Who’s riding late in windy plains wild?
It is the father with his child;
He has the boy held in his arm,
He embraces him close, he keeps him warm.
“My son, why cover your face in such fear?”
“You don’t see the Elf-king father, drawing near?
The King of Elves with crown and tail!”
“My son, it’s merely mist upon the trail.”
“Sweet child, come, walk with me!
Lovely games we’ll play, you’ll see;
Splendid colourful flowers are on the beach,
My mother has robes of gold within reach.”
“My father, my father, you don’t hear?
What the Elf-king promises in my ear?”
“Be calm, stay calm, my child;
In the night-wind the dry leaves spiral.”
“Will you, sweet lad, come with me?
My daughters will care tender as can be;
My daughters shall do their nightly dance,
And rock, and sing you into sleep’s trance.”
“My father, my father, Can you not see
The Elf-king’s daughters waiting for me?”
“My son, my son, I see it clearly
How you’re deceived by old woods dreary.”
“I love you, charming is your beautiful form;
But I’ll force you if you do not conform.”
“My father, my father, he pulls by my arm.
The Elf-king, is doing me harm!”
The father shudders and begins to ride wild,
Holding close his moaning child,
Reaching the yard, halting in dread;
In his arms the child was already dead.
*Translation of ‘Erlkönig‘ by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).