It was during the Baroda period that the poet in him blossomed when his mind was drawn not only to the Indian classics and legends but also to the nationalistic upsurge which was just on in the country. He had also developed a full awareness of the greatness and glory of his mother country’s cultural and spiritual heritage. In the years -that followed, however, Aurobindo became involved deeply in the revolutionary politics of Bengal which culminated in his arrest and imprisonment in Alipore Jail.
It was here that Aurobindo had his initiation into the world of spirituality through the mystic experience of ‘Narayana Darshan’ which came to him all on a sudden bringing with it a great spiritual transformation. In 1910 Aurobindo moved to Pondicherry where he entered the world of ‘yoga’ and eventually founded the great Ashram.
In collaboration with Madame Mirra Richard (now known as the Mother) Aurobindo started the journal Arya in which were published many of his famous writings, poems, essays as well as critical articles which later came out as books under various titles — The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Future Poetry, The Foundations of Indian Culture and so on. Some of his plays like Perseus, the Deliverer, Vasavadutta and Rodogune were also published during this period while his magnum opus, Savitri which he had perhaps begun writing even during his Baroda days was published in parts between 1946 and 1951.
Apart from his deep involvement in yoga and spirituality and his astoundingly prolific literary output, Aurobindo waking up now and then from his trances and meditations, took active interest in the burning political issues of the day including World War II and the Freedom Movement, showing his people the path of the Mahatma.
Though he had witnessed such tragic events like the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and the holocaust of the Partition, Aurobindo did not lose faith either in the future of his mother country nor in the future of mankind, for he still believed that the Divine Light which had led the country to its freedom would continue to lead the people to their salvation.
Sri Aurobindo shed his mortal coils on December 5, 1950 and was buried in the Ashram.
Aurobindo is too large a subject to be discussed in a short introduction like this. It should be mentioned however, that his shorter poems deserve as much attention as his other great works, for they contain the seeds of his later development and are an integral part of the totality of his works. In fact, it is difficult to study or understand fully works like the Life Divine, Future Poetry and Savitri if each of them is studied in isolation.
They have to be studied together, for they are mutually illuminating and the shorter poems too are part of that larger scheme which unifies the other works into an organic whole.
“Thought the Paraclete” and “Rose of God” are two of the most important as also the most difficult of Aurobindo’s shorter poems. First of all, they are not like Songs to Myrtilla poems of his youthful period when he was completely under the influence of Milton and the Romantics and was sensitive to the beauty and exuberance of youthful nature in its vernal bloom.
These poems are products of maturity when the poet had, through years of meditation and yoga, developed visionary powers on the one hand and on the other arrived at his own theory of poetry, poetry as dhyanamantra and as something that flowers as a result of the ascent of the human mind into those supramental regions where it can meet the descent of the divine. Both the poems need to be studied with reference to Aurobindo’s “Overhead” aesthesis.
In fact, they are illustrations of that aesthesis. As Dr. K.R.S. Iyengar has stated, “Sri Aurobindo developed a whole theory of ‘overhead’ poetry, and in the poems of the last great period he tried to conquer the human difficulties of the task and create a body of mantric poetry that came as a proper culmination of his long, sustained and inspiring career as a poet in the English language” (Indian Writing in English, p. 166).
“Rose of God” has been described as a mystic cry of the soul, as a mantric prayer which breaks out with ‘rhythmic ecstasy’. What is communicated in this poem is not a mere emotional thrill but an experience in which “the Divine is feelingly visioned and visionarily comprehended” (K.D. Sethna).
This is perhaps the most beautifully structured of all the poems of Aurobindo with the incantation in five four-lined stanzas which are perfectly symmetrical in terms of meaning, image, symbol and the play of colours. In fact, an apparently simple structural frame houses the most complex of ideas which are integrated into an organic whole being unified by the central symbol, namely the Rose.
The Rose in Aurobindo’s poem is the supreme symbol of the essence and efflorescence of God. The Rose being the symbol of Beauty, the Rose of God or God – Rose projects the idea of God as Beauty which again means god as Perfection, for Beauty is perfection of form. (Both this beauty and perfection are reflected in the graphic and phonological and rhythmic structures of the poem in a very suggestive way) This perfection of the Rose of God is the result of an integration of five essences, namely Bliss, Light, Power, Life and Love.
These five essences “together bloom eternally as the Rose of God in Heaven”. So in each stanza of the poem, the first two lines refer to one aspect of the five-fold glory which is eternally in bloom there and in the next two lines that particular aspect of the Glory (Bliss, Light, Power, Life, Love) is invoked to bloom here, here on our bank and shoal of time (“in our heart of humanhood” “in the mind of our earthhood”) and thereby “make earth the home of the Wonderful and Life Beatitude’s kiss”).