We read today some poems that reveal Sri Aurobindo’s love and growing identification with the soul of India. The poems include Envoi (p. 37), The Just Man (pp. 43-44), To the Ganges (pp. 256-259) and The Meditations of Mandavya (pp. 509-515), all pages given for Collected Poems, CWSA Vol 2).
Ite hinc, Camenae, vos quoque ite jam, sane
Dulces Camenae, nam fatebimur verum
Dulces fuistis, et tamen meas chartas
Revisitote sed pudenter et raro.
Pale poems, weak and few, who vainly use
Your wings towards the unattainable spheres,
Offspring of the divine Hellenic Muse,
Poor maimed children born of six disastrous years!
Not as your mother’s is your wounded grace,
Since not to me with equal love returned
The hope which drew me to that serene face
Wherein no unreposeful light of effort burned.
Depart and live for seasons many or few
If live you may, but stay not here to pain
My heart with hopeless passion and renew
Visions of beauty that my lips shall ne’er attain.
For in Sicilian olive-groves no more
Or seldom must my footprints now be seen,
Nor tread Athenian lanes, nor yet explore
Parnassus or thy voiceful shores, O Hippocrene.
Me from her lotus heaven Saraswati
Has called to regions of eternal snow
And Ganges pacing to the southern sea,
Ganges upon whose shores the flowers of Eden blow.
To the Ganges
Hearken, Ganges, hearken, thou that sweepest golden to the sea,
Hearken, Mother, to my voice.
From the feet of Hari with thy waters pure thou leapest free,
Waters colder-pure than ice.
On Himâloy ‘s grandiose summits upright in his cirque of stones
Shiva sits in breathless air,
Where the outcast seeks his refuge, where the demon army moans,
Ganges erring through his hair.
Down the snowwhite mountains speeding, the immortal peaks and cold,
Crowd thy waves untouched by man.
From Gungotry through the valleys next their icy tops were rolled,
Bursting through Shivadry ran.
In Benares’ stainless city by defilement undefiled
Ghauts and temples lightly touched
With thy fingers as thou ranst, laughed low in pureness like a child
To his mother’s bosom clutched.
Where the steps of Rama wandered, where the feet of Krishna came,
There thou flowest, there thy hand
Clasps us, Bhagirathie, Jahnavie or Gunga, and thy name
Holier makes the Aryans’ land.
But thou leavest Aryavurtha, but thou leapest to the seas
In thy hundred mighty streams;
Nor in the unquiet Ocean vast thy grandiose journeyings cease,
Mother, say thy children’s dreams.
Down thou plungest through the Ocean, far beneath its oozy bed
In Patala’s leaden gloom
Moaning o’er her children’s pain our mother, Ganges of the dead,
Leads our wandering spirits home.
Mighty with the mighty still thou dwelledst, goddess high and pure;
Iron Bhîshma was thy son,
Who against ten thousand rushing chariots could in war endure;
Many heroes fled from one.
Devavrath the mighty, Bhîshma with his oath of iron power,
Smilingly who gave up full
Joy of human life and empire, that his father’s wish might flower
And his father’s son might rule.
Who were these that thronged thereafter? wherefore came these puny hearts
Apter for the cringing slave,
Wrangling, selfish, weak and treacherous, vendors of their nobler parts,
Sorry food for pyre and grave?
O but these are men of mind not yet with Europe’s brutal mood alloyed,
Poets singing in their chains,
Preachers teaching manly slavery, speakers thundering in the void.
Motley wear these men of brains!
Well it is for hound and watchdog fawning at a master’s feet,
Cringing, of the whip afraid!
Well it is for linnet caged to make with song his slavery sweet.
Man for other ends was made.
Man the arrogant, the splendid, man the mighty wise and strong,
Born to rule the peopled earth,
Shall he bear the alien’s insult, shall he brook the tyrant’s wrong
Like a thing of meaner birth?
Sreepoor in the east of Chand and Kédar, bright with Mogul blood,
And the Kings of Aracan
And the Atlantic pirates helped that hue,—its ruined glory flood
Kîrtinasha’s waters wan.
Buried are our cities; fallen the apexed dome, the Indian arch;
In Chitore the jackals crowd:
Krishna’s Dwarca sleeps for ever, o’er its ruined bastions march
All the Oceans thundering loud.
Still, yet still the fire of Kali on her ancient altar burns
Smouldering under smoky pall,
And the deep heart of her peoples to their Mighty Mother turns,
Listening for her Titan call.
Yet Pratapaditya’s great fierce spirit shall in might awake
In Jessore he loved and made,
Sitaram the good and mighty for his well-loved people’s sake
Leave the stillness and the shade.
And Bengal the wide and ancient where the Senas swayed of old
Up to far Benares pure,
She shall lead the Aryan peoples to the mighty doom foretold
And her glory shall endure.
By her heart of quick emotion, by her brain of living fire,
By her vibrant speech and great,
She shall lead them, they shall see their destiny in her warm desire
Opening all the doors of Fate.
By the shores of Brahmaputra or where Ganges nears the sea,
Even now a flame is born
Which shall kindle all the South to brilliance and the North shall be
Lighted up as with the morn.
And once more this Aryavurtha fit for heavenly feet to tread,
Free and holy, bold and wise,
Shall lift up her face before the world and she whom men thought dead,
Into strength immortal rise.
Not in icy lone Gungotry nor by Kashi’s holy fanes,
Mother, hast thou power to save
Only, nor dost thou grow old near Sagar, nor our vileness stains,
Ganges, thy celestial wave.
Dukkhineswar, Dukkhineswar, wonderful predestined pile,
Tell it to our sons unborn,
Where the night was brooding darkest and the curse was on the soil
Heaviest, God revealed the morn.
If thou wouldst traverse Time with vagrant feet
Nor make the poles thy limit fill not then
Thy wallet with the fancy’s cloying sweet
Which is no stay to heaven-aspiring men,
But follow wisdom since alone the wise
Can walk through fire with unblinking eyes.
The Just Man
Where is the man whom hope nor fear can move?
Him the wise Gods approve.
The man divine of motive pure and steadfast will
Unbent to ill,
Whose way is plain nor swerves for power or gold
The high, straight path to hold:—
Him only wise the wise Gods deem, him pure of lust;
Him only just.
Tho’ men give rubies, tho’ they bring a prize
Sweeter than Helen’s eyes—
Yea, costlier things than these things were, they shall not win
That man to sin.
Tho’ the strong lords of earth his doom desire,
He shall not heed their ire,
Nor shall the numerous commons’ stormy voice compel
His heart nor quell.
Tho’ Ocean all her purple pride unroll,
It stirs, not shakes his soul.
He sees the billows lift their cowled heads on high
With undimmed eye.
Pure fields he sees and groves of calm delight;
He turns into the night.
Hell is before; the swords await him; friends betray;
He holds his way.
He shall not fear tho’ heaven in lightnings fall
Nor thunder’s furious call,
Nor earthquake nor the sea: tho’ fire, tho’ flood assail,
He shall not quail.
Tho’ God tear out the heavens like a page
And break the hills for rage,
Blot out the sun from being and all the great stars quench,
He will not blench.
The Meditations of Mandavya
The Meditations of Mandavya – I
O joy of gaining all the soul’s desire!
O stranger joy of the defeat and loss!
O heart that yearnest to uplift the world!
O fiercer heart that bendest over its pain
And drinkst the savour! I will love thee, O Love,
Naked or veiled or dreadfully disguised;
Not only when thou flatterest my heart
But when thou tearst it. Thy sweet pity I love
And mother’s care for creatures, for the joys
I love thee that the lives of things possess,
And love thee for the torment of our pains;
Nor cry, as some, against thy will, nor say
Thou art not. Easy is the love that lasts
Only with favours in the shopman heart!
Who, smitten, takes and gives the kiss, he loves.
While on a terrace hushed I walked at night,
He came and stung my foot. My soul surprised
Rejoiced in lover’s contact; but the mind
Thought of a scorpion and was snared by forms.
Still, still my soul remembered its delight,
Denying mind, and midst the body’s pain,
I laughed contented.
The Meditations of Mandavya – III
Lo, I have cursed Thee, lo, I have denied
Thy love, Thy being. Strike me with Thy rod,
Convince me that Thou art. O leave it not
To Thy dumb messengers that have no heart,
No wrath in the attack, no angered love,
No exultation in the blow that falls,
The cry that answers. Let me feel a Heart,
Even though an evil one, that throbs and is
Against our tears, our pressure and our search.
Beware, for I will send my soul across the earth
And all men turn against Thee at my word.
There is no sign, there comes not any voice.
And yet, alas! I know He will return
And He will soothe my wounds and charm my heart;
I shall again forgive, again shall love,
Again shall suffer, be again deceived.
And where is any end, O Heaven, O Earth?
But there is never any end when one has loved.