A Toyohiko Kagawa (1888–1960) Prison Poem

[ABOVE—Kagawa, by 賀川豊彦記念・松沢資料館 (賀川豊彦記念・松沢資料館) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons File:KAGAWA Toyohiko young.JPG (note: this may be a different Toyohiko Kagawa)]

Toyohiko Kagawa went to prison the first time for arson. He had set fire to buildings for kicks. Later as a Christian and a pacifist, he went to prison for a far nobler reason: he opposed a Japanese war of aggression.

From Vengeance to Forgiveness.Corporal Jacob DeShazer flew with the legendary Doolittle Raiders in a surprise attack on Japan. Forced to bail out over occupied China, he was captured by the Japanese, tortured, starved, and held in solitary confinement. During that time, Jake began a relationship with Christ that changed his life.

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Kagawa was a rare intellectual. Not one to theorize without action, he left his upper-class home to voluntarily work in the slums, seeking to demonstrate the love of Christ there. Throughout his life, he wrote books and poems. Below is a poem written while he was in prison.

If Only There Are Stars (Translated by Lois J. Erickson)

If only there are stars,
I have my friends.
But in the dark
I think upon my fate,
And all
My spirit sickens
And the hard tears fall.

Around my prison
Runs a high stockade;
And from my wrist
Chains dangle;
But no power
Can lock my eyes.

So can I steal
This lovely light
That wraps me—
This radiance
That drips
Out of the Dipper.
Dragging my chains
I climb
To the tall window-ledge;
And though
My body cannot crawl
Between those grim iron rods,
Still can I
Laugh as my spirit flies
Into the purple skies!

Northward and northward,
Up and up,
Up to the world of light
I go bounding;
Farewell, O Earth, farewell,
What need I now of your freedom?

Fearless, I fly and fly,
On through the heavenly sky;
Breaking all prison bars,
My soul sleeps with the stars!