Savitri is Sri Aurobindo's major poetic work, an epic in blank-verse of about 24,000 lines in which a tale from the Mahabharata becomes a symbol of the human soul's spiritual quest and destiny. "The tale of Satyavan and Savitri", Sri Aurobindo noted, "is recited in the Mahabharata as a story of conjugal love conquering death".
Sri Aurobindo has widened the original legend and turned it into a symbol in which the soul of man, represented by Satyavan, is delivered from the grip of death and ignorance through the love and power of the Divine Mother, incarnated upon earth as Savitri.
Sri Aurobindo worked on this poem for more than thirty years. When a disciple asked why he kept rewriting it, he replied: "That is very simple. I used Savitri as a means of ascension. I began it on a certain mental level, each time I could reach a higher level I rewrote it from that level. . . In fact Savitri has not been regarded by me as a poem to be written and finished, but as a field of experimentation to see how far poetry could be written from one's own yogic consciousnes and how that could be made creative."
The Mother considered Savitri to be "the supreme revelation of Sri Aurobindo's vision" and called it "that marvellous prophetic poem which ill be humanity's guide towards its future realisation." (The demy size edition includes letters of Sri Aurobindo on Savitri. The crown size edition has line numbers.)
An extract from a letter on Savitri
The structure of the pentameter blank verse in Savitri is of its own kind and different in plan from the blank verse that has come to be ordinarily used in English poetry. It dispenses with enjambment or uses it very sparingly and only when a special effect is intended; each line must be strong enough to stand by itself, while at the same time it fits harmoniosly into the sentence or paragraph like stone added to stone; the sentence consists usually of one, two, three or four lines, more rarely five or six or seven: a strong close for the line and a strong close for the sentence are almost indispensable except when some kind of inconclusive cadence is desirable; there must be no laxity or diffusiveness in the rhythm or in the metrical flow anywhere, _ there must be a flow but not a loose flux.
This gives an added importance to what comes at the close of the line and this placing is used very often to give emphasis and prominence to a key phrase or a key idea, especially those which have to be often reiterated in the thought and vision of the poem so as to recall attention to things that are universal or fundamental or otherwise of the first consequence _ whether for the immediate subject or in the total plan. It is this use that is served here by the reiteration at the end of the line. I have not anywhere in Savitri written anything for the sake of mere picturesqueness or merely to produce a rhetorical effect; what I am trying to do everywhere in the poem is to express exactly something seen, something felt or experienced; if, for instance, I indulge in the wealth-burdened line or passage, it is not merely for the pleasure of the indulgence, but because there is that burden, or at least what I conceive to be that, in the vision or the experience. When the expression has been found, I have to judge, not by the intellect or by any set poetical rule, but by an intuitive feeling, whether it is entirely the right expression and, if it is not, I have to change and go on changing until I have received the absolutely right inspiration and the right transcription of it and must never be satisfied with any a peu pres or imperfect transcription even if that makes good poetry of one kind or another . . . Savitri is the record of a seeing, of an experience which is not of the common kind and is often very far from what the general human mind sees and experiences.
You must not expect appreciation or understanding from the general public or even from many at the first touch as I have pointed out, there must be a new extension of consciousness and aesthesis to appreciate a new kind of mystic poetry.
Moreover if it is really new in kind, it may employ a new technique, not perhaps absolutely new, but new in some or many of its elements; in that case old rules and canons and standards may be quite inapplicable.... We have to see whether what is essential to poetry is there and how far the new technique justifies itself by new beauty and perfection, and a certain freedom of mind from old conventions is necessary if our judgement is to be valid or rightly objective. -- Sri Aurobindo
At the head she stands of birth and toil and fate, In their slow round the cycles turn to her call; Alone her hands can change Time's dragon base. Hers is the mystery the Night conceals; The spirit's alchemist energy is hers; She is the golden bridge, the wonderful fire. The luminous heart of the Unknown is she, A power of silence in the depths of God; She is the Force, the inevitable Word, The magnet of our difficult ascent, The Sun from which we kindle all our suns, The Light that leans from the unrealised Vasts, The Joy that beckons from the impossible, The Might of all that never yet came down. All nature dumbly calls to her alone To heal with her feet the aching throb of life And break the seals on the dim soul of man And kindle her fire in the closed heart of things. All here shall be one day her sweetness' home, All contraries prepare her harmony; Towards her our knowledge climbs, our passion gropes; In her miraculous rapture we shall dwell, Her clasp shall turn to ecstasy our pain.
About the Author:
Sri Aurobindo was an Indian/Hindu nationalist, scholar, poet, mystic, evolutionary philosopher, yogi and guru. After a short political career in which he became one of leaders of the early movement for the freedom of India from British rule, Sri Aurobindo turned to the development and practice of a new spiritual path which he called the "integral yoga," the aim of which was to further the evolution of life on earth by establishing a high level of spiritual consciousness which he called the Supermind that would represent a divine life.
Sri Aurobindo wrote prolifically in English on his spiritual philosophy and practice, on social and political development, on Indian culture including extensive commentaries and translations of ancient Indian scriptures, on literature and poetry including the writing of much spiritual poetry.