Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ERL-KING, by JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE ERL-KING, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: O! Who rides by night through the woodland so wild
Last Line: But, clasped to his bosom, the infant was dead!
Subject(s): Death - Children; Fairies; Halloween; Supernatural; Death - Babies; Elves

O! who rides by night through the woodland so wild?
It is the fond father embracing his child;
And close the boy nestles within his loved arm,
From the blast of the tempest—to keep himself warm.

'O father! see yonder, see yonder!' he says.
'My boy, upon what dost thou fearfully gaze?'
'O, 'tis the Erl-king with his staff and his shroud!'
'No, my love! it is but a dark wreath of the cloud.'

(The phantom speaks.)
'O wilt thou go with me, thou loveliest child?
By many gay sports shall thy hours be beguiled;
My mother keeps for thee full many a fair toy,
And many a fine flower shall she pluck for my boy.'

'O father! my father! and did you not hear
The Erl-King whisper so close in my ear?'
'Be still, my loved darling, my child be at ease!
It was but the wild blast as it howled through the trees.'

(The phantom.)
'O wilt thou go with me, thou loveliest boy!
My daughter shall tend thee with care and with joy;
She shall bear thee so lightly through wet and through wild,
And hug thee, and kiss thee, and sing to my child.'

'O father! my father! and saw you not plain
The Erl-King's pale daughter glide past through the rain?'
'O no, my heart's treasure! I knew it full soon,
It was the gray willow that danced to the moon.'

(The phantom.)
'Come with me, come with me, no longer delay!
Or else, silly child, I will drag thee away!'
'O father, O father! now, now, keep your hold!
The Erl-King has seized me—his grasp is so cold.'

Sore trembled the father; he spurred through the wild
Clasping close to his bosom his shuddering child.
He reaches his dwelling in doubt and in dread—
But, clasped to his bosom, the infant was dead!

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