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Goethe Gedichte: Erlkönig - German and English - Poetry

Goethe Gedichte: Erlkönig - German and English - Poetry German Language 10/22/13 5:52 PM

10/22/13 5:52 PM

Goethe-Gedichte 1

Selected German Verse by J.W. Goethe

In the original German with a line-by-line prose translation in English

Erlkönig/Erlking (1782) von Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In German and Scandinavian mythology, an “Erlkönig” is an evil spirit that lurks about to threaten humans, especially children. It has often been claimed that Goethe's term Erlkönig is a German mistranslation of the Danish “ellerkonge” or “elverkonge” or “king of the elves,” but in fact this may not be the case. In an interesting German article on the topic, Burkhard Schröder claims that Goethe knew exactly what he was doing, and the term Erlkönig can be traced back to an ancient Greek goddess of death (Todesgöttin) known as Alphito, who became a female Erlkönigin as she moved north, and even the biblical Lilith. (For more, see German Myth 9 in our Misnomers, Myths, and Misconceptions section.)




You may also find it interesting to compare this classic poem with an updated version by Rammstein. See the "Dalai Lama " song by Rammstein .





von J.W. Goethe

Translation by Hyde Flippo

Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?

Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;

Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,

Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

Who rides so late through the night and wind?

It's the father with his child;

He has the boy safe in his arm,

He holds him secure, he holds him warm.

«Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang 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,

Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand.»

Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,

Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht? –

«Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind;

In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind.» –

“My son, what makes you hide your face in fear?” –

Father, don't you see the Erlking?

The Erlking with crown and flowing robe? –

“My son, it's a wisp of fog.” –

“You dear child, come along with me!

Such lovely games I'll play with you;

Many colorful flowers are at the shore,

My mother has many a golden garment.”

My father, my father, and do you not hear

What the Erlking promises me so softly? –

“Be quiet, stay quiet, my child;

In the dry leaves the wind is rustling.” –

«Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehn?

Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;

Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn,

Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein.»

Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort

Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort? –

«Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh es genau:

Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau.»

«Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;

Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch ich Gewalt.»

Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!

Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan! –

Dem Vater grausets, er reitet geschwind,

Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,

Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;

In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

“Won't you come along with me, my fine boy?

My daughters shall attend to you so nicely.

My daughters do their nightly dance,

And they'll rock you and dance you and sing you to sleep.”

My father, my father, and do you not see over there

Erlking's daughters in that dark place? –

“My son, my son, I see it most definitely:

It's the willow trees looking so grey.”

“I love you; I'm charmed by your beautiful form;

And if you're not willing, then I'll use force.”

My father, my father, now he's grabbing hold of me!

Erlking has done me harm! –

The father shudders, he rides swiftly,

He holds in (his) arms the moaning child.

He reaches the farmhouse with effort and urgency.

In his arms the child was dead.

Goethe Gedichte: Erlkönig - German and English - Poetry

10/22/13 5:52 PM


COMPARE > Rammstein's "Dalai Lama " song to Goethe's "Erlkönig" poem!


MORE > German Myth 9 - The Erlking



Related Pages


Rammsteins' "Dalai Lama" The German heavy-metal group Rammstein has a song based on Goethe's "Erlkönig" poem.


Dual Language Poems - Contents The contents page for all the German-English poetry at our site.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe Our main Goethe page.



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Authors in German Literature 2 Our author index and link page for German-language authors on the Web.


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Books: German Literature German literary works selected by your Guide.


Das Goethe-Institut All about this indispensible resource for just about anything to do with German and German culture.


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