I have just finished A Reader’s Guide to Dag Hammarskjöld’s Waymarks. Bernhard Erling, the translator and annotator, has done us a great service by providing a more direct translation, and doing such careful (and, I imagine, tedious) work in finding sources and providing explanations for dates. I don’t agree with all of his interpretations, but I am grateful for his reflections. Some final favorites, all from the Erling translation…


To let oneself be bound by a duty from the moment it is intuited is a part of the integrity which alone entitles one to assume responsibility.


This morning the birds’ song
Filled the mind
With the night’s cool tranquility.


Your body, your mind —
Only entrusted goods
For a baton bearer.

Maturation and loss:

You will never return.
Another man
Will find another city.


Easter 1960 Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality through the fact that the one who “forgives” — in love — takes upon himself the responsibility for the consequences of what you did. It therefore always involves sacrifice.

The price of your own liberation through the sacrifice of another is that you yourself must be willing in the same way to liberate, irrespective of the cost.

Saying yes:

I don’t know who — or what — put the question. I don’t
know when it was put. I don’t remember that I answered.
But I once did answer yes to someone — or something.
From that time comes my certainty that existence is
meaningful and that my life, therefore, in self-surrender,
has a goal.

From that time I have known what it means “not to
look back,” and “not to be anxious about tomorrow,”
Led through life’s labyrinth by the Ariadne-thread of the
answer, I reached a time and a place where I knew that
the way leads to a triumph which is a catastrophe and
to a catastrophe which is triumph, that the cost of life
commitment is reproach and the depth of humiliation the
exaltation that is possible for a human being. After that
the word “courage” lost its meaning, since nothing could
be taken from me.

As I continued on the way, I learned, step by step, word
by word, that behind every saying of the hero of the gospels
stands one man and one man’s experience. Also behind the
prayer that the cup might pass from him and the promise
to empty it. Also behind each word from the cross.


Is it a new land
In another reality
Th an that of the day?
Or have I lived there,
Before the day?

An ordinary morning with gray light
Reflected from the street,
Awakened —
From the dark blue night
Above the timberline
With moonlight on the moor
And the ridge in shadow.
Other dreams,
The same mountain country:
Twice I was on the ridges,
I stayed by the remotest lake
And followed the river
To its sources.
The seasons have changed
And the light
And the weather
And the hour
But it is the same land.
And I begin to know the map
And the directions.