Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

  • This poem is based on the Goethe’s famous poem – Erlkönig.
  • Schubert wrote an equally famous song for piano and voice based on the poem. Here is an orchestrated version (not orchestrated by Schubert). For those who don’t speak German (I do, by the way) this comes with English subtitles.
  • Here is an AMAZING animated excerpt. The complete video, for a price, can be found at
  • And here it is sung by Jessye Norman.
  • I just recently posted an astonishing new video based on Goethe’s poem, you can watch it here.

[Not a great reading of my poem – but here it is. There are a couple of mistakes and I may try it again when it’s not midnight.]

Erlkönigin - Page 1

Erlkönigin - Page 2

Erlkönigin - Page 3

Erlkönigin - Page 4

Erlkönigin - Page 5

24 responses

  1. The worst nightmare for any mother or father – to fail in the responsibility as a parent. And a trauma for any child – not to be listened to and understood.
    It is almost painful to read your poem – but I like it, it’s wonderful.

    The “Erlkönig” by Goethe is one of the few poems that I remember from school. We had to learn it, German was the second foreign language i Swedish schools, but in contrast to other poems of the German romantic movement, it was so easy to understand and to like.


    • That’s a hard poem to read. I don’t do it justice. It’s also, possibly, the best poem I’ve written to date.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      I love Goethe’s poetry and have translated some of it. I might post some translations, but I don’t think mine compare with the professionals.


  2. Very beautiful – and well-done. Do you have Goethe’s Erlkonigin posted on your website anywhere? I love the Schubert song as well. Thank you for sharing this.


  3. Oh dear! It is very hard complimenting such a good poem. It humbles me really. When I was about 7 or 8, my parents had a small record of Marian Anderson singing this lidd you allude to in your poem, and although I didn’t understand the words (for my mother-Tongue is Hebrew) I knew them by heart and understood the meaning, and connected it to my aching self as a child. And you dont say, “she is dead!”, which is brilliant in many ways. So, thank you, Ofrah


    • Thank you Zviah. This poem is very close to my heart.

      I was also first introduced to this poem, by Goethe, as a child (I was born in Germany and raised there as a very young child). But thank you so much for commenting. I don’t get much on my poems.


  4. Pingback: Der Erlkönig « PoemShape

  5. Mr Gillespie,
    I like that unlike Goethe, you have not explicitly ‘killed’ the child. I would like to infer that death more as a metaphor of the child in us dying when we seem to submit to the pragmatic view-point of the adults…
    I must admit I did not realize the depth of this poem until I read the review at Maclellan’s blog. Now that I have realized and also read the original by Goethe, it is singular-much appreciated.
    Now that raises a question-What differentiates an amateur poet and a master?


    • Now that raises a question-What differentiates an amateur poet and a master?

      Kevin was differentiating between an amateur poet and a professional poet. He was defining an amateur as one who doesn’t make a living by (usually) teaching poetry in an academic setting, and who doesn’t receive support through the usual venues of affiliated schools, poets and publishers.

      As to the difference between an amateur poet and a master?

      I suppose, for me, the master would be the poet who has demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the poetic art, not just as theory, but in practice as well. The master doesn’t just understand great art, but demonstrates great art. But, as an aside (and this is a story I’ve told elsewhere on this site) I remember in college sitting with a few other ambitious poets and artists. We were all discussing what constituted genius. Finally, after listening to all of us, a young woman pricked all our pomposity by pointing out that we were all defining genius in our own image. :-)


  6. Actually that question might seem a bit irrelevant here but I was reading this post and the post of your poem being reviewed by Maclellan, so it got a bit mixed up.
    I was thinking that not committing to death might and using it as a metaphor is less tragic. But on second thoughts, did Goethe think that it was more tragic to live while the child in you had died? Intentions, Mr Gillespie! :-)


    • “We were all defining genius in our own image.”
      With that in mind, Mr Gillespie, will it not be a little bit unjust declare any one poet greater than all the others?
      PS-There is no Byron in the “Poetry by” section. Any particular reason or just coincidence?
      PPS-Under certain posts, the comment section is missing eg Mother Goose and The Songbird fable. Where do I comment on it?


    • //With that in mind, Mr Gillespie, will it not be a little bit unjust declare any one poet greater than all the others?//

      No, at least not to me. The “great” use techniques that can be objectively understood and appreciated. Until one begins to understand some of those techniques (why readers – human beings – gravitate toward some poets/artists/composers more than others) these questions will continue to seem vast and mysterious, if not impenetrable. I think that part of the reason we wound up with “critical and cultural relativism” in the 20th century is because the generation after the modernists (baby boomers) had little to no clue about the tradition prior to the modernists. They convinced themselves that the appellation “great” was completely arbitrary – that there was no reason it should be applied to each one of them.

      //There is no Byron in the “Poetry by” section.//

      Well… :-) I’m only one person. That’s the only reason. Most of my reviews have been requests. Is there a poem by Byron you think I should consider (that isn’t book length)?

      //Under certain posts, the comment section is missing eg Mother Goose and The Songbird fable.//

      That’s because you’re reading the posts under “the category search result”. You need to click on the title of the post. :-)


    • //I hope you will get this in print.//

      I’ve tried. The poem, so far, is universally rejected – as is all my poetry. That’s why I’ve stopped submitting my poetry to other poets and publishers. You really don’t want to hear my opinions of them… ;-)


  7. Mr Gillespie,
    Can you please suggest any material for knowing these techniques in depth?

    “Well… :-) I’m only one person.”
    Indeed…Well, we can perhaps begin with “When We Two Parted”.

    Is it? I was just using the links given on the right hand of the page. I will try it out.

    PS-If you don’t mind, I would really like to hear your opinions on them.


    • OK, I’ll take a look at the poem. There’s a little bit of research involved and I don’t have the books on hand, so this might be a couple of weeks.

      Edit: I forgot your question:

      //Can you please suggest any material for knowing these techniques in depth?//

      Yes, as I wrote, the book to start with is “Shakespeare’s Metrical Art” by George T. Wright. Get this book. Read it.


    • “this might be a couple of weeks.”
      Very well, Mr Gillespie.

      Shakespeare’s Metrical Art
      I read the first two chapters in it(that is all Google Books allows in the preview). I will try to get this as soon as possible. Thanks a lot.


  8. Pingback: Januaridikt – en frostblomma | Stänk och flikar

  9. This is a truly beautiful poem. Thank you. I confess I’m curious– for me there was a strong echo of “Home Burial” in this poem– your poem ingests and presents a beautiful blend of many voices–Goethe, Frost, George MacDonald, and no doubt countless others. It’s odd in way that I should reach for that particular Frost poem, as it’s not very lyrical- but the interior, rural setting, the small family alone with its unspeakable grief, the observed and reported intimate conversation –brought it to mind. Do you love that poem? I will check to see if it is one you’ve written about.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: