29 October 2009

Just Yours

Bonhoeffer's poem, Who Am I?, was written in prison in June of 1944, though I have posted it elsewhere, some things are always good to read again. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, a founding member of the Confessing Church. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, shortly before the war's end.

Who am I?

They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others?
and before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
fleeing in disorder from a victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of
mine,
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God,
I am Thine!


  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer