Amal Kiran’s poem ‘This Errant Life’ with Sri Aurobindo’s comments

Dear Friends,

As the second installment of our humble tribute to Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna, we are publishing his very famous poem ‘This Errant Life’ along with Sri Aurobindo’s comments. We are thankful to Aryadeep, our friend from Auroville, for sending this compilation which also consists of an excerpt of a letter written by Sri Aurobindo to Dilip Kumar Roy praising Amal Kiran’s poem.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.


               This Errant Life
This errant life is dear although it dies;
And human lips are sweet though they but sing
Of stars estranged from us; and youth’s emprise
Is wondrous yet, although an unsure thing.
Sky-lucent Bliss untouched by earthiness!
I fear to soar lest tender bonds decrease.
If Thou desirest my weak self to outgrow
Its mortal longings, lean down from above,
Temper the unborn light no thought can trace,
Suffuse my mood with a familiar glow.
For ’tis with mouth of clay I supplicate:
Speak to me heart to heart words intimate,
And all Thy formless glory turn to love
And mould Thy love into a human face.

 Sri Aurobindo’s Comments:

“A very beautiful poem, one of the very best you have written. The last six lines, one may say even the last eight, are absolutely perfect. If you could always write like that, you would take your place among English poets and no low place either. I consider they can rank—these eight lines—with the very best in English poetry.”

Sri Aurobindo in a letter to Dilip Kumar Roy:

“Amal’s lines are not easily translatable, least of all into Bengali. There is in them a union or rather fusion of high severity of speech with exaltation and both with a pervading intense sweetness which it is almost impossible to transfer bodily without loss into another language. There is no word in excess, none that could have been added or changed without spoiling the expression, every word just the right revelatory one—no colour, no ornamentation, but a sort of suppressed burning glow, no similes, but images which have been fused inseparably into the substance of the thought and feeling—the thought itself perfectly developed, not idea added to idea at the will of the fancy, but perfectly interrelated and linked together like the limbs of an organic body. It is high poetic style in its full perfection and nothing at all that is transferable.  You have taken his last line and put in a lotus-face and made divine love bloom in it,—a pretty image, but how far from the flowing impassioned severity of the phrase: ‘And mould Thy love into a human face’!”

 To Amal Kiran again:

“The quotations [AE] makes [from your poems]—

“The song-impetuous mind…             
The Eternal Beauty is a wanderer
Hungry for lips of clay—”
certainly deserve the praise he gives them and they are moreover of the kind AE and Yeats also, I think, would naturally like. But the poem [This Errant Life] I selected for special praise had no striking expressions like these standing out from the rest, just as in a Greek statue there would be no single feature standing out in a special beauty (eyes, lips, head or hands), but the whole has a harmoniously modeled grace of equal perfection everywhere as, let us say, in the perfect charm of a statue by Praxiteles. This apart from the idea and feeling, which goes psychically and emotionally much deeper than the ideas in the lines quoted by AE, which are poetically striking but have not the same subtle spiritual appeal; they touch the mind and vital strongly, but the other goes home into the soul.”
“If you could always write direct from the Illumined Mind, finding there not only the substance, as you often do, but the rhythm and language, that indeed would be a poetry exquisite, original and unique. The intellect produces the idea, even the poetic idea, too much for the sake of the idea alone; coming from the Illumined Mind the idea in a form of light and music is itself but the shining body of the Light Divine.”



6 Replies to “Amal Kiran’s poem ‘This Errant Life’ with Sri Aurobindo’s comments

  1. Rereading this masterpiece along with the exchange of letters is rejuvenating. Thanks.
    Prithwindra Mukherjee

  2. A statue by Praxiteles with its power to take away the hardness of the marble and give the smiling sweetness has come again in a living vibrant form in this Errant Life which is not so errant after all. Here is an intensity in which the spiritually marvellous (marbleous) becomes enchantingly psychic (mould thy love into a human face=the white Aphrodite in her full purity).

  3. Sri Aurobindo in praising this poem has mentioned that it has ‘no word in excess, none that could have been added or changed without spoiling the expression…’ Unfortunately here one word has been added, marring the perfection of the piece – in the third line and unnecessary ‘the’ has crept in before ‘youth’s emprise’. I hope you will correct this.

  4. it is all time great poem and most painfully makes us conscious of the central follies of human nature – if it were not so our journey to the goal would have been a smooth one


    Surendra s chouhan

  5. In the discussion, to the best of my belief, some comments were made on the last eight lines of Shelley’s One Word is too often Profaned, where Sri Aurobindo sees a touch of the psychic. That came perhaps with reference to Errant Life. I speak from memory at the moment.
    Goutam Ghosal

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