Sri Aurobindo’s Earliest Draft of Savitri (1916): Second Installment

Dear Friends,

Sri Aurobindo had started working on the earliest draft of Savitri in August 1916. Nirodbaran, who has portrayed how Savitri reached its final form in his Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, writes about this draft:

“The draft exists in two sections. The first comprising Book I and a few pages of Book II… Book I is complete, Book II unfinished. The spelling of the three chief characters is: Savithri, Uswapathy, Suthyavan. In the first Book, after a short description of Night and Dawn, there is a very brief account of the Yoga done by Uswapathy, then Savithri is born, grows up and goes out, at Uswapathy’s prompting, to find her mate. She finds Suthyavan. In the meantime Narad comes down to earth and visits Uswapathy’s palace. There is a talk between the two; Savithri returns from her quest and discovery, and a talk takes place among the three.” (pp. 173-174, 1995 edition)

We are happy to announce that Overman Foundation has received permission from Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust to publish the earliest draft of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri in its online forum. We are extremely grateful to Shri Manoj Das Gupta, Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, for giving us the said permission.

The first installment of the earliest draft of Savitri was published in the online forum of Overman Foundation on 4 April 2013. The second installment is published here.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

*

SÂVITHRÎ

BOOK I

(Continued)

But on a morn when summer still was young

And the last cuckoo cried among the leaves,

While Uswapathy listened to the morn,

Out of the shadows of the white alcoves

Came Sâvithrî to his side burning in silence

Like a young torch of incense and of flames.

She bore her body like the sob of bliss

Of earth’s mute adoration towards heaven

Awakened in beauty’s living form. He saw,

Pensive, her sweetness woven of golden fire,

Carved like a nectar-cup for thirsty gods.

Then took the father on his knees the child;

Lifting her face he gazed down questioning

Into the wonder of her long veiled eyes,

Deep pools of thought and love as yet unstirred,

That marvelled still at life and saw things far.

There conscious of pure brooding depths he spoke,—

Those sister queens so willed who passionate watched

Their nursling with a tremulous delight,

Enamoured of her firm tender ways and words,

Her laughter, music of tranquility,

Her lustrous eyes waking in sweet large night,

Her limbs that were linked poems made of gold

And her slim moonbeam feet. “O child,” he said,

“Though sixteen years have ripened in thy brow

Thy life dreams still, shut in its own pure bud

Unburst by winds and ardent light. Fragrant

Thou bloomest like a lone forgotten flower

No hand has plucked to lay before the god.

The heavens perhaps guard thee for some great soul

Or too proud-missioned from a divine dawn

Thy light repels the common sons of men.

Go forth and bear the torch of a sweet quest,

Thy heart. For somewhere surely arrived on earth

Waiting unknown thy perfect comrade lives

Kept for thee by the recompensing gods.

Bird of the spaces, soul, I set thee free;

Venture into the world and find thy mate

Winging across far lands.” She went, obeying,

Like one who understands a form of words,

But waits to see their secret meaning dawn.

Her chariot rolled not among cities thronged,

Nor sought the clamorous markets of the land,

Nor sojourned in the palaces of kings;

But through green musing woods, past rough-browed hills,

Over wind-trod pastures and in happy groves

Glided its course like a swift lonely hope

Aware of a sweet mystery withheld

Among its dreams. Still were there remnants left

Of old primaeval spaces where one heard

The sweet and dumbly murmuring voice of earth

In the great passion of her sun-kissed trance

And quieted the all-seeking mind could feel

The unwearied clasp of her mute, patient love

And know for a soul the mother of our forms.

Vague-hearted, listening to a murmur long,

Rhythm of an immenser wordless thought

That gathers in the silence behind life

Like one who waits some sudden revealing stroke,

Through such bright scenes, her kindred spaces, led

By the veiled guardians of her deathless past,

She saw her road in her instinctive mind.

There the king-sages from their labour done

Lived happily with birds and beasts and dawn

And evening, watched with the bright constant stars,

Seeking the soul of things with boundless love,

Or sojourned inly with a voice profound

And a surprising light. Some sat aloof,

Pale hermits with the tiger-skin for robe.

Others with wives and children who grew built

Among these silent mighty influences

Into the towers of manhood they must be,

Unripe for burdens yet and wars, lived sparely

On the raw forest-fruits, kindled the flame

And chanted morn and eve the mystic’s hymn.

They dwelt like spirits from Time’s dull yoke released,

Once more as infants pure, their radiant thoughts

Expecting silence. Mid these haunts of peace

Welcomed by the great mild ascetics, sweetly

Cherished by the calm bright-eyed women pure,

Resting on plains or among mountains large

Through hushed tranquility of forest nights

And when the first cried of the woodland woke,

Watching high dawn break through the giant hills,

Swift-wheeled she journeyed; so far-roaming came

By river-banks and spaces lapped in gold

Into the country of the Shalwa kings

And on its borders solitary and grand

Saw woodland verges trodden by wild deer

And wandered over by the peacock herds.

Cool-perfumed and with pleasure-burdened feet

The morning breezes faltered among flowers;

Light flooded heaven’s regions, all the land

Life flooded. On green earth, in sapphire skies

The free hare bounded and the shrill kite wheeled;

Doves cooed untiring in the easeful shade,

The snow-white cranes toiled clanging through the air

And flame-winged wild-drakes swam in silvery pools.

Her chariot journeyed echoing through a wide

Uncultured earth strewn with deep glades divine

That screened their sheltered murmurs from the sun.

Primaeval peace was there and in its bosom

Held undisturbed wild life of birds and beasts:

Man the artificer had not arrived,

Nor formal labour claimed for dull great cares

Fields tenanted by sunlight and the rain

And pastures of the free life of the earth.

(To be continued)

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6 Comments

  1. Prithwindra Mukherjee said,

    April 9, 2013 at 7:17 am

    HOW TO EXPRESS THE PURE DELIGHT OF READING SUCH LINES ?
    prithwindra

  2. Prema Nandakumar said,

    April 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you Anurag for all that you are doing for Savitri; “deep glades divine”! A perfect description of the epic itself!
    Prema

  3. Arundhati Chatterjee said,

    April 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    The verses carry you to a different world altogether!
    Anurag, you’re doing a good service by bringing these into focus.

  4. Anurag Banerjee said,

    April 10, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Amal Kiran’s notes on the aforesaid lines of Savitri:
    • Line 150 has “burning stilly” as alternative to “burning in silence”. After line 151 there is a variant version, a little shorter, linking up with line 159:

    In her earth’s adoration mute towards heaven
    Had taken beauty’s living form. Her father
    Lifting her golden face gazed questioning down…

    A variant of line 158, with a comma after “gods” in line 156 and the next line omitted, is:

    And questioning gazed into her long veiled eyes,

    • In the passage beginning with line 169 the text suggests the possibility of a shorter version from line 171:

    Thy life dreams still unclaimed, undrawn. Fragrant
    Thou bloomest like a lone forgotten flower

    • In line 192 “wheels” can substitute “course” and “swift-journeying” replace “swift lonely”.
    • Line 203 has “greatens” as variant for “gathers” and in the next line there seems to be “hand” as alternative to “stroke”: “word” was also considered but possibly because of “wordless” in line 202 it was rejected as too obvious an effect.

  5. vishnupada dash said,

    May 22, 2013 at 9:51 am

    savitri is ever new to me.this draft has put some more newness.

  6. September 6, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    sometime in2013,I had read from the web site of ashram under disciples/special visitors about kavyakantha muni translated the first version of savitri in sanskrit and it was shown to Sri aurobindo by Dr reddy and other gentlemen . as narated sri aurobindo commented that #1his has exceeded the original #
    Hardi (name given by Mother)


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