The Erl King (John Wall Callcott)

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  • (Posted 2004-09-08)  CPDL #07813:        (Sibelius 2)
Editor: Jonathan Goodliffe (submitted 2004-09-08).   Score information: A4, 8 pages, 96 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes:

General Information

Title: The Erl King
Composer: John Wall Callcott
Lyricist: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Number of voices: 3vv   Voicing: SAB
Genre: SecularGlee

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella (originally). Piano accompaniment added by William Horsley (1774-1858).

First published:
Description: Glee for three voices, words translated by Matthew 'the Monk' Lewis from original poem by Goethe.

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

The Erl-King
By Matthew Lewis (1775-1818)

Who is it that rides through the forest so fast,
While night frowns around him, while shrill roars the blast?
The father, who holds his young son in his arm,
And close in his mantle has wrapp'd him up warm.

"'Why trembles my darling? why shrinks he with fear?'"
"'Oh, father! my father! the Erl-King is near!
The Erl-King, with his crown and his beard long and white!'
"'Oh! thine eyes are deceived by the vapours of night.'"

"'If you, my dear baby, with me go away!
I shall give you fine clothes, we will play a fine play;
Fine flowers are growing, white, scarlet, and blue,
On the banks of yon river, and all are for you.'"

'Oh! father! my father! and dost thou not hear,
What words the Erl-King whispers low in mine ear?'"
"'Now hush thee, my darling, thy terrors appease;
Thou hear'st, 'mid the branches, where murmurs the breeze.'

"'If you, my sweet baby, with me choose to stay,
My daughters shall nurse you, so fair and so gay;
My daughters, in purple and gold who are dressed,
Shall tend you, and kiss you, and sing you to rest!'

"'Oh! father! my father! and dost thou not see
The Erl-King and his daughters are waiting for me?'"
"'Oh! shame thee, my darling, 'tis fear makes thee blind:
Thou see'st the dark willows which wave in the wind.'"

"'I love you! I doat on your face so divine!
I must and will have you, and force makes you mine!'"
"'My father! my father! oh! hold me now fast!
He pulls me! he hurts, and will have me at last!'"

The father he trembled, he doubled his speed;
O'er hills and through forests he spurred his black steed;
But when he arrived at his own castle door,
Life throbbed in the sweet baby's bosom no more.

German.png German text

The original poem from which the above is translated
(the German version does not easily fit Callcott's music)

Der Erlkönig
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

"Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?"
"Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
Den Erlenkönig mit Kron und Schweif?"
"Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif."

"Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
Gar schöne Spiele spiel' ich mit dir;
Manch' bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand,
Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand."

"Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht?"
"Sei ruhig, bleib ruhig, mein Kind;
In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind."

"Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehn?
Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;
Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn,
Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein."

"Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort?"
"Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh es genau:
Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau."

"Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch ich Gewalt."
"Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!

Dem Vater grauset's, er reitet geschwind,
Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Müh' und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.