Georg Trakl in the Mirabell Gardens

The Mirabell Gardens, on the right bank of the Salzach River in Salzburg, are laid out so they point directly towards the fortress. In front of the fortress are the towers of the cathedral.

Mirabell Gardens

Closer, the white building on the right is the Salzburg State Theatre (Salzburger Landestheater) and the white building on the left is the Mozarteum University. Also on the left, you might be able to find the back of the Hotel Bristol (with a flag, and the words ‘Hotel Bristol’ written backwards) on Makartplatz.

These gardens, along with the adjoining Mirabell Palace, were begun in 1606 on orders of the Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau for his mistress Salome Alt, who bore him fifteen children. Both the palace and the gardens have been remodeled in various phases since then, but they still have their fantastic views.

Apparently several scenes of the movie The Sound of Music were filmed in the Mirabell Gardens in 1964.

Poem by Georg Trakl

Carved in a stone plaque on one of the garden walls is this poem, “Music in the Mirabell” by Georg Trakl (1887-1914). In the poem, the poet enjoys the morbid beauty of the park, but as night falls the scene begins to turn eerie as a faun with dead eyes watches shadows that glide into the darkness and a fireplace fire in one of the rooms flares up and paints murky fearful ghosts. (Here he uses the word Angstgespenster, literally ‘fear-ghosts’ — a word he also uses elsewhere.)

The translator Alexander Stillmark once wrote that Trakl has “a voice that is at times reminiscent of Hölderlin, yet owes rather more to his admired French fellow-poets Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé.” If you wish, you can click here to read the poem in Stillmark’s English translation. Or you can find a French translation here. Or read the original poem in German:

Musik im Mirabell

Ein Brunnen singt. Die Wolken stehn
Im klaren Blau, die weißen, zarten.
Bedächtig stille Menschen gehn
Am Abend durch den alten Garten.

Der Ahnen Marmor ist ergraut.
Ein Vogelzug streift in die Weiten.
Ein Faun mit toten Augen schaut
Nach Schatten, die ins Dunkel gleiten.

Das Laub fällt rot vom alten Baum
Und kreist herein durchs offne Fenster.
Ein Feuerschein glüht auf im Raum
Und malet trübe Angstgespenster.

Ein weißer Fremdling tritt ins Haus.
Ein Hund stürzt durch verfallene Gänge.
Die Magd löscht eine Lampe aus,
Das Ohr hört nachts Sonatenklänge.

My photos in this post are from 2016. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on Salzburg, Austria.

4 thoughts on “Georg Trakl in the Mirabell Gardens”

  1. Lovely garden in the heart of Salzburg.We were there last year! Dreaming of visiting again since there are still so many things to explore in this beautiful city!

    1. Apparently archbishops didn’t believe in contraception in those days. Poor Salome Alt must have been pregnant more or less constantly, but at least she had lots of servants to take care of all the children.

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