Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Erl-King’s Daughter

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Denmark: Thurlston

The Erl-King’s Daughter

By Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744–1803)

Translated by James Clarence Mangan

SIR OLF rode fast towards Thurlston’s walls,

To meet his bride in his father’s halls.

He saw blue lights flit over the graves;

The elves came forth from their forest-caves.

They danced anear on the glossy strand,

And the Erl-King’s Daughter held out her hand.

“O, welcome, Sir Olf, to our jubilee!

Step into the circle and dance with me.”

“I dare not dance, I dare not stay;

To-morrow will be my nuptial-day.”

“Two golden spurs will I give unto thee,

And I pray thee, Sir Olf, to tarry with me.”

“I dare not tarry, I dare not delay,

To-morrow is fixed for my nuptial-day.”

“Will give thee a shirt so white and fine,

Was bleached yestreen in the new moonshine.”

“I dare not hearken to Elf or Fay;

To-morrow is fixed for my nuptial-day.”

“A measure of gold will I give unto thee,

And I pray thee, Sir Olf, to dance with me.”

“The measure of gold I will carry away,

But I dare not dance, and I dare not stay.”

“Then, since thou wilt go, even go with a blight!

A true-lover’s token I leave thee, Sir Knight.”

She lightly struck with her wand on his heart,

And he swooned and swooned from the deadly smart.

She lifted him up on his coal-black steed;

“Now hie thee away with a fatal speed!”

Then shone the moon, and howled the wolf,

And the sheen and the howl awoke Sir Olf.

He rode over mead, he rode over moor,

He rode till he rode to his own house-door.

Within sate, white as the marble, his bride,

But his gray-haired mother stood watching outside.

“My son, my son, thou art haggard and wan;

Thy brow is the brow of a dying man.”

“And haggard and wan I well may be,

For the Erl-King’s Daughter hath wounded me.”

“I pray thee, my son, dismount and bide:

There is mist on the eyes of thy pining bride.”

“O mother, I should but drop dead from my steed;

I will wander abroad for the strength I need.”

“And what shall I tell thy bride, my son,

When the morning dawns and the tiring is done?”

“O, tell my bride that I rode to the wood,

With my hound in leash and my hawk in hood.”

When morning dawned with crimson and gray,

The bride came forth in her wedding array.

They poured out mead, they poured out wine:

“Now, where is thy son, O goldmother mine?”

“My son, golddaughter, rode into the wood,

With his hounds in leash and his hawk in hood.”

Then the bride grew sick with an ominous dread,—

“O, woe is me, Sir Olf is dead.”

She drooped like a lily that feels the blast,

She drooped, and drooped, till she died at last.

They rest in the charnel side by side,

The stricken Sir Olf and his faithful bride.

But the Erl-King’s Daughter dances still,

When the moonlight sleeps on the frosted hill.