Book Ten: The Book of the Double Twilight
Canto Three: The Debate of Love and Death
Death creates a seemingly unbridgeable gulf between Spirit and Matter thereby thwarting the dream of a divine life upon Earth. Savitri responds to his lie by once showing the unity of creation with the Creator.
Death from the incredulous Darkness sent its cry:
“O priestess in Imagination’s house,
Persuade first Nature’s fixed immutable laws
And make the impossible thy daily work.
How canst thou force to wed two eternal foes?
Irreconcilable in their embrace
They cancel the glory of their pure extremes:
An unhappy wedlock maims their stunted force.
How shall thy will make one the true and false?
Where Matter is all, there Spirit is a dream:
If all are the Spirit, Matter is a lie,
And who was the liar who forged the universe?
The Real with the unreal cannot mate.
He who would turn to God, must leave the world;
He who would live in the Spirit, must give up life;
He who has met the Self, renounces self.
The voyagers of the million routes of mind
Who have travelled through Existence to its end,
Sages exploring the world-ocean’s vasts,
Have found extinction the sole harbour safe.
Two only are the doors of man’s escape,
Death of his body Matter’s gate to peace,
Death of his soul his last felicity.
In me all take refuge, for I, Death, am God.”
But Savitri replied to mighty Death:
“My heart is wiser than the Reason’s thoughts,
My heart is stronger than thy bonds, O Death.
It sees and feels the one Heart beat in all,
It feels the high Transcendent’s sunlike hands,
It sees the cosmic Spirit at its work;
In the dim Night it lies alone with God.
My heart’s strength can carry the grief of the universe
And never falter from its luminous track,
Its white tremendous orbit through God’s peace.
It can drink up the sea of All-Delight
And never lose the white spiritual touch,
The calm that broods in the deep Infinite.”
He said, “Art thou indeed so strong, O heart,
O soul, so free? And canst thou gather then
Bright pleasure from my wayside flowering boughs,
Yet falter not from thy hard journey’s goal,
Meet the world’s dangerous touch and never fall?
Show me thy strength and freedom from my laws.”
But Savitri answered, “Surely I shall find
Among the green and whispering woods of Life
Close-bosomed pleasures, only mine since his,
Or mine for him, because our joys are one.
And if I linger, Time is ours and God’s,
And if I fall, is not his hand near mine?
All is a single plan; each wayside act
Deepens the soul’s response, brings nearer the goal.”
Death the contemptuous Nihil answered her:
“So prove thy absolute force to the wise gods,
By choosing earthly joy! For self demand
And yet from self and its gross masks live free.
Then will I give thee all thy soul desires,
All the brief joys earth keeps for mortal hearts.
Only the one dearest wish that outweighs all,
Hard laws forbid and thy ironic fate.
My will once wrought remains unchanged through Time,
And Satyavan can never again be thine.”
But Savitri replied to the vague Power:
“If the eyes of Darkness can look straight at Truth,
Look in my heart and, knowing what I am,
Give what thou wilt or what thou must, O Death.
Nothing I claim but Satyavan alone.”
There was a hush as if of doubtful fates.
As one disdainful still who yields a point
Death bowed his sovereign head in cold assent:
“I give to thee, saved from death and poignant fate
Whatever once the living Satyavan
Desired in his heart for Savitri.
Bright noons I give thee and unwounded dawns,
Daughters of thy own shape in heart and mind,
Fair hero sons and sweetness undisturbed
Of union with thy husband dear and true.
And thou shalt harvest in thy joyful house
Felicity of thy surrounded eves.
Love shall bind by thee many gathered hearts.
The opposite sweetness in thy days shall meet
Of tender service to thy life’s desired
And loving empire over all thy loved,
Two poles of bliss made one, O Savitri.
Return, O child, to thy forsaken earth.”
But Savitri replied, “Thy gifts resist.
Earth cannot flower if lonely I return.”
Savitri 635 – 637
(line breaks added to emphasize separate movements)