Sri Aurobindo’s Rose of God and its Poetic Appreciation by RY DeshpandeWed, August 17, 2011 - 1:31 AM
In Sri Aurobindo’s Rose of God we witness the Outbreak of Perfection's Law (Savitri, pp. 322-29). The poem was written on 31 December 1934 and, in response to Parichanda’s query, he wrote a letter on 2 January 1935; in those days Parichanda was looking after the gardens in the Ashram. A typed copy of the Rose of God must have been kept in the Reading Room where he must have read it and asked Sri Aurobindo about the significance of the flower: “Does the rose of all flowers most perfectly and aptly express the divine ecstasies or has it any symbolic allusion in the Veda or the Upanishad?” Sri Aurobindo answered: “There were no roses in those times in India—roses came with the Mahomedans from Persia. The rose is usually taken by us as the symbol of surrender, love, etc. But here it is not used in that sense, but as the most intense of all flowers it is used as symbolic of the divine intensities—Bliss, Light, Love, etc.” It is remarkable that Sri Aurobindo had written the poem in one go and no further corrections were made afterwards.
It is pure inspiration with a yogic force in it, inspiration carrying classical gold in its bright dense expression. Bliss-Light-Power-Life-Love, Ananda-Prakasha-Shakti-Jivan-Prema, are the five divine intensities mentioned in the stately incantatory Rose of God.
About the technical aspects: Rose of God is written in pure stress meter. In it quantity and accent are subordinate, and it is basically the emphasis which gives the force to the rhythmic movement, to its success. Each line in the poem has six stresses and the arrangement of feet varies freely to suit the development of thought and feeling, as the poet-critic himself tells us. The poem has five stanzas, each containing four lines.
Here is the full poem with suggested six stressed syllables in each line. I am putting the stresses on vowels which are underlined and are in blue font. These are as follows:
Rose of God, vermilion stain on the sapphires of heaven,
Rose of Bliss, fire-sweet, seven-tinged with ecstasies seven!
Leap up in our heart of humanhood, O miracle, O flame,
Passion-flower of the Nameless, bud of the mystical Name.
Rose of God, great wisdom-bloom on the summits of being,
Rose of Light, immaculate core of the ultimate seeing!
Live in the mind of our earthhood; O golden Mystery, flower,
Sun on the head of the Timeless, guest of the marvellous Hour!
Rose of God, damask force of Infinity, red icon of might,
Rose of Power with thy diamond halo piercing the night!
Ablaze in the will of the mortal, design the wonder of thy plan,
Image of Immortality, outbreak of Godhead in man.
Rose of God, smitten purple with the incarnate divine Desire,
Rose of Life, crowded with petals, colour’s lyre!
Transform the body of the mortal like a sweet and magical rhyme;
Bridge our earthhood and heavenhood, make deathless the children of Time.
Rose of God, like a blush of rapture on Eternity’s face,
Rose of Love, ruby depth of all being, fire-passion of Grace!
Arise from the heart of the yearning that sobs in Nature’s abyss:
Make earth the home of the Wonderful and life beatitude’s kiss.
Sri Aurobindo himself had given the example by marking stresses in the third stanza. The poet is definite that there are only six stresses in each line, and any attempt from the point of view of melody or singing or any other consideration to make departures by stressing all the three syllables in the repetitive phrase “Rose of God” will amount to ignoring the demands of his poetry. It might make the invocation effective and living, as is claimed, appealing also perhaps to a certain auditory sense, but it will be more dramatic than natural, easy and unpretentious in its felicity. One must bear in mind that, this poem is based purely on hexametric form with six stresses in each line. Therefore, putting stress on “of” of the phrase will make half of the composition with seven stresses and the other with six. I am not inclined to accept this, stressing of “of” also. Surely, Sri Aurobindo’s ear sees everywhere six stresses and this is important, his aesthetic perception in terms of sound value too. Very likely, we will be missing something subtle if we have the hybrid 7-6 stress-combinations.
In a letter written to Nirodbaran, in 1936, Sri Aurobindo reveals that he did not “rewrite Rose of God or the sonnets except for two or three verbal alterations made at the moment.” The question asked was: why should he write and rewrite his poetry, for instance, Savitri when he had all the inspiration at his command. As we know, the Savitri-composition ran through several drafts, particularly the first part. In 1934 Savitri was still at an experimental stage and he never considered it as a poem to be written and finished; it was a new experiment on a much much larger scale and at a different level altogether, and in it there is something which is absolutely unique.
Amal Kiran considers Rose of God as a “symphonic masterpiece of the highest melopoeia—the acme of Intonation and Incantation.” It is rich in overtones and undertones and that is why its music comes in such massive proportions that we can perceive the occult dimensions in its spiritual inspiration, a rare thing in poetry. Here mysticism rises to a climax of the incantatory art. To receive the true impact of this poem, we have to read it with a mind held quiet and the voice full-toned. In it the Divine is feelingly visioned, and visionarily comprehended, and comprehendingly felt. We have in it a many-sided system exploring the Rose. Everywhere we have in it a language that is not only profound but also life-packed, as language should be when it attempts the revelation of spiritual reality.
When we read the poem aloud in the quiet of the mind, there is only the sense of an oceanic calm pervading us from all sides and we forget everything else, everything, the thought, the substance, the image, the visions that it can evoke, even the heart and the art of poetry; there remains only the sea of sound in the luminous rush of joy, joy that makes all sorrow and suffering disappear. When we read it in that state, we forget everything except the all-enveloping sound, no thought, no vision, no analysis, no aesthetic urge to break it to discover its art, we don’t seem to care about the meaning it is conveying. That is the power of the poem. Amal says: “At first glance one may get a little bewildered and think that here are splashes of orient hues and a luxury of decorative effects for their own sake. But really there is no riot in the splendour: we have a many-sided system in it, exploring the secret of the Divine Rose. A mystical metaphysics and psychology unfold before us in the succession of vibrant images. Esoteric, no doubt, some of the expressions are, but they come to us like the actual sight of unknown yet undeniable objects. They are esoteric as the amazing actuality of the Aurora Borealis may be designated when viewed by a traveller from southern latitudes to North Cape.”
But when we recover ourselves from that spell of sound, moving in the depth of silence, come out of that enchantment, we begin to wonder at other things also, things that are present in it in such splendid richnesses of theirs. From the point of view of thought, we realise that each of the stanzas can be divided into two parts: describing that, and describing this. Over there are Bliss-Light-Power-Life-Love, and here are the heart of humanhood, mind of earthhood, the small and feeble will of the death-prone creature, the helpless body of the mortal, and the ardency in yearning that only frets and sobs. The first half of every stanza imposes its significances upon our spiritual sense, not only by vivid words mystically visionary but also by an inner tone massively musical; in it is the spiritual reality that must lend itself to us. The Glory above and its revelation in evolution are expressed with several attributes of it. The Rose is the symbol of Beauty and here we have the God-Rose itself—God as Beauty. The invocation to the Rose is to fulfill itself in every respect in us. What is perfect up there must express itself down here, in our humanhood and our earthhood.
In the House of the Spirit has been established by the Yogi the new creation governed by the Law of Perfection; a new world has been created in the transcendental reality. It is that Perfection, of the deathless Rose, which must bloom here, manifest itself here, in the littleness of our humanhood and earthhood, in our frail mortal body and feeble mortal will. In that sense, Rose of God is the precursor of the passage that appears in Savitri’s Book of the Divine Mother, an unparalleled description, a profound revelation, an autobiographical disclosure. (Savitri, pp. 322-29)
In Savitri we also have the fullness of the Deathless Rose which is beyond the heavens of the ideal Mind, as Amal says, perhaps in the true Transcendental. Here is the “far unseen epiphany itself”. The Rose of God as the Rose of Bliss conveys the creative delight, Ananda. “I believe that over and above mystical truth there must be in poetry an artistic justification for the choice in the expression. In the poem we have ‘ecstasies seven’ with the Vedic sense of sapta ratnāni, showing the mystic multiplicity rather than the sevenfold metaphysics in it.” God-Rose is the supreme Absolute grown a form of transcendent Beauty that we may turn the Divine Mother joining the Infinite to the finite by her role as the Creatrix. It is full-blown there and it has to manifest here.
Rose of God is the symbol of perfection and, full-blown, it must bloom here, manifest itself here upon our sorrowful and transient earth, Reality take possession of the Phenomenon. “Rose of God, damask force of Infinity”—Sword of Damask steel is unbreakable; also, damask rose is a bluish-red variety of rose. It is the rose that conquers, makes possible for the Law of Perfection prevail in every circumstance, down to the physical in its bluish-red completeness, in the beauty of its smile. Let us live in it, in its perfection, in the Rose of God.
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