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object:2.1.7.08 - Comments on Specific Lines and Passages of the Poem
book class:Letters On Poetry And Art
author class:Sri Aurobindo
subject class:Integral Yoga
media class:chapter

1946

As if solicited in an alien world
With timid and hazardous instinctive grace,
Orphaned and driven out to seek a home,
An errant marvel with no place to live,1

I see no sufficient reason to alter the passage; certainly, I could not alter the line beginning Orphaned ; it is indispensable to the total idea and its omission would leave an unfilled gap. If I may not expect a complete alertness from the reader,but how without it can he grasp the subtleties of a mystical and symbolic poem?he surely ought to be alert enough when he reads the second line to see that it is somebody who is soliciting with a timid grace and it cant be somebody who is being gracefully solicited; also the line Orphaned etc. ought to suggest to him at once that it is some orphan who is soliciting and not the other way round: the delusion of the past participle passive ought to be dissipated long before he reaches the subject of the verb in the fourth line. The obscurity throughout, if there is any, is in the mind of the hasty reader and not in the grammatical construction of the passage.

1946

  Sri Aurobindo, Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol, volume 33 of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO, p. 3. Subsequent page references are given in square brackets after the line or lines quoted. The passages Sri Aurobindo was asked to comment on were often revised later. Here the passages are reproduced from a version written at or near the time of Sri Aurobindo's comment. Where this version differs significantly from the final version, the page reference is preceded by "cf." (compare). The letters are arranged according to the order of the lines in the final text of Savitri.Ed.

***
25 Oct 1936

Then a faint hesitating glimmer broke.
A slow miraculous gesture dimly came,
The insistent thrill of a transfiguring touch
Persuaded the inert black quietude
And beauty and wonder disturbed the fields of God.
A wandering hand of pale enchanted light
That glowed along the moments fading brink,
Fixed with gold panel and opalescent hinge
A gate of dreams ajar on mysterys verge. [cf. p. 3]

Cant see the validity of any prohibition of double adjectives in abundance. If a slow rich wealth-burdened movement is the right thing, as it certainly is here in my judgment, the necessary means have to be used to bring it aboutand the double adjective is admirably suited for the purpose.

25 October 1936
***
31 Oct 1936

Now as to the double adjectiveswell, man alive, your proposed emendations are an admirable exposition of the art of bringing a line down the steps till my poor slow miraculous above-mind line meant to give or begin the concrete portrayal of an act of some hidden Godhead finally becomes a mere metaphor thrown out from its more facile mint by a brilliantly imaginative poetic intelligence. First of all, you shift my dimly out of the way and transfer it to something to which it does not inwardly belong, make it an epithet of the gesture or an adverb qualifying its epithet instead of something that qualifies the atmosphere in which the act of the godhead takes place. That is a preliminary havoc which destroys what is very important to the action, its atmosphere. I never intended the gesture to be dim, it is a luminous gesture, but forcing its way through the black quietude it comes dimly. Then again the bald phrase a gesture came without anything to psychicise it becomes simply something that happened, came being a poetic equivalent for happened instead of the expression of the slow coming of the gesture. The words slow and dimly assure this sense of motion and this concreteness to the words sense here. Remove one or both whether entirely or elsewhere and you ruin the vision and change altogether its character. That is at least what happens wholly in your penultimate version and as for the last the came gets another meaning and one feels that somebody very slowly decided to let out the gesture from himself and it was quite a miracle that it came out at all! Dimly miraculous means what precisely or what miraculously dimit was miraculous that it managed to be so dim or there was something vaguely miraculous about it after all? No doubt they try to mean something elsebut these interpretations lurk in their way and trip them over. The only thing that can stand is the first version which is no doubt fine poetry, but the trouble is that it does not give the effect I wanted to give, the effect which is necessary for the dawns inner significance. Moreover what becomes of the slow lingering rhythm of my line which is absolutely indispensable?

Do not forget that the Savitri is an experiment in mystic poetry, spiritual poetry cast into a symbolic figure. Done on this scale, it is really a new attempt and cannot be hampered by old ideas of technique except when they are assimilable. Least of all by standards proper to a mere intellectual and abstract poetry which makes reason and taste the supreme arbiters, aims at a harmonised poetic-intellectual balanced expression of the sense, elegance in language, a sober and subtle use of imaginative decoration, a restrained emotive element etc. The attempt at mystic spiritual poetry of the kind I am at demands above all a spiritual objectivity, an intense psycho-physical concreteness. I do not know what you mean exactly here by obvious and subtle. According to certain canons epithets should be used sparingly, free use of them is rhetorical, an obvious device, a crowding of images is bad taste, there should be a subtlety of art not displayed but severely concealedsumma ars est celare artem. Very good for a certain standard of poetry, not so good or not good at all for others. Shakespeare kicks over these traces at every step, Aeschylus freely and frequently, Milton whenever he chooses. Such lines as

  In hideous ruin and combustion down

or

  Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast
  Seal up the ship-boys eyes, and rock his brains
  In cradle of the rude imperious surge

(note two double adjectives in three lines in the last)are not subtle or restrained, or careful to conceal their elements of powerful technique, they show rather a vivid richness or vehemence, forcing language to its utmost power of expression. That has to be done still more in this kind of mystic poetry. I cannot bring out the spiritual objectivity if I have to be miserly about epithets, images, or deny myself the use of all available resources of sound significance.

The double epithets are indispensable here and in the ex act order in which they are arranged by me. You say the rich burdened movement can be secured by other means, but a rich burdened movement of any kind is not my primary object, it is desirable only because it is needed to express the spirit of the action here; and the double epithets are wanted because they are the best, not only one way of securing it. The gesture must be slow miraculousif it is merely miraculous or merely slow that does not create a picture of the thing as it is, but of something quite abstract and ordinary or concrete but ordinaryit is the combination that renders the exact nature of the mystic movement, with the dimly came supporting it, so that gesture is not here a metaphor, but a thing actually done. Equally a pale light or an enchanted light may be very pretty, but it is only the combination that renders the luminosity which is that of the hand acting tentatively in the darkness. That darkness itself is described as a quietude, which gives it a subjective spiritual character and brings out the thing symbolised, but the double epithet inert black gives it the needed concreteness so that the quietude ceases to be something abstract and becomes something concrete, objective, but still spiritually subjective. I might go on, but that is enough. Every word must be the right word, with the right atmosphere, the right relation to all the other words, just as every sound in its place and the whole sound together must bring out the imponderable significance which is beyond verbal expression. One cant chop and change about on the principle that it is sufficient if the same mental sense or part of it is given with some poetical beauty or power. One can only change if the change brings out more perfectly the thing behind that is seeking for expressionbrings out in full objectivity and also in the full mystic sense. If I can do that, well, other considerations have to take a back seat or seek their satisfaction elsewhere.

31 October 1936
***
27 Oct 1936

A lonely splendour from the invisible goal
Almost was flung on the opaque Inane. [p. 4]

No word will do except invisible. I dont think there are too many lsin fact such multiplications of a vowel or consonant assonance or several together as well as syllabic assonances in a single line or occasionally between line-endings (e.g. face-fate in the next instalment) are an accepted feature of the technique in Savitri. Purposeful repetitions also, or those which serve as echoes or key notes in the theme.

27 October 1936
***
28 Oct 1936

I notice that you have changed twixt to between when substituting link for step in the line, Air was a vibrant link between earth and heaven. [p. 4] Is it merely because several lines earlier twixt has been used?

No, it is because link twixt, two heavy syllables (heavy be cause ending in two consonants) with the same vowel, makes an awkward combination which can only be saved by good management of the whole linebut here the line was not written to suit such a combination, so it wont do.

28 October 1936
***
28 Oct 1936

Here where our half-lit ignorance skirts the gulfs
On the dumb bosom of the ambiguous earth,
Here where one knows not even the step in front
And Truth has her throne on the shadowy back of doubt,
An anguished and precarious field of toil
Outspread beneath some large indifferent gaze,
Our prostrate soil bore the awakening Light.
Here too the glamour and prophetic flame
Touched for an instant trivial daylong shapes,
Then the divine afflatus, lost, withdrew,
Dimmed, fading slowly from the mortals range.
A sacred yearning lingered in its trace,
The worship of a Presence and a Power
Too perfect to be held by death-bound hearts,
The prescience of a marvellous birth to come.
Affranchised from its respite of fatigue,
Once more the rumour of the speed of
Life Renewed the cycles of the blinded quest.
All sprang to their unvarying daily acts;
The thousand peoples of the soil and tree
Obeyed the unforeseeing instants urge,
And, leader here with his uncertain mind,
Alone who seeks the futures covered face,
Man lifted up the burden of his fate. [cf. pp. 5-6]

A deep and large suggestive tone is here, with every word doing perfect expressive duty; but it would be interesting to know if there is some shifting of the planeif the poetry is nearer the Higher Mind than in the preceding passages where a more direct luminosity seemed to be at work.

The former pitch continues, as far as I can see, up to Light, then it begins to come down to an intuitivised higher mind in order to suit the change of the subjectbut it is only occasionally that it is pure higher minda mixture of the intuitive or illumined is usually there except when some truth has to be stated to the philosophic intelligence in as precise a manner as possible.

28 October 1936
***
30 Oct 1936

[As typed] Its passive flower of love and doom it gave. [cf. p. 7]

Good Heavens! how did Gandhi come in there? Passion-flower, sirpassion, not passive.

30 October 1936
***
2 Nov 1936

Into how many feet do you scan the line

Draped in the leaves emerald vivid monotone [cf. p. 13]?

Five, the first being taken as a dactyl. A little gambol like that must be occasionally allowed in an otherwise correct metrical performance.

2 November 1936
***
1 Nov 1936

The Gods above and Nature sole below
Were the spectators of that mighty strife. [p. 13]

The last line drops only in appearance, I think, towards Miltonism.

Miltonism? Surely not. The Miltonic has a statelier more spreading rhythm and a less direct more loftily arranged language. Miltonically I should have written

Only the Sons of Heaven and that executive She
Watched the arbitrament of the high dispute.

1 November 1936
***
2 Nov 1936

Is the r-effect in

Never a rarer creature bore his shaft [p. 14]

deliberate?

Yes, like Shakespeares

   rock his brains
  In cradle of the rude imperious surge.

Mine has only three sonant rs, the others being inaudibleShakespeare pours himself 5 in a close space.

2 November 1936
***
2 Nov 1936

All in her pointed to a nobler kind. [p. 14]

It is a connecting line which prepares for what follows. It is sometimes good technique, as I think, to intersperse lines like that (provided they dont fall below standard) so as to give the intellect the foothold of a clear unadorned statement of the gist of what is coming, before taking a higher flight. This is of course a technique for long poems and long descriptions, not for shorter things or lyrical writing.

2 November 1936
***
22 Apr 1947

I refuse entirely to admit that that [All in her pointed to a nobler kind] is poor poetry. It is not only just the line that is needed to introduce what follows but it is very good poetry with the strength and pointed directness, not intellectualised like Popes, but intuitive, which we often find in the Elizabethans, for instance in Marlowe supporting adequately and often more than adequately his mighty lines. But the image must be understood, as it was intended, in its concrete sense and not as a vague rhetorical phrase substituted for a plainer wording,it shows Savitri as the forerunner or first creator of a new race. All poets have lines which are bare and direct statements and meant to be that in order to carry their full force; but to what category their simplicity belongs or whether a line is only passable or more than that depends on various circumstances. Shakespeares

  To be or not to be, that is the question

introduces powerfully one of the most famous of all soliloquies and it comes in with a great dramatic force, but in itself it is a bare statement and some might say that it would not be otherwise written in prose and is only saved by the metrical rhythm. The same might be said of the well-known passage in Keats which I have already quoted in this connection:

  Beauty is truth, truth beautythat is all
  Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know

The same might be said of Miltons famous line,

  Fallen Cherub! to be weak is miserable.

But obviously in all these lines there is not only a concentrated force, power or greatness of the thought, but also a concentration of intense poetic feeling which makes any criticism impossible. Then take Miltons lines,

  Were it not better done as others use,
  To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
  Or with the tangles of Neaeras hair?

It might be said that the first line has nothing to distinguish it and is merely passable or only saved by the charm of what follows; but there is a beauty of rhythm and a bhva or feeling brought in by the rhythm which makes the line beautiful in itself and not merely passable. If there is not some saving grace like that then the danger of laxity may become possible. I do not think there is much in Savitri which is of that kind. But I can perfectly understand your anxiety that all should be lifted to or towards at least the minimum overhead level or so near as to be touched by its influence or at the very least a good substitute for it. I do not know whether that is always possible in so long a poem as Savitri dealing with so many various heights and degrees and so much varying substance of thought and feeling and descriptive matter and narrative. But that has been my general aim throughout and it is the reason why I have made so many successive drafts and continual alterations till I felt that I had got the thing intended by the higher inspiration in every line and passage. It is also why I keep myself open to every suggestion from a sympathetic and understanding quarter and weigh it well, rejecting only after due consideration and accepting when I see it to be well-founded. But for that the critic must be one who has seen and felt what is in the thing written, not like your friend Mendona, one who has not seen anything and understood only the word surface and not even always that; he must be open to this kind of poetry, able to see the spiritual vision it conveys, capable too of feeling the overhead touch when it comes,the fit reader.

22 April 1947
***
3 Nov 1936

Are not these lines a snatch of the sheer Overmind?

All in her pointed to a nobler kind.
Near to earths wideness, intimate with heaven,
Exalted and swift her young large-visioned spirit,
Winging through worlds of splendour and of calm,
Oerflew the ways of Thought to unborn things.
Ardent was her self-poised unstumbling will,
Her mind, a sea of white sincerity,
Passionate in flow, had not one turbid wave.
As in a mystic and dynamic dance
A priestess of immaculate ecstasies,
Inspired and ruled from Truths revealing vault,
Moves in some prophet cavern of the Gods,
A heart of silence in the hands of joy
Inhabited with rich creative beats
A body like a parable of dawn
That seemed a niche for veiled divinity
Or golden temple-door to things beyond.
Immortal rhythms swayed her time-born steps;
Her look, her smile awoke celestial sense
In this earth-stuff and their intense delight
Poured a supernal beauty on mens lives.
The great unsatisfied godhead here could dwell.
Vacant of the dwarf selfs imprisoned air,
Her mood could harbour his sublimer breath
Spiritual that can make all things divine:
For even her gulfs were secrecies of light.
At once she was the stillness and the Word,
An ocean of untrembling virgin fire,
A continent of self-diffusing peace.
In her he met a vastness like his own;
His warm high subtle ether he refound
And moved in her as in his natural home. [cf. pp. 14-16]

This passage is, I believe, what I might call the Overmind Intuition at work expressing itself in something like its own rhythm and language. It is difficult to say about ones own poetry, but I think I have succeeded here and in some passages later on in catching that very difficult note; in separate lines or briefer passages (i.e. a few lines at a time) I think it comes in not unoften.

3 November 1936
***
11 Mar 1946

I shall answer in this letter only about the passage in the description of Savitri which has been omitted.1 The simplest thing would be to leave the description itself and the article as they are. I am unable to accept the alterations you suggest because they are romantically decorative and do not convey any impression of directness and reality which is necessary in this style of writing. A sapphire sky is too obvious and common and has no significance in connection with the word magnanimity or its idea and boundless is somewhat meaningless and inapt when applied to sky. The same objections apply to both opulence and amplitude; but apart from that they have only a rhetorical value and are not the right word for what I want to say. Your lifes wounded wings of dream and the wounded wings of life have also a very pronounced note of romanticism and do not agree with the strong reality of things stressed everywhere in this passage. In the poem I dwell often upon the idea of life as a dream, but here it would bring in a false note. It does not seem to me that magnanimity and greatness are the same thing or that this can be called a repetition. I myself see no objection to heaven and haven; it is not as if they were in successive lines; they are divided by two lines and it is surely an excessively meticulous ear that can take their similarity of sound at this distance as an offence. Most of your other objections hang upon your overscrupulous law against repetitions. I shall speak about that in a later letter; at present I can only say that I consider that this law has no value in the technique of a mystic poem of this kind and that repetition of a certain kind can be even part of the technique; for instance, I see no objection to sea being repeated in a different context in the same passage or to the image of the ocean being resorted to in a third connection. I cannot see that the power and force or inevitability of these lines is at all diminished in their own context by their relative proximity or that that proximity makes each less inevitable in its place.

Then about the image about the bird and the bosom, I understand what you mean, but it rests upon the idea that the whole passage must be kept at the same transcendental level. It is true that all the rest gives the transcendental values in the composition of Savitris being, while here there is a departure to show how this transcendental greatness contacts the psychic demand of human nature in its weakness and responds to it and acts upon it. That was the purpose of the new passage and it is difficult to accomplish it without bringing in a normal psychic instead of a transcendental tone. The image of the bird and the bosom is obviously not new and original, it images a common demand of the human heart and does it by employing a physical and emotional figure so as to give it a vivid directness in its own kind. This passage was introduced because it brought in something in Savitris relation with the human world which seemed to me a necessary part of a complete psychological description of her. If it had to be altered,which would be only if the descent to the psychic level really spoils the consistent integrality of the description and lowers the height of the poetry,I would have to find something equal and better, and just now I do not find any such satisfying alteration.

As for the line about the strength and silence of the gods, that has a similar motive of completeness. The line about the stillness and the word gives us the transcendental element in Savitri,for the Divine Savitri is the word that rises from the transcendental stillness; the next two lines render that element into the poise of the spiritual consciousness; this last line brings the same thing down to the outward character and temperament in life. A union of strength and silence is insisted upon in this poem as one of the most prominent characteristics of Savitri and I have dwelt on it elsewhere, but it had to be brought in here also if this description of her was to be complete. I do not find that this line lacks poetry or power; if I did, I would alter it. Your objection to the substitution of wideness for vastness2 is quite justified though not because of any reason of repetition, but because vastness is the right word and wideness is much inferior; the change was not deliberate but came by inadvertence due to a lapse of memory. I have restored vastness in the poem.

But, for all this, it may perhaps be better to keep the passage as you have written it [with omissions] since it is a particular characteristic of poetic style at its highest which you want to emphasise, and anything which you feel to lower or depart from that height may very properly be omitted. So unless you positively want to include the omitted passage kept as I have written it, we will leave your article and quotations to stand in their present form. The rest in another letter.

P.S. One thing occurs to me that the lines you most want to include might be kept, while the passage about the bird and the haven down to the warmth and colours rule could be left out. This would throw out all the things to which you object except the frequency of the sea and sky images and the recurrence of great after greatness; those have to remain, for I feel no disposition to alter those defects, if defects they are. Unless you think otherwise, we will so arrange it. In that case the alteration you want made in your article will find its place.

11 March 1946

  This letter was written in response to suggestions made by K. D. Sethna (Amal Kiran) before he reproduced certain passages from Savitri in his article "Sri AurobindoA New Age of Mystic Poetry" (Sri Aurobindo Circle 2 [1946]). In that article Sethna omitted a number of lines from passages he quoted from the poem. The lines under discussion here are those that begin "Near to earth's wideness, intimate with heaven" (pp. 14-16).Ed.

  In her he met a wideness like his own; [cf. p. 16].

***
22 Apr 1947

As might a soul fly like a hunted bird,
Escaping with tired wings from a world of storms,
And a quiet reach like a remembered breast,
In a haven of safety and splendid soft repose
One could drink life back in streams of honey-fire,
Recover the lost habit of happiness, [p. 15]

One who is himself a soul is compared to a soul acting like a bird taking shelter, as if to say: A soul who is doing so and-so is like a soul doing something similara comparison which perhaps brings in some loss of surprise and revelation.

The suggestion you make about the soul and the bird may have a slight justification, but I do not think it is fatal to the passage. On the other hand there is a strong objection to the alteration you propose; it is that the image of the soul escaping from a world of storms would be impaired if it were only a physical bird that was escaping: a world of storms is too big an expression in relation to the smallness of the bird, it is only with the soul especially mentioned or else suggested and the bird subordinately there as a comparison that it fits perfectly well and gets its full value. The word one which takes up the image of the bird has a more general application than the soul and is not quite identical with it; it means anyone who has lost happiness and is in need of spiritual comfort and revival. It is as if one said: as might a soul like a hunted bird take refuge from the world in the peace of the Infinite and feel that as its own remembered home, so could one take refuge in her as in a haven of safety and like the tired bird reconstitute ones strength so as to face the world once more.

As to the sixfold repetition of the indefinite article a in this passage, one should no doubt make it a general rule to avoid any such excessive repetition, but all rules have their exception and it might be phrased like this, Except when some effect has to be produced which the repetition would serve or for which it is necessary. Here I feel that it does serve subtly such an effect; I have used the repetition of this a very frequently in the poem with a recurrence at the beginning of each successive line in order to produce an accumulative effect of multiple characteristics or a grouping of associated things or ideas or other similar massings.

22 April 1947
***
7 Jul 1947

My remarks about the Bird passage [in the above letter] are written from the point of view of the change made and the new character and atmosphere it gives. I think the old passage was right enough in its own atmosphere, but not so good as what has replaced it: the alteration you suggest may be as good as that was but the objections to it are valid from the new standpoint.

7 July 1947
***
4 Nov 1936

Almost they saw who lived within her light
The white-fire dragon-bird of endless bliss,
Her playmate in the sempiternal spheres
In her attracting advents luminous wake
Descended from his unattainable realms,
Drifting with burning wings above her days. [cf. p. 16]

I suppose the repetition of adjective and noun in four consecutive line-endings is meant to create an accumulating grandiose effect.

Yes; the purpose is to create a large luminous trailing repetitive movement like the flight of the Bird with its dragon tail of white fire.

Will you please say something about this bird?

What to say about him? One can only see.

4 November 1936
***
5 Nov 1936

About that bird, it is true that one can only see; but if not more than one can see, dont others need a bit of explanation? To what region does it belong? Is it any relation of the Bird of Fire with gold-white wings or the Hippogriff with a face lustred, pale-blue-lined?

All birds of that region are relatives. But this is the bird of eternal Ananda, while the Hippogriff was the divinised Thought and the Bird of Fire is the Agni-bird, psychic and tapas. All that however is to mentalise too much and mentalising always takes most of the life out of spiritual things. Thats why I say it can be seen, but nothing said about it.

But joy cannot endure until the end:
There is a darkness in terrestrial things
That will not suffer long too glad a note. [pp. 16-17]

Are these lines the poetic intelligence at its deepest, say, like a mixture of Sophocles and Virgil? They may be the pure or the intuitivised higher mind.

I do not think it is the poetic intelligence any more than Virgils Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt, which I think to be the Higher Mind coming through to the psychic and blending with it. So also his O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem. Here it may be the intuitive inner mind with the psychic fused together.

5 November 1936
***
5 Nov 1936

One dealt with her who meets the burdened great. [p. 17]

Who is One here? Is it Love, the godhead mentioned before? If not, does this dubious godhead with his torch of pain correspond to the image white and high of godlike Pain spoken of a little earlier? Or is it Time whose snare occurs in the last line of the preceding passage?

Love? It is not Love who meets the burdened great and governs the fates of men! Nor is it Pain. Time also does not do these thingsit only provides the field and movement of events. If I had wanted to give a name, I would have done it, but it has purposely to be left nameless because it is indefinable. He may use Love or Pain or Time or any of these powers, but is not any of them. You can call him the Master of the Evolution, if you like.

5 November 1936
***
7 Nov 1936

Her spirit refused struck from the starry list
To quench in dull despair the God-given light. [cf. p. 19]

Any punctuation missing in the first line? Perhaps a dash after refused as well as after list?

I omitted any punctuation because it is a compressed construction meant to signify refused to be struck from the starry list and quenched in dull despair etc.the quenching being the act of assent that would make effective the sentence of being struck from the starry list.

7 November 1936
***
1936

Beyond lifes arc in spirits immensities. [p. 44]

Spirit instead of spirits might mean something else, the word spirit as an epithet is ambiguousit might be spiritistic and not spiritual.

1936
***
22 May 1937

The calm immensities of spirit space,
The golden plateaus of immortal Fire,
The moon-flame oceans of unfallen Bliss. [cf. p. 47]

Less than 20 lines earlier you have

Beyond lifes arc in spirits immensities.

Is it not possible to recast a little the first half of that line?

Immensities was the proper word because it helped to give the whole soul-scape of those worldsthe immensities of space, the plateaus of fire, the oceans of bliss. Infinities could just replace it, but now something has to be sacrificed. The only thing I can think of now is

The calm immunity of spirit space.

22 May 1937
***
23 May 1937

Why immunitythe singularand not immunities to replace immensities?

Immunities in the plural is much feebler and philosophically abstractone begins to think of things like qualitiesnaturally it suggested itself to me as keeping up the plural sequence, but it grated on the sense of spiritual objective reality and I had to reject it at once. The calm immunity was a thing I could at once feel, with immunities the mind has to cavil: Well, what are they?

23 May 1937
***
20 May 1937

As if the original Ukase still held back [cf. p. 76]

I have accented on the first syllable as I have done often with words like occult, divine. It is a Russian word and foreign words in English tend often to get their original accent shifted as far backward as possible. I have heard many do that with ukase.

20 May 1937
***
1937

Resiled from poor assent to Natures terms, [p. 77]

It [resiled] is a perfectly good English word, meaning originally to leap back, rebound (like an elastic)so to draw back from, recoil, retreat (in military language it means to fall back from a position gained or to ones original position); but it is specially used for withdrawing from a contract, agreement, previous statement. It is therefore quite the just word here. Human nature has assented to Natures terms and been kept by her to them, but now Aswapati resiles from the contract and the assent to it made by humanity to which he belonged. Resiled, resilient, resilience are all good words and in use.

1937
***
12 Nov 1936

The incertitude of mans proud confident thought, [p. 78]

Is incertitude preferable to uncertaintywith Infinitudes so closely preceding it?

Uncertainty would mean that the thought was confident but uncertain of itself, which would be a contradiction. Incertitude means that its truth is uncertain in spite of its proud confidence in itself. I dont think the repetition of the sound is objectionable in a technique of this kind.

12 November 1936
***
22 May 1937

Aware of his occult omnipotent Source,
Allured by the omniscient Ecstasy,
He felt the invasion and the nameless joy. [p. 79]

I certainly wont have attracted [in place of allured]there is an enormous difference between the force of the two words and merely attracted by the Ecstasy would take away all my ecstasy in the linenothing so tepid can be admitted. Neither do I want thrill [in place of joy] which gives a false colourprecisely it would mean that the ecstasy was already touching him with its intensity which is far from my intention. Your statement that joy is just another word for ecstasy is surprising. Comfort, pleasure, joy, bliss, rapture, ecstasy would then be all equal and exactly synonymous terms and all distinction of shades and colours of words would disappear from literature. As well say that flashlight is just another word for lightningor that glow, gleam, glitter, sheen, blaze are all equivalents which can be employed indifferently in the same place. One can feel allured to the supreme omniscient ecstasy and feel a nameless joy touching one without that joy becoming itself the supreme Ecstasy. I see no loss of expressiveness by the joy coming in as a vague nameless hint of the immeasurable superior Ecstasy.

22 May 1937
***
23 May 1937

But arent there two tendencies in poetryone to emphasise the shades, another to blend and blur them owing to technical exigencies? What poet would not use gleam, glow and sheen indifferently for the sake of rhyme, rhythm or metre?

That might be all right for mental poetryit wont do for what I am trying to createin that one word wont do for the other. Even in mental poetry I consider it an inferior method. Gleam and glow are two quite different things and the poet who uses them indifferently has constantly got his eye upon words rather than upon the object.

23 May 1937
***
13 Nov 1936

Across the souls unmapped immensitudes. [cf. p. 80]

Whatever you have written, it is not immensities.

The word is immensitudes as you have written. I take upon myself the right to coin new words. It is not any more fantastic than infinitudes to pair infinity.

13 November 1936
***
14 Nov 1936

Would you also use eternitudes?

Not likely! I would think of the French ternuer and sneeze.

The body and the life no more were all.1

Dont care to [change the line]it says precisely what I want to convey and I dont see how I can say it otherwise without diminishing or exaggerating the significance.

14 November 1936

  This line does not form part of the final version of Savitri.Ed.

***
21 May 1937

I still consider the line a very good one and it did perfectly express what I wanted to sayas for baldness, an occasionally bare and straightforward line without any trailing of luminous robes is not an improper element. E.g. This was the day when Satyavan must die, which I would not remove from its position even if you were to give me the crown and income of the Kavi Samrat for doing it. If I have changed here, it is because the alterations all around it made the line no longer in harmony with its immediate environment.

21 May 1937
***
22 May 1937

Your line

The body and the life no more were all

is no doubt a very good line in itself but it seemed to be, in its context here, baldness for baldness sake.

Not at all. It was bareness for expressions sake which is a different matter.

Even if not quite that, it did not appear to justify itself completely: if it had been so very juste you would have scorned the Kavi Samrats crown and income resolutely for its sake also.

It was juste for expressing what I had to say then in a certain context. The context being entirely changed in its sense, bearing and atmosphere, it was no longer juste in that place. Its being an interloper in a new house does not show that it was an interloper in an old one. The colours and the spaces being heightened and widened this tint which was appropriate and needed in the old design could not remain in the new one. These things are a question of design; a line has to be viewed not only in its own separate value but with a view to its just place in the whole.

22 May 1937
***
17 Nov 1936

What plane is spoken of by Virgil in these lines:

  Largior hic campos aether et lumine vestit
  purpureo, solemque suum, sua sidera norunt.

I dont know, but purple is a light of the vital. It may have been one of the vital heavens he was thinking of. The ancients saw the vital heavens as the highest and most of the religions also have done the same. I have used the suggestion of Virgil to insert a needed new line:

And griefless countries under purple suns. [p. 120]

17 November 1936
***
18 Nov 1936

Here too the gracious mighty Angel poured
Her splendour and her swiftness and her thrill,
Hoping to fill this new fair world with her joy, [cf. p. 130]

Would not pours be better?

No, that would take away all meaning from new fair worldit is the attempted conquest of earth by life when earth had been created,a past event though still continuing in its sequel and result.

18 November 1936
***
20 Nov 1936

The hopes that fade to drab realities [cf. p. 159]

Dun occurred to me as less common than drab with realities.

I need dun afterwards, besides drab gives the more correct colour.

20 November 1936
***
1948

The Mask is mentioned not twice but four times in this opening passage [Book Two, Canto Seven, pp. 202-03] and it is purposely done to keep up the central connection of the idea running through the whole. The ambassadors wear this grey Mask, so your criticism cannot stand since there is no separate mask coming as part of a new idea but a very pointed return to the principal note indicating the identity of the influence throughout. It is not a random recurrence but a purposeful touch carrying a psychological meaning.

1948
***
1948

And overcast with error, grief and pain
The souls native will for truth and joy and light. [p. 203]

The two trios are not intended to be exactly correspondent; joy answers to both grief and pain while light is an addition in the second trio indicating the conditions for truth and joy.

1948
***
1948

All evil starts from that ambiguous face. [p. 205]

Here again the same word face occurs a second time at the end of a line but it belongs to a new section and a new turn of ideas. I am not attracted by your suggestion; the word mien here is an obvious literary substitution and not part of a straight and positive seeing: as such it sounds deplorably weak. The only thing would be to change the image, as for instance,

All evil creeps from that ambiguous source.

But this is comparatively weak. I prefer to keep the face and insert a line before it so as to increase a little the distance between the two faces:

Its breath is a subtle poison in mens hearts.

1948
***
1948

As to the two lines with no mans land [in Book Two, Canto Seven, pages 206 and 211] there can be no capital in the first line because there it is a description while the capital is needed in the other line, because the phrase has acquired there the force of a name or appellation. I am not sure about the hyphen; it could be put but the no hyphen might be better as it suggests that no one in particular has as yet got possession.

1948
***
1946

The clich you object to he quoted Scripture and Law was put in there with fell purpose and was necessary for the effect I wanted to produce, the more direct its commonplace the better. However, I defer to your objection and have altered it to

He armed untruth with Scripture and the Law. [p. 207]

I dont remember seeing the sentence about

Agreeing on the right to disagree

anywhere in a newspaper or in any book either; colloquial it is and perhaps for that reason only out of harmony in this passage. So I substitute

Only they agreed to differ in Evils paths. [p. 208]

1946
***
11 Jan 1937

Oft, some familiar visage studying,
Discovered suddenly Hells trademark there. [cf. p. 215]

It is a reference to the beings met in the vital worlds that seem like human beings but, if one looks closely, they are seen to be Hostiles, often assuming the appearance of a familiar face, they try to tempt or attack by surprise, and betray the stamp of their originthere is also a hint that on earth also they take up human bodies or possess them for their own purpose.

11 January 1937
***
1948

Bliss into black coma fallen, insensible. [p. 221]

Neither of your scansions can stand. The best way will be to spell fallen falln as is occasionally done and treat bliss into as a dactyl.

1948
***
1948

Bliss into black coma fallen, insensible,
Coiled back to itself and Gods eternal joy
Through a false poignant figure of grief and pain
Still dolorously nailed upon a cross
Fixed in the soil of a dumb insentient world
Where birth was a pang and death an agony,
Lest all too soon should change again to bliss. [p. 221]

This has nothing to do with Christianity or Christ but only with the symbol of the cross used here to represent a seemingly eternal world-pain which appears falsely to replace the eternal bliss. It is not Christ but the world-soul which hangs here.

1948
***
1936

Performs the ritual of her Mysteries. [p. 221]

It is Mysteries with capital M and means mystic symbolic rites as in the Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries. When written with capital M it does not mean secret mysterious things, but has this sense, e.g. a Mystery play.

1936
***
15 Jan 1937

The passage running from It was the gate of a false Infinite to None can reach heaven who has not passed through hell [pp. 221-27] suggests that there was an harmonious original plan of the Overmind Gods for earths evolution, but that it was spoiled by the intrusion of the Rakshasic worlds. I should, however, have thought that an evolution, arising from the stark inconscients sleep and the mute void, would hardly be an harmonious plan. The Rakshasas only shield themselves with the covering Ignorance, they dont create it. Do you mean that, if they had not interfered, there wouldnt have been resistance and conflict and suffering? How can they be called the artificers of Natures fall and pain?

An evolution from the Inconscient need not be a painful one if there is no resistance; it can be a deliberately slow and beautiful efflorescence of the Divine. One ought to be able to see how beautiful outward Nature can be and usually is although it is itself apparently inconscientwhy should the growth of consciousness in inward Nature be attended by so much ugliness and evil spoiling the beauty of the outward creation? Because of a perversity born from the Ignorance, which came in with Life and increased in Mindthat is the Falsehood, the Evil that was born because of the starkness of the Inconscients sleep separating its action from the secret luminous Conscience that was all the time within it. But it need not have been so except for the overriding Will of the Supreme which meant that the possibility of Per version by inconscience and ignorance should be manifested in order to be eliminated though being given their chance, since all possibility has to manifest somewhere. Once it is eliminated the Divine Manifestation in Matter will be greater than it otherwise could be because it will gather all the possibilities involved in this difficult creation and not some of them as in an easier and less strenuous creation might naturally be.

15 January 1937
***
1948

And the articles of the bound souls contract, [p. 231]

Liberty is very often taken with the last foot nowadays and usually it is just the liberty I have taken here. This liberty I took long ago in my earlier poetry.

1948
***
1948

Their slopes were a laughter of delightful dreams
[eight lines]
There Love fulfilled her gold and roseate dreams
And Strength her crowned and mighty reveries.
[two lines]
Dream walked along the highway of the stars; [cf. pp 234-35]

Gold and roseate dreams cannot be changed. Muse would make it at once artificial. Dreams alone is the right word there. Reveries also cannot be changed, especially as it is not any particular reverie that is meant. Also, dream at the beginning of a later line departs into another idea and is appropriate in its place; I see no objection to this purposeful repetition. Anyway the line cannot be altered. The only concession I can make to you is to alter the first.

1948
***
1948

All reeled into a world of Kalis dance. [p. 255]

It is world, not whirl. It means all reeling in a clash and confusion became a world of Kalis dance.

1948
***
1946

Knowledge was rebuilt from cells of inference
Into a fixed body flasque and perishable; [p. 267]

Flasque is a French word meaning slack, loose, flaccid etc. I have more than once tried to thrust in a French word like this, for instance, A harlot empress in a bougesomewhat after the manner of Eliot and Ezra Pound.

1946
***
31 Mar 1948

To unify their task, excluding life
Which cannot bear the nakedness of the Vast, [p. 273]

I suppose the intransitive use of unify is not illegitimate, though the Oxford dictionary gives only the transitive.

Quite possible to use a transitive verb in this way with an unexpressed object, things in general being understood.

31 March 1948
***
1948

For Truth is wider, greater than her forms.
A thousand icons they have made of her
And find her in the idols they adore;
But she remains herself and infinite. [p. 276]

They means nobody in particular but corresponds to the French On dit meaning vaguely people in general. This is a use permissible in English; for instance, They say you are not so scrupulous as you should be.

1948
***
1948

Would it be an improvement if one of the two successive its in

In the world which sprang from it it took no part [p. 283]

is avoided? Why not put something like its depths for the first it?

Depths will not do, since the meaning is not that it took no part in what came from the depths but did take part in what came from the shallows; the word would be merely a rhetorical flourish and take away the real sense. It would be easy in several ways to avoid the two its coming together but the direct force would be lost. I think a comma at it and the slight pause it would bring in the reading would be sufficient. For instance, one could write no part it took, instead of it took no part, but the direct force I want would be lost.

1948
***
1948

Travestied with a fortuitous sovereignty [p. 285]

I am unable to follow your criticism. I find nothing pompous or bombastic in the line unless it is the resonance of the word fortuitous and the many closely packed ts that give you the impression. But fortuitous cannot be sacrificed as it exactly hits the meaning I want. Also I fail to see what is abstract and especially mental in it. Neither a travesty nor sovereignty are abstract things and the images here are all concrete, as they should be to express the inner visions sense of concreteness of subtle things. The whole passage is of course about mental movements and mental powers, therefore about what the intellect sees as abstractions, but the inner vision does not feel them as that. To it mind has a substance and its energies and actions are very real and substantial things. Naturally there is a certain sense of scorn in this passage, for what the Ignorance regards as its sovereignty and positive truth has been exposed by the sceptic ray as fortuitous and unreal.

1948
***
1948

That clasped him in from day and nights pursuit, [p. 289]

I do not realise what you mean by stickiness, since there are only two hard labials and some nasals; is it that combination which makes you feel sticky, or does the addition of some hard dentals also help? Anyhow, sticky or not, I am unwilling to change anything.

I do not want to put days and nights; I find it heavy and unnecessary. It ought to be clear enough to the reader that day and night are here one double entity or two hounds in a leash pursuing a common prey.

1948
***
1948

Your line,

In a stillness of the voices of the world, [cf. p. 294]

is separated by twenty lines from

In the formless force and the still fixity. [p. 294]

So there is no fault here in stillness, but an added poetic quality might come if stillness were avoided and some such word as lulling used, especially as the line before runs:

And cradles of heavenly rapture and repose.

Lulling will never do. It is too ornamental and romantic and tender. I have put slumber in its place.
***

A Panergy that harmonised all life [p. 300]

I do not think the word Panergy depends for its meaning on the word energies in a previous line. The Panergy suggested is a self-existent total power which may carry the cosmic energies in it and is their cause but is not constituted by them.

1948
***
1946

Your new objection to the line,

All he had been and all that still he was, [cf. p. 307]

is somewhat self-contradictory. If a line has a rhythm and expressive turn which makes it poetic, then it must be good poetry; but I suppose what you mean is fine or elevated poetry. I would say that the line even in its original form is good poetry and is further uplifted by rising towards its subsequent context which gives it its full poetic meaning and suggestion, the evolution of the inner being and the abrupt end or failure of all that had been done unless it could suddenly transcend itself and become something greater. I do not think that this line in its context is merely passable, but I admit that it is less elevated and intense than what precedes or what follows. I do not see how that can be avoided without truncating the thought significance of the whole account by the omission of something necessary to its evolution or else overpitching the expression where it needs to be direct or clear and bare in its lucidity. In any case the emended version [All he had been and all towards which he grew] cures any possibility of the line being merely passable as it raises both the idea and the expression through the vividness of image which makes us feel and not merely think the living evolution in Aswapatis inner being.

1946
***



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