Sapphires of heaven:
A vast stretch of unbroken bright blue, a formless expanse out of which blooms the Rose of Bliss.
Since the background is blue and not white, ‘seven’ cannot mean the seven colours of the rainbow spectrum. According to Prof. Sethna seven perhaps suggests a mystic multiplicity though seven is a mystical sacred number in all our scriptures. Also, Aurobindo might have used it to rhyme with heaven.
Perhaps refers to the Vedic phrase sapla ralnani. Note that while ecstasies are seven, the harmony is five-fold, for the Rose of God is addressed as Bliss, Light, Power, Life and Love.
Passion flower of the Nameless:
“Passion-flower” here does not have anything to do with “the genus of plants whose flower is taken in Europe to suggest the instruments of Christ’s passion”. It refers only to “the flower flush which is the nameless absolute in its passion of manifestation in the superhuman azures above”. (Sethna)
Bud of the mystical name:
Sethna contrasts the flower-flush to the bud- glow which is a manifestation of the Absolute as the mystical name. Truth is revealed as Beauty in Stanza 1. This brings in the idea of the vision-wisdom which leads to the concept of the Rose of Light. It is the divine ‘Light’ manifesting itself as our mental thought which gives us a true, undistorted vision of Beauty.
Rose of Light:
The archetypal Mind is a self-existent light. The Divine Mind is Wisdom, an intuitive illumination and that Wisdom is a great golden bloom of mystery which has to act in us like a guiding principle, capable of directing with sunlike Truth-Knowledge the growth of the supreme Bliss or Ecstasy.
Guest of the marvellous hour:
The golden-mystery that is the wisdom bloom which acts as the Seer in our mind like a guest in marvellous Yogic hours. It is, in other words, the creation of the Yogic hours, i.e., of deep meditation and spiritual trance. Both wisdom-bloom and golden mystery refer to the Truth-Vision which is the organising principle behind all creation.
Rose of Power:
Just as the universe needs a Rose of Light to be its guiding spirit it also needs a Rose of Power. With its diamond-like penetrative and radiant Truth-Power, the Divine Force will “Organise what is luminously visioned and set forth masterfully its own plan and work out an image of the immortal Light by destroying the circumambient darkness of Ignorance (Sethna).
Damask force of Infinity:
There is perhaps a veiled reference to the ‘Damask Rose’, a variety of rose coming originally from Damascus, a city celebrated for its sword-blade though the immediate suggestion is that of red. The phrase reinforces the idea of a Divine Force which is luminous, sharp and piercing. The Divine Force is beautiful, luminous and yet sharp and piercing, capable of organising what is luminously visioned into an ordered pattern, to work out an image of the Immortal Light by destroying the encircling darkness of ignorance.
Rose of Life is characterised as “Divine Desire” which drives towards deathless incarnation. This has to be connected with the piercing “diamond halo” and the “Image of Immortality” in stanza 3. Thus the sun that is The Rose of Light which is inseparable from the intensity and mystery of Divine wisdom is connected with the Rose of Power and the Rose of Life which is Divine Desire. It is this Divine Desire or Rose of Life which brings outward action or concrete achievement.
To occult sight, purple is the colour of the life-force. The phrase also carries with it the possible suggestion that if any part of the body is smitten one can see a purple patch on the skin.
This is a phrase which suggests again the idea of “colour growing into a sound-power, artistic vision growing into a mantra”. (Sethna) Divine Beauty is capable of transforming everything into a rhythmic whole.
Rose of Love:
Desire is again connected with Love, for it is not only a drive of outward achievement but also a longing to seize and possess with pleasure. The whole of creation has sprung not only from Bliss or Ananda guided by Light organised by Power but also from a divine Desire which again is basically a manifestation of Love.
The heart of the yearning that sobs in Nature’s abyss: Ref. to the use of this word heart in Stanza 1. In both places ‘heart’ refers to two aspects of our emotional being, two aspects of an individual personality or what Aurobindo calls one’s psychic being. The heart is but a physical counterpart of this emotional or psychic being. Our psychic being is, in its essence, a spark of the Divine. It has come into the night of material Nature from where it has been yearning towards the Divine — This yearning from Nature’s abyss will lead to the world evolving in future into a state in which Life Divine will be enacted. The last line of the stanza suggests this.
Beatitude’s kiss: Since ‘sobbing’ has been mentioned earlier, the mouth may be said to be involved in both sobbing and kissing. Life which is a sob of Nature become a “kiss” of Supernature. (Sethna)
Just as the Bliss of the first stanza stands for Ahana or the dawn, the ‘Love’ of the last stanza is also Savitri, the Creative mediatrix who raises earth to heaven.
A concluding note: The Rose of God apart from its thematic complexity and profundity calls for an equally interesting study from the point of view of its structure, diction and syntax. Its incantatory quality is reflected even in the graphical organisation of the words, lines and stanzas. The poem is full of striking parallelisms and contrasts. Note the use of semantically related words like, for instance, Leap, Live, Ablaze, Transform and Arise in the third line of every stanza.
There is again a constant juxtaposition of the two leading ideas in the poem, the divine which is high above and the human which is down below.
It is also interesting to note that each of the first three stanzas has only one main verb while stanzas 4 and 5 have three and two main verbs respectively. All these verbs focus on ‘action which is central to the poem’s theme.
“Lines from Savitri”:
Savitri often described as a “cosmic epic” is Sri Aurobindo’s greatest work and one of the greatest contributions to Indian English literature. It is a colossal poem written in 24,000 lines and divided into twelve books, each book comprising several cantos. The present extract forms the concluding part of Canto I, “The Word of Fate” in Book Six, “The Book of Fate”.
Aurobindo’s epic is based on the well-known ancient legend which tells us the story of Savitri and Satyavan but what Aurobindo gives us is not a mere verse narrative. The main theme of the original story, namely love’s victorious fight against death was something which had haunted Aurobindo from his earliest years and the theme has been presented here not merely in terms of the legendary story but in terms of the highest philosophical and metaphysical thought.
Also, the poem which Aurobindo himself has called “A Legend and a Symbol” carries with it symbolic visions of the future of the world and of mankind, speculations about the future of the world and of mankind, speculadons about the future based on his own mystic experiences, and a yogic realization.
Thus Savitri is portrayed here not just as a girl-heroine at the centre of the great fight between love and death but as a great symbol, “an Avatar of eternal Beauty and Love plunging into the trials of terrestrial life and seeking to overcome them not merely in herself but also in the world she had embraced as her own” (Sethna).
In fact it will take a life-time’s effort to make a full study of this great and complex work of art, for it has to be studied in relation to Aurobindo’s Life Divine and Future Poetry on the one hand and the Letters and the Shorter Poems on the other. Savitri turns out to be an illustration of Aurobindo’s concept of Future Poetry which is going to be the poetry of the “Overhead” planes.
In the first canto of “The Book of Fate” we find Savitri declaring to her father Aswapathy her decision to marry Satyavan. Sage Narada who happens to be present warns her against the fatal step and prophesies Satyavan’s destiny to die within the year. The canto presents on the one hand the varied reactions to this dreadful prophecy coming from Aswapathy and the Queen, mother of Savitri and Savitri herself and on the other metaphysical speculations on the meaning of life, death and fate. The present extract presents Savitri’s reply to the whole question.