By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated by San Antonio Rose
Translator's note: I thought, for the sake of the story, it would be better not to try to keep the rhythm and rhyme of the original. You've seen how it goes in German; here the sense is more important. It also makes the flow of the story more sensible… or at least I hope it does. "Hof" is a little difficult; for the sake of the story, I translated it as "courtyard," but in the context of the poem itself, it could also refer to a large farmhouse or manor house. Oh, and the emphasis in the next to last stanza is not original; it's just so hard to capture a screaming child in just the translated words.
Who rides so late through night and wind?
It is the father with his child.
He has the boy well in his arm,
He grasps him securely, he keeps him warm.
My son, why are you hiding your face in such terror? –
Father, don't you see the Elvenking,
The Elvenking with crown and train? –
My son, that's a patch of fog.
"You lovely child, come go with me!
Such wonderful games I'll play with you;
There are many colorful flowers on the beach,
And my mother has many golden clothes for you."
My father, my father, and don't you hear
How the Elvenking is promising things to me so softly? –
Be calm, stay calm, my child;
The wind is rustling in the dry leaves.
"Fine boy, do you want to go with me?
My daughters will wait upon you;
My daughters will perform the nightly dance
And weave and dance and sing for you."
My father, my father, and don't you see there
The Elvenking's daughters on the dusky corner? –
My son, my son, I see it exactly;
It looks like the old grey willows to me.
"I love you, your beautiful form tempts me,
And if you're not willing, I will use force!"
My father, my father, now he's grabbing me!
The Elvenking has hurt me! –
The father shudders, he rides swiftly,
He holds the moaning child in his arms,
Reaches the courtyard with great difficulty;
In his arms the child has died.