Throughout ‘The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart’, Tagore uses nature-related mages such as that of a bird and flower to describe the natural process of death. His speaker describes death as something that should be accepted and let in, not resisted and feared. He even offers to light the way for his intended listener when the time comes. It is interesting to consider while reading this poem who Tagore intended the speaker to be, how the “gardener” in the title relates to the information provided in the poem, and who exactly has died or will die.
Explore The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart
In the first lines of ‘The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart,’ the speaker begins by addressing his heart and the nature of death. It’s inevitable, and therefore not worth worrying about. Rather than fighting it, the speaker alludes, one should enter into it like a bird or a flower, with the “folding of the wings.” He speaks to “you” in the second half of the poem, encouraging “you” to take into consideration everything he’s said and offering to light this listener’s way into the next life.
In ‘The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart,’ the speaker engages with themes of life, death, and nature. These three themes are easily linked to one another, creating an image of life in its entirety and how death touches everything and everyone. The birds and flowers encounter death just as human beings do. The poet uses them as examples of how peaceful, still, and silent death can be.
Structure and Form
‘The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart’ by Rabindranath Tagore is a fifteen-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines are very different lengths, ranging from one word up to eight. It should always be noted when reading Tagore’s poems that not all of them were originally written in English. Before reaching a wider audience, Tagore wrote in Bengali, the language of his home in what is now Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
Tagore makes use of several literary devices in ‘The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart.’ These include but are not limited to enjambment, anaphora, and apostrophe. The latter is a type of figurative language that occurs when the poet’s speaker addresses someone or something that either is not present or cannot hear or respond to them. In this case, the speaker talks to his “heart.”
Anaphora is a type of repetition that occurs when the poet uses the same word or words at the beginning of lines. For example, “Let,” which starts lines three, four, six, and nine. This helps increase the musicality of the poem and the feeling of rhyme and rhythm, even if the poet is writing in free verse.
Enjambment is a common formal technique that occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two as well as lines four and five. Readers have to go down to the next line in order to find out what happens next.
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
In the first lines of ‘The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart,’ the speaker begins by addressing his heart. As noted above, this and the lines which follow are examples of apostrophes. The speaker asks his heart to be at peace during the “time for / the parting.” The “parting” is not defined throughout the poem, but it’s clear in the following lines that the speaker is talking about death and loss. Whose death is not explained, but it’s very likely either the speaker’s own or someone close to them. Due to the fact that Tagore has not outlined clearly who he’s talking about allows readers to insert their own experiences into the words of the poem.
He goes on to ask that death be “completeness” and without pain. He wants his life, or the life of the person who is soon to pass away, to be like a flight ended with folded wings over the nest. This beautiful metaphor brings in the image of a bird landing at home, perhaps among those it cares for and meeting its end with acceptance.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, 0 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 natural imagery continues into the next lines. Now, the speaker uses the second-person pronoun “your” to speak about someone’s hands. He could be talking to a specific person, perhaps the loved one whose passing away, or he could be addressing everyone, recommending a course of action. Rather than pushing back against death violently and loudly, he thinks that one’s hands should be “gentle like the flower of the night.” They should be still and silent, as is demonstrated through the simile in lines nine and ten. There is an interesting oxymoron in the twelfth and thirteenth lines when the speaker asks that you say “your last words / in silence.” It is, of course, impossible to speak and be silent at the same time. He’s alluding to the type of peace and acceptance that one should channel in their final moments, perhaps praying, perhaps thinking about the life they’ve lived quietly.
The last two lines cast the speaker as a guide, someone there to help “you” into the next life. They’re going to “hold up” their lamp and light this person’s way. Death, in the end, is not something to be feared or resisted. Instead, it’s depicted as a peaceful process, one which can be done calmly and even joyfully.
Readers who enjoyed ‘The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart’ should also consider reading some of Tagore’s other best-known poems. For example:
- ‘Let Me Not Forget’ – speaks on a man’s loss and his determination to never feel happiness as he once did.
- ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’ – is a contemplation on being, time, and living that was inspired by the poet’s concerns about his home country of India.
Another poem of interest is:
- ‘Death, be not Proud’ by John Donne – personifies death, describing it as something that isn’t as strong and powerful as people usually imagine.