The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

That old sorcerer has vanished
And for once has gone away!
Spirits called by him, now banished,
My commands shall soon obey.
Every step and saying
That he used, I know,
And with sprites obeying
My arts I will show.

    Flow, flow onward
    Stretches many
    Spare not any
    Water rushing,
    Ever streaming fully downward
    Toward the pool in current gushing.
Come, old broomstick, you are needed,
Take these rags and wrap them round you!
Long my orders you have heeded,
By my wishes now I've bound you.
Have two legs and stand,
And a head for you.
Run, and in your hand
Hold a bucket too.

    Flow, flow onward
    Stretches many,
    Spare not any
    Water rushing,
    Ever streaming fully downward
    Toward the pool in current gushing.
See him, toward the shore he's racing
There, he's at the stream already,
Back like lightning he is chasing,
Pouring water fast and steady.
Once again he hastens!
How the water spills,
How the water basins
Brimming full he fills!

    Stop now, hear me!
    Ample measure
    Of your treasure
    We have gotten!
    Ah, I see it, dear me, dear me.
    Master's word I have forgotten!
Ah, the word with which the master
Makes the broom a broom once more!
Ah, he runs and fetches faster!
Be a broomstick as before!
Ever new the torrents
That by him are fed,
Ah, a hundred currents
Pour upon my head!

    No, no longer
    Can I please him,
    I will seize him!
    That is spiteful!
    My misgivings grow the stronger.
    What a mien, his eyes how frightful!
Brood of hell, you're not a mortal!
Shall the entire house go under?
Over threshold over portal
Streams of water rush and thunder.
Broom accurst and mean,
Who will have his will,
Stick that you have been,
Once again stand still!

    Can I never, Broom, appease you?
    I will seize you,
    Hold and whack you,
    And your ancient wood
    I'll sever,
    With a whetted axe I'll crack you.
He returns, more water dragging!
Now I'll throw myself upon you!
Soon, 0 goblin, you'll be sagging.
Crash! The sharp axe has undone you.
What a good blow, truly!
There, he's split, I see.
Hope now rises newly,
And my breathing's free.

    Woe betide me!
    Both halves scurry
    In a hurry,
    Rise like towers
    There beside me.
    Help me, help, eternal powers!
Off they run, till wet and wetter
Hall and steps immersed are Iying.
What a flood that naught can fetter!
Lord and master, hear me crying! -
Ah, he comes excited.
Sir, my need is sore.
Spirits that I've cited
My commands ignore.

    "To the lonely
    Corner, broom!
    Hear your doom.
    As a spirit
    When he wills, your master only
    Calls you, then 'tis time to hear it."

1779, translation by Edwin Zeydel, 1955      

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

© 1994-1999 Robert Godwin-Jones
Virginia Commonwealth University