L. H. [Liebes Hänschen—Dear Hans]
In the midst of my lovely, laboriously achieved state of equilibrium, last night before going to sleep I was again seized by a despair blacker than the night. And today is also another gray day, without sun—a cold east wind … I feel like a frozen bumblebee; have you ever found a bumblebee like that in the garden after the first frosty autumn morning, lying on its back quite cold and still as though dead, lying in the grass with its little legs drawn in and its little fur coat covered with hoarfrost? Only when the sun warms it thoroughly do the little legs slowly start to move and extend themselves, then the little body starts to turn over [getting off its back], and finally the bumblebee clumsily rises into the air with a grumbling, droning sound. I always made it my business to kneel down next to such a frozen bumblebee and waken it back to life by blowing on it with my warm breath. If only the sun would wake poor me from this deathly coldness! Meanwhile I fight against the devils in my insides like Luther—by means of the inkwell. And therefore you must serve as a kind of sacrificial lamb and put up with a barrage of letters. Until you have loaded your big guns I will be peppering you with my small-caliber fire so much that it will keep you frightened and on edge. By the way, if you loaded your cannon with the same speed at the front [as in writing to me], then our current retreat on the Somme and at Ancre really doesn’t surprise me, and you will surely have it on your conscience if we have to make peace without annexing beautiful Flanders.
I thank you very much for the small book by Ricarda Huch about [Gottfried] Keller. Last week, when I was in quite a wretched mood, I read it with pleasure. Ricarda is really an extremely clever and intelligent person, only her so evenly balanced, restrained, and selfcontrolled style seems to me somewhat forced. Her classicism strikes me as somewhat pseudo-classical and overly deliberate. Whoever is truly rich and free within themselves can indeed give of themselves naturally at any time and let their passion sweep them along without being untrue to themselves. I’ve also been reading Gottfried Keller again: the Zurich Novellas and Martin Salander. Please don’t hit the ceiling over this, but Keller definitely cannot write a novel or a novella. What he produces is always a story, he tells a tale about long-gone, dead things and people, but I never experience something happening in the present. I constantly see only the teller of tales, who digs up all sorts of lovely old memories, as old people like to do. Only the first part of Der grüne Heinrich really lives. In spite of that, Keller always does me good, because he’s such a fine fellow, who one finds quite loveable and with whom one is happy to sit and chat about the most insignificant things and listen to his recollections in minutest detail.
I’ve never known such a springtime or experienced one to such a full extent as the one last year at this time. Maybe that’s because it came after a year in a prison cell1 or because at that time I had an exact knowledge of every bush and every blade of grass and therefore I could follow the unfolding in every particular detail. Do you remember, only a few years ago in Südende, in the case of a yellowblossoming bush, we tried so hard to guess what it was likely to be. You made “the proposal” that we recognize it to be “laburnum.” Of course it was no such thing! How glad I am that three years ago I suddenly plunged into the study of botany the way I do everything, immediately, with all my fire and passion, with my entire being, so that the world, the party, and my work faded away for me and only one passion filled me up both day and night: to be outdoors roaming about in the springtime fields, to gather plants until my arms were lull, and then at home to put them in order, identify them, and put them between the pages of a scrapbook to dry. How I lived through the whole springtime then as though in a fever, how much I suffered when I sat in front of a new little plant and for a long time couldn’t identify it and didn’t know how to classify it; many times I almost fainted, fretting over such cases, so that Gertrud [Zlottko] became so worried that she threatened to take the plants away from me. As a result I am now at home in the realm of greenery. I have conquered it—by storm—and what you take on with fire and passion becomes firmly rooted inside you.
Last spring I had another partner in these wanderings: Karl [Liebknecht]. Perhaps you know how he lived for many years: always busy with parliament, [sitting in] sessions, commissions, discussions, in a rush and under pressure, always leaping from the streetcar onto the electric train and from the electric train into a car, all his pockets crammed full with notepads, his arms full of freshly bought newspapers, which he could not possibly have had time to read, his body and soul covered with dust from the street, and yet all the while with a kind and loving young smile on his face. Last spring I forced him to take a brief pause, to remember that aside from the Reichstag and the State Assembly [of Prussia] a world also existed, and he went strolling with Sonja [Liebknecht] and me several times through the fields and in the botanical garden. How happy he could become, like a child, at the sight of a birch tree with its young catkins! Once we took a hike across the fields toward Marienfelde. You also know that way—do you know what I’m talking about?—We took that route together once in the fall, and we had to make our way over the stubble in the fields. Last April with Karl, however, it was in the morning, and the fields were covered with fresh green sprouts from the winter sowing. A mild wind was chasing gray clouds across the sky by fits and starts here and there, and the fields gleamed at one moment in bright sunshine and at the next moment would darken in shadow into an emerald green—a magnificent play of color as we tramped along in silence. Suddenly Karl stopped and stood still and began jumping in a bizarre way, but with a serious expression on his face the whole time. I looked at him with astonishment and was even a bit frightened. “What’s going on with you?” “I feel so blissful,” he answered simply, at which of course we all burst out laughing like fools.
[P.S.] You wrongly wanted to classify me as “the fairest gem” in the pearl necklace of Hindenburg’s “apes from Asia and Africa.” According to the official explanation, I am not a “prisoner of war.” The proof: I have to pay for the stamps for my letters.
The Letters of Rosa, Verso, S. 384 – 387.