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Sri Aurobindo

Collected Poems

SABCL - Volume 5

III. Longer Poems


Canto I

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