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Sri Aurobindo

Collected Poems

SABCL - Volume 5

I. Short Poems

Lines on Ireland


After six hundred years did Fate intend

Her perfect perseverance thus should end?

So many years she strove, so many years,

Enduring toil, enduring bitter tears,

She waged religious war, with sword and song

Insurgent against Fate and numbers, strong

To inflict as to sustain; her weak estate

Could not conceal the goddess in her gait;

Goddess her mood. Therefore that light was she

In whom races of weaker destiny

Their beauteous image of rebellion saw;

Treason could not unnerve, violence o’erawe –

A mirror to enslavèd nations, never

O’ercome, though in the field defeated ever.

O mutability of human merit!

How changed, how fallen from her ancient spirit!

She that was Ireland, Ireland now no more,

In beggar’s weeds behold at England’s door

Neglected sues or at the best returned

With hollow promise, happy if not spurned

Perforce, she that had yesterday disdained

Less than her mighty purpose to have gained.

Had few short change of seasons puissance then,

O nurse and mother of heroic men,

Thy genius to outwear, thy strength well-placed

And old traditionary courage, waste

Thy vehement nature? Nay, not time, but thou

These ancient praises strov’st to disavow.

For ’tis not foreign force, nor weight of wars,

Nor treason, nor surprise, nor opposite stars,

Not all these have enslaved nor can, whate’er

Vulgar opinion bruit, nor years impair,

Ruin discourage, nor disease abate

A nation. Men are fathers of their fate;

They dig the prison, they the crown command.

Yet thine own self a little understand,

Unhappy country, and be wise at length.

An outward weakness doing deeds of strength

Amazed the nations, but a power within

Directed, like effective spirit unseen

Behind the mask of trivial forms, a source

And fund of tranquil and collected force.

This was the sense that made thee royal, blessed

With sanction from on high and that impressed

Which could thyself transfigure and infuse

Thine action with such pride as kings do use.

But thou to thine own self disloyal, hast

Renounced the help divine, turning thy past

To idle legends and fierce tales of blood,

Mere violent wrath with no proposèd good.

Therefore effective wisdom, skill to bend

All human things to one predestined end

Renounce thee. Honest purpose, labour true,

These dwell not with the self-appointed crew

Who, having conquered by death’s aid, abuse

The public ear,– for seldom men refuse

Credence, when mediocrity multiplied

Equals itself with genius – fools! whose pride

Absurd the gods permit a little space

To please their souls with laughter, then replace

In the loud limbo of futilities.

How fallen art thou being ruled by these!

Ignoble hearts, courageous to effect

Their country’s ruin; such the heavens reject

For their high agencies and leave exempt

Of force, mere mouths and vessels of contempt.

They of thy famous past and nature real

Uncareful, have denied thy rich ideal

For private gains, the burden would not brook

Of that sustaining genius, when it took

A form of visible power, since it demanded

All meaner passions for its sake disbanded.

As once against the loud Euphratic host

The lax Ionians of the Asian coast

Drew out their numbers, but not long enduring

Rigorous hard-hearted toil to the alluring

Cool shadow of the olives green withdrew;

Freedom’s preparators though well they knew

Labour exact, discipline, pains well nerved

In the severe unpitying sun, yet swerved

From their ordeal; Ireland so deceiving

The world’s great hope, her temples large relieving

Of the too heavy laurel, rather chose

Misery, civil battle, triumphant foes

Than rational order and divine control.

Therefore her brighter fate and nobler soul

Glasnevin with that hardly-honoured bier

Received. But the immortal mind austere,

By man rejected, of eternal praise

Has won its meed and sits with heavenly bays,

Not variable breath of favour, crowned

On high. And grieves it not, spirit renowned,

Mortal ingratitude though now forgiven,

Grieves it not, even on the hills of heaven,

After so many mighty toils, defeats

So many, cold repulse and vernal heats

Of hope, iron endurance throned apart

In lonely strength within thy godlike heart,

Obloquy faced, health lost, the goal nigh won,

To see at last thy strenuous work undone?

So falls it ever when a race condemned

To strict and lasting bondage, have contemned

Their great deliverer, self and ease preferring

To labour’s crown, by their own vileness erring.

Thus the uncounselled Israelites of old,

Binding their mightiest, for their own ease sold,

Who else had won them glorious liberty

To his Philistian foes, as thine did thee.

Thou likewise, had thy puissant soul endured

Within its ruined house to stay immured,

With parallel disaster and o’erthrow

Hadst daunted and their conjured strength laid low.

But time was adverse. Thus too Heracles

In exile closed by the Olynthian seas,

Not seeing Thebes nor Dirce any more,

His friendless eyelids on an alien shore.

Yet not unbidden of heaven the men renowned

Have laboured, though no fruit apparent crowned

Nor praise contemporary touched with leaf

Of civic favour, who for joy or grief

To throned injustice never bowed the head.

They triumph from the houses of the dead.

Thou too, high spirit, mighty genius, glass

Of patriots, into others’ deeds shalt pass

With force and tranquil fortitude thy dower,

An inspiration and a fount of power.

Nor to thy country only nor thy day

Art thou a name and a possession, stay

Of loftiest natures, but where’er and when

In time’s full ripeness and the date of men

Alien oppression maddened has the wise,–

For ever thus preparing Nemesis

In ruling nations unjust power has borne

Insolence, injustice, madness, outrage, scorn,

Its natural children, then, by high disdain

And brave example pushed to meet their pain,

The pupils of thy greatness shall appear,

Souls regal to the mould divine most near,

And reign, or rise on throne-intending wings,

Making thee father to a line of kings.


Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volume 2.- Collected Poems.- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2009.- 751 p.