Rabindranath Tagore

The Gardener 72: A temple

With days of hard travail I raised a temple. It had no doors or windows, its walls were thickly built with massive stones. I forgot all else, I shunned all the world, I gazed in rapt contemplation at the image I had set upon the altar. It was always night inside, and lit by the lamps of perfumed oil. The ceaseless smoke of incense wound my heart in its heavy coils. Sleepless, I carved on the walls fantastic figures in mazy bewildering lines--winged horses, flowers with human faces, women with limbs like serpents. No passage was left anywhere through which could enter the song of birds, the murmur of leaves or hum of the busy village. The only sound that echoed in its dark dome was that of incantations which I chanted. My mind became keen and still like a pointed flame, my senses swooned in ecstasy. I knew not how time passed till the thunderstone had struck the temple, and a pain stung me through the heart. The lamp looked pale and ashamed; The carvings on the walls, like chained dreams, stared meaningless in the light as they would fain hide themselves. I looked at the image on the altar. I saw it smiling and alive with the living touch of God. The night I had imprisoned had spread its wings and vanished.

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