WHO rideth so late through the night-wind wild?
It is the father with his child;
He has the little one well in his arm,
He holds him safe, and he folds him warm.
“My son, why hidest thy face so shy?”
“Seest thou not, father, the Erl King nigh?
The Erlen King, with train and crown?”
“It is a wreath of mist, my son.”
“Come, lovely boy, come go with me;
Such merry plays I will play with thee!
Many a bright flower grows on the strand,
And my mother has many a gay garment at hand.”
“My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
What the Erl King whispers in my ear?”
“Be quiet, my darling, be quiet, my child;
Through withered leaves the wind howls wild.”
“Come, lovely boy, wilt thou go with me?
My daughters fair shall wait on thee,
My daughters their nightly revels keep,
They’ll sing, and they’ll dance, and they’ll rock thee to sleep.”
“My father, my father, and seest thou not
The Erl King’s daughters in yon dim spot?”
“My son, my son, I see, and I know
’Tis the old gray willow that shimmers so.”
“I love thee; thy beauty has ravished my sense;
And willing or not, I will carry thee hence.”
“O, father, the Erl King now puts forth his arm—
O, father, the Erl King has done me harm.”
The father shudders, he hurries on;
And faster he holds his moaning son;
He reaches his home with fear and dread,
And lo! in his arms the child was dead.