A Legend and a Symbol
Savitri by Sri Aurobindo – his major poetic work, an epic in blank verse. In Savitri, a legend from the Mahabharata becomes the symbol of the human soul’s spiritual destiny. In poetic language, Sri Aurobindo describes his vision of existence and explores the reason for ignorance, darkness, suffering and pain, the purpose of life on earth and the prospect of a glorious future for humanity. The writing of the epic extended over much of the later part of his life.
The writing of Savitri extended over much of the later part of Sri Aurobindo’s life. The earliest known manuscript is dated 1916. The original narrative poem was recast several times in the first phase of composition. By around 1930, Sri Aurobindo had begun to turn it into an epic with a larger scope and deeper significance.
Transformed into “A Legend and a Symbol”, Savitri became his major literary work which he continued to expand and perfect until his last days. In the late 1940s, when his eyesight was failing, he took the help of a scribe and dictated the extensive final stages of revision.
Author: Sri Aurobindo
Print Length: 763 pages
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram
BOOK ONE. The Book of Beginnings
- Canto One. The Symbol Dawn
- Canto Two. The Issue
- Canto Three. The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Soul’s Release
- Canto Four. The Secret Knowledge
- Canto Five. The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Spirit’s Freedom and Greatness
BOOK TWO. The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds
- Canto One. The World-Stair
- Canto Two. The Kingdom of Subtle Matter
- Canto Three. The Glory and the Fall of Life
- Canto Four. The Kingdoms of the Little Life
- Canto Five. The Godheads of the Little Life
- Canto Six. The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life
- Canto Seven. The Descent into Night
- Canto Eight. The World of Falsehood, the Mother of Evil and the Sons of Darkness
- Canto Nine. The Paradise of the Life-Gods
- Canto Ten. The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Little Mind
- Canto Eleven. The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Mind
- Canto Twelve. The Heavens of the Ideal
- Canto Thirteen. In the Self of Mind
- Canto Fourteen. The World-Soul
- Canto Fifteen. The Kingdoms of the Greater Knowledge
BOOK THREE. The Book of the Divine Mother
- Canto One. The Pursuit of the Unknowable
- Canto Two. The Adoration of the Divine Mother
- Canto Three. The House of the Spirit and the New Creation
- Canto Four. The Vision and the Boon
BOOK FOUR. The Book of Birth and Quest
- Canto One. The Birth and Childhood of the Flame
- Canto Two. The Growth of the Flame
- Canto Three. The Call to the Quest
- Canto Four. The Quest
BOOK FIVE. The Book of Love
- Canto One. The Destined Meeting-Place
- Canto Two. Satyavan
- Canto Three. Satyavan and Savitri
BOOK SIX. The Book of Fate
- Canto One. The Word of Fate
- Canto Two. The Way of Fate and the Problem of Pain
BOOK SEVEN. The Book of Yoga
- Canto One. The Joy of Union; the Ordeal of the Foreknowledge of Death and the Heart’s Grief and Pain
- Canto Two. The Parable of the Search for the Soul
- Canto Three. The Entry into the Inner Countries
- Canto Four. The Triple Soul-Forces
- Canto Five. The Finding of the Soul
- Canto Six. Nirvana and the Discovery of the All-Negating Absolute
- Canto Seven. The Discovery of the Cosmic Spirit and the Cosmic Consciousness
BOOK EIGHT. The Book of Death
- Canto Three. Death in the Forest
BOOK NINE. The Book of Eternal Night
- Canto One. Towards the Black Void
- Canto Two. The Journey in Eternal Night and the Voice of the Darkness
BOOK TEN. The Book of the Double Twilight
- Canto One. The Dream Twilight of the Ideal
- Canto Two. The Gospel of Death and Vanity of the Ideal
- Canto Three. The Debate of Love and Death
- Canto Four. The Dream Twilight of the Earthly Real
BOOK ELEVEN. The Book of Everlasting Day
- Canto One. The Eternal Day: The Soul’s Choice and the Supreme Consummation
BOOK TWELVE. Epilogue
- Epilogue. The Return to Earth
Canto One. The Symbol Dawn
It was the hour before the Gods awake.
Across the path of the divine Event
The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone
In her unlit temple of eternity,
Lay stretched immobile upon Silence’ marge.
Almost one felt, opaque, impenetrable,
In the sombre symbol of her eyeless muse
The abysm of the unbodied Infinite;
A fathomless zero occupied the world.
A power of fallen boundless self awake
Between the first and the last Nothingness,
Recalling the tenebrous womb from which it came,
Turned from the insoluble mystery of birth
And the tardy process of mortality
And longed to reach its end in vacant Nought.
As in a dark beginning of all things,
A mute featureless semblance of the Unknown
Repeating for ever the unconscious act,
Prolonging for ever the unseeing will,
Cradled the cosmic drowse of ignorant Force
Whose moved creative slumber kindles the suns
And carries our lives in its somnambulist whirl.
Athwart the vain enormous trance of Space,
Its formless stupor without mind or life,
A shadow spinning through a soulless Void,
Thrown back once more into unthinking dreams,
Earth wheeled abandoned in the hollow gulfs
Forgetful of her spirit and her fate.
The impassive skies were neutral, empty, still.
Then something in the inscrutable darkness stirred;
A nameless movement, an unthought Idea
Insistent, dissatisfied, without an aim,
Something that wished but knew not how to be,
Teased the Inconscient to wake Ignorance.
A throe that came and left a quivering trace,
Gave room for an old tired want unfilled,
At peace in its subconscient moonless cave
To raise its head and look for absent light,
Straining closed eyes of vanished memory,
Like one who searches for a bygone self
And only meets the corpse of his desire.
It was as though even in this Nought’s profound,
Even in this ultimate dissolution’s core,
There lurked an unremembering entity,
Survivor of a slain and buried past
Condemned to resume the effort and the pang,
Reviving in another frustrate world.
An unshaped consciousness desired light
And a blank prescience yearned towards distant change.
As if a childlike finger laid on a cheek
Reminded of the endless need in things
The heedless Mother of the universe,
An infant longing clutched the sombre Vast.
Insensibly somewhere a breach began:
A long lone line of hesitating hue
Like a vague smile tempting a desert heart
Troubled the far rim of life’s obscure sleep.
Arrived from the other side of boundlessness
An eye of deity peered through the dumb deeps;
A scout in a reconnaissance from the sun,
It seemed amid a heavy cosmic rest,
The torpor of a sick and weary world,
To seek for a spirit sole and desolate
Too fallen to recollect forgotten bliss.
Intervening in a mindless universe,
Its message crept through the reluctant hush
Calling the adventure of consciousness and joy
And, conquering Nature’s disillusioned breast,
Compelled renewed consent to see and feel…