Erlkönig

Erlkönig is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe written in 1782. It is based on translation of Danish ballad “Elveskud” (lit. “Elf-shot”) into German by Johann Gottfried Herder, who transformed “elf-king” into “erl-king”. The poem mixes traditional songs about some pagan spirits or creatures luring travellers with promises of wealth with legends about Wild Hunt.

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 Blümen 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, bleib ruhig, mein Kind!
In durren 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 dustern 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 den Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

The poem has several musical adaptations, most famous one by Franz Schubert.

English translation

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Who rides so late through night and wind?
It is the father with his child;
He has the boy well in his arms,
He holds him safely, he keeps him warm.

My son, why do you hide your face so fearfully? –
Father, do you not see the Erl-King?
The Erl-King with crown and tail? –
My son, it is a streak of fog. –

“You dear child, come, go with me!
(Very) beautiful games I play with you;
Many colourful flowers are on the beach,
My mother has many a golden robe.” –

My father, my father, and do you not hear
What the Erl-King quietly promises me? –
Be quiet, stay calm, my child;
Through dry leaves the wind whisps.“ –

“Do you, fine boy, want to go with me?
My daughters shall wait for you finely;
My daughters lead the nightly rows,
And cradle1) and dance and sing (to bring) you in.” –

My father, my father, and don't you see there
The Erl-King's daughters in the gloomy place? –
My son, my son, I see it clearly:
It seems the old willows so grey. –

“I love you, your beautiful form excites me;
And if you're not willing, then I will use force.” –
My father, my father, he's touching me now!
The Erl-King has done me harm! –

It horrifies the father; he swiftly rides on,
He holds the moaning child in his arms,
Reaches the farm with trouble and distress2);
In his arms, the child was dead.

Translation into Nûrlâm

It's believed that Erlkönig should be properly translated as “Elf-king” (⇒ “Golugarn”), but Russian translation by Vasily Zhukovsky uses “Forest King” (which I prefer, but Nûrlâm's “tau” and “arn” do not form a pleasant compound word; also it would make sense that parent orcs ignite the prejudice against elves in their children by singing this song).

Mai bamâ lad zârz fugh as agh zûl as?
Za kulâ krankum tab khindsha;
Tabrus nondum bhog bazgtabor,
Tamankan bharnarz, tafîthan khâshûrz.

Dab nond, mûr fishkal thakfib zârz ufursha? –
Krank, finarmarkin Golugarn?
Golugarn, adal(sha) agh bautsha? –
Dab nond, za (kulâ) shak hizgob. –

“Fi turkûrz dâg, ukh, skât dasha!
Sharz nîr tail datail fisha;
Mak grumûrz lûth (kulû) fâlzir,
Dab krankniz brusâ mak tulkh fagh.” –

Krankdab, krankdab, agh narmarkoz
Amash Golugarn fadâtiz ghilarz? –
Ghilarz! Dab khind, irn borzarz;
Thizg gâth as zûlum shlûshâ.” –

“Fimarhiz, ghonbhog, ukhut dasha?
Dab nind darbubûtam bhogarz;
Dab nind dûghû fugh ting,
Agh lûrzhû agh lîdû agh lashû fizûr.” –

Krankdab, krankdab, agh narmarkin zîgin
Nindum golugarnob indufumor? –
Dab nond, dab nond, dakinan kilkarz:
Thakû tauzkû zash groth. –

“Dabrogbam, znanîrfib yoriz;
Agh ghung finarhiz, dai da ushdub bal.” –
Krankdab, krankdab, zil tagrauriz!
Golugarnum ruluziz! –

Krank furgaga; tadrobam hîsarz,
Tamank bazgtabor nîthug khind,
Tabarl thazdum traz(sha) agh nîrthurm-sha;
Bazgtabor, khindum kuz gûrz.

1)
sway, lull
2)
need, difficulty
translations/erlkonig.txt · Last modified: 2022/11/07 01:00 (external edit)