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Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo

The Complete Set

I had to show that doggerel to Amal as I couldn't decipher. Amal suggests that your “perfectly private” is a joke after all.

No, sir. Quite serious. Can't afford to play jokes like that in public.

Is it “Coo in their sacred legions”?

Yes, the cooing is the supramental zenith of the softness and the surrealistic transformation of the cough.

You have made me very happy by your comment on my poem I had sent you. But I doubt if the same sustained level will be maintained. Amal says that he too is not able to do it.

Very few poets can. The best poetry doesn't come by streams, except in periods of extraordinary inspiration. It usually comes by intermittent drops, though sometimes three or four drops at a time. Of course there are exceptions – Shakespeare etc. – but that kind of spear doesn't shake everywhere.

Bengali people say that they like my English verses better than my Bengali ones, for they find there something new.

Isn't that because “people” are less accustomed to English poetry than to Bengali? You have written two good poems in English, and certainly it is early to have done that. But the circumstances are exceptional.

This brings me to Nishikanta's poem. I wonder how, with such poor knowledge of English, he can write such beautiful poems with striking images and expressions.

A very fine poem.

Images and expressions come to him in English because they are there pressing behind; but his imperfect knowledge prevents their getting the right form and arrangement.

Is it something like a wide opening into these planes?

Yes, of course. It is the same thing. One opens to or into a plane of creative expression. Everything is that; it is only the transcription that has to be réussi.

Comparing Nishikanta with Dilip, I find that though Dilip writes very well, his expressions do not fuse with the thoughts and feelings. They are something like bright gems standing out strikingly from the rest of the flowers in a garland.

Do you mean the expression as a whole is not so beautiful as the thought and feeling? I don't quite catch the metaphor of the gems and the flowers. Please clarify. Is it particular expressions you refer to or the expression as a whole?

It strikes me as if he has not yet found that alchemy by which a miraculous harmony can be created out of whatever one touches, while Nishikanta has and knows.

Well I suppose Housman's theory comes in there. D's poetry is more mental. N's comes straight from the vital vision and knocks you in the pit of the stomach.

He does not repeat his images so much as D – and they are exceedingly striking and forceful. They are of one type, but that I suppose is the case with most poets.

From all this I conclude that a born poet and genius combined, is something quite different from one made by yoga. And there will be always a difference between the two.

Can't say I understand. N himself had done nothing worth doing in poetry when he came here – all the signs were that he would be at the best only a Tagorean poetling like so many others. He got a touch here which brought out in him some powerful force of vital vision and word that certainly had not shown any signs of existing before. It may have been there latent, but so was the poet in D. What then exactly is meant by a combination of born poet and genius? A born poet is usually a genius, poetry with any power or beauty in it implies genius.

You wrote to Harin that richness of image comes from an openness to occult planes, which Harin and Nishikanta have. Dilip does not have it yet, it seems to me.

Richness of image is not the whole of poetry. There are many “born poets” who avoid too much richness of image. There are certain fields of consciousness which express themselves naturally through image most – there are others that do it more through idea and feeling.

What do you think of my criticism – right or wrong?

It will have to be more clear, precise and specific before I can assess its value.

What about Nishikanta's big poem? No remark?

Read it. Very good – no remark needed.

And what about his note-book, then? Have you made it a point of reading one poem every day as a mantra?!

Very little chance of his getting it back before the February non-correspondence vacation.

Another poem by Nishikanta: The Rat and the Cat.

Very strong and original.

I don't write to my mother at all because it doesn't do any good except opening a channel for more wallowings in depression and for moans.

Evidently. If people accepted the inevitable, it would be easier to do something for them.

If the tradition demands, we shall try to be softer than butter, but we may be too tempting and evoke a response from the patient's palate for making delicious toast. Who will save us then?

Of course, if you are too too sweet. You must draw the line somewhere.

A doctor says that one has to be firm, stem and hard with women. They may not like it superficially, but they enjoy it and stick to the doctor who gives them hard knocks. Caveman spirit?

He must have been a he-man. She-women enjoy it from he-men. But all women are not she-women and all men are not he-men. Moreover there is an art as well as a nature in that kind of thing which you lack.

Dr. R seems no less a firebrand than myself, but women seem to like him.

He's a he-man. Even so, the women here have ended by saying No more of R!


1936 02 13 Exact Writting Letter Nirodbaran