from Look Through the Bars by ERNST TOLLER, translated by R. Ellis Roberts
The Fortress-Prison of Niederschönenfeld
When, on a wan evening in February, I took the field-path to the prison, the distant landscape filled my eyes, eyes freed from month after month of tormenting prison walls; when there came to me the smell of mother earth I was at first terrified, I looked round in such profound shyness that my three warders came closer and were more watchful.
But then I breathed deeply in a happy silence.
In those remote fields stood a lonely birch-tree, with tender, frail branches. Memory touched me. The landscape was familiar to me: this was like the landscape of my home. What do they know of your beauties, those who scorn you, because the east wind is yours, because your name sounds unlovely in the ears that are stopped with the bitter cry of hate?1
When we walk in the prison yard our eyes rise to the plank fence, five metres high, rise to the iron spikes which the fence wears for its diadem, rise and fall in sudden dizziness down the precipices of our dark longing. But when we look through the cracks in the fence and see the barbed wire outside and the posts for the warders who spy on us through little holes, then we laugh scornfully and sing a song of defiance and of freedom.
The grass grows stunted in the yard.
Spring is coming. Do you hear? Spring! Here this word is shouted; it is sung to ourselves, it is caressed like a vase of price. How many years it is since I saw the Spring! Last year, I was in hiding, in the