This poem was written by Pavel Friedmann, at Theresienstadt concentration camp on 4 June 1942. On September 29, 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz where he died.
There are at least two versions of The Butterfly due to different translations. Below you can find the two that we have. The second was recorded by Samuel Barnett for HMD 2014 which you can listen to below.
The Butterfly – version one
He was the last. Truly the last.
Such yellowness was bitter and blinding
Like the sun’s tear shattered on stone.
That was his true colour.
And how easily he climbed, and how high,
Certainly, climbing, he wanted
To kiss the last of my world.
I have been here seven weeks,
Who loved me have found me,
Daisies call to me,
And the branches also of the white chestnut in the yard.
But I haven’t seen a butterfly here.
That last one was the last one.
There are no butterflies, here, in the ghetto.
The Butterfly – version two
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone…
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished
to kiss the world goodbye.
For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here,
In the ghetto.