Sri Aurobindo’s Earliest Draft of Savitri (1916): Seventh and Last 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 six installments of the earliest draft of Savitri were published in the online forum of Overman Foundation on 4 April, 9 April, 16 April, 23 April, 29 April and 5 May 2013 respectively. The seventh and final installment is published here.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee

Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

SÂVITHRÎ

BOOK II

(Continued)

So on they journeyed still through happy mists,
And faster now all fled as if perturbed,
Escaping from the clearness of her soul.
Then Death cried high,—a vaguer, brighter form
He bore now like a night that smiles at dawn:
“Because thou hast the wisdom to transcend
Both veil of forms and the contempt of forms,
Arise delivered by the seeing gods,
Rest in thy freedom satisfied alone
Nor seek for others’ joy they have not won:
Let each soul to its rapture be enough.
Though thou art strong by the dread Goddess moved
Cease, mortal, to compel the deathless powers.
Highest wisdom find that guards its strength and knowledge
Unused, unspoken lest the world should perish
By wisdom and be overthrown by power,
Dragged like a ship by bound leviathan
Into the abyss of his stupendous seas.
For far too swift the aeons would stumble on
If strength were given to imperfect souls,
If veilless knowledge smote the unfit brain.
Therefore God hid His face and seemed to err.
Aim not at dangerous swift-foot victories,
Sheltered by smallness only such steps desire
As earth can bear in her frail denser moulds.
If thou art strong with the dread Goddess filled,
Use not thy strength like the wild Titan souls,
Touch not the ancient lines, the seated laws;
Respect the calm of great established things.”
But Sâvithrî replied to the vague god:
“What is the calm thou vauntest, O Lord, O Death?
Is it not the dull-visioned tread inert
Of monstrous energies chained in a vast round
Soulless and stone-eyed with mechanic dreams?
What were earth’s ages if they grey restraint
Were never broken and glories sprang not forth
Bursting their obscure seed nor man’s slow life
Leaped hurried into sudden splendid paths
By divine words and human gods revealed?
I trample on thy law with living feet
For to arise in freedom I was born.
If I am mighty, let my force be unveiled
Equal companion of your dateless powers
Or else let my frustrated soul sink down
Unworthy of godhead in the original sleep.
I ask not, I demand, O gods of Time,
My will immortal.” He replied, “Yet choose
Another turn than this that thou pursuest.
Art thou so strong and free? Then canst thou take
Thy pleasure upon wayside flowering fields
Yet falter not from thy proud journey’s goal.”
And Sâvithrî: “Even such my choice, O Death.
What liberty has the soul which feels not freedom
Unless stripped bare and cannot kiss the bonds
The Lover winds around his playmate’s limbs,
Nor choose his tyranny crushed in his embrace,
Smiling in golden chains, most bound, most free?
To seize him better with her boundless heart
She accepts the circle of his limiting arms.”
“Prove yet thy absolute force to the wise gods
By choosing thy own joy; for self desire
And yet from self and its gross chain be free.
Know fear of bondage for thy last fine snare.
Show me thy strength and freedom from my laws.”
And Sâvithrî to Death: “Thus can I take
Who claim upon the flowering fields of life
My earthly pleasures, never mine but his,
Or mine for him. Fulfil on the sweet earth
Whatever once the living Suthyavân
Desired in his heart for Sâvithrî.”
Death bowed his sovereign head and made reply:
“Long days I give of thy unwounded life,
Daughters of thy own seed in heart and mind,
Fair hero sons and sweetness undisturbed
Of union with thy husband dear and true
And thou shalt know in thy life’s house where love’s
Oneness shall reign of many gathered hearts
Felicity of thy surrounded eves
And happy service to the heart’s desired
And loving empire over all thou lov’st.
Win easily by love all fruits
Which hardly with great labour high-tasked souls
By difficult virtue ripen tilling earth.
Return, O woman, to thy conquered world.”
But Sâvithrî to Death, “Thy gifts resist.
Void are thy words if lonely I return.”
Then Death sent forth once more his angry cry
As chides a lion his escaping prey.
“What knowst thou of earth’s rich and changing life
Who thinkst that one man dead all joy must cease?
Hope not to be unhappy till the end!
For grief dies soon in the tired human heart
And other guests the vacant chambers fill.
Rich as a holiday painting on a floor
Traced for a moment’s beauty love was made.
Or if a voyager on the eternal trail,
Its objects fluent change in its embrace
Like waves to a swimmer upon infinite seas.”
But Sâvithrî replied to the vague god,
“Give me back Suthyavân, my only lord.
Thy thoughts are vacant to my soul that feels.”
Death answered her, “Try then thy soul, return.
Soon shalt thou find appeased that other men
On lavish earth have beauty, strength and truth.
And when thou hast half forgotten one of these
Shall wind himself around thy heart that needs
A fellow heart. Then Suthyavân shall fade,
A gentle memory pushed away from thee
By new love and thy children’s tender hands
Till thou shalt wonder if thou loved’st at all.
Such is the life earth’s travail has conceived.”
But Sâvithrî replied to eternal Death:
“Thou mockst the mind’s and body’s faltering search.
For what the immortal spirit shall achieve
I have discovered, nor such trials need.
For now at last I know beyond all doubt
The great stars burn with my undying fire
And for its fuel life and death were made.
Life only was my blind attempt to love;
Earth was its struggle, heaven its increase,
And when transcended both shall join and kiss
Casting their veils, a deathless birth is ours.
Earth shall seize all that heaven strives to give
Nor anything be lost the soul has seen.”

But as she spoke the body of Death was changed.
His darkness and his soul-destroying might
Abolishing for ever and disclosing
The mystery of his high and violent deeds
Epiphanies of immortal life arose.
Her senses thrilled in a sweet rapturous world,
Twilight and mist were ended. Perfect heaven
Smiled down from undreamed sapphire, sincere gold
Of sunlight lavished strong riches on the eyes
That suffered without pain the absolute ray
And saw immortal clarities of form.
Perfected all the images of earth
Were thoughts the senses could live in glad, unbound
The soul could use for freest joy of form;
Creations large of God’s victorious mind,
They dwelt like living scenes sublimely born
In a calm beauty of creative joy,
Orchards and valleys, gleaming lakes and hills,
Pastures and woodlands of celestial bliss
And villages and cities of delight
Where luminous lived the nations of the blest.
Above her rhythmic godheads whirled the spheres,
Around her melodies and enchantments flowed:
From the glad bosom of a griefless world
Songs thrilled of birds upon unfading boughs,
Music not with these striving steps of sound
Aspired, that labour from our human strings,
From every note claimed richer ecstasies
For a changed bliss that kept each sweetness old.
For ever faultless instruments were heard
And high-eyed chantings inexpressible,
Strains trembling with the secrets of the gods.
From marvellous flowers imperishably sweet
Immortal fragrance filled the unquivering air:
To live was sweetness and to breathe was song.
And on a sense made pure to seize all tones
And to feel on untired intensest things
Heaven’s subtleties of touch unwearying forced
More vivid raptures than the mind can bear.
What would be suffering here was mighty bliss.
Delivered from the limits of her mind,
Grey limping judgment dead, the sight unbarred
Entered the mysteries of the Artist’s craft.
She saw all Nature wonderful without fault.
These were the decorated doors of worlds
Nobler, yet as felicitously fair.
There every thought like a sweet radiant god
Climbed strong without endeavour to the sight
Of the All-blissful; feelings were waves of light,
Rose from each other in a tranquil surge.
Deep, candid, a sweet-natured wisdom grew
The bright beneficent sunlight of the soul,
Or sheer wild rounds inviolably pure
Swayed linked in moonlit revels of the heart
Knowing their riot for a dance of God.
Calm seers and poets heard the absolute thoughts
That now come travelers pale deformed with toil
From their large heavens to our clouded minds,
Spent in their journey, changed with broken wings,
Seized perfect words that here are frail sounds caught
By difficult rapture on a mortal tongue.
The strong who stumble and sin grew clear, great gods.
And where she stood in ever-flowering groves
Carolling thrilled response to united hearts
She saw the clasp which is denied to earth,
Felt a rapt candid passion of the soul
And viewed the unending joys of veilless love.
Then spoke the god, a figure sweet, august
And on his lips the smile that wear unmasked
The immortal secret helpers of the soul.

[The short piece is a part of the projected Epilogue. It is taken from the second of the two exercise books containing the first fair copy.]

Concluding Passage

“Because thou hast rejected my great [1] calm
I lay upon thy neck my mighty yoke
And hold thee without refuge from my will.
Now will I do by thee my glorious works
Giving thee for reward and punishment
Myself in thee a sweetness and a scourge.
Unsheltered by dividing walls [of mind] {2},
Naked of ignorance’ protecting veil
And without covert from my [3] radiant gods
Thou shalt be hunted through the world by love.
No form shall screen thee from divine desire,
Nowhere shalt thou escape my living eyes.
A vision shall compel thy coursing breath.
Thy heart shall drive thee on the wheel of time;
Thy mind shall urge thee through the flames of thought,
To meet me in the abyss and on the heights,
To feel me in the tempest and the calm
And love me in the noble and the vile,
In beautiful things and terrible desire.
My fiercest masks shall my attractions bring,
Music shall find thee in the voice of swords,
Beauty pursue thee through the core of flame.
The pains of hell shall be to thee my kiss,
The flowers of heaven persuade thee with my touch,
The [myriad] {4} forces of my universe
Shall cry to thee the summons of my name.
Thou shalt know me in the rolling of the spheres,
Thou shalt meet me in the atoms of the whirl.
Delight shall drip down from my nectarous moon,
My fragrance seize thee in the jasmine’s snare,
My eye shall look upon thee from the sun.
Mirror of Nature’s secret spirit made,
Thou shalt not shrink from any brother soul
But live attracted helplessly to all,
Drawn to me on the bosom of thy friend
And forced to love me in thy enemy’s eyes.
Thou shalt drink down my sweetness unalloyed
And bear my ruthless beauty unabridged
Amid the world’s intolerable wrongs,
Mid the long discord and the clash of search,
Thou shalt discover the one and quivering note
And be the harp of all its melodies
And be my splendid wave in seas of love.
Insistent, careless of thy lonely right,
My creatures shall demand me from thy heart.
All that thou hast shall be for others’ bliss;
All that thou art shall to my hands belong.
I will pour delight from thee as from a jar
And whirl thee as my chariot through the ways
And use thee as my sword and as my lyre
And play on thee my minstrelsies of thought.
And when thou art vibrant with all ecstasies
And when thou livst one spirit with all things,
Men seeing thee shall feel my siege of joy,
And nearer draw to me because thou art.
Enamoured of thy spirit’s loveliness,
They shall embrace my body in thy soul,
Hear in thy life the beauty of my laugh,
Know thy thrilled bliss with which I made the world.
This thou shalt henceforth learn from every thought, [5]
That conquering me thou art my captive made,
And who possess me are by me possessed.
For ever love, O beautiful slave of God.
Cast from the summits of thy visioned spirit,
Return to life with him thy soul desired,
In whom I lay in wait for thee at first,
Satisfied in him of oneness and convinced
And gather to thee myriad unities
With all my endless forms and divine souls.
From thy beginning in earth’s voiceless bosom
Through life and time and will and grief and death
I have led thee onward to the golden point,
From which another sweeter gyre shall start.”

The measure of that subtle music ceased.
Down with a hurried swimming floating lapse
Through unseen worlds and bottomless spaces forced
Sank like a star the soul of Sâvithrî,
[…] {6} mid a laughter of unearthly lyres,
She heard around her nameless voices cry
Triumphing, an innumerable sound
And bore the burden of infinity
And felt the stir of all ethereal space
Pursuing her in her fall implacably sweet.
A face was over her which seemed a youth’s
Crowned as with peacock plumes of gorgeous hue
Framing a sapphire, whose heart-disturbing smile
Insatiably attracted to delight.
Often it changed, though rapturously the same,
And seemed a woman’s dark and beautiful,
Turbulent in will and terrible in love,
A shadowy glory and a stormy depth,
Like a mooned night with drifting star-gemmed clouds.
Eyes in which Nature’s deaf ecstatic life,
Sprang from some Spirit’s passionate content,
Missioned her downwards to the whirling earth.
Like a bird held in a child’s satisfied hands,
Her spirit strove in an enamoured grasp
Admitting no release till Time should end.
Like a flower hidden in the heart of spring,
She kept within her strong embosoming soul
The soul of Sutyavân drawn down by her
Inextricably heavens in a thronging flight
Soared upward past [her] as she fell; then near
Came the immense attraction of the earth;
Till in the giddy proneness of the speed
Lost, overcome, sinking she disappeared
Into unconsciousness as in a pool,
Like one descending from a breathless height
Into the wonder of abysmal depths.
Above her closed the darkness of great wings
And she was buried in a Mother’s breast.

Fragment of Epilogue

“I am the Madran, I am Sâvithrî,
Thy slave and lover, thy delight and friend,
Thy prone possessor, sister of thy soul
And mother of thy wants. O thou my world,
My god, O earth and heaven my arms embrace,
Whose every limb my answering limbs desire,
Whose heart is key to all my heartbeats! This
I am and thou to me, O Suthyavân;
No gladness lost, but everything fulfilled
Divinely. Let us go through this new world
Which is the same, for it is given back
And it is known, a playing ground of God
Who hides himself in bird and beast and man
Sweetly to find Himself again by love,
By oneness, absolute in us for ever.
Now grief is dead and serene bliss remains.
Let us go back, for eve is in the skies.
[Thy father waits who will not eat of food
Unless he knows us seated at his side.] [7]
Lo, all these beings in this wonderful world!
Let us give joy to all, for joy is ours!”

*

[1] Alternative: far
[2] These two words cancelled without substitution.
[3] Written over “the”, or vice versa.
[4] This word cancelled without substitution.
[5] Marginal alternative: thy heartbeats.
[6] Blank in Manuscript.
[7] Square brackets in the original.

THE END

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5 Comments

  1. Dayanand said,

    May 18, 2013 at 6:02 am

    Thank you very much indeed….Dayanand

    • Shraddhavan said,

      May 18, 2013 at 6:26 am

      Thank you Anurag for this wonderful sharing – Shraddhavan, Savitri Bhavan

  2. Prema said,

    May 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Dear Anurag:”And she was buried in a Mother’s breast.” Involution portrayed so realistically; A great experience, this first draft, brought to us where we are. Thank you!
    Prema

  3. Arup Basu said,

    May 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks, Anurag, for an invaluable gift.

    Arupda

  4. Anurag Banerjee said,

    May 20, 2013 at 7:42 am

    K.D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran’s notes on the aforesaid lines of “Savitri” are as follows:

    • Apropos of line 1500 we may note three verses put down at the bottom of the page without any indication as to what and how much of the present version they may substitute:

    Thus may she smile not as the bound who flee
    From bondage, knowing not their flight a chain.
    For fear of bondage is the gods’ fine snare.

    • Line 1524 “from” as variant to “by”. We may note that the line is lacking in one foot. It is a tetrameter, not a pentameter. Perhaps, instead of “from”, a two-syllabled adjective is written above the line to go between “by” and “love”, but, if so, it is indecipherable.
    • Line 1539: “voyage” as variant to “voyager”.
    • An older version of lines 1568—72 reads:

    Even as she spoke and ceased, the dread form changed,
    His darkness and his soul-destroying might
    Became the happy beauty of the gods;

    Line 1572 has actually no full-stop but overflows: Before her

    There is, however, no further continuation and so the extra words, which are not indispensable to the sense, have been omitted here.


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