Savitri | a Legend and a Symbol




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Book Nine
The Book of Eternal Night

Canto One

Towards the Black Void

[Savitri B-09 C-01 Canto Name]


Play Section One
[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01]


So was she left alone in the huge wood,

Surrounded by a dim unthinking world,

Her husband's corpse on her forsaken breast.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-01]

In her vast silent spirit motionless

She measured not her loss with helpless thoughts,

Nor rent with tears the marble seals of pain:

She rose not yet to face the dreadful god.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-02]

Over the body she loved her soul leaned out

In a great stillness without stir or voice,

As if her mind had died with Satyavan.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-03]

But still the human heart in her beat on.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-04]

Aware still of his being near to hers,

Closely she clasped to her the mute lifeless form

As though to guard the oneness they had been

And keep the spirit still within its frame.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-05]

Then suddenly there came on her the change

Which in tremendous moments of our lives

Can overtake sometimes the human soul

And hold it up towards its luminous source.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-06]

The veil is torn, the thinker is no more:

Only the spirit sees and all is known.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-07]

Then a calm Power seated above our brows

Is seen, unshaken by our thoughts and deeds,

Its stillness bears the voices of the world:

Immobile, it moves Nature, looks on life.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-08]

It shapes immutably its far-seen ends;

Untouched and tranquil amid error and tears

And measureless above our striving wills,

Its gaze controls the turbulent whirl of things.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-09]

To mate with the Glory it sees, the spirit grows:

The voice of life is tuned to infinite sounds,

The moments on great wings of lightning come

And godlike thoughts surprise the mind of earth.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-10]

Into the soul's splendour and intensity

A crescent of miraculous birth is tossed,

Whose horn of mystery floats in a bright void.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-11]

As into a heaven of strength and silence thought

Is ravished, all this living mortal clay

Is seized and in a swift and fiery flood

Of touches shaped by a Harmonist unseen.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-12]

A new sight comes, new voices in us form

A body of the music of the Gods.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-13]

Immortal yearnings without name leap down,

Large quiverings of godhead seeking run

And weave upon a puissant field of calm

A high and lonely ecstasy of will.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-14]

This in a moment's depths was born in her.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-15]

Now to the limitless gaze disclosed that sees

Things barred from human thinking's earthly lids,

The Spirit who had hidden in Nature soared

Out of his luminous nest within the worlds:

Like a vast fire it climbed the skies of night.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-16]

Thus were the cords of self-oblivion torn:

Like one who looks up to far heights she saw,

Ancient and strong as on a windless summit

Above her where she had worked in her lone mind

Labouring apart in a sole tower of self,

The source of all which she had seemed or wrought,

A power projected into cosmic space,

A slow embodiment of the aeonic will,

A starry fragment of the eternal Truth,

The passionate instrument of an unmoved Power.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-17]

A Presence was there that filled the listening world;

A central All assumed her boundless life.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-18]

A sovereignty, a silence and a swiftness,

One brooded over abysses who was she.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-19]

As in a choric robe of unheard sounds

A Force descended trailing endless lights;

Linking Time's seconds to infinity,

Illimitably it girt the earth and her:

It sank into her soul and she was changed.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-20]

Then like a thought fulfilled by some great word

That mightiness assumed a symbol form:

Her being's spaces quivered with its touch,

It covered her as with immortal wings;

On its lips the curve of the unuttered Truth,

A halo of Wisdom's lightnings for its crown,

It entered the mystic lotus in her head,

A thousand-petalled home of power and light.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-21]

Immortal leader of her mortality,

Doer of her works and fountain of her words,

Invulnerable by Time, omnipotent,

It stood above her calm, immobile, mute.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-01 F-22]

Play Section Two
[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02]



All in her mated with that mighty hour,

As if the last remnant had been slain by Death

Of the humanity that once was hers.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-01]

Assuming a spiritual wide control,

Making life's sea a mirror of heaven's sky,

The young divinity in her earthly limbs

Filled with celestial strength her mortal part.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-02]

Over was the haunted pain, the rending fear:

Her grief had passed away, her mind was still,

Her heart beat quietly with a sovereign force.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-03]

There came a freedom from the heart-strings' clutch,

Now all her acts sprang from a godhead's calm.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-04]

Calmly she laid upon the forest soil

The dead who still reposed upon her breast

And bore to turn away from the dead form:

Sole now she rose to meet the dreadful god.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-05]

That mightier spirit turned its mastering gaze

On life and things, inheritor of a work

Left to it unfinished from her halting past,

When yet the mind, a passionate learner, toiled

And ill-shaped instruments were crudely moved.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-06]

Transcended now was the poor human rule;

A sovereign power was there, a godlike will.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-07]

A moment yet she lingered motionless

And looked down on the dead man at her feet;

Then like a tree recovering from a wind

She raised her noble head; fronting her gaze

Something stood there, unearthly, sombre, grand,

A limitless denial of all being

That wore the terror and wonder of a shape.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-08]

In its appalling eyes the tenebrous Form

Bore the deep pity of destroying gods;

A sorrowful irony curved the dreadful lips

That speak the word of doom.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-09]

Eternal Night

In the dire beauty of an immortal face

Pitying arose, receiving all that lives

For ever into its fathomless heart, refuge

Of creatures from their anguish and world-pain.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-10]

His shape was nothingness made real, his limbs

Were monuments of transience and beneath

Brows of unwearying calm large godlike lids

Silent beheld the writhing serpent, life.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-11]

Unmoved their timeless wide unchanging gaze

Had seen the unprofitable cycles pass,

Survived the passing of unnumbered stars

And sheltered still the same immutable orbs.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-12]

The two opposed each other with their eyes,

Woman and universal god: around her,

Piling their void unbearable loneliness

Upon her mighty uncompanioned soul,

Many inhuman solitudes came close.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-13]

Vacant eternities forbidding hope

Laid upon her their huge and lifeless look,

And to her ears, silencing earthly sounds,

A sad and formidable voice arose

Which seemed the whole adverse world's.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-14]

 “Unclasp”, it cried,

“Thy passionate influence and relax, O slave

Of Nature, changing tool of changeless Law,

Who vainly writh'st rebellion to my yoke,

Thy elemental grasp; weep and forget.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-15]

Entomb thy passion in its living grave.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-16]

Leave now the once-loved spirit's abandoned robe:

Pass lonely back to thy vain life on earth.”

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-17]

It ceased, she moved not, and it spoke again,

Lowering its mighty key to human chords,—

Yet a dread cry behind the uttered sounds,

Echoing all sadness and immortal scorn,

Moaned like a hunger of far wandering waves.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-18]

“Wilt thou for ever keep thy passionate hold,

Thyself a creature doomed like him to pass,

Denying his soul death's calm and silent rest?

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-19]

Relax thy grasp; this body is earth's and thine,

His spirit now belongs to a greater power.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-20]

Woman, thy husband suffers.”

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-21]


Drew back her heart's force that clasped his body still

Where from her lap renounced on the smooth grass

Softly it lay, as often before in sleep

When from their couch she rose in the white dawn

Called by her daily tasks: now too, as if called,

She rose and stood gathered in lonely strength,

Like one who drops his mantle for a race

And waits the signal, motionlessly swift.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-22]

She knew not to what course: her spirit above

On the crypt-summit of her secret form

Like one left sentinel on a mountain crest,

A fiery-footed splendour puissant-winged,

Watched flaming-silent, with her voiceless soul

Like a still sail upon a windless sea.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-23]

White passionless it rode, an anchored might,

Waiting what far-ridged impulse should arise

Out of the eternal depths and cast its surge.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-24]

Then Death the king leaned boundless down, as leans

Night over tired lands, when evening pales

And fading gleams break down the horizon's walls,

Nor yet the dusk grows mystic with the moon.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-25]

The dim and awful godhead rose erect

From his brief stooping to his touch on earth,

And, like a dream that wakes out of a dream,

Forsaking the poor mould of that dead clay,

Another luminous Satyavan arose,

Starting upright from the recumbent earth

As if someone over viewless borders stepped

Emerging on the edge of unseen worlds.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-26]

In the earth's day the silent marvel stood

Between the mortal woman and the god.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-27]

Such seemed he as if one departed came

Wearing the light of a celestial shape

Splendidly alien to the mortal air.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-28]

The mind sought things long loved and fell back foiled

From unfamiliar hues, beheld yet longed,

By the sweet radiant form unsatisfied,

Incredulous of its too bright hints of heaven;

Too strange the brilliant phantasm to life's clasp

Desiring the warm creations of the earth

Reared in the ardour of material suns,

The senses seized in vain a glorious shade:

Only the spirit knew the spirit still,

And the heart divined the old loved heart, though changed.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-29]

Between two realms he stood, not wavering,

But fixed in quiet strong expectancy,

Like one who, sightless, listens for a command.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-30]

So were they immobile on that earthly field,

Powers not of earth, though one in human clay.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-31]

On either side of one two spirits strove;

Silence battled with silence, vast with vast.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-32]

But now the impulse of the Path was felt

Moving from the Silence that supports the stars

To touch the confines of the visible world.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-33]

Luminous he moved away; behind him Death

Went slowly with his noiseless tread, as seen

In dream-built fields a shadowy herdsman glides

Behind some wanderer from his voiceless herds,

And Savitri moved behind eternal Death,

Her mortal pace was equalled with the god's.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-34]

Wordless she travelled in her lover's steps,

Planting her human feet where his had trod,

Into the perilous silences beyond.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-02 F-35]

Play Section Three
[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03]



At first in a blind stress of woods she moved

With strange inhuman paces on the soil,

Journeying as if upon an unseen road.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-01]

Around her on the green and imaged earth

The flickering screen of forests ringed her steps;

Its thick luxurious obstacle of boughs

Besieged her body pressing dimly through

In a rich realm of whispers palpable,

And all the murmurous beauty of the leaves

Rippled around her like an emerald robe.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-02]

But more and more this grew an alien sound,

And her old intimate body seemed to her

A burden which her being remotely bore.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-03]

Herself lived far in some uplifted scene

Where to the trance-claimed vision of pursuit,

Sole presences in a high spaceless dream,

The luminous spirit glided stilly on

And the great shadow travelled vague behind.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-04]

Still with an amorous crowd of seeking hands

Softly entreated by their old desires

Her senses felt earth's close and gentle air

Cling round them and in troubled branches knew

Uncertain treadings of a faint-foot wind:

She bore dim fragrances, far callings touched;

The wild bird's voice and its winged rustle came

As if a sigh from some forgotten world.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-05]

Earth stood aloof, yet near: round her it wove

Its sweetness and its greenness and delight,

Its brilliance suave of well-loved vivid hues,

Sunlight arriving to its golden noon,

And the blue heavens and the caressing soil.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-06]

The ancient mother offered to her child

Her simple world of kind familiar things.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-07]

But now, as if the body's sensuous hold

Curbing the godhead of her infinite walk

Had freed those spirits to their grander road

Across some boundary's intangible bar,

The silent god grew mighty and remote

In other spaces, and the soul she loved

Lost its consenting nearness to her life.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-08]

Into a deep and unfamiliar air

Enormous, windless, without stir or sound

They seemed to enlarge away, drawn by some wide

Pale distance, from the warm control of earth

And her grown far: now, now they would escape.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-09]

Then flaming from her body's nest alarmed

Her violent spirit soared at Satyavan.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-10]

Out mid the plunge of heaven-surrounded rocks

So in a terror and a wrath divine

From her eyrie streams against the ascending death,

Indignant at its crouching point of steel,

A fierce she-eagle threatened in her brood,

Borne on a rush of puissance and a cry,

Outwinging like a mass of golden fire.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-11]

So on a spirit's flaming outrush borne

She crossed the borders of dividing sense;

Like pale discarded sheaths dropped dully down

Her mortal members fell back from her soul.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-12]

A moment of a secret body's sleep,

Her trance knew not of sun or earth or world;

Thought, time and death were absent from her grasp:

She knew not self, forgotten was Savitri.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-13]

All was the violent ocean of a will

Where lived captive to an immense caress,

Possessed in a supreme identity,

Her aim, joy, origin, Satyavan alone.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-14]

Her sovereign prisoned in her being's core,

He beat there like a rhythmic heart,—herself

But different still, one loved, enveloped, clasped,

A treasure saved from the collapse of space.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-15]

Around him nameless, infinite she surged,

Her spirit fulfilled in his spirit, rich with all Time,

As if Love's deathless moment had been found,

A pearl within eternity's white shell.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-16]

Then out of the engulfing sea of trance

Her mind rose drenched to light streaming with hues

Of vision and, awake once more to Time,

Returned to shape the lineaments of things

And live in borders of the seen and known.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-17]

Onward the three still moved in her soul-scene.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-18]

As if pacing through fragments of a dream,

She seemed to travel on, a visioned shape

Imagining other musers like herself,

By them imagined in their lonely sleep.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-19]

Ungrasped, unreal, yet familiar, old,

Like clefts of unsubstantial memory,

Scenes often traversed, never lived in, fled

Past her unheeding to forgotten goals.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-20]

In voiceless regions they were travellers

Alone in a new world where souls were not,

But only living moods: a strange hushed weird

Country was round them, strange far skies above,

A doubting space where dreaming objects lived

Within themselves their one unchanged idea.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-21]

Weird were the grasses, weird the treeless plains;

Weird ran the road which like fear hastening

Towards that of which it has most terror, passed

Phantasmal between pillared conscious rocks

Sombre and high, gates brooding, whose stone thoughts

Lost their huge sense beyond in giant night.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-22]

Enigma of the Inconscient's sculptural sleep,

Symbols of the approach to darkness old

And monuments of her titanic reign,

Opening to depths like dumb appalling jaws

That wait a traveller down a haunted path

Attracted to a mystery that slays,

They watched across her road, cruel and still;

Sentinels they stood of dumb Necessity,

Mute heads of vigilant and sullen gloom,

Carved muzzle of a dim enormous world.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-23]

Then, to that chill sere heavy line arrived

Where his feet touched the shadowy marches' brink,

Turning arrested luminous Satyavan

Looked back with his wonderful eyes at Savitri.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-24]

But Death pealed forth his vast abysmal cry:

“O mortal, turn back to thy transient kind;

Aspire not to accompany Death to his home,

As if thy breath could live where Time must die.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-25]

Think not thy mind-born passion strength from heaven

To uplift thy spirit from its earthly base

And, breaking out from the material cage,

To upbuoy thy feet of dream in groundless Nought

And bear thee through the pathless infinite.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-26]

Only in human limits man lives safe.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-27]

Trust not in the unreal Lords of Time,

Immortal deeming this image of thyself

Which they have built on a Dream's floating ground.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-28]

Let not the dreadful goddess move thy soul

To enlarge thy vehement trespass into worlds

Where it shall perish like a helpless thought.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-29]

Know the cold term-stones of thy hopes in life.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-30]

Armed vainly with the Ideal's borrowed might,

Dare not to outstep man's bound and measured force:

Ignorant and stumbling, in brief boundaries pent,

He crowns himself the world's mock suzerain,

Tormenting Nature with the works of Mind.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-31]

O sleeper, dreaming of divinity,

Wake trembling mid the indifferent silences

In which thy few weak chords of being die.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-32]

Impermanent creatures, sorrowful foam of Time,

Your transient loves bind not the eternal gods.”

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-33]

The dread voice ebbed in the consenting hush

Which seemed to close upon it, wide, intense,

A wordless sanction from the jaws of Night.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-34]

The Woman answered not.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-35]

Her high nude soul,

Stripped of the girdle of mortality,

Against fixed destiny and the grooves of law

Stood up in its sheer will a primal force.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-36]

Still like a statue on its pedestal,

Lone in the silence and to vastness bared,

Against midnight's dumb abysses piled in front

A columned shaft of fire and light she rose.

[Savitri B-09 C-01 S-03 F-37]

Book Nine Canto One End

Towards the Black Void

[Savitri B-09 C-01 Canto End]