Back in September, I wrote a post on a poem by Rabindranath Tagore. In my weekly searches for literature on the subject of death, his name repeatedly comes up. I’ve tried to abstain from writing about him again to ensure that I have plenty of variety in my column, but his writing is simply too good to ignore. “Peace, My Heart” is perfect proof of this. The thing that I love about literature (and others loathe) is the fact that it can be interpreted in so many different ways; on my first reading of this poem, I took “my heart” to be the narrator in conversation with himself, calming himself down and preparing himself for death. But on my second reading, I interpreted it as the narrator speaking to a lover and assuaging her fears about death. Either way, its message is one of acceptance and of a respect for that final journey:
Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.
The poem’s narrator asks that “the time for/the parting be sweet” (1-2). He does not wish for there to be any antagonism. He is at peace with the reality of death, and is willing to let it happen. In fact, in the next line he shows just how accepting he is: “Let it not be a death but completeness” (3). Death doesn’t have to be merely an ending—it can be a happy resolution.
Tagore’s narrator also believes that death is a warm, welcoming stage: “Let the flight through the sky end/in the folding of the wings over the/nest” (6-8). He feels that he will be guarded and protected in death. He even addresses death as “O Beautiful End” (11), reaffirming his good opinion of it. The poem’s final lines, whether addressing a lover or the narrator himself, convey complete cooperation: “I bow to you and hold up my lamp/to light you on your way” (14-15). Whichever way you choose to interpret it, the speaker is ready for what may come when death arrives. He knows that death is a universal experience, and whether it is himself dying or someone that he loves, he recognizes that it must happen.