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.
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,
Von lieber Hand.
Wie lieblich war der Lindenduft!
Wie lieblich ist der Lindenduft!
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,
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.
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!
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!
Love and sorrow, and world and dream!
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: