Sixty-one years ago today, in Flossenbürg, Germany, Nazi guards hanged Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Two weeks later, the Soviets would liberate the prison.
This is the last poem he wrote, found in his cell.
“By the Powers of Good”
With every power for good to stay and guide me,
Comforted and inspired beyond all fear,
I’ll live these days with you in thought beside me,
And pass, with you, into the coming year.
The old year still torments our hearts, unhastening;
The long days of sorrow still endure;
Father, grant to the souls thou hast been chastening
That thou hast promised, the healing and the cure.
Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving
Even to the dregs of pain, at thy command,
We will not falter, thankfully receiving
All that is given by thy loving hand.
But should it be thy will once more to release us
To life’s enjoyment and its good sunshine,
That which we’ve learned from sorrow shall increase us,
And all our life be dedicate to thine.
Today, let candles shed their radiant greetings;
Lo, on our darkness are they not thy light
Leading us, haply, to our longed-for meeting?
Thou canst illumine even our darkest night.
When now the silence deepens for our hearkening,
Grant we may hear thy children’s voices raise
From all the unseen world around us darkening
Their universal paean, in thy praise.
While all the powers of good aid and attend us,
Boldly, we’ll face the future, come what may.
At even and at morn God will befriend us,
And oh, most surely on each newborn day!
You can read more about this poem and its circumstances at bonhoefferblog.
Bonhoeffer was hanged at dawn.