We meet here two common enough errors, to one of whic] the ordinary unistructed mind is most liable, to the othe the too instructed critic or the too intellectually conscientiou artist or craftsman. To the ordinary mind, judging poetr without reaIly entering into it, it looks as if it were nothinl more than aesthetic pleasure of the imagination, the intellec and the ear, a sort of elevated pastime. If that were all, W4 need not have wasted time in seeking for its spirit, its i~e: aim, its deeper law. Anything pretty, pleasant and melodiou: with a beautiful idea in it, would serve our turn. , ..Pleasure certainly, we expect from poetry as from all art; but th( external sensible and even the inner imaginative pleasurc are only first elements; refined in order to meet the highesl requirements of the intelligence, the imagination and the ear, they have to be still further heightened and in their
.nature raised beyond even their own noblest levels. For neither the intelligence, the imagination nor the ear are the true recipients of the poetic delight, even as they arenot its true creators; they are only its channels and ins- truments : the true creator, the true hearer is the soul. The more rapidiy and transparently the rest do their work of transmission, the less they make of their separate claim to satisfaction, the more directly the word reaches and sinks deep into the soul, the greater the poetry .Therefore, poetry has not really done its work, at least its highest work; until it has raised ,the pleasure of the instrument and transmuted it into the deeper delight of the soul. A divine Ananda, a deep interpretative, creative, revealing, formative--one might almost say, an inverse reflection of the joy which the universal Soul has felt in its great release of energy when it rang out into the rhythmic forms of the universe the spiritual truth,
the large interpretive idea, the life, the power, the emotion , of things packed into its original creative vision,-such spiritual joy is that which the soul of the poet feels and which, when he can conquer the human difficulties of his task, he succeeds in pouring also into all those who are prepared to receive it. And this delight is not merely a godlike pastime ; it is a grea~ form~tive and illuminative power .
The critic-of a certain type--or the intellectually con- scientious artist will, on the other hand, often talk as if poetry were mainly a matter of a faultlessly correct or at most an exquisite technique. Certainly, in all art, good technique is the first step towards perfection; but there are so many other steps, there is a whole world beyond before you can get near to what we seek; so much so that even a deficient cor- rectness of execution will not prevent an intense ~nd gifted
soul from creating great poetry which keeps its hold on the j l c~nturies. Moreover, techni~ue, however i~dispensable, occu- ! ' \ pies a smaller field perhaps In poetry than In any other art,- ; ~ first, because its instrument, the rhythmic word, is full
Ii: : of subtle and immaterial elements ; then because, the most I t complex, flexible, variously suggestive of all the instruments Ic I of the artistic creator, it has more infinite possibilities in' I many directions than any other. The rhythmic word has a subtly sensible element, its sound value, a quite immaterial element, its significance or thought-value, ~nd both of these again, its sound and its sense, have separately and together a soul-value, a direct spiritual power, which is infinitely the>90 SRI AUROBINDO ON SOCIAL SCmNCES AND HUMANITIES
most important thing about them. And though this come! birth with a small element subject to the laws of tec4niq yet almost immediately, almost at the beginning -Qf its fli~ its power soars up beyond the province of any laws ofmec nical construction.
Rather it determines itself its own form. The poet le of all artists needs to create with his eye fixed anxiously
i ~; the technique of his art. He has to possess it, no doubt; 1 ili in the heat of creation the intellectual sense of it become! t~r::;" subordinate action or even a mere undertone in his mil f' E: ! : and in his best moments he is permitted, in a way, to for!
!' t': it altogether. For then the perfection of his sound-movemt
c t. ; and style come entirely as the spontaneous form of his SOl :fJ :~ : that utters itself in an in.spired rhythm and an innate, a rev.eal n ~ ,~ .word, ~ven as the U nIversal Soul created the harmonIes :rc ..0 t~e ~nIv~rse out ?f the power of ~he word secret and ete.rl1 ;1 i ~: Wlthln hIm, leavlmg the mechanIcal work to be done In :1 c ~: surge of hidden spiritual excitement by the subcoIlScie f 00=.:. part ofhis Nature. It is this highest speech which is the suprel1 ,. poetic utterance, the immortal element in his poetry, and ;.; little of it is enough to save the rest of his work from oblivio il Swalpam apyasya dharmasya!
..; ...It does this partly by a stress on the image replacir the old sensational concreteness, partly by a greater at tel tion to the suggestive force of the sound, its life, i power, the mental impression it carries. It associates th with the definitive thought value contributed by tlJ intelligence ~nd increases both by each other. In that wa it succeeds at the same time in carrying up the pOWt of speech to the direct expression of a higher reach of e> perience than the intellectual or vital. For it brings out nc only the definitive intellectual value of the word, not onl its power of emotion and sensation, its vital suggestion, bu through and beyond these its soul-suggestion, its spirit. Si poetry arrives at the indication of infinite meanings beyoru the finite intellectual meaning the word carries. It expresse not only the life-soul of man as did the primitive word, no only the ideas of his intelligence for which speech now usuall~
I serves, but the experience, the vision, the ideas, as we ma~ say, of the higher and wider soul in him. Making them reaPOETRY. 91
tto our life-soul as well as present to our intellect, it opens to
~ us by the word the doors of the Spirit. 'ii Prose style carries speech to a much higher power than its zordinary use, but it differs from poetry in not making this 'yet greater attempt. For it takes its stand firmly on the in-
tellectual value of the word. It uses rhythms which ordinary
\ speech neglects, and aims at a general fluid harmony of i movement. It seeks to associate .words agreeably and lumi- ?nously so as at once to please and to clarify the intelligence. i,lt strives after a more accurate, subtle, flexible and satisfying iexpression than the rough methods of ordinary speech care to ~compass. A higher adequacy of speech is its first object. 'tBeyond this adequacy it may aim at a greater forcefulness ~and effectiveness by various devices of speech which are so ;Jmany rhetorical means for heightening its force of intellectual ~appeal. ...If it goes beyond these limits, approaches in its
measures a more striking rhythmic balance, uses images for !i sheer vision, opens itself to a mightier breath of speech, prose
style passes beyond its province and approaches or even "( enters the confines of poetry .It becomes poetical prose or . ,1e,:,en ,poetry itself using the apparent forms of prose. as a ::'~
disgUIse or a loose apparel. ~ But always, whether in the search or the finding, the whole ;;:~
;, style and rhythm of poetry are the expression and movement [ which come from us out of a certain spiritual excitement 'j caused by a vision in the soul of which it is eager to ddiver , itself. The vision may bt: of anything in Nature or God or
man or the life of creatures or the life of things; it may be a vision, of force and action, or of sensible beauty, or of truth
.of thought, or of emotion and pleasure and pain, of this life or the life beyond. It is sufficient that it is the soul which sees and the eye, sense, heart and thought-mind become the passive instruments of the soul. Then we get the real, the high poetry. But if it is too much an excitement of the in- tellect, the imagination, the emotions, the vital actiyjties, seeking rhythmical and forceful expression which acts, without enough of the greater spiritual excitement embracing them, if all these are not sufficiently sunk into the soul, steeped in it, fused in it and the expression does not come out purified and uplifted by a sort of spiritual tra~n;lutation, then we' fall
92 SRI AUROBINDO ON SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANI1'IES
to lower levels of poetry, and get work of a much more do~ ful immoratality. And when the appeal is altogether to
.lower things in us, to the mere mind, we arrive outside true domain of poetry; We approach the confines of pJ or get prose itself masking in the apparent forms of poe and the work is distinguished from prose style only or mai by its mechanical elements, a good verse form and perh. a more compact, catching or energetic e;xpression thari
prose writer will ordinarily permit to the easier and loo balance of his speech. That is to say, it will not have at or not sufficiently the true essence of poetry.
For in all things that speech can express there are t' elements, the outward or instrumental and the real or spj
tual. In thought, for instance, there is the intellectual idt that which the intelligence makes precise and definite to 1 and the soul-idea, that which exceeds the intellectual aJ brings us into nearness or identity with the whole reality
the thing expressed. Equally in emotion, it is not the me emotion itself the poet seeks, but the soul of the emotio that in it for the delight of which the soul in us and the wor desires or accepts emotional experience. So too with t1 poetical sense of objects, the poet's attempt to embody i his speech truth of life or truth of Nature. It is this greatl truth and its delight and beauty for which he is seekinl beauty which is truth and truth beauty and therefore a jc for ever, because it brings the delight of the soul in the di covery of its Own deeper realities. This greater element tb more timid and temperate speech of prose c.an sometimc shadow out to us, but the heightened and fearless style ( poetry makes it close and living and the higher cadences (
; poetry carry in on their wings what the style of itself couL not bring. This is the Source of that intensity which is th stamp of poetical speech and of the poetical movement. I comes from the stress of the soul-vision behind the word it is the spiritual excitement of a rhyt~mic voyage of self discovery among the magic islands of form and name in thesc
inner and outer worlds.l
1 Arya, "The Future Poetry", Vol. IV, pp. 378-84, 1917-18.