Loretta reads Savitri:One.I "The Symbol Dawn" part 1
|Loretta reads Savitri
Book One: The Book of Beginnings
Canto I: The Symbol Dawn
Part 1 of 2, pages 1-6
Sri Aurobindo wrote Savitri over a period of 34 years, from 1916 to 1950. In his letters about Savitri, he wrote a little bit about his way of working on it. In one letter, he says:
- “I may describe it as an infinite capacity for waiting and listening for the true inspiration and rejecting all that fell short of it, however good it might seem from a lower standard until I got that which I felt to be absolutely right.” 
He also wrote in another letter that he regarded Savitri as “a field of experimentation to see how far poetry could be written from one’s own Yogic consciousness and how that could be made creative.”
He also says:
- “I used Savitri as a means of ascension. I began with it on a certain mental level, each time I could reach a higher level I rewrote from that level.”
So we are starting now with the opening of Savitri, and the opening of Savitri is the part of the poem that Sri Aurobindo worked on most. The Ashram Archives have almost 50 manuscript versions of the opening of Savitri. It was only in the twenty-first version that he wrote the first line as we have it in its final form.
In the whole canto, there is only one line that is still there from where he started. It is just the very last line at the very very end of the canto, and the line is:
- This was the day when Satyavan must die. (p.10)
The Mother said that a book carries the consciousness of the writer. And she said this so that we can open our own consciousness to receive it. Now we have Savitri, something which Sri Aurobindo himself looked at as a “means of ascension”, and a way of expressing in writing the higher and higher levels of consciousness that he attained during that last 34 years of his life and his Yoga practice.
Canto One The Symbol Dawn It was the hour before the Gods awake. Across the path of the divine Event The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone In her unlit temple of eternity, Lay stretched immobile upon Silence’ marge. Almost one felt, opaque, impenetrable, In the sombre symbol of her eyeless muse The abysm of the unbodied Infinite; A fathomless zero occupied the world. A power of fallen boundless self awake Between the first and the last Nothingness, Recalling the tenebrous womb from which it came, Turned from the insoluble mystery of birth And the tardy process of mortality And longed to reach its end in vacant Nought. As in a dark beginning of all things, A mute featureless semblance of the Unknown Repeating for ever the unconscious act, Prolonging for ever the unseeing will, Cradled the cosmic drowse of ignorant Force Whose moved creative slumber kindles the suns And carries our lives in its somnambulist whirl. Athwart the vain enormous trance of Space, Its formless stupor without mind or life, A shadow spinning through a soulless Void, Thrown back once more into unthinking dreams, Earth wheeled abandoned in the hollow gulfs Forgetful of her spirit and her fate. The impassive skies were neutral, empty, still. Then something in the inscrutable darkness stirred; A nameless movement, an unthought Idea Insistent, dissatisfied, without an aim, p.2 Something that wished but knew not how to be, Teased the Inconscient to wake Ignorance. A throe that came and left a quivering trace, Gave room for an old tired want unfilled, At peace in its subconscient moonless cave To raise its head and look for absent light, Straining closed eyes of vanished memory, Like one who searches for a bygone self And only meets the corpse of his desire. It was as though even in this Nought’s profound, Even in this ultimate dissolution’s core, There lurked an unremembering entity, Survivor of a slain and buried past Condemned to resume the effort and the pang, Reviving in another frustrate world. An unshaped consciousness desired light And a blank prescience yearned towards distant change. As if a childlike finger laid on a cheek Reminded of the endless need in things The heedless Mother of the universe, An infant longing clutched the sombre Vast. Insensibly somewhere a breach began: A long lone line of hesitating hue Like a vague smile tempting a desert heart Troubled the far rim of life’s obscure sleep. Arrived from the other side of boundlessness An eye of deity peered through the dumb deeps; A scout in a reconnaissance from the sun, It seemed amid a heavy cosmic rest, The torpor of a sick and weary world, To seek for a spirit sole and desolate Too fallen to recollect forgotten bliss. Intervening in a mindless universe, Its message crept through the reluctant hush Calling the adventure of consciousness and joy And, conquering Nature’s disillusioned breast, p.3 Compelled renewed consent to see and feel. A thought was sown in the unsounded Void, A sense was born within the darkness’ depths, A memory quivered in the heart of Time As if a soul long dead were moved to live: But the oblivion that succeeds the fall, Had blotted the crowded tablets of the past, And all that was destroyed must be rebuilt And old experience laboured out once more. All can be done if the god-touch is there. A hope stole in that hardly dared to be Amid the Night’s forlorn indifference. As if solicited in an alien world With timid and hazardous instinctive grace, Orphaned and driven out to seek a home, An errant marvel with no place to live, Into a far-off nook of heaven there came A slow miraculous gesture’s dim appeal. The persistent thrill of a transfiguring touch Persuaded the inert black quietude And beauty and wonder disturbed the fields of God. A wandering hand of pale enchanted light That glowed along a fading moment’s brink, Fixed with gold panel and opalescent hinge A gate of dreams ajar on mystery’s verge. One lucent corner windowing hidden things Forced the world’s blind immensity to sight. The darkness failed and slipped like a falling cloak From the reclining body of a god. Then through the pallid rift that seemed at first Hardly enough for a trickle from the suns, Outpoured the revelation and the flame. The brief perpetual sign recurred above. A glamour from unreached transcendences Iridescent with the glory of the Unseen, A message from the unknown immortal Light p.4 Ablaze upon creation’s quivering edge, Dawn built her aura of magnificent hues And buried its seed of grandeur in the hours. An instant’s visitor the godhead shone. On life’s thin border awhile the Vision stood And bent over earth’s pondering forehead curve. Interpreting a recondite beauty and bliss In colour’s hieroglyphs of mystic sense, It wrote the lines of a significant myth Telling of a greatness of spiritual dawns, A brilliant code penned with the sky for page. Almost that day the epiphany was disclosed Of which our thoughts and hopes are signal flares; A lonely splendour from the invisible goal Almost was flung on the opaque Inane. Once more a tread perturbed the vacant Vasts; Infinity’s centre, a Face of rapturous calm Parted the eternal lids that open heaven; A Form from far beatitudes seemed to near. Ambassadress twixt eternity and change, The omniscient Goddess leaned across the breadths That wrap the fated journeyings of the stars And saw the spaces ready for her feet. Once she half looked behind for her veiled sun, Then, thoughtful, went to her immortal work. Earth felt the Imperishable’s passage close: The waking ear of Nature heard her steps And wideness turned to her its limitless eye, And, scattered on sealed depths, her luminous smile Kindled to fire the silence of the worlds. All grew a consecration and a rite. Air was a vibrant link between earth and heaven; The wide-winged hymn of a great priestly wind Arose and failed upon the altar hills; The high boughs prayed in a revealing sky. Here where our half-lit ignorance skirts the gulfs p.5 On the dumb bosom of the ambiguous earth, Here where one knows not even the step in front And Truth has her throne on the shadowy back of doubt, On this anguished and precarious field of toil Outspread beneath some large indifferent gaze, Impartial witness of our joy and bale, Our prostrate soil bore the awakening ray. Here too the vision and prophetic gleam Lit into miracles common meaningless shapes; Then the divine afflatus, spent, withdrew, Unwanted, fading from the mortal’s range. A sacred yearning lingered in its trace, The worship of a Presence and a Power Too perfect to be held by death-bound hearts, The prescience of a marvellous birth to come. Only a little the god-light can stay: Spiritual beauty illumining human sight Lines with its passion and mystery Matter’s mask And squanders eternity on a beat of Time. As when a soul draws near the sill of birth, Adjoining mortal time to Timelessness, A spark of deity lost in Matter’s crypt Its lustre vanishes in the inconscient planes, That transitory glow of magic fire So now dissolved in bright accustomed air. The message ceased and waned the messenger. The single Call, the uncompanioned Power, Drew back into some far-off secret world The hue and marvel of the supernal beam: She looked no more on our mortality. The excess of beauty natural to god-kind Could not uphold its claim on time-born eyes; Too mystic-real for space-tenancy Her body of glory was expunged from heaven: The rarity and wonder lived no more. There was the common light of earthly day. p.6 Affranchised from the respite of fatigue Once more the rumour of the speed of Life Pursued the cycles of her blinded quest. All sprang to their unvarying daily acts; The thousand peoples of the soil and tree Obeyed the unforeseeing instant’s urge, And, leader here with his uncertain mind, Alone who stares at the future’s covered face, Man lifted up the burden of his fate. ...
- Letters on Poetry and Art, p.344
- Ibid., p.272