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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1933, January (III)

January 14, 1933

(from Mother)

I am very sorry you did not come yourself with the money, as I would have had an opportunity to tell and show you that your impression of this morning was mere imagination and a bad one too. I can assure you that I have been at pranam time exactly as I am every day, but I noticed sadness and unsatisfaction in your eyes, so it must be the very expression of your own eyes which you saw reflected in mine, — but it was not mine.

You ought to drop altogether and once for all this idea that I get displeased — it sounds to me so strange! If I could get thus displeased in presence of the human weaknesses, I would certainly not be fit to do the work I am doing, and my coming upon earth would have no meaning.

Do give up once for all this idea of defeat and this gloom which is so contrary to the inner truth of your being. I want you to pick yourself up and be perfectly cheerful and confident for your coming birthday.

I hope to see you entirely yourself again this evening from the roof and tomorrow at pranam and to have a happy and intimate talk with you on Monday.

*   *   *

January 24, 1933

I am not quite clear about what you exactly want me to do or yourself want to do with Humanity. I think you spoke of some tail to it (to replace the one it lost when it came down from the trees?) — but exactly what kind of tail? It seems complete without any… [incomplete].

*   *   *

January 27, 1933

I have read Prabodh Sen’s letter. I do not think anybody can read the poem Āgamani without coming to the same conclusion. His suggestion about sowing rhymes in suitable places is probably a good hint, but I doubt whether the omission of the terminal rhyme would be successful.

As for the question you put about easy rhythms and easy poetry, I will try to answer these tomorrow — as it is too late tonight to weigh and consider — and I don’t want to evade the question be taking refuge in Einsteinian relativity.

*   *   *

January 28, 1933

It is certainly not true that a good metre must necessarily be an easy metre — easy to read or easy to write. In fact, even with old-established perfectly familiar metres, how many of the readers of poetry have an ear which seizes the true movement and the whole subtlety and beauty of the rhythm — it is only in the more popular kind of poems that it gets in their hearing its full value. It is all the more impossible when you bring in not only new rhythms but a new principle of rhythm — or at least one that is not very familiar — to expect it to be easily followed at first by the many. It is only if you are already a recognised master that by force of your reputation you can impose whatever you like on your public — for then even if they do not catch your drift, they will still applaud you and will take some pains to learn the new principle. If you attempt to bring in the principle of laghu guru metres, you are imposing a principle not only of rhythm but of scansion to which the Bengali ear in spite of past attempts is not trained so as to seize the basic law of the movements in all its variations. A fair amount of incomprehension, some difficulty in knowing how to read the verse is very probable. A poem like Āgamanī, it seems to me, everybody ought to be able to catch on its movement, — even if some will not be able to scan it; but other difficult forms may give trouble. All that is no true objection, novelty is difficult for the human mind — or ear — to accept, but novelty is asked for all the same in all human activities for their growth, amplitude, richer life. As you say, the ear has to be educated — once it is trained, familiar with the principle, what was a difficulty becomes easy, the unusual, first condemned as abnormal or impossible, becomes a normal and daily movement.

As for the charge of being cryptic, that is quite another matter. On what does it base itself? Obscurity due to inadequate expression is one thing, but the cryptic may be simply the expression of more than can be seized at first sight by the ordinary mind. It may be that the ideas are not of a domain in which that mind is accustomed to move or that there is a new turn of expression other than the kind which it has been trained to follow. Again the ordinary turn of Bengali writing is lucid, direct, easy — in that it resembles French. If you bring into it a more intricate and suggestive manner in which the connections or transitions of thought are less obvious, that may create a difficulty. To which of these causes is the accusation of being cryptic due? Certainly not the first, since you are accused of having too adequate and not too inadequate a vocabulary. If it is any of the others, then the objection has no great force. One can be too easy to read, because there is not much in what one writes and it is exhausted at the first glance, — or too difficult because you have to burrow for the meaning. But otherwise it makes no difference to the excellence of the work, if the reader can catch its burden at the first glance or has to dwell a little on it for the full force of it to come to the surface. One has perhaps sometimes to do the latter in your poems, but I do not find anything unduly cryptic — certainly there is nothing that can be really called obscure. The feeling, the way of expression, the combinations of thought, word or image tend often to be new and unfamiliar, but that seems to me a strength and a merit, not an element of failure.

*   *   *

January 30, 1933

I return Buddhadev’s letter. I am afraid he is somewhat under the grip of what I may call the illusion of realism. What all artists do is to take something from life — even if it be only a partial hint — and transfer it by the magic of their imagination and make a world of their own; the realists, of various kinds, Zola, Tolstoi, etc. do it as much as anybody else. Each artist is a creator of his own world — why then insist on this legal fiction that the artists world must appear as an imitation of the actual world around us — for it is only an appearance? It may be constructed to look like that — but why must it be?[1]

As to your metres, it seems to me that in such cases as ānmane [in absent-minded state] and e bandhane [in this bondage] it depends on how the line is read. It is safer no doubt to effect a secure regularity in the metre, one takes less risks; but the chance of staking and revealing rhythmical effects is lessened — of course also the chance of disputable movements or evident stumbles.

*   *   *


[1] The published version of this letter (in The Future Poetry) continues with the following passage (probably added later by Sri Aurobindo): “The characters and creations of even the most strongly objective fiction, much more the characters and creations of poetry live by the law of their own life, which is something in the inner mind of their creator — they cannot be constructed as copies of things outside.”

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If you use power to show that you possess it, it becomes so full of falsehood and untruth that finally it disappears.