding so late
 through night so wild?
   It is a father,
 with him his child;
   his son he cradles
 within his arm,
   he keeps and shields him
 from frost and harm.

   "My son, are you hiding
 your face in fear?"
   Oh, father, see
 the Elf-King appear!
   The King of Elves
 with crown and tail!"
   "My son, it's fogs
 adrift the vale!"

   "Thou pretty child,
 do come with me!
   Such fine amusements
 I shall offer thee;
   such pretty flowers
 grow on the shore,
   my mother's got
 gold garments galore."

   "My father, my father,
 and do you not hear
   how Elf-King softly
 tries to endear?"
   Be still now, stay
 composed, my son:
   you hear the breezes
 through dry leaves run."

   "Wilt, pretty youngster,
 thou come with me?
   My daughters shall be
 attending thee;
   my daughters nightly
 their dances keep
   and cradle and coddle
 and sing you to sleep."

   "My father, my father,
 and do you not see
   the daughters of Elf-King
 beckoning me?"
   "My son, my son,
 I see them quite clear:
   those old willows looking
 so grizzled and queer."

   "I love you, I'm roused by
 your beautiful shape:
   And if you're not willing
 I'll have you by rape."
   "My father, my father,
 he's coming for me!"
   Elf-King has done me
 an injury!"

   The father's flesh creeps,
 he's riding like wild
   his arms are protecting
 the whimpering child --
   arrives at last
 at their homestead:
   Still in his arms
 the child --
  was dead --

(Singable with Schubert)

Authorship

  • Singable translation from German (Deutsch) to German (Deutsch) copyright © 2010 by Walter A. Aue, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you must ask the copyright-holder(s) directly for permission. If you receive no response, you must consider it a refusal.

    Walter A. Aue.  Contact: waue (AT) dal (DOT) ca

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Text added to the website: 2010-01-12 00:00:00
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:03:30
Line count: 65
Word count: 242