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Wednesday
May252016

Goethe, "Der Erlkönig"

One of the most famous of all German poems ("The Erlking"), based on Scandinavian legend, and the work of this polymath.  You can read the original here.

Who rides so late through wind and night?
The father with his child held tight.
Embracing boy and steed as one,
His courage burned like warmest sun.

"My Son, what fear makes scarce your face?"
"O Father, 'tis the Erlking's trace!
His crown and robe cascade and teem-"
"My Son, 'tis but a mist-spun dream!"

"My dearest, come along with me!
What games we'll play!  What sights we'll see!
As roses bright adorn the shore,
So mother walks in gold decor."

"O Father, Father, hear you soft
What Erlking whispers from his toft?" –
"Be still, my child, be still and hear
The rustling wind in dry leaves near."

"To you, fine lad, should you come now,
My daughters will in duty bow.
In nightly dance they will you lead,
And rock and sing until you sleep."

"O Father, Father, see you not
The Erlking's coven in dark spot?" –
"My Son, my Son, I see it sure:
Yon willow trees in grey demure."

"Your shape does but my love provoke;
Resistance will brute force uncloak." –
"O Father, Father, wait no more!
The Erlking's come and made me sore!"

The father's twitch slows not his pace
As groaning child still hides his face.
With pain and fear he gains the stead,
But in his arms the child was dead.

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