Oct 23, 2008

a woebegone weakling

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (in prison)

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 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 victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!


  1. Wow- Am i one person today and to morrow another - ultimately 'I am Thine'... nice- comforting in the sense that i guess despite everything there is an answer to the omnipresent question : Who am I...
    since there is no real answer or tangible formulae to finding yourself and since its all relative so no one knows what Buddha is actually thinking when he is supposedly 'at peace' .. one option to comfort oneself in this bleak spiralling misery of searching is to tell yourself that 'I am Thine'... i think he is very clever..

  2. Going through all that just to say "I am thine"? at the end.

    I think the persona missed it completely. You don't find out who you are but trying to find out who you are (or what others say about you).

    Rather, the question should be "Who am I not?"... Read more

    And for someone imprisoned, he sure is a cuddler. Whatever he did, i wonder!

  3. As i always say and will say again - 'To be is be perceived' - i think you can only be the person who you portray yourself to be unless you chose to lie to the world (and yourself).... I don't think one can misunderstand oneself in the same sense that one can be misunderstood by other people; these basic concepts of the path to 'Who I am' have to ... Read morebe dispersed with before you come to reading anything poetic on this subject... that is to say - to scorn his mode and method and writing is one thing - to show a criticical interest or DISinterest in the subject matter is quite another - a flippant disregard altogether is careless...

  4. A flippant disregard for both (the mode and the content) is, indeed, careless. After all, this is poetry.

  5. Who am i? a constant and a flux
    Order and chaos
    Everything and nothing
    A mosaic of people I have met, the things I have heard and seen, the fears and dreams of my communities, positive and negative reactions to our experiences, unique novel character elements
    Ignorant brute and Intelligent sage... Read more
    Are we what we do or what we own? Or is being something other and beyond actions. behaviour and possessions?