Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Guest House" by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival. 
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor. 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. 
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in. 
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
          This is Coleman Barks' translation of Rumi's poem, one which I first read three years ago and have thought about several times since. Rumi compares the essence of being human to the idea of a guest house, meaning that we are vessels for innumerable experiences and emotions throughout our lives. His poem is most simply about the importance of accepting everything that approaches us over the years rather than picking and choosing as a way to turn away from all negativity. By personifying sorrow, Rumi paints this portrait quite clearly: "Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,/ who violently sweep your house/ empty of its furniture,/ still, treat each guest honorably." It seems that Rumi believes all aspects of one's life are critical to one's overall experience during one's time on earth, and therefore good and bad alike must be accepted.
          Because Rumi was a Sufi, one could assume that the "guide" to which he is referring in the last line of his poem is God. Like much of Rumi's poetry, however, I find the overall message of his words to be relevant regardless of any religious affiliations. By expecting only goodness in your life and attempting to reject all bad things, you cannot expect to live nearly as rich a life as a person might who "welcome[s] and entertain[s]" everything he or she is met with.


  1. Hi Kristy,

    Good thoughts on the poem.

    On your point about the "guide" in the last sentence, isn't Rumi referring to the emotions/experiences as he was referring to "guests" as opposed to God?

    Nonetheless, I agree about your point on the universality of the message. That's what makes the poem more beautiful for me.


  2. Very good analysis Kristy! The guests are guides sent from the beyond by God, because he makes human beings learn through good and bad experiences. Being human is indeed a baptism by fire, but just as gold is refined through fire, so we are tried and tested to separate the worthy ones from the rest.

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    1. Hey Kirsty, Great Analysis!

      I am a year 10 high school literature student from Australia, your analysis helped me so much. Thanks!