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Sri Aurobindo

Collected Poems

SABCL - Volume 5

III. Longer Poems


A Fragment

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