On Good Friday 1907, in the German university town of Halle, a young couple sealed their engagement with a kiss – and a vow to follow God wherever he led them. Eberhard Arnold and Emmy von Hollander were passionately in love, yet they rejected romance as the basis of their relationship, building instead on the promise of Jesus’ words, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33). Circumstance (and scandalised parents) kept them separated for most of the next three years. But that separation bore its own fruit: an intense exchange of letters followed, many of which were accompanied by original poems. A small selection of Eberhard's poems from this time appear below.
Two birch trees are standing;
They kiss in the light.
His working is keeping
Their clasp close and tight.
Thus are we, dear Emmy,
Encircled in light,
In joy and suff’ring
Entwined by His might!
Breslau, October 30, 1907
To my only love
We know it without even speaking,
nor is there any need to say
that it is love alone that binds us.
Together we belong for aye.
Love is the happiness of living –
love is the radiance of the sun.
We need not seek it, for it freely flows,
into our hearts unbidden runs.
In love our hearts shall beat together.
In love we are forever one.
Through love, all pain is sweetened for us.
Through love, my life becomes your own.
Breslau, September 28, 1908
As these lovely flowers growing
in a peaceful forest glade,
so the joy that comes from Jesus
to our hearts shall never fade.
Since it firmly rests on Jesus
and on God, who blesses us,
our love is like the periwinkle:
always green, for faithfulness.
I am yours, you’re mine forever –
what delight, what endless bliss!
What a sun-filled life is ours –
as this flower of happiness!
Erlangen, May 15, 1909
As published in Poems and Rhymed Prayers (Rifton, NY: Plough, 2011).