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Sri Aurobindo

Collected Poems

SABCL - Volume 5

I. Short Poems

In the Moonlight

If now must pause the bullocks’ jingling tune,

Here let it be beneath the dreaming trees

Supine and huge that hang upon the breeze,

Here in the wide eye of the silent moon.

How living a stillness reigns! The night’s hushed rules

All things obey but three, the slow wind’s sigh

Among the leaves, the cricket’s ceaseless cry,

The frog’s harsh discord in the ringing pools.

Yet they but seem the silence to increase

And dreadful wideness of the inhuman night.

The whole hushed world immeasurable might

Be watching round this single spot of peace.

So boundless is the darkness and so rife

With thoughts of infinite reach that it creates

A dangerous sense of space and abrogates

The wholesome littleness of human life.

The common round that each of us must tread

Now seems a thing unreal; we forget

The heavy yoke the world on us has set,

The slave’s vain labour earning tasteless bread.

Space hedges us and Time our hearts o’ertakes;

Our bounded senses and our boundless thought

Strive through the centuries and are slowly brought

Back to the source whence their divergence wakes.

The source that none have traced, since none can know

Whether from Heaven the eternal waters well

Through Nature’s matted locks, as Ganges fell,

Or from some dismal nether darkness flow.

Two genii in the dubious heart of man,

Two great unhappy foes together bound

Wrestle and strive to win unhampered ground;

They strive for ever since the race began.

One from his body like a bridge of fire

Mounts upward azure-winged with eager eyes;

One in his brain deep-mansioned labouring lies

And clamps to earth the spirit’s high desire.

Here in this moonlight with strange visions rife

I seem to see their vast peripheries

Without me in the sombre mighty trees,

And, hark! their silence turns the wheels of life.

These are the middle and the first. Are they

The last too? Has the duel then no close?

Shall neither vanquish of the eternal foes,

Nor even at length this moonlight turn to day?

Our age has made an idol of the brain,

The last adored a purer presence; yet

In Asia like a dove immaculate

He lurks deep-brooding in the hearts of men.

But Europe comes to us bright-eyed and shrill.

“A far delusion was that mounting fire,

An impulse baulked and an unjust desire;

It fades as we ascend the human hill.”

She cries to us to labour in the light

Of common things, grow beautiful and wise

On strong material food, nor vex our eyes

With straining after visionary delight.

Ah, beautiful and wise, but to what end?

Europe knows not, nor any of her schools

Who scorn the higher thought for dreams of fools;

Riches and joy and power meanwhile are gained.

Gained and then lost! For Death the heavy grip

Shall loosen, Death shall cloud the laughing eye,

And he who broke the nations soon shall lie

More helpless than a little child asleep.

And after? Nay, for death is end and term.

A fiery dragon through the centuries curled,

He feeds upon the glories of the world

And the vast mammoth dies before the worm.

Stars run their cycle and are quenched; the suns

Born from the night are to the night returned,

When the cold tenebrous spaces have inurned

The listless phantoms of the Shining Ones.

From two dead worlds a burning world arose

Of which the late putrescent fruit is man;

From chill dark space his roll of life began

And shall again in icy quiet close.

Our lives are but a transitory breath:

Mean pismires in the sad and dying age

Of a once glorious planet, on the edge

Of bitter pain we wait eternal death.

Watering the ages with our sweat and blood

We pant towards some vague ideal state

And by the effort fiercer ills create,

Working by lasting evil transient good.

Insults and servitude we bear perforce;

With profitable crimes our souls we rack,

Vexing ourselves lest earth our seed should lack

Who needs us not in her perpetual course;

Then down into the earth descend and sleep

For ever, and the lives for which we toiled

Forget us, who when they their turn have moiled,

Themselves forgotten into silence creep.

Why is it all, the labour and the din,

And wherefore do we plague our souls and vex

Our bodies or with doubts our days perplex?

Death levels soon the virtue with the sin.

If Death be end and close the useless strife,

Strive not at all, but take what ease you may

And make a golden glory of the day,

Exhaust the little honey of your life.

Fear not to take her beauty to your heart

Whom you so utterly desire; you do

No hurt to any, for the inner you

So cherished is a dream that shall depart.

The wine of life is sweet; let no man stint

His longing or refuse one passionate hope.

Why should we cabin in such infinite scope,

Restrict the issue of such golden mint?

Society forbids? It for our sakes

Was fashioned; if it seek to fence around

Our joys and pleasures in such narrow bound,

It gives us little for the much it takes.

Nor need we hearken to the gospel vain

That bids men curb themselves to help mankind.

We lose our little chance of bliss, then blind

And silent lie for ever. Whose the gain?

What helps it us if so mankind be served?

Ourselves are blotted out from joy and light,

Having no profit of the sunshine bright,

While others reap the fruit our toils deserved.

O this new god who has replaced the old!

He dies to-day, he dies to-morrow, dies

At last for ever, and the last sunrise

Shall have forgotten him extinct and cold.

But virtue to itself is joy enough?

Yet if to us sin taste diviner? why

Should we not herd in Epicurus’ sty

Whom Nature made not of a Stoic stuff?

For Nature being all, desire must reign.

It is too sweet and strong for us to slay

Upon a nameless altar, saying nay

To honied urgings for no purpose plain.

A strange unreal gospel Science brings,–

Being animals to act as angels might;

Mortals we must put forth immortal might

And flutter in the void celestial wings.

“Ephemeral creatures, for the future live,”

She bids us, “gather in for unborn men

Knowledge and joy, and forfeit, nor complain,

The present which alone is yours to give.”

Man’s immortality she first denies

And then assumes what she rejects, made blind

By sudden knowledge, the majestic Mind

Within her smiling at her sophistries.

Not so shall Truth extend her flight sublime,

Pass from the poor beginnings she has made

And with the splendour of her wings displayed

Range through the boundaries of Space and Time.

Clamp her not down to her material finds!

She shall go further. She shall not reject

The light within, nor shall the dialect

Of unprogressive pedants bar men’s minds.

We seek the Truth and will not pause nor fear.

Truth we will have and not the sophist’s pleas;

Animals, we will take our grosser ease,

Or, spirits, heaven’s celestial music hear.

The intellect is not all; a guide within

Awaits our question. He it was informed

The reason He surpasses; and unformed

Presages of His mightiness begin.

Nor mind submerged, nor self subliminal,

But the great Force that makes the planets wheel

Through ether and the sun in flames reveal

His godhead, is in us perpetual.

That Force in us is body, that is mind,

And what is higher than the mind is He.

This was the secret Science could not see;

Aware of death, to life her eyes were blind.

Through chemistry she seeks the source of life,

Nor knows the mighty laws that she has found

Are Nature’s bye-laws merely, meant to ground

A grandiose freedom building peace by strife.

The organ for the thing itself she takes,

The brain for mind, the body for the soul,

Nor has she patience to explore the whole,

But like a child a hasty period makes.

“It is enough,” she says, “I have explored

The whole of being; nothing now remains

But to put details in and count my gains.”

So she deceives herself, denies her Lord.

Therefore He manifests Himself; once more

The wonders of the secret world within

Wrapped yet with an uncertain mist begin

To look from that thick curtain out; the door

Opens. Her days are numbered, and not long

Shall she be suffered to belittle thus

Man and restrain from his tempestuous

Uprising that immortal spirit strong.

He rises now; for God has taken birth.

The revolutions that pervade the world

Are faint beginnings and the discus hurled

Of Vishnu speeds down to enring the earth.

The old shall perish; it shall pass away,

Expunged, annihilated, blotted out;

And all the iron bands that ring about

Man’s wide expansion shall at last give way.

Freedom, God, Immortality, the three

Are one and shall be realised at length;

Love, Wisdom, Justice, Joy and utter Strength

Gather into a pure felicity.

It comes at last, the day foreseen of old,

What John in Patmos saw, what Shelley dreamed,

Vision and vain imagination deemed,

The City of Delight, the Age of Gold.

The Iron Age is ended. Only now

The last fierce spasm of the dying past

Shall shake the nations, and when that has passed,

Earth washed of ills shall raise a fairer brow.

This is man’s progress; for the Iron Age

Prepares the Age of Gold. What we call sin,

Is but man’s leavings as from deep within

The Pilot guides him in his pilgrimage.

He leaves behind the ill with strife and pain,

Because it clings and constantly returns,

And in the fire of suffering fiercely burns

More sweetness to deserve, more strength to gain.

He rises to the good with Titan wings:

And this the reason of his high unease,

Because he came from the infinities

To build immortally with mortal things;

The body with increasing soul to fill,

Extend Heaven’s claim upon the toiling earth

And climb from death to a diviner birth

Grasped and supported by immortal Will.


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.