March 24, 2007

We will reject, for instance, Emerson, without belittling him

Re: 08: A Shrine for the God of Love by RY Deshpande on Fri 23 Mar 2007 04:33 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
Word in its triple glory When we read Sri Aurobindo’s later poetry or his theory of poetic creation, a radical change in our way of thinking makes almost look all else insubstantial; the values undergo a sea-change. All the human lamps dim and dwarf under the spiritual sun. That we start seeing how small indeed everything appears in its comparison, could be taken as a shift in our perceptions. What is ordinarily considered to be the high achievement of our faculties, appealing to the very immediate senses, very striking to the modes of our cognition and aesthetic appreciation begins to lose its force in the reckoning. We will reject, for instance, Emerson, without belittling him. His Poetry and Imagination (1872) fails to stir any response in our depth, in any unfeigned sense: “Poetry is the perpetual endeavor to express the spirit of the thing, to pass the brute body and search the life and reason which causes it to exist;--to see that the object is always flowing away, whilst the spirit or necessity which causes it subsists. Its essential mark is that it betrays in every word instant activity of mind, shown in new uses of every fact and image, in preternatural quickness or perception of relations. All its words are poems. It is a presence of mind that gives a miraculous command of all means of uttering the thought and feeling of the moment. The poet squanders on the hour an amount of life that would more than furnish the seventy years of the man that stands next him.”
And about rhyme-melody-rhythm: “We are lovers of rhyme and return, period and musical reflection. The babe is lulled to sleep by the nurse's song. Sailors can work better for their yo-heave-o. Soldiers can march better and fight better for the drum and trumpet. Metre begins with pulse-beat, and the length of lines in songs and poems is determined by the inhalation and exhalation of the lungs. If You hum or whistle the rhythm of the common English metres, --of the decasyllabic quatrain, or the octosyllabic with alternate sexisyllabic, or other rhythms,--you can easily believe these metres to be organic, derived from the human pulse, and to be therefore not proper to one nation, but to mankind. I think you will also find a charm heroic, plaintive, pathetic, in these cadences, and be at once set on searching for the words that can rightly fill these vacant beats. Young people like rhyme, drum-beat, tune, things in pairs and alternatives; and, in higher degrees, we know the instant power of music upon our temperaments to change our mood, and gives us its own; and human passion, seizing these constitutional tunes, aims to fill them with appropriate words, or marry music to thought, believing, as we believe of all marriage, that matches are made in heaven, and that for every thought its proper melody or rhyme exists, though the odds are immense against our finding it, and only genius can rightly say the banns.” How can we accept the statement that “the world exists for thought?” True, that “mountains, crystals, plants, animals, are seen; that which makes them is not seen: these, then, are apparent copies of unapparent natures." And yet there must exist the possibility of those “unapparent natures” expressing themselves in them, expressing in its native language, in its genuine movement carrying authentic substance and the revealing vision of its beauty and joy and life and spirit and soul. And just see how British it sounds when we hear Ben Jonson! According to him, the "principal end of poetry is to inform men in the just reason of living."
But this is just a small aspect of our personality, of our totality, almost a trivial aspect, and such a reason for man will only turn him into a frozen wee-bit. But there are manners of living that open to widenesses beyond the reach of reason. Indeed, there is always present in man some deeper longing and urge to exceed himself. That the aesthetic creation should be towards its fulfilment is the function, the satisfying purport of the creative art.
But the deepest poetic expression is possible, explains Sri Aurobindo, “when three highest intensities of poetic speech meet and become indissolubly one, a highest intensity of rhythmic movement, a highest intensity of interwoven verbal form and thought-substance, of style, and a highest intensity of soul’s vision of truth.” Here we have the threefold power, the power of word-making, image-formation, and felicity of movement. Ezra Pound calls them Logopoeia, Phano- or Iconopoeia, and Melopoeia. In Logopoeia “it is the dance of the intellect among words”—says Ezra Pound. Commenting on this classification Amal Kiran elaborates as follows: “Broadly speaking, all poetry is image-making, since the poet is primarily the seer, the artistic visualiser. But, while all poetry is based on sight and insight, not all of it has the image-aspect in prominence. The other two aspects that can stand out are Melopoeia and Logopoeia. In the former we are impressed overwhelmingly by the music of the verse: often the very structure invites being set to music. Phanopoeia resembles not music so much as painting and sculpture. Logopoeia is poetic play essentially of ideas, the dance of the intellect among words—it is the conceptive word as distinguished from the musical or the pictorial-sculpturesque.”
But these seem to be two ways of looking at poetry from two different stations, one from top of the ladder down below and the other stretching its gaze from the intermediate steps upward where the ladder itself begins to disappear into the inexplicable. If we have to apply these poetic formulations to the 51-line passage describing the “perfect shrine”, we must take the top view of the things, the shrine built from above down below, as were some of the gigantic rock-hewn caves in Ellora. Is it not “Om, the creation-sound as the first music…”, the Word in its triple glory? Maybe, we could have a look at some of these aspects. RYD

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