Rosa Luxemburg
Letters to Sophie Liebknecht

Breslau, Nov. 24, 1917

You are mistaken in thinking that I have a prejudice against modern poets. About fifteen years ago I read Dehmel[27] with pleasure. A prose piece of his – I cannot remember it very clearly, At the Deathbed of a beloved Wife, or some such title — charmed me. I still know Arno Holz’s[28] Phantasus by heart. I used to be very fond of Johann Schlaf’s[29] Frühling. Then I broke away from these new loves, and returned to Goethe and Möricke. I don’t understand Hoffmannsthal, and I know nothing of George.[30] It is true that in all of them I take somewhat amiss the combination of perfect form with the lack of a grand and noble philosophy. This cleavage between form and substance produces in me an impression of vacancy, so that the beauty of form becomes a positive irritant. As a rule they give wonderful portrayals of mood. But human beings are other things besides mood.

Sonichka, the evenings are magical now, like those of spring. I go down into the courtyard at four o’clock. Twilight has already begun, so that hideous prospect is veiled in a mysterious obscurity. The sky shines with a clear blue light, and in it floats the silvery moon. Every day at this time hundreds of rooks fly across the yard in a scattered flock, passing high in the air on their way back from the fields to the rookery where they spend the night. They fly with an easy stroke of wing, uttering a strange call, very different from the sharp cawing one hears when they are on hunt for food. The honk-coating call is muted, and somewhat throaty. When a number of them caw like this, one after another, it suggests to my mind the picture of little tinkling balls of metal which they are throwing from one to the other in the air. They are exchanging notes concerning the day’s happenings. These rooks seem to me so full of grave importance, when I watch them evening after evening as they trace their accustomed homeward path, that I feel quite a veneration for them and continue to gaze after them till the last one has vanished. Then I wander up and down in the darkness, watching the prisoners who are still busily at work in the yard as they flit to and fro like vague shadows. I rejoice that I am myself invisible, so completely alone, so free with my reveries and the stolen greetings that pass between me and the rooks – and the mellow air, with its suggestion of springtime, is so sweet to me. Then I see some of the prisoners bearing heavy pots (the soup for supper). All form up in two files, so that ten couples march into the building. I bring up the rear. In the courtyard and in the workshops the lights are gradually extinguished. As soon as I have gone in, the yard door is locked and bolted behind me – the day is ended. Notwithstanding my sorrow at the loss of Hans, I feel so calm. I am living in a world of fancy in which he is still alive. I often throw a smile to him when I think of him.

Farewell, Sonichka. I look forward so to your coming. Write soon, by the official route to begin with, and in the other way when you get a chance.

My love.
Your Rosa


[27] Richard Dehmel. German poet, born 1863, died 1921.

[28] German poet and dramatist, born 1863.

[29] German author, born 1862.

[30] Stephan George, contemporary German poet, described by some of his admirers as the greatest of all living poets.

Last updated on: 16.12.2008