Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in English!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The Elfin King (Der Erlkönig) and The Pupil in Magic (Der Zauberlehrling)

The Elfin King

Who rides so late through the windy night?
The father holding his young son so tight.
The boy is cradled safe in his arm,
He holds him sure and he holds him warm.

Why is your face so frightened my son?
The King of elves, father, see him yon?
The Elfin King with his tail and crown?
It is the fog, my son, streaming down.

Yes, you my dear child, come go with me!
The games I play, you’ll like them, come see.
The shore is coloured with flow’rs in bloom,
My mother’s gold gowns, you will see soon.

Oh father, father, can you not hear
What the elfking promises? I fear!
Be calm, stay quiet my dearest son,
The wind blows the dry leaves of autumn.

My darling boy, won’t you come with me?
I have daughters in whose care you’ll be.
My daughters dance round the fairy ring.
Each night they’ll cradle you, dance and sing.

Father, dear father, can you not see
The elf king’s daughter staring at me?
My son, my son, I see it so well:
Gray meadows on which the moonlight fell.

I love you for your beauty of course,
If free you’ll not come, I will use force.
Father, dear father, he’s touching me.
Of elf king’s hurt, father please, free me.

Dread grips the father, he spurs the roan,
In loving arms he feels the boy moan.
At last, the courtyard, with fear and dread,
He looks at the child; the boy is dead.

The Pupil in Magic

I am now, – what joy to hear it! –
of the old magician rid!
And henceforth shall ev’ry spirit
do whate’er by me is bid.
I have watch’d with rigour
all he used to do,
and will now with vigour
work my wonders too.

Wander, wander
onward lightly,
so that rightly
flow the torrent,
and with teeming waters yonder
in the bath discharge its current.

And now come, thou well-worn broom!
And thy wretched form bestir;
thou hast ever served as groom,
so fulfil my pleasure, sir!
On two legs now stand,
with a head on top;
waterpail in hand,
haste, and do not stop!

Wander, wander
onward lightly,
so that rightly
flow the torrent,
and with teeming waters yonder
in the bath discharge its current.

See! he’s running to the shore,
and has now attain’d the pool,
and with lightning speed once more
comes here, with his bucket full!
Back he then repairs;
see how swells the tide!
How each pail he bears
straightway is supplied!

Stop, for, lo!
All the measure
of thy treasure
now is right! –
Ah, I see it! woe, oh woe!
I forgot the word of might!

Ah, the word whose sound can straight
make him what he was before.
Ah, he runs with nimble gait!
Would thou wert a broom once more!
Streams renew’d for ever
quickly bringeth he;
river after river
rusheth on poor me!

Now no longer
can I bear him;
I will snare him,
knavish sprite!
Ah, my terror waxes stronger!
What a look! what fearful sight!

Oh, thou villain child of hell!
Shall the house through thee be drown’d?
Floods I see that wildly swell,
o’er the threshold gaining ground.
Wilt thou not obey,
oh, thou broom accurs’d?
Be thou still I pray,
as thou wert at first!

Will enough
never please thee?
I will seize thee,
hold thee fast,
and thy nimble wood so tough,
with my sharp axe split at last.

See, once more he hastens back!
Now, oh Cobold, thou shalt catch it!
I will rush upon his track;
crashing on him falls my hatchet.
Bravely done, indeed!
See, he’s cleft in twain!
Now from care I’m freed,
and can breathe again.

Woe, oh woe!
Both the parts,
quick as darts,
stand on end,
servants of my dreaded foe!
Oh, ye gods protection send!

And they run! and wetter still
grow the steps and grows the hail.
Lord and master hear me call!
Ever seems the flood to fill, –
Ah, he’s coming! see,
great is my dismay!
Spirits raised by me
vainly would I lay!

“To the side
of the room
hasten, broom,
as of old!
Spirits I have ne’er untied
save to act as they are told.”


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