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SRI AUROBINDO

Collected Plays and Short Stories

Part Two

Fragment of a Drama1

Achab

Stamp out, stamp out the sun from the high blue

And all overarching2 firmament of heaven;

Forget the mighty ocean when it spumes

Under the thunder-deafened cliffs and soars

To crown their tops with spray, but never hope

That Baal will excuse, Baal forgive.

Thatís an ambition more impossible,

A thought more rebel from the truth.

Esar3

Baal!

It seems to me that thou believíst in Baal!

Achab

And what dost thou believe in? The gross crowd

Believe the sun is God or else a stone.

This though I credit not, yet Baal lives.

Esar

And if he lives, then you and I are Baal,

Deserve as much the prayer and sacrifice

As he does. Nay, then, sit and tell him, “Lord,

If thou art Baal, let the fire be lit

Upon thy altar without agency,

Let men believe.” Can God do this, and if

He cannot, if he needs a flint and fuel

And human hands to light his sacred fire,

Is he not less than man? The flint and fuel

Are for our work sufficient. What is he

If not a helpless name that cannot live

Unless menís lips repeat him?

Achab

And the flint,

The fuel? Who made these or formed the hands

That lit the fire? the lips that prove him nothing?

Or who gave thee thy clear and sceptic brain,

Thy statecraft and thy bold and scornful will

Despising what thou usest? Was it thou

That madíst them?

Esar

No, my parents did. Say then

The seed is God that touched my motherís womb

And by familiar process built this house

Inhabited by Esarhaddon.

Achab

Who

Fashioned the seed?

Esar

It grew from other seed,

That out of earth and water, light and heat,

And ether, eldest creature of the world.

All is a force that irresistibly

Works by its nature which it cannot help,

And that is I and that the wood and flint,

That Achab, that Assyria, that the world.

Achab

How came the force in being?

Esar

From of old

It is.

Achab

Then why not call it Baal?

Esar

For me

I care not what ítis called, Mithra or God,

You call it Baal, Perizade says

íTis Ormuzd, Mithra and the glorious sun.

I say ítis force.

Achab

Then wherefore strive to change

Assyriaís law, oíerthrow the cult of Baal?

Esar

I do not, for it crumbles of itself.

Why keep the rubbish? Priest, I need a cult

More gentle and less bloody to the State,

Not crying at each turn for human blood

Which means the loss of so much labour, gold,

Soldiers and strength. This Mithraís worship is.

Come, priest, you are incredulous yourself,

But guard your trade; so do I mine, so all.

Will it be loss to you, if it be said

Baal and Mithra, these are one, but Baal

Changes and grows more mild and merciful,

A friend to men? Or if instead of bloodís

Unprofitable revenue we give

Offerings of price, and heaps of captive gold

In place of conquered victims?

Achab

So you urge,

The peopleís minds are not so mobile yet.

Esar

If you and I agree, who will refuse?

I care not, man, how it is done. Invent

Scriptures, forge ancient writings, let the wild

Mystics who slashed4 their limbs on Baalís hill,

Cry out the will of Baal while they slashed5.

You are subtle, if you choose. The head of all

Assyriaís state ecclesiastical,

Assured a twentieth of my revenues,

And right of all the offerings votaries heap

On Mithra, thatís promotion more than any

Onan can give, the sullen silent slave,

Or Ikbal Sufas6 with his politic brain.

Achab

Why that?

Esar

You think I do not know! I see

Each motion of your close conspiring brain7,

Achab.

Achab

And if you do, why hold your hand?

Esar

Thatís boldly questioned, almost honestly.

Because a State is ill preserved by blood,

The policy that sees a fissure here,

A wall in ill repair, and builds it up,

Is better than to raze the mansion down

And make it new. I know the peopleís mind

Sick of a malady no leech can name;

I see a dangerous motion in the soil,

And make my old foundations sure. Achab,

You know I have a sword, and yet it sleeps;

I offer you the gem upon the hilt

And friendship. Will you take it? See, I need

A brain as clear as yours, a heart as bold,

What should I do by killing you, but lose

A statesman born?

Achab

You have conquered, king, I yield.

Esar

íTis well. Here is my hand on our accord.

 

Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo: Set in 37 volumes.- Vol. 2.- Collected Poems.- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2009.- 751 p.

1 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: A Dialogue

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2 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: oíerarching

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3 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2 here and elsewhere: Esarhaddon

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4 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: slash

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5 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: slash

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6 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Sufa

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7 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: brains

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