On Sri Aurobindo’s Poetry

The name of Sri Aurobindo will reverberate in the hearts of truth-seekers and poetry-lovers alike. As a spiritual Master and possessor of the highest states of consciousness he fed the spiritual hunger and quenched the spiritual thirst of countless aspirants who yearned for the fruits of the spirit. His silent, yogic gaze, wreathed in compassion, directed many a wandering soul to the Heart-Home of God. As a poet he conveyed the message and essence of the highest Reality through divinely inspired and soul-stirring words, illumining the searching mind and thrilling the aspiring heart.

Sri Aurobindo was a seer-poet par excellence. A seer-poet is he who not only sees and feels a higher and divine truth, but also is endowed with the capacity to make others see and feel that truth, by virtue of his inspired poetic voice. Sri Aurobindo is one of those rare, mystic poets whose words bring down a higher reality and by dint of their intrinsic mantric quality make that reality tangible and palpable. The words themselves build a world of spiritual perfection and awaken an inner urge in the aspiring reader to attain that heavenly kingdom, which resides deep within his own heart.

The voice of Sri Aurobindo’s poetry is powerful; the body of his poetry is subtle. His poetry is indeed steeped in satyagraha or soul-force, making it a splendid vehicle for spiritual upliftment and fulfilment. Each line rings with a melodious beauty; every stanza resounds with a powerful truth. When reading Sri Aurobindo, one sometimes feels a majestic greatness stir deep within:

‘Rose of God, like a blush of rapture on Eternity’s face, Rose of Love, ruby depth of all being, fire-passion of Grace!’ [1]

Sometimes a deep, soulful and peerless beauty, as in these lines:

‘Who was it that came to me in a boat made of dream-fire, With his flame brow and his sun-gold body?’ [2]

And always an all-encompassing and all-knowing wisdom, born of inner mystical experience:

‘This world behind is made of truer stuff Than the manufactured tissue of earth’s grace.’ [3]

Throughout his life Sri Aurobindo strove for a poetry which was loyal to the inherent and natural laws of metre, rhythm and rhyme, yet was not bound by them in any immutable or rigid way. Sri Aurobindo studied metre extensively and composed many poems that followed new and previously unexplored schemes of metre in the English language. He devised his own set of laws for the proper use and purpose of metre. In his sublime essay On Quantitative Metre he exposes his theories, arguing that metre and poetic rhythm are not things to be caught in fixed, hard-and-fast rules of quantity, but should rather be subtle, flexible and willing to bend to the suggestions of the inner ear. He felt strongly that metre should serve the poetic inspiration by heightening and sublimating it, not vice versa by dictating and governing the poetic speech. As he himself so eloquently puts,

‘The poet least of all artists needs to create with his eye fixed anxiously on the technique of his art. He has to possess it, no doubt; but in the heat of creation the intellectual sense of it becomes a subordinate action or even a mere undertone in his mind, and in his best moments he is permitted, in a way, to forget it altogether.’ [4]

In his highly informative and thought-provoking book ‘The Future Poetry’, Sri Aurobindo gives his own enlightened ideas not only on the technique of poetry, but also on the very nature, essence and ultimate goal of poetry. The role of the poet then, according to him, is to serve as an instrument or a channel of the divine Ananda, the delight of the soul. The seer-poet is he who most succesfully brings down this delight from its higher regions into the essence and substance of his poetry. In Sri Aurobindo’s own words,

‘A divine Ananda [] is that which the soul of the poet feels and which, when he can conquer the human difficulties of his task, he succeeds in pouring also into all those who are prepared to receive it.’ [5]

One must read Sri Aurobindo’s poetry and read it again and again to fully grasp its richness, vastness and inner profundity. For the secret wealth of the soul is hidden within its lines. To read his poetry then becomes a spiritual exercise, nay, a spiritual experience, more than anything else.




[1] Excerpt taken from ‘Rose of God’ by Sri Aurobindo
[2] Excerpt taken from ‘The Dream Boat’ by Sri Aurobindo
[3] Excerpt taken from ‘The Inner Fields’ by Sri Aurobindo
[4] Excerpt from ‘The Future Poetry’ (pg. 12) by Sri Aurobindo
[5] Excerpt from ‘The Future Poetry’ (pg. 11) by Sri Aurobindo

Abhinabha Tangerman studies meditation under the guidance of Sri Chinmoy.