Schönbrunn 1918

Approaching Schonbrunn
Marching armies echo

Down symmetrical walkways

Criss-crossed in perfection

Yet going nowhere in particular

In the endlessness of leisure

Along palace paths

Hedged in with colonnades

Manicured horizontally

To become walls to be breached [1]

While victory bursts into song

With a Gloria in excelsis deo

From triumph's hill. [2]


SchonbrunnMemories echo hauntingly

With imperial plans relived

Battling the Nile, Vienna's siege

Hedges shielding a Bonaparte

In Longwood's sunken beds [3]

As the mind re-enacts regret

Too late for lessons learned

And another dynasty crashes

In the futility of war

As the emperor signs his abdication [4]

Leaving a beautiful fountain [5]

Vanquished by defeat.


May 2008


Written after a visit to Vienna and Schönbrunn, with thoughts on the end of the First World War, but also of others who had lived there.


[1] Elizabeth (Sissi), wife of Emperor Franz Joseph felt captive in organised court life (and no doubt the gardens), and longed for freedom, writing much of her poetry at Schönbrunn

[2] The Gloriette was built to celebrate the Habsburg victory over the Prussians in 1757

[3] Napoleon used Longwood's sunken gardens as a shield from public gaze when on the Island of St Helena. He had occupied Schönbrunn twice.

[4] Karl l, the last of the Habsburgs, signed his abdication at Schönbrunn, thus ending World War 1 in November 1918

[5] Schönbrunn - 'beautiful fountain'