SS, your recent poetry job was honourable, but I feel the need to make a return to the classics, as usual. Y'all will probably remember an incident from the Dale Carnegie bible of management involving a man unwittingly shut up in a disconnected refrigerator car who dies of the cold after managing to inform posterity of his tragic fate in a scribble on the boxcar walls. All about the "power of positive thinking", you know.
At least two hundred years before Dale's prosaic, and oh so unpoetic prose hit the best seller charts, Goethe came up with the following poem which was popularized throughout the Romantic revolution, set to music on several occasions, and immortalized by... you guessed it, once again, dear Franz, that consummate disciple of wanderlust.
Here goes :
Who rides so late through night and wind ?
It is the father with his child.
He has the youth fast in his arms,
He holds him safe, he keeps him warm.
"My son, why hide your face so anxiously ?"
"Father, don't you see the Elfking ?
The Elfking with crown and tail ?"
"My son, it is a wisp of fog."
"You lovely child, come, go with me !
Many a beautiful game I'll play with you ;
Many beautiful flowers are on the strand,
My mother has many golden garments."
"My Father, my father, and can't you hear ?
What the Elfking is quietly promising me ?"
"Be calm, stay calm, my child ;
In the dry leaves the wind is rustling."
"Do you want to come with me, dear boy ?
My daughters will wait on you fine ;
My daughters lead the nightly dances
and will rock and dance, and sing you to sleep."
"My father, my father, and don't you see there,
The Elfking's daughters in that gloomy place ?"
"My son, my son, I see it well enough.
The old willows are shining grey."
"I love you, your lovely form entices me,
and if you are not willing, I will take you by force."
"My father, my father, he is clutching at me !
The Elfking has struck me sorely !"
The father shudders ; he rides swiftly,
He holds the moaning child in his arms
Reaches the farm exhausted and in dread ;
In his arms the child was dead.
Now, that's ten million times better than Dale Carnegie, isn't it ??? And in the original German, it's even BETTER.
(And by the way, the power of positive thinking, is it as... potent as the power of negative thinking ? That one is open to debate, my friends...)
Goethe was another prophet for his time, and ours, if we care to listen to him now.
You can doubtless tell that the father espouses a dry, magicless, "objective", and scientifically materialist vision (a dog is a dog is a dog) of the world around him while his son...
His son has access to the magic, and poetry which infuse the world with... meaning, albeit DANGEROUS meaning.
Is there a "right" way to see things ? An "objective" one ?
In any case, Goethe's poetry, and the rhyme manage to suggest the interpenetration of father and son's world, although we MIGHT think that they are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
And at the close, the father's "objective" certainty and reassurance fall apart in the face of his apprehension and ultimate panic.
Octave Mannoni said this years ago, in a book which is a sort of Bible to me : common sense rationalizations are the last resort in the face of the overwhelming deluge that loss of faith will bring down. Yep, my own personal experience will verify that observation.
No suggestions for interpretations of Erlkönig. Maybe... Hans Hötter, whose voice I particularly like.