SABCL - Volume 5
III. Longer Poems
Under the high and gloomy eastern hills
The portals of Patala1 are and there
The Bhogavathie with her sinuous waves
Rises, a river alien to the sun,
And often to its strange and gleaming sands
Uloupie came, weary of those dim shades
And great disastrous caverns neighbouring Hell,
Avid of sunlight. Through the grasses long
She glided and her fierce and gorgeous hood
Gleamed with a perilous beauty and a light
Above the green spikes of the grass; often
In the slow sinuous waters she was spied
Swimming, with mystic dusky hair and cheeks
That had no rose,– one shoulder’s dipping glow
Through water and one white breast hardly seen.
But as she swam she looked towards the west
Dreaming of daily sunlight and of flowers
That need soft rain and of the night with stars,
A friendly darkness and the season’s change
In beautiful Aryavertha far away,
The country of the Gods, and yet sometimes
Vaguely expectant to the southward gazed.
But in her city Monipur mid the eastern hills2
Chitrangada awoke and saw the dawn
Presaged in bleakness. From Urjoona’s arms
Unclasping her rose-white smooth limbs, she looked
Into the opening world; but all was grey
And formless. Then into her mood there passed
The spirit of the gloomy northern hills
Burdening her breasts with terror and her heart
Was bared to insight, and now it heard the3 moan
Of waters and remembered pain. The sad
Prophecies of the pale astrologers
Haunted her with affliction, and she found
Pale hints of absence from the twilight drawn.
But now the hero felt his clasp a void
And on one arm half-rising searched the grey
Unlidded darkness for the face; then spoke
Slowly her name, “How has the unborn day
Called thee, beloved4, that thou standest dumb
In the grey light like one whose joy is far?
Come hither.” Silently she came and knelt
And laid her quiet cheek upon his breast.
He felt her tears, wondering; and she replied,
“Ah dost thou love me and a moment brief
Of absence troubles even in sleep thy heart
Waking to emptiness? And yet, ah God,
How easily that void will soon be filled!
For thou wilt like a glorious burning move
Through cities and through regions like a star,
Careless in thy heroic strength o’er all
The beautiful country Aryavertha. Women
Will see thy face and strangely, swiftly drawn
Thy masculine attraction feel and bow
Over thy feet. For thou wilt come to them
A careless glory taking women’s hearts
As one breaks from a tree the wayside flowers,
And smile sunnily5 kind even as a god
Might draw a mortal maiden to his arms
And marry his immortal mouth to hers.
Then will thy destiny seize thee, thou wilt pass
Like some great light in heaven, leaving behind
A splendid memory of force and fire.
And thou wilt fill thy soul with battle, august
Misfortunes and tremendous harms embrace,
Experience mighty raptures and at last
Upon some world-renowned far-rumoured field
Empire for ever win or lose, nor all
The while think once of my forgotten face.”
She ceased and wept; he said, touching her hair,
“What wast thou musing, O Chitrangada,
Lonely beside the window and thine eyes
Looked out on the half-formed aspect of things
Twixt light and darkness? Do not so again.
For bleak and dreadful is the hour ere dawn
And one who gazes out then from his sweet,
Warm, happy, bounded human room, is touched
With awful memories that he cannot grasp
And mighty sorrows without form, the sense
Of an original vastness desolate,
Bleak labour and a sad unfinished world.
Dwell not with these again, but when thou wakest
And seest the unholy hour pallid gaze
Into thy room, draw closer to my bosom
Waking with kisses and with joy surround
Thy soul until God rises with the sun.
Friendly to mortals is the living sun’s
Great brilliant light; but this pale hour was made
For slowly-dying men whose lone chilled souls
Grow near to that greyness and dumb mourners
Unfriended.” But Chitrangada replied,
“I looked into the dawn and had a dream
Thou wast gone far from me; too well I knew
That sound of trampling horse-hooves in the north
And victor rumours of thy chariot shook
The hearts of distant things6. I sat alone
At this pale window and about me saw
My city and our low familiar hills.
Yet these were but as objects painted in
Upon the eye, and round me I beheld
The gloomy northern mountains with their mists
And sorrowful embracing rains and heard
With melancholy voices rolling down
The waters of a dull, ill-omened stream
Sinuous and eddies alien to the sun.
That thou wilt pass from me I know, nor would
I stay thee, had I power; for if today
I held thy feet, yet as the seasons passed,
The impulse of thy mighty life would come
Upon thee like a wind and drive thee forth
To love and battle and disastrous deeds
And all the giant anguish that preserves
This world. Thou as resistlessly wast born
To these things as the leopard sleek to strength
And beauty and fierceness, as resistlessly
As women are to love; though well they know
Pain for the end, yet knowing still must love.
Ah swiftly pass. Why shouldst thou linger here
Vainly? How will it serve God’s purpose in thee
To tarry soothing for such brief while longer
Merely a woman’s heart; meanwhile perhaps
Lose some great moment of thy life which once
Neglected never can return.” She ceased
And strove to conquer overmastering tears.
He was silent a little, then his eyes
Strained towards the dim-seen fairness of her face,
Saying, “O little loving child, who once
Wast simply glad to love and feel my kiss!
But now thou mournest, art in one night changed.
Thou wast not wont to leave my arms ere dawn
And dream of sorrow. Rather wast thou fain
Of all my bosom and the gazing light
Hardly could force away thy obstinate clasp.
Yet now thou speakst of absence easily.
Is my love faded? Dost thou feel my arms
Looser about thee, my beloved7? Nay,
Thou knowest that not less but more I love thee
Than when to eastern Monipura far
I came, a wandering prince companioned only
By courage and my sword and found thee here,
O sweet young sovereign, ruling with pure eyes
And little maiden hand, fragile and mild,
A strong and savage nation. At my call
Unquestioning thou camest, oh, meekly down
Leaving tremendous seat and austere powers,
Contented at my feet to dwell and feel
My kisses on thy hair, and couldst renounce
Thy glorious girdle for my simple arms.
O fair young soul, candid and meek and frank
Thy love was, opening to me fragrantly
Like flowers to the sun, wide-orbed, and yielded
Thy whole self up. Yet now thou speakest sadly
Too like a mind matured by thought and pain.”
He ceased, covering her bosom with his hands,
And she trembled, and broke out faltering:
“O endlessness of moments and the long
Pain-haunted8 nights when thou art far! O me
And the pale dreadful dawn when I shall wake
In the grey hour and feel myself alone
For ever! Yet O my rapture and pride! O prince,
O hero, O strong protagonist of earth!
World-conqueror! and in heaven immortal lips
Burning have kissed thy feet, but I possessed.
God knows that I have loved thee, not with grudging
Piecemeal reluctant cessions of the soul
As ordinary women love, but greatly
With one glad falling at my conqueror’s feet
All suddenly and warmly like the spring.
Ah God, thy beauty when it dawned on me
And I obeyed thy bright attraction! felt
Thy face like the great moon that draws the tides!
Facing our armèd senate, bow in hand
Leaned on a pillar with a banner’s pomp
Seeming to mingle in thy hair thou stoodst
Expectant, careless, and thy strong gracious face
Was brilliant like a sudden god’s. And half
I rose up as one called. But even then
Through all the hushed assembly ran a murmur,
An impulse and a movement and with cries
Round thee my strong barbarian nobles pressed
Offering fierce homage. But I sat alone,
Abandoned, with a wounded sad delight,
Loving thy glory, like a young warrior conquered
In battle by the hero he admires.
Thou tookst me by the hand and ledst me down
From the high dais9 and the ancient throne:
Faltering I went with meek submissive eyes.”
Then strong Urjoona10: “Beloved, and was this not
Dearer, a woman’s bliss in her one lord
Than ruling all those kings? Dost thou not choose
Rather thy body by my kisses wakened
Than those free virgin and unconscious limbs?
Ah wherefore shouldst thou dream of love cut short
And joy without its sequel? Rather think
That thy young passion shall to matron bloom
Live warmly enriched and beautifully changed
When thou with the hushed wonder of motherhood
Touching thy sweet young eyes holdst up to me
Returning from high battle to thine arms
A creature of our own.” And she answered
With a low sob, “Would God that it might be!
But though I loved thee I have known I was
No real part of thy great days; only
A bosom on which thou hast lain ere riding
To battle, a face which thou hast loved and passed.
Hero, take up thy bow! Warrior, arise!
Proceed with thy majestic mission. Thou
From many mighty spirits wast selected
And mayst not for a transient joy renounce
The anguish and the crown. I11 shall witness
Thy far-off pomps, not utterly alone;
As herdsmen pausing under quiet leaves
Watch the stupendous passage of a host,
Shrill neigh of horses, chariots swift and men
Marching, and hear great conch-shells blown, and look
Into the burning eyes of kings. Some wave
Of thy vast fate perhaps shall roll thee here
Or12 all is over; in13 the long round of things14
We shall touch15 hands in the old way, yet changed,
Shall wonder in each other’s eyes to find
Strange kindlings and the buried deeps of love.”
She ended, and Urjoona for a moment
Beheld vast Aryavertha as if mapped
Before him, rivers, and heaven-invading16 hills
And cities ancient as their skies; then turned
And drawing to his bosom Chitrangada
With his calm strength surrounding her replied:
“This may be; yet, O woman, O delight,
Remember to rejoice! Flowers die, beloved,
To live again; therefore hold fast to love,
Hold fast the blooming of thy life in love.
The soul’s majestic progress moulding doom
Is with the frailest flower helped that blows
In frankness. Therefore is the woman’s part
Nearest divine, who to one motion keeps
And like the fixed immortal planets’ round
Is constant to herself in him she loves.
Nor though fate call me hence, have I in vain
Loved thee, young virgin of the hills, and snared
Thy feet with kisses; though my soul from thee
Adventure journeying like a star the void,–
As ’tis our spirit’s fate ever to roam
Seeking bright portions of ourself, which found,
The strong heart cherishes until his close.
Relinquish nothing grasped, who yields to fate,17
To fate or weakness, misses the great goal; –
So have I planted thee within my heart,
O tender beauty, and shall not lightly lose.
Though years divide us and the slow upgrowth
Of overlaying thoughts submerge the peace,
The sweet and mutual self, yet the old joy
Lives like Valmikie18 in his mound, the sage
Buried, forgot, yet19 murmuring the name.
Let us not lose then, O Chitrangada,
One moment’s possibility of love
Which being squandered, we shall then regret.
Fate that united once, may when she will
Divorce, but cannot the sweet meaning spoil
Of these warm kisses.” He embraced her wholly
Confounding her with bliss; so for that time
The shadow fled and joy forgot his close.
But one pale morn Chitrangada rose wan
And to the stable through the grey hushed place
Descending, with her little deft hands yoked
Urjoona’s coursers to the car,– persuading
Thrust in their whinnying mouths the bit, fastened
The traces, harmonised the reins, then led
Into the sad dim court, trampling, his steeds;
And with a strange deep look of love and hate
Caressing said, faint with her unshed tears:
“You brought him here who now shall bear away,
O horses yoked to fate. How often yet
Will you deceive us shaking wide your manes
And trampling over women’s hearts with hooves
Thunderous towards battle? Yet your breed perhaps
Shall bring him to my wrinkled age.” And now
Urjoona came: his mailed and resonant tread
Rang in her very heart, his corslet blazed
Towards the chill skies and his heroic form
Seemed to consent with the surrounding hills.
But in the marble face and eyes august
The light of his tremendous fate had dawned
Like a great sunrise. Calm her shuddering body
He took into his bosom and with no word,
Under the witnessing, unmovèd heavens
Kissed her pale lips; then to his car he rose,
And now she did not weep, but silently
Took and returned his kiss. So he went forth.
Thundering the great wheels jarred upon the stones
Of the wide court and echoes filled the air
With triumph20 of warlike sound. Outside,
The city’s nobles, waiting, saw the car
Emerge, and bowed down to their king. They spoke
No word, but stood austerely watching still,
A mist over their stern and savage eyes,
His going, as men in darkness watch a light
Carried away that cheered them for an hour,
Then turned back homeward. But Chitrangada
Waited till the last thunders died away
And far off on a hill the warlike flag
Waved in the breeze and dipped below the edge;
Then to her chamber slowly went alone.
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: Pataala
2 Then into heaven dim-featured twilight came
And in her city mid the eastern hills
3 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: new-heard a
4 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: belovèd
5 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: securely
6 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: kings
7 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: belovèd
8 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Rain-haunted
9 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: daïs
10 1972 ed. SABCL, vol.5: Urjoon
11 1972 ed. SABCL, vol.5: But I
12 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Ere
13 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: for
14 In 2009 ed. after this line there are two lines:
Brings a changed soul in man to old unaltered
Places, and objects cared for once; then, then
15 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: touching
16 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: rivers, heaven-invading
17 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: yieldeth aught
18 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Valmekie
19 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: but
20 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: With a triumph