Who Am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoefferby Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As thought 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 really 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 colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations 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 contemptible 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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8 thoughts on “Who Am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  1. Thank you for sharing this amazing poem that speaks to the soul and concludes so succinctly and magnificently. Makes me want to go farther than having merely peered into Bonhoeffer’s life and works.

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      1. Thank you. Just a placed a hold on the book in the library. I plan to actually finish reading it this time around. Also placed a hold on the Audiobook CD, “Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom”. Much appreciated!

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  2. Just a friendly editorial note–Bonhoeffer was executed April 9, 1945, so you might want to adjust the “Written in 1946…” below the title. Posthumous publication is a little more likely than posthumous authorship. Thanks for posting and reminding us of this awesome, honest work.

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    1. Ha! Thanks. Yes I’m not sure why no else has picked that up! Haha. Published is probably the word I’m looking for but will now need to go back to my notes.

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