A Picture Worth a Thousand Words - by Rolf A. F. Witzsche

 

The Erl King


The Erlking based on a Ballade von Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Albert Sterner
music by Franz Schubert, his Opus 1 (D. 328)

 

The Erlkönig 

Click to play it -- or right-click to download

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe set to music by Franz Shubert.

Elio Battaglia, baritone

Roberto Cognazzo, piano

(1985) - presented by  The Lieder Sound Archive

 

The poem

 It depicts the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being, the Erlking or "Erlkönig"
 (suggesting the literal translation "alder king") 

An anxious young boy is being carried home at night by his father on horseback. As the poem unfolds, the son seems to see and hear mythical beings, while his father does not. The father asserts reassuringly some realistic explanations for what the child appears to see – a wisp of fog, rustling leaves, shimmering willows. But to no avail. In his self-torment the child shrieks that he has been attacked. The father makes haste to get home as fast as possible, but only to realize that on arrival the boy is dead.


Originally composed by Goethe as part of a 1782 ballad opera entitled Die Fischerin.

 

Original German

 

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.

"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." —

"Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehen?
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 grauset's, er reitet geschwind,
Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Müh' und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

 

Adaptation

 

Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear?
The father it is, with his infant so dear;
He holds the boy tightly, clasp'd in his arm,
He holds him safely, he keeps him warm.

"My son, what fear is'n thy face that you to hide?"
"Oh, look, father, the Erl King is close to our side!
Dost see not the Erl King, with crown and with train?"
"My son, 'tis the mist rising over the plain."

"Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me!
For many a game I will play there with thee;
On my beach, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold,
My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
The words that the Erl King now breathes in my ear?"
"Be calm, dearest child, thy fancy deceives;
the wind is sighing through withering leaves."

"Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?
My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care
My daughters by night on the dance floor you lead,
They'll cradle and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not see,
How the Erl King is showing his daughters to me?"
"My darling, my darling, I see it aright,
'Tis the old grey willows deceiving thy sight."

"I love thee, I'm charm'd by thy beauty, dear boy!
And if thou aren't willing, then force I'll employ."
"My father, my father, he seizes me fast,
For sorely the Erl King has hurt me at last."

The father now gallops, with terror half wild,
He holds in his arms the shuddering child;
He reaches his farmstead with toil and dread,—
The child in his arms lies motionless, dead.

 

 

 







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