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Elfenlied (1888) no.16

Part of a series or song cycle:



Bei Nacht im Dorf der Wächter rief:
Ein ganz kleines Elfchen im Walde schlief –
Wohl um die Elfe –
Und meint, es rief ihm aus dem Tal
Bei seinem Namen die Nachtigall,
Oder Silpelit hätt ihm gerufen.
Reibt sich der Elf die Augen aus,
Begibt sich vor sein Schneckenhaus,
Und ist als wie ein trunken Mann,
Sein Schläflein war nicht voll getan,
Und humpelt also tippe tapp
Durchs Haselholz ins Tal hinab,
Schlupft an der Mauer hin so dicht,
Da sitzt der Glühwurm, Licht an Licht.
„Was sind das helle Fensterlein?
Da drin wird eine Hochzeit sein:
Die Kleinen sitzen beim Mahle,
Und treibens in dem Saale;
Da guck ich wohl ein wenig ’nein!“
– Pfui, stösst den Kopf an harten Stein!
Elfe, gelt, du hast genug?
Gukuk! Gukuk!


The village watch cried out at night:
An elfin elf was asleep in the wood –
Just at eleven –
And thinks the nightingale was calling
Him by name from the valley,
Or Silpelit had sent for him.
The elf rubs his eyes,
Steps from his snail-shell home,
Looking like a drunken man,
Not having slept his fill,
And hobbles down, tippety tap,
Through the hazels to the valley,
Slips right up against the wall,
Where the glow-worm sits, shining bright.
“What bright windows are these?
There must be a wedding inside:
The little folk are sitting at the feast
And skipping round the ballroom;
I’ll take a little peek inside!”
Shame! he hits his head on hard stone!
Elf, don’t you think you’ve had enough?
Cuckoo! Cuckoo!
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)


Hugo Philipp Jacob Wolf was an Austrian composer of Slovene origin. He is particularly known for his art song, or Lieder. His Lieder display a concentrated expressive intensity unique to Wolf. 

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Eduard Friedrich Mörike was a German Romantic poet.

Mörike was born in Ludwigsburg. His father was Karl Friedrich Mörike (d. 1817), a district medical councilor; his mother was Charlotte Bayer. He attended the Latin school at Ludwigsburg, and the seminary at Urach (1818) where he made the acquaintance of Wilhelm Hartlaub and Wilhelm Waiblinger. He then studied theology at the Seminary of Tübingen where he met Ludwig Bauer, David Friedrich Strauss and F. T. Vischer.

He followed an ecclesiastical career, becoming a Lutheran pastor. In 1834 he was appointed pastor of Cleversulzbach near Weinsberg, and, after his early retirement for reasons of health, in 1851 became professor of German literature at the Katharinenstift in Stuttgart. This office he held until his retirement in 1866; but he continued to live in Stuttgart until his death. In what political and social views he espoused, he was monarchist and conservative.

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