Der Lindenbaum – The Linden Tree

The song in the spotlight for today’s blog post is “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft”. It was composed by Gustav Mahler and appears in his song cycle: Rückert Lieder. The character in the poem breathes in the enchanting scent of the Linden tree and it reminds them of a moment shared with a loved one.

Linden flowers

The rising melody lines in both the piano accompaniment and vocal part are suggestive of the invisible dance of scent. To me, this arrangement tenderly captures the delicate nature of fragrance and its continuous motion through the meandering melody of the right-hand piano part, bell-like spread chords, and occasional high notes that sweep through the vocal melody. All these compositional choices amalgamate to give a graceful impression of the word “Lind”, which in German means gentle and mild.

Poem and Translation

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!
Im Zimmer stand
Ein Zweig der Linde,
Ein Angebinde
Von lieber Hand.
Wie lieblich war der Lindenduft!
Wie lieblich ist der Lindenduft!
Das Lindenreis
Brachst du gelinde;
Ich atme leis
Im Duft der Linde Der Liebe linden Duft
I breathed a gentle fragrance!
In the room stood
A spray of linden,
A gift
From a dear hand.
How lovely the fragrance of linden was!
How lovely the fragrance of linden is!
The spray of linden
Was gently plucked by you;
Softly I breathe
In the fragrance of linden
The gentle fragrance of love.
A Linden Tree

Linden Trees flower for two weeks between May and July. The flowers of this tree produce essential oils that are aromatic. The scent has been described as soothing, sweet, fresh, and similar to honeysuckle or jasmine. To me, this suggests that the character is reminiscing of a memory that happened during the springtime and early summer, a comforting period of the year but also suggestive of courtship and renewal, so perhaps this is an early memory of a cherished relationship.

The use of symbols in poetry can often help poets to represent a common theme or emotion. Since the 12th and 13th centuries poets have used the Lindenbaum in German lyric poetry, “as the spot for lover’s rendezvous and hence, by extension, a symbol of all that is gentle, sweet (lind) and good in nature.” (Susan Youens, 1986). However this particular tree provided a notable contrasting image to Mahler in “Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz”. This song appears at the end of his song cycle “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” (Songs of a Wayfarer). In the final verse the Wayfarer finds his final place of rest beneath a linden tree in bloom.

Auf der Straße stand ein Lindenbaum,
Da hab’ ich zum ersten Mal im Schlaf geruht!
Unter dem Lindenbaum,
Der hat seine Blüten über mich geschneit,
Da wußt’ ich nicht, wie das Leben tut,
War alles, alles wieder gut!
Alles! Alles!
Lieb und Leid, und Welt und Traum!
A linden tree stood by the roadside,
Where I first found peace in sleep!
Under the linden tree
Which snowed its blossom on me,
I was not aware of how life hurts,
And all, all was well once more!
All! All!
Love and sorrow, and world and dream!
The Wayfarer’s Final Resting Place Under The Branches Of A Linden Tree

Here is a short sample of our recording of “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft”. If you would like to hear the song in full follow this link:

50 thoughts on “Der Lindenbaum – The Linden Tree

  1. Interesting poetry. I like the description of the piano with a “meandering melody” and “bell-like spread chords”. The scents of flowering trees are a mystery to me. It’s so dry out here, flowers and flowering plants have almost no scent.

    1. I love the smell of lilac trees, I’ve not come across the linden tree. My mum has a beautiful magnolia tree but I don’t think it has a strong smell. We’ve had a lot of rain this past week, good for the grass 😂 and brolly 🌂 sales.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. We have a lilac tree that is in bloom. It’s beautiful but no real scent. It’s so dry here right now that the first half of the dishes are dry before I get the second half washed. We have had a little rain. Enough to make the cars muddy. Brollys out here are better lighting rods than keeping you dry.

      2. Lol. I must admit i’m always a bit concerned using a brolly if it is lightening. Self drying plates now there is a big benefit! When I first translated the song from German I thought it was a lime tree so I imagined the scent of lime.

      3. I love the scent of lime. We get a lot of lighting out here, so it’s a real concern. There is a lighting research center 70 miles south of us at NM Tech University.

      4. One of my favourite films was about lightening in America making glass out of sand, I hadn’t realised it could do that so thanks Sweet Home Alabama.

      5. It’s amazing what lighting can do. Our house was struck by lighting in the early 1990s. Laurie was starting to hang a plant on rails I have in the ceiling in the sun room to hang plants on. She and Tristan said there was a huge bang, and the electricity arced all the way around the rails. Laurie was lucky she hadn’t made contact with the basket on the rail or she might have been electrocuted. The lightening left a huge dent in the metal roof that I had a heck of a time beating out, it took out a computer and melted several breakers in the breaker box. I had quite a mess to clean up from that strike.

    1. That is very interesting thank you for letting me know.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Just like you Christine, I love learning about your birds and plants and your nature swims of course I hope you can get back to that soon.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. I must admit now that I know what the linden trees look like I’ll keep an eye out when I’m walking around.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  2. Lovely poems and music! Linden trees are what we call lime trees in the UK, we have two giant ones right next door and at a certain time of year the air is wonderfully scented, though some years, perhaps because of weather conditions, you can’t smell them at all.

    1. Thank you Hilary, when i first translated it I put lime trees but imagined they were the fruit lime trees. I must keep an eye out for them and see if there are any in Greenwich park. I met Gary Waller who was the Chair of the Mahler society through my blog and he asked me to learn some Mahler and gave me a concert, sadly he passed away way too soon and I was asked to sing at his funeral, every time I sing Mahler I think of him, such a lovely man, so my memory of him lives on.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Years of practice hehe. I’m more proficient in German then Italian, then French. But I do enjoy learning Czech songs and Russian but they take me a lot longer. Thank you.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Yes I still imagine there is plenty of uncharted territory under the sea for example but we humans seem to need to discover every nook on land. Thank you for reading.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. Thank you 🙂
        I wanted to mention this too, I really enjoy your music and you’re a great team.
        All the best for your future projects.
        Take care.

  3. Dear Charlotte and George, You always rise our spirits. Thanks so much! The very best to you, my friends! 🙂

  4. You sing this lovely song so beautifully, Charlotte! I love the smell of lime trees in flower, in fact for my birthday some years ago my husband bought me four small lime trees which I planted along the border of our garden. They have doubled in size but haven’t flowered yet!
    Take care,
    Clare

    1. Thank you Clare 😊 George is the one with green fingers not me, but I do like his balcony garden now with a lovely lemon tree. I wonder why the trees aren’t flowering? My Mum has an apple tree but it has never had fruit on it.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. I think our lime trees are still not tall/old enough. We will just have to wait a few years longer. I wonder if your Mum’s apple tree isn’t being pollinated. They can’t produce fruit on their own so there has to be another apple tree close by that blossoms at the same time to enable cross-pollination. Or maybe the blossom is frosted every year?
        Best wishes,
        Clare

      2. Maybe so, there are no other apple trees nearby. Wouldn’t it be funny if it serendipitously flowered this year now.
        Best wishes
        Charlotte

  5. I’m so happy I own this album!
    Dear Charlotte, I am over on my GLAM blog, hence the non-gown Gravatar.
    Your posts of late have been most informative and charming.
    I don’t know the Linden, but I hope one day to catch its aroma.
    I can hardly wait to get my pencils from Timothy!
    I must do a spectacular drawing of Lala!
    Also, I am thrilled that you will get to see your parents, soon. My, it has been a long year…plus some.

    Sing away, my favourite song bird, sing away!
    Resa
    ❦❦❦

    1. It’s great that Timothy is able to help to get you your craft materials, just brilliant. It’s nice to explain more about how a song/concert program comes about and what all the songs are about so that people who don’t speak the language can understand the story behind the song. My Nana always says it’s nice but I can’t understand it so I always have her in mind.
      Tra la la la la laaaaaaa🎶💕
      Best wishes
      Charlotte x

      1. Agree! I’ve learned a lot from you!
        Thank you, “Dahling” Charlotte!
        Your Nana taught you well!
        ❦❦

  6. I’ve got two lilac trees, a white one and a mauve one. Look beautiful but don’t have a noticeable scent. Your performance on I Can See Your Voice was awesome, and it was a bonus to see it again on goggle box! Well done you. 👏👏👏🥰😘

    1. Tom was so excited when he saw the opening credits on gogglebox he called me straight away then Nana, she loves gogglebox so that made her day. You’ll have to send me a photo of your lilac trees in bloom and I can use them as a background image, give my love to Terry 🥰.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  7. When I was little, my favorite smell was pine trees. I remember pine cones laying about. When my sister and I would visit my grandmother, there were pine trees everywhere. The sound of crickets in the air. My favorite childhood memory.

    1. I love that this post brought a favourite memory back for your Eric we used to play pine cone cricket with sturdy fallen branches for the bats in the forest. By the way thanks for the inspiration on your Insta designs and good luck with your podcasts.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  8. Great !! As I have 3 linden trees in my garden, if you agree, when they are in bloom, I will do some pictures with your voice and George’s piano.
    All the best for you

  9. What a wonderful post, just for me. I am very partial to Linden trees – there was a row of them outside the public library in Plymouth where I went every Saturday with my parents. They would get books, then leave me there to read while they shopped. I have an incredible nostalgic moment when I smell those blossoms. Now I have your voice to go with it and George’s lovely accompaniment.

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