Savitri Study Camp 23-02 “Vanity of the Ideal” pp 609-612

Audio recording of the Savitri Study Class with Alok Pandey, Book 10 Canto 2.


Death continues his gospel condemning man’s hopes for the Ideal as sheer vanity and a fantasy. He tries to show the ‘harsh reality’ of earthly life to Savitri to discourage her from pursing her quest for making Earth a home for Heavenly truths.

Aerial statue of the nude Idea,
Virgin conception of a bodiless god,
Its light stirs man the thinker to create
An earthly semblance of diviner things.
Its hued reflection falls upon man’s acts;
His institutions are its cenotaphs,
He signs his dead conventions with its name;
His virtues don the Ideal’s skiey robe
And a nimbus of the outline of its face:
He hides their littleness with the divine Name.

Yet insufficient is the bright pretence
To screen their indigent and earthy make:
Earth only is there and not some heavenly source.
If heavens there are they are veiled in their own light,
If a Truth eternal somewhere reigns unknown,
It burns in a tremendous void of God;
For truth shines far from the falsehoods of the world;
How can the heavens come down to unhappy earth
Or the eternal lodge in drifting time?
How shall the Ideal tread earth’s dolorous soil
Where life is only a labour and a hope,
A child of Matter and by Matter fed,
A fire flaming low in Nature’s grate,
A wave that breaks upon a shore in Time,
A journey’s toilsome trudge with death for goal?

The Avatars have lived and died in vain,
Vain was the sage’s thought, the prophet’s voice;
In vain is seen the shining upward Way.
Earth lies unchanged beneath the circling sun;
She loves her fall and no omnipotence
Her mortal imperfections can erase,
Force on man’s crooked ignorance Heaven’s straight line
Or colonise a world of death with gods.

O traveller in the chariot of the Sun,
High priestess in thy holy fancy’s shrine
Who with a magic ritual in earth’s house
Worshippest ideal and eternal love,
What is this love thy thought has deified,
This sacred legend and immortal myth?

It is a conscious yearning of thy flesh,
It is a glorious burning of thy nerves,
A rose of dream-splendour petalling thy mind,
A great red rapture and torture of thy heart.
A sudden transfiguration of thy days,
It passes and the world is as before.

A ravishing edge of sweetness and of pain,
A thrill in its yearning makes it seem divine,
A golden bridge across the roar of the years,
A cord tying thee to eternity.

And yet how brief and frail! how soon is spent
This treasure wasted by the gods on man,
This happy closeness as of soul to soul,
This honey of the body’s companionship,
This heightened joy, this ecstasy in the veins,
This strange illumination of the sense!

If Satyavan had lived, love would have died;
But Satyavan is dead and love shall live
A little while in thy sad breast, until
His face and body fade on memory’s wall
Where other bodies, other faces come.

When love breaks suddenly into the life
At first man steps into a world of the sun;
In his passion he feels his heavenly element:
But only a fine sunlit patch of earth
The marvellous aspect took of heaven’s outburst;
The snake is there and the worm in the heart of the rose.
A word, a moment’s act can slay the god;
Precarious is his immortality,
He has a thousand ways to suffer and die.

Love cannot live by heavenly food alone,
Only on sap of earth can it survive.

For thy passion was a sensual want refined,
A hunger of the body and the heart;
Thy want can tire and cease or turn elsewhere.

Or love may meet a dire and pitiless end
By bitter treason, or wrath with cruel wounds
Separate, or thy unsatisfied will to others
Depart when first love’s joy lies stripped and slain:
A dull indifference replaces fire
Or an endearing habit imitates love:
An outward and uneasy union lasts
Or the routine of a life’s compromise:
Where once the seed of oneness had been cast
Into a semblance of spiritual ground
By a divine adventure of heavenly powers
Two strive, constant associates without joy,
Two egos straining in a single leash,
Two minds divided by their jarring thoughts,
Two spirits disjoined, for ever separate.

Thus is the ideal falsified in man’s world;
Trivial or sombre, disillusion comes,
Life’s harsh reality stares at the soul:
Heaven’s hour adjourned flees into bodiless Time.
Death saves thee from this and saves Satyavan:
He now is safe, delivered from himself;
He travels to silence and felicity.
Call him not back to the treacheries of earth
And the poor petty life of animal Man.
In my vast tranquil spaces let him sleep
In harmony with the mighty hush of death
Where love lies slumbering on the breast of peace.

And thou, go back alone to thy frail world:
Chastise thy heart with knowledge, unhood to see,
Thy nature raised into clear living heights,
The heaven-bird’s view from unimagined peaks.
For when thou givest thy spirit to a dream
Soon hard necessity will smite thee awake:
Purest delight began and it must end.

[Breaks are added to emphasize separate movements]

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