Sri Aurobindo had started working on the earliest draft of Savitri in August 1916. Nirodbaran, who has portrayed how Savitri reached its final form in his Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, writes about this draft:
“The draft exists in two sections. The first comprising Book I and a few pages of Book II… Book I is complete, Book II unfinished. The spelling of the three chief characters is: Savithri, Uswapathy, Suthyavan. In the first Book, after a short description of Night and Dawn, there is a very brief account of the Yoga done by Uswapathy, then Savithri is born, grows up and goes out, at Uswapathy’s prompting, to find her mate. She finds Suthyavan. In the meantime Narad comes down to earth and visits Uswapathy’s palace. There is a talk between the two; Savithri returns from her quest and discovery, and a talk takes place among the three.” (pp. 173-174, 1995 edition)
We are happy to announce that Overman Foundation has received permission from Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust to publish the earliest draft of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri in its online forum. We are extremely grateful to Shri Manoj Das Gupta, Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, for giving us the said permission.
The first installment of the earliest draft of Savitri has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,
In a huge forest where the listening Night
Heard lonely voices and in the large hush
Was conscious of the sigh and tread of things
That have no sound for the rich heart of day,—
For now her phantom tribes were not abroad,
The panther’s eyes glared not, the tiger slept
Prone in his lair of jungle or deep grass,—
Startling the wide-browed dreamer Dawn arose.
Lain in her darker thoughtful sister’s robe
She pushed away the loving cloak that sealed
To rest her brilliant and imperious eyes
And waved the dim kind guardian from her side.
Raised were the wonderful lids that open heaven.
Vague for a while with sleep lightened her gaze.
Smiling the ever-youthful goddess rose,
Voluptuous in a purity divine,
Cast free her drifting robe of magic light,
And pressed her rosy fingers delicately
Upon the flushed cheek of the pallid world.
Flocking upon the ruddy verge her locks
Made splendid clots of morning gold, wind-lifted
To enrich the hues of space; and lucid limbs
Of secret spiritual beauty formed
Glimmered divinity through every veil.
Once she half-looked behind for her great sun,
Then thoughtful turned to her immortal work.
And Sâvithrî woke also in a world
That opened joyful eyes to life again
And rapturous heard the voices and the stir
Of morning. Not to joy she rose; for fear
Awoke with her and trembled at the dawn.
Sighing she laid her hand upon her bosom,
Nor knew why the close lingering ache was there,
So quiet, so old, so natural to its place,
Till memory came opening like a bud
Her strong sleep-shrouded soul. She gazed within
And saw the dumb white statue of pain erect
Within its temple waiting like a god
Daily oblation of her unwept tears.
Then all the cruelty of thought returned,
And lifting up wide beautiful heavy eyes
She gazed upon the bright and careless Dawn.
This was the day when Suthyavân must die.
Daughter of silence, Sâvithrî: her birth
Was like a glorious dawn long planned in heaven,
By obscure earth resisted long. Three years
Her father lived in vigils and in fasts
Like a still mind that gathers in its rays,
Hushing the waves of sense to a wide sleep.
Forced to look upward through its transient veils
Life in his members sank controlled and awed
By the strong gaze of immortality.
He dwelt among the hastening multitudes
Companioned only by his wide-winged spirit
Seated within in an eternal calm.
Plunged from this fretful surface into depths
Of being where the thought sinks large and pale
Like a tired god into mysterious seas,
Repressing speech and wasteful act he held
Man’s hidden strength safe from life’s troubled hands
And Nature motionless in a silent soul.
Thus all himself he made an offering pure
Held up by silence priestlike to the skies
And cast it at the burning Mother’s feet—
Heart of truth’s mighty musings in far heavens
On things withdrawn, immortal Sâvithrî,
The goddess born of sacrificial fire
Who rises chanting from an unseen sun
So rose she upon seven flaming tongues,
Uplifted the world’s vast rhythms in her limbs,
A body of music and an anthemed voice
Heard in the spaces that become the soul
Of God-rapt listeners. “Ask,” she cried, “the hope
For the blind light that strives concealed on earth
With death and the original darkness; I give
For earth, to help the patient mother’s life.
That to enlarge and with divine attempt
Amply new-sky, planting a tent of God
In desert space thy immortal kind was born.”
He asked for children beautiful and bold,
Eyed like the dawn and rapid like the seas,
Wise as the Flame that broods within the world.
“A flower from its burning heart profound,
In one I give thee all,” the Word replied,
“I give thee more than all that thou hast prayed,
Ray of my suns, a daughter. The ages dumb
Intended long her fiery birth.” She hushed,
Music that ceases in the ear of trance
Casting eternal cadences behind,
And vanished into her intenser skies
As disappears a flame in endless light,
Immortally extinguished. Then released
His soul drew back into the speed and noise
Of the vast business of created things
Out of its rapt abysm. He resumed
His burden and was strong for daily deeds,
Wise with the thoughts that skim the fathomless surge
Of Nature and wing back to hidden shores.
Now turned the year upon its cycle sweet
And the cool happy winter ceased in spring
Rich with the instinct of God’s sensuous love
Revealed in beauty. Over all the land
The proud asoca bloomed in crimson fire,
The kingshook blushed upon her bridal boughs,
The mango-blossom fed the liquid voice
Of the love-maddened cuckoo and the bee
Murmured in fragrance. Then a child was born
Who looked upon the world with tranquil eyes.
They named her Sâvithrî because her birth
Sprang from that power. They said, “A flame is born
Of sacrifice, a silence in the noise
Of earthly things reveals the secret Thought,
Love armed with strength comes down to help the world.”
Reared sweetly by her father’s bright-eyed queens
She grew like a young tree in silent bliss
Self-gathered that receives the shocks of earth
With wordless passion. Bathed in another light,
Firm, quivering inwardly with mystic rain,
Proud of the ravishing storm’s immense assault
The tree in other calms and tempests lives.
The shadowy touches of these outward things
It only knows as shapes of powers within.
Through a soft quiet joy her childhood moved
Like a small bird that with rich-coloured breast
Sings to himself upon a pleasant bough.
Escaping from this sweet serious bud a strong
And radiant woman flowered. Deep slumbrous fire
Was in the long-fringed glories of her eyes,
Behind her brows there sat a noble soul
Of vision that looked forth on earth through light
And like a nectarous moon her passionate heart
Loved all and spoke no word. Thus as she grew
Like a young palm-tree lonely by a lake,
Her name was heard upon the wondering earth,
The sons of kings beheld her from afar.
But none dared seize her glory; all forbore
To embrace a flame too searching for clay-bound hearts
Earth fashions for her daily uses small.
Sealed up in vessels of a coarser make
By brief-lived duller warmths inured, they shrink
From souls too swift and great; only they bear
The trivial grosser touches of the world,
Seize not its hidden fearless energies,
Clasp not its raptures that desire the strong.
Therefore the gods are few in mortal forms.
(To be continued)