When Nirodbaran, a medical man by profession, came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, he was surprised to see that some disciples had taken up poetry as a means of sadhana. He too began composing poems in Bengali and developed his talents, sustained by Sri Aurobindo's grace of inspiration and instruction.
Although a stranger to the "realms of gold" of English poetry, he dallied with the foreign Muse and sent his poems to Sri Aurobindo, who in spite of having his hands over-full with eight to nine hours of correspondence to attend to, besides other work, took up these "juvenile spurts of fancy" and reshaped them into worthier stuff.
Thus began "a marvellous journey, the Guru at the helm and the disciple pulling the oars at his behest".
This book is a record of that journey.
K. D. Sethna, a fellow sadhak-poet writes: "The work of patient emphatic correction carried out by Sri Aurobindo is a lesson to all aspirants towards what he called 'the Future Poetry' - and it is a lesson taught repeatedly with a lavish yet most apposite humour."
From the Jacket
In the early 1930s Nirodbaran joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, after returning from England as a qualified medical doctor. He came to the Ashram with the intention of practising Yoga, and here he found to his surprise that poetry was one of the vocations taken up by some disciples as a means of sadhana. Sri Aurobindo was giving inspiration to them and taking an active interest in their writings. Nirodbaran, too, indulged in his "eccentric innovations" without knowing anything about English metrical forms. Beginning in a mystic- surrealistic vein, the poems progressed towards "Overhead Poetry" for it was Sri Aurobindo who guided the poet to perfection in his work, till one day in 1935 Sri Aurobindo remarked, "The poet seems to have come out after all. So the pains of labour, and even the forceps, were useful. It is the turn of the Yogi to come out next -what. Even with a forcep.
Then again in 1936, He remarked, "Very fine indeed, very. You have suddenly reached a remarkable maturity of the poetic power, which seems to suggest that the periods of sterility were not so sterile after all or were rather an incubation period, a work of opening going on in the inner being behind the veil before it manifested in the outer. Let us hope the same is going on in the direct sadhana."
We are very happy to bring out Collected Poems of Nirodbaran with Sri Aurobindo's Comments and Corrections in two volumes.
Nirodbaran wrote about 423 poems in English, out of which 189 poems were published in three books:
1. Sun-Blossoms, published by Sri Aurobindo Circle, Bombay (1947) with 99 poems. The printed text incorporated Sri Aurobindo's corrections, but these were not indicated.
2. Fifty Poems of Nirodbaran with Corrections and Comments by Sri Aurobindo, published by Geeta Bannerjee, A.R. 188, Salt Lake City, Sector 1, Calcutta 700064 (1983). In this book Sri Aurobindo's corrections and comments, as well as Nirodbaran's correspondence with Sri Aurobindo regarding the poems, were also included.
3. Poems by Amal Kiran and Nirodbaran with Sri Aurobindo's Comments, where forty poems of Nirodbaran were published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram (1987).
The rest of the poems in this edition are being published for the first time.
From January 1936 to 22 November 1938, Nirodbaran wrote a poem a day, sometimes even two. It was quite an up-hill task for him, and usually he underestimated his poems and his capacity as a poet. The Guru, with great patience and compassion, goaded him, putting before him the examples of Horace, Virgil, Mallarme, Shakespeare, etc. - though in a humorous vein. Often Nirodbaran wanted to give up the endeavour, but the Guru 'cajoled' him to continue.
The reader will see for himself the innumerable corrections, even to the minutes detail, that Sri Aurobindo made in each poem - it is indeed 'a God's labour'! This went on till 22 November 1938, after which there was a lull due to Sri Aurobindo's accident on 23 November 1938. Nirodbaran entered the sanctum sanctorum in the capacity of a doctor to serve the Guru.
In 1940 Nirodbaran again took up writing poetry. Sri Aurobindo made very few corrections in the poems of this period.
In this edition, along with the text of the poems as they were first written, we have included all of Sri Aurobindo's corrections and comments. In the margins and in the body of the poem, Sri Aurobindo's comments are in italics and Nirodbaran's are in roman. Elsewhere, Sri Aurobindo's separate comments are in roman while Nirodbaran's questions are in italics.
From Kishor Gandhi's Foreword to Sun-Blossoms
Sri Aurobindo is no lonely creator working for personal aims and his creative work is not confined merely to poetry. Not only are alive in him the magnificence and the greatness of all the past cultural ages, not only has he a firm grasp over all the essential achievements of the present age, but also by him is carried forward all this splendid greatness of the past and the present towards a still more golden future.
More than any other person, he is the torch-bearer of our age, the opener of doors to unknown far-flung splendours, the bringer of the dawn of Divine Life.
In the field of poetry too Sri Aurobindo is the Master, but his work is not confined to his own great poetic achievement; he has also created poetry of singular beauty and excellence through some others who have allowed his master-hand to mould their poetic faculties to extraordinary greatness. In the radiant ethereal heavens of the Poetic Muse Sri Aurobindo is the Sun round whom revolve his satellites, nourished and sustained by the light they receive from him.
Nirodbaran, a selection of whose poems is presented in this volume, is evidently one of the satellites of the Aurobindonian Sun. Qualified of medical profession, he could be least expected to make his way into so disparate a field as poetry and it is doubtful if he would have turned out any valuable poetry had he not come under Sri Aurobindo's potent influence.
The aim of Sri Aurobindo's endeavour being fundamentally none other than the realisation of the Spirit, his influence on those who choose to follow him works primarily to no other end than their spiritual development. But since Sri Aurobindo's acceptance of the central spiritual aim does not imply a complete and unqualified rejection of life and its values, but rather involves their deliverance from their basic insufficiency and a fulfilment of their secret urge by a thoroughgoing and drastic spiritual transmutation of all their powers, no significant endeavour in any field of life is left out of his total and comprehensive aim. The pursuit of the aesthetic value (of which poetry forms a very powerful channel) - the seeking for the beautiful and the delightful in man and nature and God and in all things - has always been one of these high endeavours of the race and in Sri Aurobindo's integral aim it occupies an important place in so far as it helps us to draw near, contact directly and realise intimately the infinite Bliss and Beauty of the Spirit in its essential self-existence as also in its endless manifestation everywhere and, having realised them, to seek for their expression through the inspired rhythmic word and the revelatory vision.
The intense imprint of this inspired intuitive word and vision is evident everywhere in the poems included in this volume, everywhere the lines seem highly vibrating to the subtle felicitous music of some distant and lofty planes of the Spirit; everywhere is felt the enchanting impact on our listening of the voice of the spiritual muse singing sometimes in delicate exquisite strains, sometimes in pro- found massive tones, sometimes in wide-winged, high-soaring rhythms. Nowhere the authentic intuitive inspired utterance gets stifled or marred by the falsifying intrusion of the external speech, nowhere the intrinsic light of the inner vision gets clouded or blurred in the revealing expression; nowhere the deeper subtle profundities and potencies get cribbed or maimed in transmission. The height and intensity of the poet's inspiration no doubt varies, but even at his lowest pitch he never forsakes the intuitive felicity of the genuinely inspired word and vision; never does he lapse into the mere intellectualised or the external mode of speech or seeing.
Even at a very moderate estimate, Nirodbaran's poetry must rank very high indeed; truly evaluated, it must be acclaimed as a definitive milestone on the slowly unfolding path of the evolution of the future poetry.
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