Saturday, 14 December 2013

Advent calendar 2013: day 14 "Der Erlkönig"

Goethe's "Der Erlkönig" is probably the best poem I have ever read. The rhythmic narrative recounts how a father and son are riding late through the woods through the night and the wind, whilst the son is tempted repeatedly by a phantom elf king. Unfortunately, the father fails to see the elf king, or hear his invitations to the child, and the tension increases with each interaction until the elf king strikes.

There has been a lot of speculation over what exactly the elf king may be, whether a genuine supernatural entity, an elf king or an alder king (depending on translation), or simply the imaginings and hallucinations of a ill child, or even a veiled eighteenth century allegory for child-snatchers.

It is highly recommended as a read in the original German, but if you don't read German, you can get an English translation on the Wikipedia webpage about the poem. I have also translated the poem into the toki pona language, which you can read below.

"jan lawa pi jan Eta" tan jan Kote
"Der Erlkönig" von Goethe

tenpo pimeja la jan seme li tawa?
mama mije en mije lili li tawa.
mije lili ona li poka, li poka.
mama li jo e mije lili, li seli poka.

mije lili mi, sina wile ala lukin tan seme?
mama mi, sina lukin ala lukin e jan lawa ike?
jan Eta li jo e len lawa e len suli.
kon telo li lon, mije lili mi.

“sina lili suwi, o tawa poka mi!
sina musi pona kepeken mi.
kasi kule mute li poka telo.
mama meli mi li jo e len jelo.”

mama mi, sina kute ala kute seme e ni?
jan lawa pi jan Eta li toki tawa mi.
ike ala, ike ala, mije lili mi.
kon li tawa lon lipu kasi.

“jan lili suwi, sina wile ala wile tawa?
meli lili mi li wile musi tawa sina.
tenpo pimejo la ona li musi mute.
tenpo kama lili la sina lape.”

mama mije mi, sina lukin ala lukin
e meli lili pi jan Eta lon pimeja kin?
mije lili mi, mi lukin kin pona
e kasi mute lon walo pimeja.

“mi olin e sina. mi jo ala
e sina la, mi kepeken e wawa!”
mama mi, ona li jo kin e mi!
ona li utala wawa e mi!

mama li pilin ike, li tawa, li tawa
ona li jo luka e jan lili ona
ona li kama ike tawa pini
a! mije lili ona kin li moli.
(toki pona translation, copyright © Damon Lord 2010)