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“Whatever our hearts conceive, our heads create,
Some high original beauty forfeiting,
Thence exiled here consents to an earthly tinge.
Whatever is here of visible charm and grace
Finds there its faultless and immortal lines;
All that is beautiful here is there divine.”[1]

(Sri Aurobindo:) “Poetry is created not from the intellect or the outer imagination but comes from a deeper source within to which men have no means of access except when the divine part within seizes on the brain and makes it a passive instrument for utterance the full meaning of which the brain is unable at the moment to grasp. This is the divine mania and enthusiasm which the subtle spiritual discernment of Plato discovered to be the real meaning of what we call inspiration. And of this unattainable force the best lyrics of Rabindranath are full to overflowing.”[2]

(Amal Kiran:) “Mark the epithet I have employed: ‘ever-elusive’. It does not mean that you are just stumped and dumbfounded: it means that you move onward, press forward, seeking as it were a shape and a substance but both of them refuse to be caught and pinned down, they overflow the words while yet filling them. Conceptual hints, imaginative suggestions, symbolic shadowings-forth are there, demanding an inner awareness for their comprehension – these are what poetry must have along with graspable and utterable matter. I might say that poetry should aim not so much at the clarity of the mind as the clarity of what we may term with Sri Aurobindo the Overmind. The one is concerned with seeing faithfully the contour, the colour, the texture, so to speak, of the subject of a poem. The other does not stop with a limited observation. It passes from it to more and more subtle patterns and meanings. The beauty of contour, colour and texture – the loveliness of the finite – opens brightly into unknown dimensions; it is, like the body of Savitri in the passage from Sri Aurobindo I recited to you last time –

A golden temple-door to things beyond. ”[3]

(Sri Aurobindo:) “The earliest surviving poetry of ancient India was philosophical and religious, the Veda, the Upanishads, and our modern notions tend to divorce these things from the instinct of delight and beauty, to separate the religious and the philosophic from the aesthetic sense; but the miracle of these antique writings is their perfect union of beauty and power and truth, the word of truth coming out spontaneously as a word of beauty, the revealed utterance of that universal spirit who is described in the Upanishads as the eater of the honey of sweetness, madhvadam puruṣam; and this high achievement was not surprising in these ancient deep-thinking men who discovered the profound truth that all existence derives from and lives by the bliss of the eternal spirit, in the power of a universal delight, Ananda. The idea of beauty, the spontaneous satisfaction in it, the worship of it as in itself something divine, became more intellectually conscious afterwards, was a dominant strain of the later Indian mind and got to its richest outward colour and sensuous passion in the work of the classical writers...”[4]

“Nirodbaran: Is X ‘creative’?

Sri Aurobindo: I don't think he is; he is also lyrical.

In that poem of his, “Transformation of Nature”, doesn't he give a creative force? He first describes the aspects of ordinary consciousness and sees the utter futility of it and slowly by turning to the Divine the transformation comes.

It is the description of an ideal. Does he enable you to enter into that state of consciousness, live in it? Very few poets are creative.

But we have heard that people have been helped in their sadhana by reading his poems.

That is a different matter. You don't understand what I mean. When you read Hamlet, you become Hamlet and you feel you are Hamlet. When you read Homer, you are Achilles living and moving and you feel you have become Achilles. That is what I mean by creativeness. On the other hand, in Shelley's “Skylark” , there is no skylark at all. You don't feel you have become one with the skylark. Through that poem, Shelley has only expressed his ideas and feelings. Take that line of his:

”Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.”

It is a very fine poetical statement. But it is not creative in the sense that it doesn't make you live in that truth or that expression.

But in poems of Bhakti, devotion, you do feel the Bhakti.

It is a feeling only. It doesn't create a world for you to live and move in. Feeling is not enough in order to be creative.”[5]

Collected Poems
“The Bird of Fire”
Collected Poems - The Bird of Fire.jpg
PDF (1 page)
      Collected Poems
Collected Poems - Shiva.jpg
PDF (2 pages)
  Francis Thompson
“The Hound of Heaven”
Francis Thompson - The Hound of Heaven.jpg
PDF (4 pages)

“Nirodbaran: Purani says your “Bird of Fire” has creative force. It is a creative symbolic poem.

Sri Aurobindo (smiling): I don't know. (Looking at Purani) It is for Purani to pronounce.

He also thinks your “Shiva” has it.

Why not leave my poetry out of it? If you want examples, there is “The Hound of Heaven”, as I have said, and there is Chesterton's “Lepanto”. They have the creative force.”[6]

“Nirodbaran: This morning I had an argument with Purani over your poem “Shiva”. Purani says it has creative force, just as your “Bird of Fire” has.
Purani: Didn't you agree with me?
Nirodbaran: Yes, about “Bird of Fire”. About the other I said that I didn't find creative force in it and asked, “Do you become Shiva when you read it?”

Sri Aurobindo: It is not necessary to become Shiva. The point is whether you find the picture painted there to be living and feel that Shiva is alive in the poem.

Purani: I find it creative in that sense. It is not merely an idea of what Shiva is or stands for that has been depicted. What I find here is a personality, a being.

When you feel that, it means that the thing depicted is a piece of creation. Tagore also seems to have liked this poem very much.

Nirodbaran: Yes, that is the only poem he liked. According to you, then, to be creative means that what is depicted is vivid, alive, appearing real.


  1. Savitri, p.104, “The Kingdom of Subtle Matter”
  2. Early Cultural Writings, p.566, “Reviews: Suprabhat”
  3. Amal Kiran & Nirodbaran, Light and Laughter: Some Talks at Pondicherry, p.62
  4. The Future Poetry, p.255, “The Soul of Poetic Delight and Beauty”
  5. Talks with Sri Aurobindo, p.370, 18 January 1940
  6. Ibid., p.373, 19 January 1940
  7. Ibid.

Sri Aurobindo on poets

See also