Book Ten: The Book of the Double Twilight
Canto Three: The Debate of Love and Death
This world is neither an illusion nor a meaningless vanity built by some dreaming god. There is a deep meaning hidden in each and every experience of life. There is a purpose in creation, a sanction from the Eternal upholds this game of transient things.
Then Death sent forth once more his angry cry,
As chides a lion his escaping prey:
“What knowst thou of earth’s rich and changing life
Who thinkst that one man dead all joy must cease?
Hope not to be unhappy till the end:
For grief dies soon in the tired human heart;
Soon other guests the empty chambers fill.
A transient painting on a holiday’s floor
Traced for a moment’s beauty love was made.
Or if a voyager on the eternal trail,
Its objects fluent change in its embrace
Like waves to a swimmer upon infinite seas.”
But Savitri replied to the vague god,
“Give me back Satyavan, my only lord.
Thy thoughts are vacant to my soul that feels
The deep eternal truth in transient things.”
Death answered her, “Return and try thy soul!
Soon shalt thou find appeased that other men
On lavish earth have beauty, strength and truth,
And when thou hast half forgotten, one of these
Shall wind himself around thy heart that needs
Some human answering heart against thy breast;
For who, being mortal, can dwell glad alone?
Then Satyavan shall glide into the past,
A gentle memory pushed away from thee
By new love and thy children’s tender hands,
Till thou shalt wonder if thou lov’dst at all.
Such is the life earth’s travail has conceived,
A constant stream that never is the same.”
But Savitri replied to mighty Death:
“O dark ironic critic of God’s work,
Thou mockst the mind and body’s faltering search
For what the heart holds in a prophet hour
And the immortal spirit shall make its own.
Mine is a heart that worshipped, though forsaken,
The image of the god its love adored;
I have burned in flame to travel in his steps.
Are we not they who bore vast solitude
Seated upon the hills alone with God?
Why dost thou vainly strive with me, O Death,
A mind delivered from all twilight thoughts,
To whom the secrets of the gods are plain?
For now at last I know beyond all doubt,
The great stars burn with my unceasing fire
And life and death are both its fuel made.
Life only was my blind attempt to love:
Earth saw my struggle, heaven my victory;
All shall be seized, transcended; there shall kiss
Casting their veils before the marriage fire
The eternal bridegroom and eternal bride.
The heavens accept our broken flights at last.
On our life’s prow that breaks the waves of Time
No signal light of hope has gleamed in vain.”
She spoke; the boundless members of the god
As if by secret ecstasy assailed,
Shuddered in silence as obscurely stir
Ocean’s dim fields delivered to the moon.
Then lifted up as by a sudden wind
Around her in that vague and glimmering world
The twilight trembled like a bursting veil.
Savitri 637 – 639
(line breaks added to emphasize separate movements)