Who rides through night and wind at this time of night?
It’s the father with his child;
He must have the boy in his arms,
He’ll grab him, keep him warm.
My son, why do you hide your face? –
You see, Father, not the Erl King?
The alder king with crown and tail?
My son, it’s a foggy place. –
“Dear child, come, walk with me.
I’ll play some nice games with you;
Some colourful flowers are on the beach
My mother has many a garment of gold.” –
My father, my father, and don’t you hear
What Erlenkönig quietly promises me? –
Be calm, stay calm, my child;
The wind rustles in scrawny leaves. –
“Wilt thou, gentle boy, walk with me?
My daughters shall wait upon thee, fair maidens;
“My daughters will lead the night’s company
And rock and dance and sing you in.” –
My father, my father, and don’t you see
Erlkönig’s daughters in the dark place? –
My son, my son, I see it clearly:
The old willows seem so gray. –
“I love you, I’m attracted to your beautiful figure;
And if thou art not willing, I will use force.” –
My father, my father, now he’s touching me!
Erlking has hurt me. –
His father is afraid; he rides fast,
He holds the groaning child in his arms,
Reaches the court with difficulty;
In his arms the child was dead.
In 1815, Schubert was only eighteen years old, a ballad by the famous poet J. W. v. Goethe fell into his hands. It captivated him so much that he immediately sat down at his desk and within hours threw the work onto paper – the song “Der Erlkönig”, so well-known today.
His friends were thrilled and soon the song was one of the most popular works of its genre.
But when Schubert sent the setting to the poet he admired, he never received an answer.
However, Goethe said:
“To paint tones by tones: to thunder, to blare, to splash and splash is detestable (horrible).”