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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1931, January

1931

1931?

I send you back the photos. The Mother says she does not find the Russian actress worse than others of her type, it is always from self-interest that they act and if a man like Suhrawardy[1] allows himself to be tempted they will necessarily exploit him and think themselves justified in doing it. His photograph is that of a man imaginative and ardent and emotional, too passionate, excessively candid, and no doubt he has high sentiments and generous impulses. But he was likely to make mistakes in life and not to perceive the actual values or to keep his steps in the right measure. I don’t know the details of his story, but from what you say, it seems to be a common one — a confusion between the true emotional life and the sensational vital movements which were all that this woman could give, and therefore a gâchis [waste] of the life’s possibilities. Is it that he has not discovered what she is like or he still clings to her in spite of it?

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1931?

The verse translations from Nietzsche are very successful, some of them quite admirable, and the poem on Mahakali combines the sublime and the lyrical in a perfect fusion.

Suhrawardy’s poem is exceedingly beautiful, sentimental perhaps, but he has succeeded in transmuting the sentiment into a very poignant emotion and, once that is done, there can be no farther objection from the standpoint of poetic truth. There are just two or three places where the rhythm stumbles. “On those that irrevocably late” — “that” which clashes in sound with late, should be changed to “who”; and “O Lord, shower thy grace” is not rhythmic at all — it should be, “O Lord, shower down thy grace”. Again “O Lord, rain pity” though not unrhythmic and otherwise (emotionally) effective, breaks the movement which is sustained throughout the rest of the poem. Here, however, opinions may differ. But all the rest is admirably done.

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1931?

Fragment of a letter

… The presence whose fading he regrets can only be felt if the inner being continues to be consecrated, and the outer nature is put into harmony or at least kept under the touch of the inner spirit. But if he does things which his inner being does not approve, this condition will be inevitably tarnished and, each time, the possibility of his feeling the presence will diminish. He must have a strong will to purification and an aspiration that does not flag and cease, if the Mother’s grace is to be there and effective.

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January 25, 1931

I like your new poem immensely — it seems to me that you have achieved in it a largeness and depth of thought and an ample harmony of expression and rhythm which mark a new and remarkable advance in your poetic development. Here at least there is no lack of progress — and a very rapid progress.

Harin’s[2] poem [“The Cycle”], though beautiful in expression and good in rhythm, is, as often, fanciful in parts and I do not like the tag about God and clod — it sounds almost silly, but the last two lines (no matter about the flaw in their philosophy) are poetically magnificent. Your translation seems to me excellent; it has got rid of most of the fancifulness and your version of the God-clod lines is preferable to the original. It is only the close that fails to render the power of the text; but it may not be possible in Bengali.

The translation of Suhrawardy [“Some Day”] is also good; only the stormy night gives it a quite different atmosphere which is not that of the original poem. Whatever merit the original has depends upon its quiet and subdued tones and the very slightness of the figures and details of the cadre for the light memory of another’s deep and tragic sorrow, — purposely, everything loud, emphatic or dramatic is avoided. But in the translation the stormy night brings in this very element of something emphatic and dramatic. I do not say that the translation is not poetic and harmonious, — it is, but in a different tone altogether and with a different suggestion, a graver emotion, but a less subtly pathetic power of contrast.

The rendering of “Revelation” [Sri Aurobindo’s poem] is even better than the two others, well inspired from beginning to end; the colouring is not quite the same as in my poem, but that is hardly avoidable in a poetic version in another language. To alter it, as you propose, would be to spoil it. There is no point in rendering literally “wind-blown locks”, and it would be a pity to throw out dīptimayī [lustrous, radiant], for it is just the touch needed to avoid the suggestion of a merely human figure. It is needed — for readers are often dense. An Indian critic (very competent, if a little academic) disregarding all the mystic suggestions and even the plain statement of the closing couplet, actually described the poem as the poets memory of a girl running past him on the seashore!!

I refuse to fall into your trap about Tagore. In vain is the net spread openly in the sight of the bird by the fowler.

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1931?

… I am very glad; you will certainly have our blessings in the carrying out of your resolve. Mother did not mean quite what you thought. She was thinking of certain others who had been much more unfortunate than you, their way quite barren in spite of their demand — by their own fault of course, but still — and without any experience or signs of possible progress, and she was thinking that after all you had some things given they had not, experiences, that were not without significance in dream or meditation, beginnings and promises only but still promises which show that the capacity was there once you could reject the impediments. That was all.

I started to read your poem and at first found myself at sea, but I realised it was a mind jaded with correspondence that was responsible. Afterwards I took it up again and found it sufficiently easy except that here and there one has to read twice before catching the full sense. I can see however that the mode of expression would be difficult to many. I can hardly answer your question about the few and many. Clarity is a great power — on the other hand subtlety has its charms too and what is not clear to the first generation of readers seems quite clear to those who come after. On the whole one must write in one’s own way — provided there is no excess as with certain poets who can only be read by the few because they wrote for themselves only and not even for a chosen audience. But you are not any way near that, so that is only by the way. (…)

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[1] Sahid Suhrawardy, a Bengali poet and Dilip’s friend. He graduated from the Calcutta University with honours in 1910 and from Oxford in 1914. He became secretary to the artistic section of the League of Nations. Later on he became Nizam professor of Indian Studies at Vishva Bharati, then Bageswari professor of Comparative Arts at Calcutta University. He gave brilliant lectures from 1923 to 1943. After India’s Partition, he went to Pakistan and became Pakistan’s ambassador to Spain in 1955.

[2] Harindranath Chattopadhyay, a poet and cinema actor, brother of Mrinalini Chattopadhyay and Sarojini Naidu. Husband of Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay.

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