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Archive for February 20th, 2017

One of Bonhoeffer’s last poem,  “Who Am I?”  deserves another hearing:

 

Who am I? They often tell me

I would step from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

 

Who am I? They often tell me

I would talk to my warders

freely and friendly and clearly,

as though it were mine to command.

 

Who am I? They also tell me

I would bear the days of misfortune

Equably, smilingly, proudly,

Like one accustomed to win.

 

Am I then really all that which men tell of?

Or am I only what I 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 neighborliness,

Trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,

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 today, and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

 

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

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