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Rosa Luxemburg
Letters to Sophie Liebknecht

Wronke, July 20, 1917


My darling, since my stay here has been longer than I expected, you shall have one more greeting from Wronke. How could you possibly think I was not going to write to you any more? There has been no change, there can be none, in my feeling towards you. The reason why I have not written for some time is because I knew that since leaving Ebenhausen you must have had a thousand things to think of, but in part also because I was not in a letter writing mood.

You must have heard, I think, that I am to be transferred to Breslau. I said farewell to my little garden this morning. The weather is grey and stormy; rain threatens, and clouds are racing through the sky; but still I was able to enjoy my customary morning walk.

I took leave of the narrow, paved path along the wall, where I have paced to and fro for nearly nine months now, so that I know every stone and all the weeds that grow in the crevices of the paving. I like the motley colouring of these stones, reddish and bluish, grey and green.

Especially during the long winter, when one has such a craving for something that is green and growing, my eyes that were hungry for colour dwelt gladly on these stones, to enjoy the stimulus of their varied tints. As soon as the summer came, there was so much of interest to he studied in the crannies. Wild bees and wasps make their homes here in great numbers. They bore holes about the size of a walnut, and excavate long passages underground, carrying the earth to the surface, where they make lovely little heaps. In the underground galleries they lay their eggs and store wax and wild honey. All day they are flying in and out so busily. When walking there I have to he most careful to avoid shaking their subterranean dwellings. Then there are several places where the ants have highways along which they move in endless processions, in such perfectly straight lines that one feels that they must have an instinctive knowledge of the mathematical definition that a straight line is the shortest way between two points (a fact of which primitive man was quite unaware!).

On the wall, weeds flourish. Side by side with some that have withered, are others still sprouting indefatigably. There has also been a whole generation of young trees that have shot up this spring under my very eyes, growing either from the earth in the middle of the path or from the crevices in the wall. For instance, there is a little acacia, obviously a fallen shoot from the old tree. There are several small white poplars; they only came into the world last May, but they already display a luxuriant whitish-green foliage which waves gracefully in the wind just like that of the parent tree. How many times I have paced up and down here, how much I have felt and thought! In the severe winter, when snow had just fallen, I had often to break a trail for myself, accompanied always by my favourite little coal-tit, which I had hoped to see again next autumn, but which will not find me when it comes to its old feeding ground at the window. In March, when the frost broke for a few days, my path became a watery channel. A warm wind was blowing; it made little waves on the surface of the water, but at other times the wall was mirrored in the pools. At length May came, and with it those first violets on the wall, the ones I sent you.

Today, when I was walking, looking, and thinking, some lines of Goethe’s were running in my head:

Old Merlin in his shining grave,
Where in my youth I spoke to him ....

You know what follows. Of course the poem had no bearing on my mood or upon the things I was thinking of. It was merely the music of the words and the rare charm of the verses which exercised a lulling influence. I don’t know why it is that a beautiful poem, especially one of Goethe’s, always seems to exercise so powerful an influence upon me. At times of profound agitation the effect is almost physiological, as if when parched with thirst I had been given a precious drink to cool my body and restore my mind. I don’t know the poem from the Westöstliche Diwan[16] to which you refer in your last letter; you might copy it out for me. Another poem which I have been wanting for a long time, for it is not to be found in the volume of Goethe I have with me, is Blumentgruss[17]. It is quite a short poem consisting of four to six lines. I know it as one of Wolf’s songs which is exquisitely beautiful. As far as I can remember, the last stanza runs as follows:

I have gathered them
With an ardent yearning;
I have pressed them to my heart
A thousand, thousand times.

In the music there is something so holy, so delicate, so pure, that it is like kneeling in silent prayer. I have forgotten the exact words and should like to have them.

About nine yesterday evening I had a glorious sight. When I was lying on the sofa I noticed a pink glow reflected from the window, which surprised me, for the sky was overcast. I ran to the window and was fascinated at what I saw. On the background of the monotonously grey sky, there towered in the east a huge cloud of an amazingly beautiful rose colour; it was so detached from its surroundings that it looked like a smile, like a greeting from afar. I breathed with a sense of renewed freedom, and involuntarily stretched out both hands towards the enchanting vision. Surely when there are such colours and such forms, life is lovely, life is worth living? I drank deep draughts of this rosy radiance, until in the end I felt that I must laugh at myself. After all, the sky and the clouds and the varied beauties of life are to be seen in other places than this, and I shall not take leave of them when I quit Wronke. They come with me, they will be with me wherever I may be and as long as I may live.

I shall send you a line from Breslau before long. Come to see me there as soon as you can. Best love to Karl and to yourself. Farewell till we meet in my new prison.

Your own


[16] West Eastern Diwan – a long collection of poems by Goethe, published in 1819. In the form of an oriental allegory it deals, in part, with the social problems of the day.

[17] Flower Greeting.

Last updated on: 16.12.2008