Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Linden Tree

Whenever I smell French Lime Blossom by Jo Malone my mind reels back to my childhood; to days sprinkled with insouciance, eyes open at the crack of dawn filled with eager anticipation on what each new moment will bring, hope for happiness and belief in all that is good in the world. And now that I look back on it with the experience of some years on my back it seems like nothing turned out the way I expected although the result is not unsatisfactory; far from it. Yet the nostalgia which fills me on this grey day for the innocence of days bygone is shaping like an apparition in the steam of my cup filled with linden tea.
Lime tree, also known as "linden" ~or "tilleul" in French and "φλαμουριά/flamouria" in Greek~ produces blossoms like no other: they possess a childhood innocence in line with their soothing properties when infused into a pale-coloured yellow, tinged with jade, tisane. Its limpid sweetness, whether or not I am soaking a madeleine or not in it, brings to mind the Northern tales of this holy tree and the German lieder by Franz Schubert Die Lindenbaum (verse by that great Hellenophile* Wilhelm Müller) that my mother used to sing as a lullaby to me when I was but a little girl, her voice as melodious as that of Nana Mouskouri singing in German.

By the fountain, near the gate,
There stands a linden tree;
I have dreamt in its shadows
so many sweet dreams.
I carved on its bark
so many loving words;
I was always drawn to it,
whether in joy or in sorrow.

Today again I had to pass it
in the dead of night.
And even in the darkness
I had to close my eyes.
Its branches rustled
as if calling to me:
"Come here, to me, friend,
Here you will find your peace!"
The frigid wind blew
straight in my face,
my hat flew from my head,
I did not turn back.

Now I am many hours
away from that spot
and still I hear the rustling:
"There you would have found peace!"

*Γουλιέλμω Μύλλερ τω ποιητή των Ελληνικών ασμάτων, ο ευγνωμονών Ελληνικός λαός (the Greek epigram on Pentelic marble on the doorstep of his house, commissioned in 1927)

Clip of composer Mikis Theodorakis singing Die Liendenbaum in Greek at his concert at Rosa Luxemburgplatz (then part of East Berlin) in 1987, originally uploaded by Ulco64 on Youtube


  1. Linden and muguet were the scents of tween years, I absolutely adored them, now I don't really wear either.

  2. Thank you so much for the musik - Franz Schubert is great and i remember me on the concert in berlin. I was there.

    What for a day!

    Herzliche Gruesse aus Berlin,

  3. Oh... I love Lindenbaum flowers. In late May Zurich's top shopping mile (Bahnhofstrasse, top for prices and top for the chocolate at Spruengli's...) smells like a gigantic Lindentree. I can't wait for May.....

  4. Jena,

    they're quite innocent both, maybe that's why they symbolise early youth in our eyes...

  5. Erik,

    thank you for saying so :-)
    It must have been a great concert and that lieder is a very memorable tune for me.

  6. Andy,

    ah...Bahnhofstrasse is to be pligrimaged then when I come there!! (Swiss chocolate has a way of making me turn my head Exorcist-like!)
    What a lovely image...wonder if you'd include them as protagonists in a fragrance :-))

  7. stella p20:36

    Thank you very much for this youtube-link, it is such a beautiful lied and brings tears in my eyes. I also liked Theodorakis´version in Greek.
    My mother also had a lovely voice and used to sing for me at bedtime. Unfortunately she died much to early when I had just turned into an adult. But this brings joyful memories! :)

  8. Rappleyea23:07

    There are rows of linden trees lining the drives in front of the condos where I live. They are glorious in the late spring, and I noticed even in the fall, the dying leaves had a sweet smell.

    I must try the Jo Malone! Can it really be as beautiful as linden blossom? Thank you as always for your writing.

  9. Beautiful...

    I am always thankful for a moment when scent, and sentiment, and music, can all merge into a pondering. Much appreciation to you for bringing that to my day today.

    (And now, I'm going to dig out that Thymes Tilleul I've had squirreled away in the closet...this may be a nice way to close out the day. Maybe I'll even play some music...)

  10. I always think Mahler.."Ich atmet eine Lindenduft"...

    For linden, I go for Eau de Ciel, and Orchidee Blanche.
    And the discontinued L'Occitane.
    All Boston streets are lined w/ lindens; I remember being fully pregnant when they were in bloom....

  11. I love French Lime Blossom, in fact it's the only Jo Malone I own and I always get loads of compliments on it, although that's not why I wear it.

    To me it smells of Paris and spring! Perhaps strange but that's where I first came across the smell. It always makes me smile.

    I'm going to have to get me some of this lime blossom tea, it sounds so so good.

  12. S,

    oh dear, I am so sorry for your loss :-( But the happy memories make up for it a little, don't they?
    I like the Theodorakis version as he sings it lik it's a mystical thing (which it is!) and also because he changes one word in there: he says carved "holy" words, instead of "beloved" bringing this to the plane of the holy and mythology as we discussed before...

  13. R,
    what a beautiful picture! And thanks for your compliment.
    I hope you like the Jo Malone: it's simple, luminous and lovely.

  14. S,

    you're very welcome; I am ever so glad it has brought joy to many of you! I would love to have been able to hear you play :-))

  15. I,

    Hope you're well, honey and everything is taking its turn for the best.

    Mahler also would come to mind, you're right (as always), but this one has personal associations for me, you see: it pops into my mind like a well-worn slipper.
    The L'Occitane was truly lovely, why did it have to get discontinued? Eau de Ciel is also an ethereal beauty, delicate and good in the heat; I think I had swapped it at some point and later regretted it. As to Orchidee Blanche, L'artisan should really be reprimanted for not keeping it in the line.

    How beautiful: to be joyfully pregnant and have linden trees around... *sigh*
    A more fitting image I couldn't imagine.

  16. K,

    compliments, huh? Those are nice too, don't knock them.
    I agree it has something of romantic gay Paree in the air :-))
    Lime blossom tea is wonderful to make in the house because it imparts a nice smell to the whole kitchen as well. Just drink it in the evening, makes you drowsy.

  17. I really like linden tree flower as well, my favorite is La Chasse.

  18. What a lovely posting- thank you for sharing your memories with us and that beautiful lullaby...

  19. What a lovely and lyrical post! I too love linden in all its different nationalities, although I was quite sad to find the last time I was in France that those chunky Savon de Marseille soaps you used to be able to get in every market and giftshop no longer seem to come in Tilleul... I even asked one or two of the vendors who said "Oh wow, yes, I hadn't noticed, I wonder why that is..." (in french, natch) - maybe the french feel the same about it as the english do about lavender - i.e. it's an "old-lady" smell? I love lavender too. I have a bottle of the Jo Malone and wear it a lot in the summer. So refreshing!

  20. L,

    La Chasse is very delicate, very pretty :-)

  21. Daily,

    you're welcome. I have lots of scents associations, so bear with me :-)

  22. Lucy,

    Thanks! Re: the Marseille soap: they don't? Hmm, I think I saw some here just recently(?!what the hell?!)
    I will see if they still have them, hadn't thought of it that way (as a cultural thing like lavender). Interesting!


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