by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
Translation © by Emily Ezust

Der Fischer
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): CAT DUT ENG FRE GRE ITA TUR
Das Wasser rauscht', das Wasser schwoll,
Ein Fischer saß daran,
Sah nach dem Angel ruhevoll,
Kühl bis ans Herz hinan.
Und wie er sitzt und wie er lauscht,
Theilt sich die Fluth empor;
Aus dem bewegten Wasser rauscht
Ein feuchtes Weib hervor.

[Sie sang zu ihm, sie sprach zu ihm]1:
Was lockst du meine Brut
Mit Menschenwitz und Menschenlist
[Hinauf in]2 Todesgluth?
Ach wüßtest du, wie's Fischlein ist
So wohlig auf dem Grund,
Du stiegst herunter wie du bist
Und würdest erst gesund.

Labt sich die liebe Sonne nicht,
Der Mond sich nicht im Meer?
Kehrt wellenathmend ihr Gesicht
Nicht doppelt schöner her?
Lockt dich der tiefe Himmel nicht,
Das feuchtverklärte Blau?
Lockt dich dein eigen Angesicht
Nicht her in ew'gen Thau?

Das Wasser rauscht', das Wasser schwoll,
Netzt' ihm den nackten Fuß;
Sein Herz wuchs ihm so sehnsuchtsvoll
Wie bei der Liebsten Gruß.
Sie sprach zu ihm, sie sang zu ihm;
Da war's um ihn geschehn:
Halb zog sie ihn, halb sank er hin,
Und ward nicht mehr gesehn.

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 185-186.

Note: the Eberwein score has a likely misprint in stanza 1, line 8, word 4: "empor".

1 Vesque von Püttlingen: "Sie sprach zu ihm, sie sang zu ihm"
2 Eberwein: "Herauf zu"


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

Set in a modified version by Karl Sigmund Freiherr von Seckendorff.

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

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

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , "El pescador", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • CZE Czech (Čeština) (Karel Dostál-Lutinov) , "Rybář", first published 1917
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "De visser", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Emily Ezust) , "The fisherman", copyright ©
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Le pêcheur", copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GRE Greek (Ελληνικά) [singable] (Christakis Poumbouris) , "Ο ψαράς", copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Amelia Maria Imbarrato) , "Il pescatore", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • TUR Turkish (Türkçe) (Gül Sabar) , "Balıkçı", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Peter Rastl [Guest Editor] , Johann Winkler

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 32
Word count: 170

The fisherman
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
The water roared, the water swelled;
a fisherman sat beside,
gazing calmly at his fishing line,
cool to his very heart.
And as he sits there and as he listens,
the waves split
and from the turbulent water
a watery woman bursts up.

She sang to him, and spoke to him:
"Why do you lure my children
with your human wit and cunning,
up here to this deadly glow?
Ah, if you only knew how pleasant the tiny fish
find it below the surface,
you would come down, just as you are,
and you would be well for the first time.

Does not the dear sun refresh itself
and the moon as well, in the sea?
Do they not turn their faces, breathing the waves
and thus becoming doubly fair?
Aren't you tempted by the deep sky,
the moist and transfiguring blue?
Aren't you tempted by your own face
shining in the eternal dew?"

The water roared, the water swelled,
and moistened his naked foot;
and his heart filled with the longing
that he felt at the greeting of his beloved.
She spoke to him, and sang to him;
then all was done for him;
half pulled by her and half sinking himself,
he went down and was never seen again.


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © by Emily Ezust

    Emily Ezust permits her translations to be reproduced without prior permission for printed (not online) programs to free-admission concerts only, provided the following credit is given:

    Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust,
    from the LiederNet Archive --

    For any other purpose, please write to the e-mail address below to request permission and discuss possible fees.

Based on


This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 32
Word count: 211