Unused Passages for Savitri

Dear Friends,

As the continuation of our special series on Savitri, we have published the unused passages of the epic-poem which have been transcribed from the manuscripts which were ‘not directly used in the formation of the final version of Savitri.’ These passages were originally published in the December 1986 issue of Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research journal (Volume 10, Number 2) with the following note:

“In each case, there is at least some reason to suspect that these manuscripts, found among the thousands of pages of drafts and typescripts for the poem, may have been accidentally overlooked at the point where they should have been presented to Sri Aurobindo by his scribe for revision. However that may be, the fact that Sri Aurobindo used another manuscript as he proceeded to the final stages of revision, would make it problematic for an editor to try to incorporate lines from any of these unused versions into the body of the epic. Therefore these passages are presented here, separately from the new edition of Savitri, for their intrinsic interest and as illustrations of the complexity of the process by which the poem took shape.”

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Overman Foundation.


Book II, Canto 6 [1]

Immortal secrecies, seer-wisdoms lost
In the descent towards our mortal fate
Spoke from the figures of her masquerade
In a familiar and forgotten tongue,
Or peered from the recondite magnificence
And subtle splendour of her draperies.
In sudden scintillations of the Unknown,
Glints from the opaque and strange translucencies,
Appearances and objects changed their powers;
Things without value heavenly values took,
Inexpressive sounds became veridical,
Ideas without meaning flashed apocalypse :
Wise tokens spelled out gibberish to the untaught;
And phrases which meant nothing and meant all
Wrapped in defensive armoured visored sight,
And oracles and sibylline prophecies
Offered themselves by the roadside for a price
Increased at each rejection by the mind;
Voices that seemed to come from unseen worlds
Uttered the syllables of the Unmanifest
And clothed the body of the mystic Word;
The wizard diagrams of an occult Force
Fixed for the world’s magic processes the law
Of their precise unaccountable miracle,
And hue and figure brought their unsounded deeps
Of mindless context to reconstitute
In the brooding hush of intuitive stillnesses
The herald blazon of Time’s secret things[.]
Amid her symbols of reality
(For such they seemed to a vision too remote
As we to a greater being symbols are,)
His life-walk was and new spiritual home :
He moved and lived with them as real forms,
Their lives were as concrete as the lives of men[,]
Their touch as vivid as our fellows touch ;
Their divine bodies make our fancies true
And bring to us breathing and animate
What in ourselves we only think and feel.
A grace of scenes quivered around him there
That were almost embodied [sympathies] (2);
Their breath of dreams and language without speech
Answered to the thought and passion of the soul.
There form and feeling were identical,
And shape and thought a single harmony;
Nothing was there brute and inanimate.
These scenes were signs in life’s long miracle-play.
In her green wildernesses and lurking depths,
In her thickets of joy where danger clasps delight,
He glimpsed the hidden wings of her songster hopes[,]
A glimmer of blue and gold and scarlet fire.
Along her wandering lanes and chance by-paths
And by her galloping rivulets and calm lakes
He plucked the glossy fruits of her self-ease
Or shared her rich content in browsing herds,
The light wayward flitting of her butterfly hours
And her love-callings in the voice of birds,
And felt her embodied sweetness in her vales,
Her wide hill-breasts glowing in the greatness of morn
And the lounging hips of her grasslands’ large sun-sleep
And her covert raptures in her forest haunts
And the beauty of her flowers of dream and muse.
Often in the radiant slumber of her noons
He saw incarnate in a swarm of gleams
On a glamour and gladness of bright surfaces,
A smile of depths, a cry of secrecies,
Thought’s dance of dragonflies on mystery’s stream
That skim but dare not dip in the murmur and race;

Or the levity of her immortal mind
He heard in [3] the laughter of her rose desires,
Running to lure the bliss of the heart’s surprise
Into a world of bloom and song and light
And through the scented ways to guide pursuit
Jangling sweet anklet-bells of fantasy.
A comrade of the silence of her heights
Accepted by her mighty loneliness,
He sat with her on meditation’s peaks
Where life and being are a sacrament
Offered to a Reality beyond
And stood with her upon the edge of Time
Looking into ineffable formlessness,
Or climbed a perilous stair in silent Mind
And from a watch-tower in self’s solitudes
He saw her loose into infinity
Her hooded eagles of significance,
Messengers of Thought to the Unknowable.
Thus close to her in body and in spirit[,]
Identified by soul-vision and soul-sense
And made one with all she was and longed to be,
He thought with her thoughts, suited to her steps his steps,
Lived by her breath and saw things with her eyes,
Fainted with her weakness, was powerful with her strength,
That so he might learn the secret of her soul.
He admired her splendid front of pomp and play
And the marvels of her rich and delicate craft
And her magic of order and her swift caprice,
And her indomitable will to be,
And thrilled with the insistence of her cry
And bore like a Mother’s ardent despot clutch
Her force that admits no other way than its own,
Her hands that knead Fate in their violent grasp,
Her touch that moves, her powers that seize and drive[.]
A will was in her to exceed her forms
Impatient to transfigure the finite world,
A huge desire to marry the Infinite ;
He felt in her her hope and her despair,
The trouble and rapture of her heaving breasts,
The passion that possessed her yearning limbs[,]
Her mind that toiled dissatisfied with its fruits,
Her heart that captured not the one Beloved.
But all that he could see or she disclose
Left still the ultimate secret unrevealed;
Something she was unknown to him or her.
Always he met a veiled and seeking Force,
An exiled Goddess building mimic heavens,
A Sphinx whose eyes looked up to an unseen Sun.

Book II, Canto 7 [4]

There Life displayed to the spectator soul
The shadow depths of her strange miracle.
As might a harlot empress in a bouge,
Nude, unashamed, exulting she upraised
Her evil face of perilous beauty and charm
And drawing panic to a shuddering kiss
Twixt the magnificence of her fatal breasts,
Allured to their abyss the spirit’s fall.
Once it had plunged, it asked not for release,
It took fierce joy in the ecstasy of its pains[,]
It found freedom’s taste in a choice of delicate bonds
And reigned, sovereign of its own decadence.
A plethora of scenes besieged the gaze,
Thought-webs that reproduced themselves in life
And taught the nature to be what it saw;
For it is mind that makes the form of the days
With the colours it absorbs from the world’s hues
And thought decides the destiny of the soul.
Across the field of sight she multiplied,
As on a scenic film or moving plate,
The implacable splendour of its nightmare pomps
And her rapture vision of infernal joys :
A glory of abominable things.
On the dark background of a soulless world
She staged between a lurid light and shade
Her dramas of the sorrow of the depths
Written on the anguished nerves of living things :
Her epics of horror and grim ruthless deeds
Paralysed pity in the hardened breast,
And the spectacle of the degraded soul
Dried up the founts of natural sympathy.
In her booths of sin and night-repairs of vice
Her sordid imaginations etched in flesh,
Signed photogravures of her infamy,
Published the covered dirt of Natures guilt,
And foul scenarios hideous and macabre
And gargoyle masques obscene and terrible
Came televisioned from the gulfs of Night:
And twisted caricatures of reality
And art chef-d’oeuvres of weird distorted lines
Trampled the torn sense into tormented shapes[.]
A craft of ingenious monstrosities
Made vileness great and sublimated filth

Book IV, Canto 2 [5]
The Growth of the Flame

A land of mountains and wide sun-beat plains
And giant rivers pacing to vast seas,
A marvellous land of reverie and trance,
Silence swallowing life’s act into its sea
And action springing from spiritual hush,
Of thought’s transcendent climb or heavenward leap,
Home of the mightiest works of God and man
Where Nature seemed a dream of the Divine
And beauty and grace and grandeur flowered from its dream,
Harboured the childhood of the incarnate Flame.
Over her watched millennial influences
And the deep godheads of a grandiose past
Looked out and saw the future’s godheads come.
Earth’s brooding wisdom spoke to her still breast;
Mounting from mind’s last peaks to mate with gods,
Making earth’s brilliant thoughts a springing board
To dive into the cosmic vastnesses
The knowledge of the thinker and the seer
Saw the unseen and thought the unthinkable,
Opened large doors upon infinity
And gave a shoreless sweep to mortal acts.
Art and the vision of beauty called to the eyes
Figure and hues native to higher worlds
Till this world’s images took that greater stamp.
Nature and soul vied in nobility.
Ethics keyed earthly lives to imitate heaven’s;
The harmony of a rich culture’s tones
Exhausted and exceeded earth’s full store,
Refined the sense and magnified its reach
To hear the unheard and glimpse the invisible
In subtle fields that escape our narrow ken
And taught the soul to soar beyond the known
And steal entry into the Immortals’ worlds.
Inspiring life to greaten beyond its bounds
Leaving earth’s safety daring wings of Mind
Bore her above the trodden roads of thought
To live on eagle heights nearer the Sun
Where wisdom sits on her eternal throne.
All her life’s turns led her to symbol doors
Admitting to secret Powers who were her kin;
Initiate of bliss and child of Light,
A mystic acolyte trained in Nature’s school
Aware of the marvel of created things
Her soul’s gifts she gave, earth-magic’s miracles
Laid on the altar of the Wonderful;
Her hours were a ritual in a timeless fane;
Her acts she made gestures of sacrifice.
Invested with the rhythm of higher spheres
The word became a hieratic means
For the release of the imprisoned spirit
Into communion with its comrade gods :
Helping to new expression and new form
Some immemorial Soul in men and things,
Seeker of the Unknown and the Unborn,
It drew the veil from Nature’s secrecies.

Book V, Canto 3 [6]

Now she travelled through many changing lands,
Earth round her was illumined by her joy;
Its hours were long supports for rapture’s face;
Life was an outbreak of the All-Wonderful.
All hope and chance took on a brighter shape:
This ordinary life of man could change;
The seal was there of the Ineffable.

This meeting cut across old Nature-lines
To pen upon its bold decisive page
The foreword of her soul’s biography.
Two powers had come down from the unknown Beyond
To play their part upon the cosmic ground.
These spirits linked two lines of eternity,
These bodies joined two points of the infinite.
These lives must serve the Timeless and Unseen
For writing out in symbol human acts
The meaning of God’s mystery play in Time.

Book VI, Canto 2 [7]

But hard it is for human mind to feel
Heaven’s good in life’s crash and the iron grasp of Doom
Or tolerate the dreadful mystery
Of pain and grief and evil masking God.
How can it seize the thousand-sided drive,
The single act pointing a million acts,
The mystic total of the magical sum
Or swept by the world-ocean’s rushing waves
Sense mid the wash and spume and loud multitude
The one all-discerning Will, the [touch, the] (8) tread
Of God’s indivisible reality?
Man’s thought is like a diamond cutting gems[,]
Man’s will is like a labourer hewing stones:
He cuts into sky-strips the boundless Truth
And takes each strip as if it were all the heavens.
His knowledge chained to thought and led by words
Is gaoled in the divisions it has made.
He looks at infinite possibility
And gives to its plastic Vast the name of Chance;
He sees the long result of the all-wise Force
And feels the cold rigid limbs of lifeless Law.
The will of the Timeless working out in Time
In the free absolute steps of cosmic Truth
He thinks a dead machine, an unconscious fate.
It is decreed and Satyavan must die;
Her hour is known, foreseen the fatal stroke.
What else shall be is written in her soul,
But till the hour reveals the fateful script,
The writing waits illegible and mute.
Her mortal breast hides her immortal Fate.
O King, thy fate is a transaction fixed
In long advance but altered and renewed
At every hour between Nature and thy soul[.]
Its items ever grow and ever change ;
It is a balance drawn in Destiny’s book.
Thou canst open with thy fate a new account
Begun upon a stainless virgin page.
Thou canst dispute her formidable claim
With God as the foreseeing arbiter,
Thou canst accept thy fate, thou canst refuse[.]
Even if the Judge maintains the unseen decree
Yet thy refusal is in thy credit written :
Death is no end, Fate moves, it stands not still.
Its will unshaken by the bronze blare of Doom,
The spirit soars up stronger by defeat,
Its godlike wings grow wider with each fall.
Its growth within is watered by its wounds[,]
Its splendid failures’ sum is victory.
Thy fate touches the abyss to leap at heaven.
Thy fate is like an army’s marching ranks;
It has many fronts and stands on many lines.
Thy future’s map is kept in planes unseen,
Thy soul has planned its strategy with God.
Thy body’s fate comes first, a column pushed
Through the forts of the present to a city unknown;
Its march is marshalled by the wheeling stars
That carry its cosmic consigns in their light.
It sees not where it goes but walks by faith ;
It smites its way through the world’s opponent powers,
Or, frustrate, longs and waits a happier birth.
A second front is in a greater plane;
Thence thy life-forces drive like rolling waves
Its small or large formations towards earth’s days
And swell the might of thy terrestrial fate
Or as the wind-gods’ squadrons jostle in heaven,
Trumpeting with breath of storm and thunder’s call
And their arrows like gold lightnings fill the sky[,]
Such is their coming, such their clamour and charge[.]
In armour bright the shining riders come[,]
Leaders hurrying Destiny’s tardy pace,
Victors preparing grander shocks to come.
If the soul could rise into that greater plane
And with its motions quicken man’s petty life,
Erasing the firm consigns of the stars
Thy will could then give orders to thy fate[.]
On the radiant skyline of a greater Mind
The Ideas that Fate fulfils not yet are seen[.]
The secret Will has its headquarters there
That planned the tactics of the things that are
And behind them plans for greater things to be[.]
Thence gleam the reconnaissances divine[,]
Thence come the prophet scouts, the [observer] (9) seers,
The godlike dreams, the vast and wide-winged thoughts
That cannot yet take shape in earthly life,
But here and there small part-fulfilments dawned
And of their fragments is our present made.
But if the soul could live upon those heights,
Then would his life be the plaything of his thoughts,
His mind could be the shaper of his fate.
Above all glows a supramental range.
There is God’s staff; there is his High Command[.]
The Truth lives there which oversees the world[,]
Of which all things are the disfiguring robe[.]
O mortal, even now couldst thou receive
Only some influence from that marvellous plane,
All then would change, divinity be thy fate.


[1] Cf. Centenary edition, pp. 189-91. This is Sri Aurobindo’s last handwritten version of the passage following the line “And wordless mouths unrecognisable.” An earlier manuscript was used for the final dictated revision of the end of this canto and the beginning of the next.

[2] MS scenes; the previous draft has “sympathies”.

[3] Or and

[4] Cf. Centenary edition, pp. 212-13. This is Sri Aurobindo’s last handwritten version of this passage.

[5] Cf. Centenary edition, pp. 359-60. The top and carbon copies of a typescript of this canto were differently revised on separate occasions. This is the most significantly revised portion of the top copy, which was not directly used for the final text.

[6] These lines are found, written in the scribe’s hand, at the end of a typed copy of this canto.

[7] Cf. Centenary edition, pp. 457-59. This is another version, written by Sri Aurobindo in a chit-pad, of the passage following the line “It keeps for her her privilege of pain.”

(8) Two words doubtful.

(9) Doubtful reading.


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