Goethe: “The Rat-Catcher”

By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). Set by by Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) , “Der Rattenfänger”, from Goethe-Lieder, no. 11. Translation © Emily Ezust, from The Lied & Art Song Texts Page.


Der Rattenfänger

I am the well-known singer,
the widely-travelled rat-catcher,
of whom this old, famous city
certainly has an especial need.

And even if the rats are very numerous,
and even if there are weasels in the picture,
of each and every one I'll clear this place;
they must all go away.

Then also, this well-disposed singer
is from time to time a child-catcher,
who can capture even the wildest
when he sings golden fairy tales.

And even if the boys are defiant,
and even if the girls are startled,
I pluck my strings
and each and every one must follow.

Then also, this many-skilled singer
occasionally is a maiden-catcher;
in no town does he stay
where he does not bewitch many.

And even if the maidens are shy,
and even if the women are prim,
each and every one becomes lovestruck
from his magical strings and songs.