Thursday, April 9, 2009

One Day I Will Meet This Servant/Hero

By Smitty
Others opposing Adolf in the last century get more publicity. However, on 09 April 1945 someone whom I respect far more than von Stauffenberg was hanged in Flossenbürg concentration camp: Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There is an interesting online exhibit honoring Bonhoeffer, from which I draw the following note:
In October 1944, Bonhoeffer was moved to the dreaded Gestapo prison in Berlin.
It was in this place that he wrote something you can't readily find on the nettywebs in English: his famous poem/hymn, composed as a Christmas greeting (hence 'going into a new year') that I translated with my wife's help. May it inspire you as it did me.
„Von guten Mächten“, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By good might so faithful and supportive,
Wonderfully protected from all fear,
So with you am I this day living,
And with you going into a new year.

Still the Old Flesh our hearts will torment,
Still pressing until the last hard, evil day,
Oh God grant to our tattered souls salvation,
For which you have already laid the way.

And when you give to us the cup so heavy,
Bitter, sorrowful to highest band,
So say we to you "Thanks" without trembling,
Out of your good and well-beloved hand.

However, should you want to bring us joy,
In this world under sun, sparkling,
Then will we remember the past,
Then belongs to you our whole being.

Let warm and steady candles today flame,
That you into our darkness have brought,
Lead, when it's fitting, us again, together.
We know it--your light shines in the night.

When deep stillness spreads itself upon us,
Let us stay attuned to the full sound,
The unseen world around us then widens,
All your children joyfully praise you, Lord.

From good power wonderfully secure,
Await we, trusting, come what may,
God is by us, by evening and morning,
And knows the whole of every new day.
The last verse is usually sung as the chorus when arranged as a hymn. The penultimate verse seems to allude to ideas found in German mysticism, but I'm stretching to guess that. Can't use the fact that I'm probably out of my league as an excuse not to try, though.

If you want to have your Christianity challenged (and you should), The Cost of Discipleship will lovingly take you to the spiritual gym for a workout.


  1. I'm a little confused... wasn't the original written in German? How did it end up rhyming in English? Was he just THAT good?

  2. @Captain Obvious:
    The original can be found halfway down this page.
    Making it rhyme in English is up to the translator. It's like playing bass and drums simultaneously: capturing the language and the poetry are separate goals.
    Mostly, Bonhoeffer was THAT good. ;)

  3. I absolutely love this poem. Coupled with DB's "Who Am I?" I think it best summarizes his work very succinctly.