Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Setting Our Lives On Fire

Last week I rediscovered a whole bunch of poems that I'd once memorized. I have not forgotten a word of this one, and have been reciting it quietly all week. I suppose it says a great deal about me, that this poem is one of my favourites. (Read it out loud if you can.)

The Message by Rabindranath Tagore

I see a light but no fire.
Is this what my life is to be like?
Better to head for the grave.

A messenger comes, the grief-courier, and the
message is that the woman you love is in her house
alone, and wants you to come while it is still night.

Clouds unbroken, rain all night, all night.
I don't understand these wild impulses-
what is happening to me?

A lightning flash is followed by deeper melancholy.
I stumble around inside looking for the path the night
wants me to take.

Light, where is the light?
Light the fire, if you have desire!
Thunder, rushing wind, nothingness.
Black night, black stone.
Don't let your whole life go by in the dark.

Evidently the only way to find the path is to
set fire to my own life!

A great poem raises as many questions as it answers. Who is the grief-courier who comes to tell us that what we love still waits for us? Perhaps the heart that knows we have abandoned dreams central to our soul. What does it mean to set fire to our own lives? Surely Tagore is not calling for callous self-destruction, but the disintegration of what we thought we had to do, so we might embrace the life the soul came here to live.

Oriah House (c) 2014 (Pic is "Soul Mates from


  1. Thankyou for this poem, Oriah. It's new to me, and it'll take a while to tease out its meaning, but it's very evocative and calls to my spirit.

  2. Oriah,

    Sure did touch me in all the open spots in my armor, got right through to me. Why are tears running down my cheeks?
    I am still looking, searching for my way to my soul's dreams so that I can live them in the years that are left. I will send this to a very dear friend who is lost, really lost, and searching. Thank you so much for sharing this poignant poem.

  3. WOW! I just started reading Mike Slaughter's book "Dare to Dream." I am struggling with a call that keeps entering my heart. Online I searched for inspiration and found Mother Theresa's 'Anyway", that lead me to your site and this poem. Your comment "so we might embrace the life the soul came here to live" will be part of my daily prayer. Thank you. I look forward to returning to your site for inspiration!