aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Another poem for Hallowe'en

A little culture on order:  today's poem is a classic ballad from Goethe (with my translation).  Goethe got the story from a Danish poem.  In Goethe's version, the Erlking (elf-king) comes to steal away a child.  He is invisible to the child's father.  The child is sick, and certain sicknesses were associated with the malign influence of the elves.  When the father and the child reach their home, the child is dead.

The poem has been set to music by several composers.  Schubert's version is probably the most famous.  It's a challenging piece, in which the singer has to interpret all four characters (narrator, father, child, and erlking), each of whom is written in a slightly different register.  (I've sung it.  It's a workout.)

Anyway, it's dramatic and creepy -- and very fitting for Hallowe'en.

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.

      Who rides so late through the windy night?
      It is a father with his child;
      He has the boy secured by his arm,
      He holds him closely, he keeps 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. –

      My Son, why do you hide your face?
      Father, don’t you see the Erlking?
      The Erlking, with crown and cape?
      My Son, it is a wisp of fog.

"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."

      You lovely child, come, go with me!
      I will play beautiful games with you;
      There are many colorful flowers on the shore,
      My Mother has many golden gowns.

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 Father, my Father, can’t you hear
      What Erlking softly promises me?
      Be calm, stay calm, my child;
      The wind is rustling through the dry leaves.

"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."

      You fine boy, will you go with me?
      My daughters will wait upon you beautifully;
      My daughters lead the nightly dance,
      And will rock you and dance and sing for you.

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. –

      My Father, my Father, can’t you see there
      Erlking’s daughters in that gloomy place?
      My Son, my Son, I see it clearly:
      It looks like old gray willows.

"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! –

      I love you, your beautiful appearance entrances me;
      And if you’re not willing, then I’ll use force.
      My Father, my Father, he’s got hold of me!
      Erlking has done me a harm!

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.

      It horrifies the father, he rides swiftly,
      In his arms he holds the moaning child,
      He reaches his yard struggling against the emergency;
      In his arms the child was dead.

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