SABCL - Volume 5
III. Longer Poems
In Manipur upon her orient hills
Chitrangada beheld intending dawn
Gaze coldly in. She understood the call.
The silence and imperfect pallor passed
Into her heart and in herself she grew
Prescient of grey realities. Rising,
She gazed afraid into the opening world.
Then Urjoon, felt his mighty clasp a void
Empty of her he loved and, through the grey
Unwilling darkness that disclosed her face,
Sought out Chitrangada. “Why dost thou stand
In the grey light, like one from joy cast down?
O thou whose bliss is sure. Leave that grey space,
Come hither.” So she came and leaning down,
With that strange sorrow in her eyes, replied:
“Great, doubtless, is thy love, thy very sleep
Impatient of this brief divorce. And yet
How easily that void will soon be filled!
For thou wilt run thy splendid fiery race
Through cities and through regions like a star.
Men’s worship, women’s hearts inevitably
Will turn to follow, as the planets move
Unbidden round the sun. Thou wilt accept them,
Careless in thy heroic strength and beauty,
And smile securely kind, even as a god
Might draw an earthly maiden to his arms
And marry his immortal mouth to hers.
Then will thy destiny seize thee, thou wilt pass
Like a great light in heaven and leave behind
Only a memory of force and fire.
No lesser occupation can forever
Keep thee, O hero, whose terrestrial birth
Heaven fostered with her seed,– for what but this
To fill thy soul with battle, and august
Misfortunes and majestic harms embrace
And joys to their1 own natures2 mated. Last,
Empire shall meet thee on some mighty field
Disputing thee with death. Thou art not ours
More than the wind that lingers for a while
To touch our hair, then passes to its home.”
And Urjoon silently caressing her,
“Muse not again, beloved Chitrangada,
Alone beside the window looking out
On the half-formed aspect and shape of things
Before sunlight was made. For God still keeps
Near to a paler world the hour ere dawn
And one who looks out from the happy, warm
And mortal limit of mankind that live
Enhoused, defended by companionship
With walls and limitations, is outdrawn
To dateless memories he cannot grasp
And infinite yearnings without form, until
The sense of an original vastness grows,
Empty of joyous detail, desolate,
In labour of a wide unfinished world.
Look not into that solemn silence! Rather
Protect thyself with joy, take in my arms
Refuge from the grey summons and defend
Thy soul until God rises with the sun.
Friendly to mortals is the living sun’s
Great brilliant light, friendly the cheerful noise
Of earth arising to her various tasks
And myriad hopes. But this grey hour was born
For the ascetic in his silent cave
And for the dying man whose heart released
Loosens its vibrant strings.” She answered him,
“Near to the quiet truth of things we stand
In this grey moment. Neither happy light
Nor joyful sound deceives the listening heart,
Nor Night inarms, the Mother brooding vast,
To comfort us with sleep. It helps me not
To bind thee for a moment to my joy.
The impulse of thy mighty life will come
Upon thee like a wind and drive thee forth
To toil and battle and disastrous deeds
And all the giant anguish that preserves
Our world. Thou as resistlessly wast born
To these things as the leopard’s leap to strength
And beauty and fierceness, as resistlessly
As women are to love,– even though they know
Pain for the end, yet, knowing, still must love.
Ah, quickly pass! Why shouldst thou linger here
Vainly? How will it serve God’s purpose in thee
To tarry soothing for her transient hour
Merely a woman’s heart, meanwhile perhaps
Lose some great moment of thy life which once
Neglected never can return.” She paused
And great Urjoon made answer, deeply moved:
“Has my clasp slackened or hast thou perceived
A waning passion in my kiss? Much more
My soul needs thee than on that fated day
When through Bengal of the enormous streams
With careless horse-hooves hurrying to the East
I came, a wandering prince, companioned only
By courage and my sword; nor knew such flowers
Were by the wayside waiting to be plucked
As these dark tresses and sweet body small
Of white Chitrangada. Dost thou remember?
O fair young sovereign ruling with pure eyes
And little fearless hand fragile and mild
This strong and savage nation! Didst thou know?
Didst thou expect me in thy soul? Assuredly
Thy heart’s first flutterings recognised their lord.
And never with such gladness mountain queen
Exchanged tremendous seat and austere powers,
Her noble ancient right, for only leave
To lay her head upon my feet and wear
My kisses, not the crown. Content with love
All else thou gavest. Now thou speakest sadly,
Too like a mind matured by thought and pain.”
And she with passion cried: “Do I remember?
Yes, I remember. What other thing can I
Remember, till forgetfulness arrives?
O endless moments, O rain-haunted nights,
When thou art far! And O intolerable,
The grey, austere discomfortable dawn
To which I shall awake alone! And yet
This year of thee is mine until the end.
The gods demand the rest. With all myself
I loved thee, not as other women do,
Piecemeal, reluctantly, but my whole heart
And being like a sudden spring broke forth
To flowers and greenness at my sungod’s touch,
Ceding existence at thy feet. Therefore
I praise my father’s wise and prescient love
That kept me from the world for thee, unsought
Amid the rugged mountains and fenced in
With barbarous inhospitable laws.
Around the dying man the torches flared
From pillar to weird pillar; and one discerned
In fitful redness on the shadowy walls
Stone visages of grim un-Aryan gods.
The marble pallor of my father’s face
Looked strange to me in that unsteady glare,
As if an alien’s; and dream-fantasies
Those figures seemed of Manipurian lords
Strange-weaponed, rude, with faces fierce and gnarled,
Like those they worship. Unafraid I stood
With grave and wide-orbed gaze contemplating
Their rugged pomp and the wild majesty
Of that last scene around my dying sire.
About me stood a circle fierce and strong,
Men high like rough gnarled trees or firm squat towers;
A human fortress in its savage strength
Enringed my future with bright jealous spears.
To them he entrusted me, calling each name,
And made their hearts my steps to mount a throne:
Each name was made a link in a great chain,
A turretted gate inwalling my rule,
Each heart a house of trust, a seal of fealty.
So were their thoughts conciliated; so
Their stern allegiance was secured. He spoke,
And, though of outward strength deprived, his voice
Rang clear yet as when over trumpets heard
It guided battle. ‘Warriors of my East,
Take now this small white-bosomed queen of yours,
Surround her with the cincture of your force
And guard her from the thieves of destiny
Who prowl around the house of human life
To impoverish the meanings of the gods.
For I am ended and the shadow falls.
She is the stem from which your kings shall grow
Perpetual. Guard her well lest Fate deceived
Permit unworthier to usurp her days
Than the unconquerable seed of gods.
Oppose, oppose all alien entry here,
Whether by force or guile the stranger comes,
To clutch Nature’s forbidden golden fruit.
Serry your bucklers close to overwhelm
The invader, seal your deaf and pitiless ears
To the guest’s appeal, the suppliant call. He sole,
Darling of Fate and Heaven, shall break through all
Despising danger’s threat and spurning death,
To grasp this prize, whether Ixvacou’s clan
Yield a new Rama or the Bhoja hear
And raven for her beauty,– Vrishny-born,
Or else some lion’s whelp of those who lair
In Hustina the proud, coveting two worlds,
Leaping from conquered earth to climb to Heaven.
Life’s pride doubling with the soul’s ethereal crown’.
He closed his eyes against the earthly air,
The last silence fell on him: he spoke no more
Save the great name until his spirit passed.
Then the grim lords forgot their savage calm.
A cry arose, ‘Our queen!’ and I was caught
From breast to breast of wild affection; all
Crowded upon me kissing feet and hands,
Recording silent oaths of love. Secure,
Alone in this wild, faithful barbarous world,
I ruled by weakness over rugged hearts,
A little queen adored,– until at length
Thou earnest3. Rumour and wide-mouthed alarm
Running before thy chariot-wheels thou cam’st,
Defeat and death, thy envoys and a cry:
O Manipurians, Manipurians, arm!
Some god incensed invades you,– surely a god
Incensed and fatal, for his bowstring huge
Sounds like the crack of breaking worlds and thick
His arrows as the sleet descends of doom
When the great Serpent wakes in wrath. Behind
That cry the crash of hostile advent came,
Thy chariot caked with mire and blood, its roof
Bristling and shattered from the fight, thy steeds
White with the spume of leagues, though yet they neighed
Lusting for speed and battle, and in the car
Thy grandiose form o’ertowering common mould,
While victory shone from eyes where thunder couched
Above his parent lightning. Swift to arms
My warriors sprang, dismayed but faithful, swift
Around me grew a hedge of steel. Enraged,
Thy coursers shod with wind rushed foaming on
And in with crash and rumour stormed the car
To that wide stone-paved hall; there loudly paused,
While thunderous challenge of the stamping hooves
Claimed all the place. Clanging thou leapedst down,
Urjoon, Gandiva in thy threatening grasp.
Then I beheld thy face, then rose, then stretched
My arms out, pausing not to think what god
Compelled me from my throne. But war came in
Between me and those sudden eyes. One bold
Beyond his savage peers stood questioning forth:
‘Who art thou that with challenge insolent
Intruding, from what land of deathless gods
Stormest with disallowed exulting wheels
In white Chitrangada’s domain? To death
Men hasten not so quickly, Aryan lord.’
Hero, thy look was calm, yet formidable,
Replying, by thy anger undisturbed:
‘To death I haste indeed, but not to mine.
Nor think that Doom has claimed me for her own
Because I sole confront you. For my name
Ask the pale thousands whose swift-footed fear
Hardly escaped my single onset; ask
Your famous chieftains cold on hill or moor
Upon my fatal route. Yet not for war
I sought this region nor by death equipped,
Inhospitable people who deny
The human bond, but as a man to men
Alone I came and without need of fear,
If fear indeed were mine to feel. Nor trumpets blared
My coming nor battalions steel enforced,
Who claimed but what the common bond allows.’ ”
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.
1 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: thy
2 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: nature
3 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: camest