Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: David R. Topper

I often think that they’ve only gone on a journey,
and I shall see them all returning homeward!

Compelled by an inner urge, some
“pre-established harmony of notes and words,”
Mahler composed Kindertotenlieder.

The day is bright. Fear not!
They’ve only gone a long, long way.

Five songs on the death of children.
Gustav knew childhood mortality ―
8 of his 11 siblings died in childhood.

Yes, indeed, only on a journey,
and soon they’ll be coming home.

Mahler felt some remorse for writing these songs ―
“so terribly sad was their content.”
Alma rebuked him: “You’re tempting Providence.”

Fear not! The day is bright.
They’ve only made a journey to those hills.

Three years hence, their precious Maria ―
“Putzi,” with the great blue eyes, almost age five ―
succumbed to scarlet fever & diphtheria.

They’ve gone ahead of us,
and will never return home again.

Gustav wanted to be buried next to Putzi.
And his wish was fulfilled ―
just shy of four years after her death.

We’ll go meet them on those hills in the sunlight.
The day is glorious, on those hills!

*Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) wrote this work in the summers of 1901 & 1904. He and his wife Alma Schindler (1879-1964) had two children: Maria (1902-1907) and Anna (1904-1988). It was after the birth of Anna, when Gustav completed the five songs, that Alma made the comment about tempting God. The words were taken from poems of Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866), who lost two children. “I often think…”, quoted in italics English, is #4 in Mahler’s cycle. References: Jonathan Carr, Mahler: A Biography (1998) and Natalie Bauer-Lechner, Recollections of Gustav Mahler (1923/1980).


David R. Topper is a published writer living in Winnipeg, Canada. His work has appeared in MonoPoetic SunDiscretionary Love, Academy of theHeart & Mind, and elsewhere. Synchronized Chaos Magazine nominated his poem Seascape with Gulls: My Father’s Last Painting to Sundress Publications as a 2023 Best of the Net. It didn’t win.

Leave a Reply

Related Posts