Today we read some lines from early poems written by Sri Aurobindo in England, published in 1898 as a part of the book of poems “Songs to Myrtilla” [CWSA 2: 9-37]
SONGS TO MYRTILLA
Sweet is the night, sweet and cool
As to parched lips a running pool;
Sweet when the flowers have fallen asleep
And only moonlit rivulets creep
Like glow-worms in the dim and whispering wood,
To commune with the quiet heart and solitude.
When earth is full of whispers, when
No daily voice is heard of men,
But higher audience brings
The footsteps of invisible things,
When o’er the glimmering tree-tops bowed
The night is leaning on a luminous cloud,
And always a melodious breeze
Sings secret in the weird and charmèd trees,
Pleasant ’tis then heart-overawed to lie
Alone with that clear moonlight and that listening sky.
But day is sweeter; morning bright
Has put the stars out ere the light,
And from their dewy cushions rise
Sweet flowers half-opening their eyes.
O pleasant then to feel as if new-born
The sweet, unripe and virgin air, the air of morn.
And pleasant are her melodies,
Rustle of winds, rustle of trees,
Birds’ voices in the eaves,
Birds’ voices in the green melodious leaves;
The herdsman’s flute among his flocks,
Sweet water hurrying from reluctant rocks,
And all sweet hours and all sweet showers
And all sweet sounds that please the noonday flowers.
Morning has pleasure, noon has golden peace
And afternoon repose and eve the heart’s increase.
All things are subject to sweet pleasure,
But three things keep her richest measure,
The breeze that visits heaven
And knows the planets seven,
The green spring with its flowery truth
Creative and the luminous heart of youth.
To all fair flowers and vernal
The wind makes melody diurnal.
On Ocean all night long
He rests, a voice of song.
The blue sea dances like a girl
With sapphire and with pearl
Crowning her locks. Sunshine and dew
Each morn delicious life renew.
The year is but a masque of flowers,
Of light and song and honied showers.
In the soft springtide comes the bird
Of heaven whose speech is one sweet word,
One word of sweet and magic power to bring
Green branches back and ruddy lights of spring.
Summer has pleasant comrades, happy meetings
Of lily and rose and from the trees divinest greetings.
For who in April shall remember
The certain end of drear November?
No flowers then live, no flowers
Make sweet those wretched hours;
From dead or grieving branches spun
Unwilling leaves lapse wearily one by one;
The heart is then in pain
With the unhappy sound of rain.
No secret boughs prolong
A green retreat of song;
Summer is dead and rich repose
And springtide and the rose,
And woods and all sweet things make moan;
The weeping earth is turned to stone.
The lovers of her former face,
Shapes of beauty, melody, grace,
Where are they? Butterfly and bird
No more are seen, no songs are heard.
They see her beauty spent, her splendours done;
They seek a younger earth, a surer sun.
When youth has quenched its soft and magic light,
Delightful things remain but dead is their delight.
Ah! for a little hour put by
Dim Hades and his pageantry.
Forget the future, leave the past,
The little hour thy life shall last.
Learn rather from the violet’s days
Soft-blooming in retired ways
Or dewy bell, the maid undrest
With creamy childhood in her breast,
Fierce foxglove and the briony
And sapphire thyme, the work-room of the bee.
Behold in emerald fire
The spotted lizard crawl
Upon the sun-kissed wall
And coil in tangled brake
The green and sliding snake
Under the red-rose-briar.
Nay, hither see
Lured by thy rose of lips the bee
To woo thy petals open, O sweet,
His flowery murmur here repeat,
Forsaking all the joys of thyme.
Stain not thy perfumed prime
With care for autumn’s pale decay,
But live like these thy sunny day.
So when thy tender bloom must fall,
Then shalt thou be as one who tasted all
Life’s honey and must now depart
A broken prodigal from pleasure’s mart,
A leaf with whom each golden sunbeam sinned,
A dewy leaf and kissed by every wandering wind.
How various are thy children, Earth!
Behold the rose her lovely birth,
What fires from the bud proceed,
As if the vernal air did bleed.
Breezes and sunbeams, bees and dews
Her lords and lovers she indues,
And these her crimson pleasures prove;
Her life is but a bath of love;
The wide world perfumes when she sighs
And, burning all the winds, of love she dies.
The lily liveth pure,
Yet has she lovers, friends,
And each her bliss intends;
The bees besides her treasure
Besiege of pollened pleasure,
Nor long her gates endure.
The snowdrop cold
Has vowed the saintly state to hold
And far from green spring’s amorous guilds
Her snowy hermitage she builds.
Cowslip attends her vernal duty
And stops the heart with beauty.
The crocus asks no vernal thing,
But all the lovely lights of spring
Are with rich honeysuckle boon
And praise her through one summer moon.
Thus the sweet children of the earth
Fulfil their natural selves and various birth.
For one is proud and one sweet months approve
Diana’s saint, but most are bond-maidens of Love.
Love’s feet were on the sea
When he dawned on me.
His wings were purple-grained and slow;
His voice was very sweet and very low;
His rose-lit cheeks, his eyes’ pale bloom
Were sorrow’s anteroom;
His wings did cause melodious moan;
His mouth was like a rose o’erblown;
The cypress-garland of renown
Did make his shadowy crown.
Fair as the spring he gave
And sadder than a winter’s wave
And sweet as sunless asphodel,
My shining lily, Florimel,
My heart’s enhaloed moon,
My winter’s warmth, my summer’s shady boon.
Not from the mighty sea
Love visited me.
I found as in a jewelled box
Love, rose-red, sleeping with imprisoned locks;
And I have ever known him wild
And merry as a child,
As roses red, as roses sweet,
The west wind in his feet,
Tulip-girdled, kind and bold,
With heartsease in his curls of gold,
Since in the silver mist
Bright Cymothea’s lips I kissed,
Whose laughter dances like a gleam
Of sunlight on a hidden stream
That through a wooded way
Runs suddenly into the perfect day.
But what were Cymothea, placed
Where like a silver star Myrtilla blooms?
Such light as cressets cast
In long and sun-lit rooms.
Thy presence is to her
As oak to juniper,
Thy beauty as the gorgeous rose
To privet by the lane that blows,
Gold-crowned blooms to mere fresh grass,
Eternal ivy to brief blooms that pass.
But Florimel beside thee, sweet,
Pales like a candle in the brilliant noon.
Snowdrops are thy feet,
Thy waist a crescent moon,
And like a silver wand
Thy body slight doth stand
Or like a silver beech aspire.
Thine arms are walls for white caresses,
Thy mouth a tale of crimson kisses,
Thine eyes two amorous treasuries of fire.
To what shall poet liken thee?
Art thou a goddess of the sea
Purple-tressed and laughter-lipped
From thy choric sisters slipped
To wander on the flowery land?
Or art thou siren on the treacherous sand
Summer-voiced to charm the ear
Of the wind-vext mariner?
Ah! but what are these to thee,
Brighter gem than knows the sea,
Lovelier girl than sees the stream
Naked, Naiad of a dream,
Whiter Dryad than men see
Dancing round the lone oak-tree,
Flower and most enchanting birth
Of ten ages of the earth!
The Graces in thy body move
And in thy lips the ruby hue of Love.
O Coïl, Coïl
O Coïl, honied envoy of the spring,
Cease thy too happy voice, grief’s record, cease:
For I recall that day of vernal trees,
The soft asoca’s bloom, the laden winds
And green felicity of leaves, the hush,
The sense of Nature living in the woods.
Only the river rippled, only hummed
The languid murmuring bee, far-borne and slow,
Emparadised in odours, only used
The ringdove his divine heart-moving speech;
But sweetest to my pleased and singing heart
Thy voice, O Coïl, in the peepel tree.
O me! for pleasure turned to bitterest tears!
O me! for the swift joy, too great to live,
That only bloomed one hour! O wondrous day,
That crowned the bliss of those delicious years.
The vernal radiance of my lover’s lips
Was shut like a red rose upon my mouth,
His voice was richer than the murmuring leaves,
His love around me than the summer air.
Five hours entangled in the coïl’s cry
Lay my beloved twixt my happy breasts.
O voice of tears! O sweetness uttering death!
O lost ere yet that happy cry was still!
O tireless voice of spring! Again I lie
In odorous gloom of trees; unseen and near
The wind-lark gurgles in the golden leaves,
The woodworm spins in shrillness on the bough:
Thou by the waters wailing to thy love,
O chocrobacque! have comfort, since to thee
The dawn brings sweetest recompense of tears
And she thou lovest hears thy pain. But I
Am desolate in the heart of fruitful months,
Am widowed in the sight of happy things,
Uttering my moan to the unhousèd winds,
O coïl, coïl, to the winds and thee.
The Lost Deliverer
Pythian he came; repressed beneath his heel
The hydra of the world with bruisèd head.
Vainly, since Fate’s immeasurable wheel
Could parley with a straw. A weakling sped
The bullet when to custom’s usual night
We fell because a woman’s faith was light.
Charles Stewart Parnell
O pale and guiding light, now star unsphered,
Deliverer lately hailed, since by our lords
Most feared, most hated, hated because feared,
Who smot’st them with an edge surpassing swords!
Thou too wert then a child of tragic earth,
Since vainly filled thy luminous doom of birth.
Patriots, behold your guerdon. This man found
Erin, his mother, bleeding, chastised, bound,
Naked to imputation, poor, denied,
While alien masters held her house of pride.
And now behold her! Terrible and fair
With the eternal ivy in her hair,
Armed with the clamorous thunder, how she stands
Like Pallas’ self, the Gorgon in her hands.
True that her puissance will be easily past,
The vision ended; she herself has cast
Her fate behind her: yet the work not vain
Since that which once has been may be again,
And she this image yet recover, fired
With godlike workings, brain and hands inspired,
So stand, the blush of battle on her cheek,
Voice made armipotent, deeds that loudly speak,
Like some dread Sphinx, half patent to the eye,
Half veiled in formidable secrecy.
And he who raised her from her forlorn life
Loosening the fountains of that mighty strife,
Where sits he? On what high foreshadowing throne
Guarded by grateful hearts? Beneath this stone
He lies: this guerdon only Ireland gave,
A broken heart and an unhonoured grave.
(Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, pp. 11-18)