The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I am now, - what joy to hear it!
Of the old magician rid;
And henceforth shall ev'ry spirit
Do whate'er by me is bid;
I have watch'd with rigour
All he used to do,
And will now with vigour
Work my wonders too.

    Wander, wander
    Onward lightly,
    So that rightly
    Flow the torrent,
    And with teeming waters yonder
    In the bath discharge its current!
And now come, thou well-worn broom,
And thy wretched form bestir;
Thou hast ever served as groom,
So fulfil my pleasure, sir!
On two legs now stand,
With a head on top;
Waterpail in hand,
Haste, and do not stop!

    Wander, wander
    Onward lightly,
    So that rightly
    Flow the torrent,
    And with teeming waters yonder
    In the bath discharge its current!
See! he's running to the shore,
And has now attain'd the pool,
And with lightning speed once more
Comes here, with his bucket full!
Back he then repairs;
See how swells the tide!
How each pail he bears
Straightway is supplied!

    Stop, for, lo!
    All the measure
    Of thy treasure
    Now is right! -
    Ah, I see it! woe, oh woe!
    I forget the word of might.
Ah, the word whose sound can straight
Make him what he was before!
Ah, he runs with nimble gait!
Would thou wert a broom once more!
Streams renew'd for ever
Quickly bringeth he;
River after river
Rusheth on poor me!

    Now no longer
    Can I bear him;
    I will snare him,
    Knavish sprite!
    Ah, my terror waxes stronger!
    What a look! what fearful sight
Oh, thou villain child of hell!
Shall the house through thee be drown'd
Floods I see that wildly swell,
O'er the threshold gaining ground.
Wilt thou not obey,
Oh, thou broom accurs'd?
Be thou still I pray,
As thou wert at first!

    Will enough
    Never please thee?
    I will seize thee,
    Hold thee fast,
    And thy nimble wood so tough,
    With my sharp axe split at last.
See, once more he hastens back!
Now, oh Cobold, thou shalt catch it!
I will rush upon his track;
Crashing on him falls my hatchet.
Bravely done, indeed!
See, he's cleft in twain!
Now from care I'm freed,
And can breathe again.

    Woe, oh woe!
    Both the parts,
    Quick as darts,
    Stand on end,
    Servants of my dreaded foe!
    Oh, ye gods protection send!
And they run! and wetter still
Grow the steps and grows the hail.
Lord and master hear me call!
Ever seems the flood to fill,
Ah, he's coming! see,
Great is my dismay!
Spirits raised by me
Vainly would I lay!

    "To the side
    Of the room
    Hasten, broom,
    As of old!
    Spirits I have ne'er untied
    Save to act as they are told."

1797, translation by Edgar A. Bowring, 1853      


Versions --> German - English:   Aytoun/Martin / Dyrsen / Zeydel
Interact --> Dual language - German & dictionary

© 1994-1999 Robert Godwin-Jones
Virginia Commonwealth University