Seite 6

Der Erlkönig (1782)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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 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 grauset's; er reitet geschwind,
Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

The Erl-King

Who's riding so late where winds blow wild
It is the father grasping his child;
He holds the boy embraced in his arm,
He clasps him snugly, he keeps him warm.

"My son, why cover your face in such fear?"
"You see the elf-king, father?
He's near! The king of the elves with crown and train!"
"My son, the mist is on the plain."

'Sweet lad, o come and join me, do!
Such pretty games I will play with you;
On the shore gay flowers their color unfold,
My mother has many garments of gold.'

"My father, my father, and can you not hear
The promise the elf-king breathes in my ear?"
"Be calm, stay calm, my child, lie low:
In withered leaves the night-winds blow."

'Will you, sweet lad, come along with me?
My daughters shall care for you tenderly;
In the night my daughters their revelry keep,
They'll rock you and dance you and sing you to sleep.'

"My father, my father, o can you not trace
The elf-king's daughters in that gloomy place?"
"My son, my son, I see it clear
How grey the ancient willows appear."

'I love you, your comeliness charms me, my boy!
And if you're not willing, my force I'll employ.'
"Now father, now father, he's seizing my arm.
Elf-king has done me a cruel harm."

The father shudders, his ride is wild,
In his arms he's holding the groaning child,
Reaches the court with toil and dread. -
The child he held in his arms was dead.


Übung 10-6a Textarbeit. Read the poem and use lingro.com to understand any words you do not know.


Der Erlkönig is translated as The Erlking or Elf King (an invention of Goethe, it is not a traditional German fairy tale), and it is the imaginary spiritual figure of death that beckons the child to forgo life and give in to death. Goethe's poem (actually a ballad) has been set to music most famously by the German Composer Franz Schubert. What is curious is that in modern German culture this ballad has been adopted by numerous popular music artists -- most of all by heavy metal bands:

  • Rammstein (heavy metal)
  • Falkenstein (acoustic, folk)
  • Minotaurus (heavy metal)
  • Leichenwetter (rock - heavy metal)
  • Hope lies within (heavy metal)
  • Hel (heavy metal)
  • Abrogation (heavy metal)
  • Reaper (heavy metal)
  • Sequester (heavy metal)
  • REMOCesere (rap)
  • JDD (rap - kids)
  • Maybebop (accapella)
And there are also English language versions.