Part 2 (Books IV – VIII)
Book 4: The Book of Birth and Quest

Canto 1: The Birth and Childhood of the Flame

(S 1)
A MAENAD of the cycles of desire
Around a Light she must not dare to touch,
Hastening towards a far-off unknown goal
Earth followed the endless journey of the Sun.
(S 2)
5 A mind but half-awake in the swing of the void
On the bosom of Inconscience dreamed out life
And bore this finite world of thought and deed
Across the immobile trance of the Infinite.
(S 3)
A vast immutable silence with her ran:
10 Prisoner of speed upon a jewelled wheel,
She communed with the mystic heart in Space.
(S 4)
Amid the ambiguous stillness of the stars
She moved towards some undisclosed event
And her rhythm measured the long whirl of Time.
(S 5)
15 In ceaseless motion round the purple rim
Day after day sped by like coloured spokes,
And through a glamour of shifting hues of air
The seasons drew in linked significant dance
The symbol pageant of the changing year.
(S 6)
20 Across the burning languor of the soil
Paced Summer with his pomp of violent noons
And stamped his tyranny of torrid light
And the blue seal of a great burnished sky.
(S 7)
Next through its fiery swoon or clotted knot
25 Rain-tide burst in upon torn wings of heat,
Startled with lightnings air’s unquiet drowse,
Lashed with life-giving streams the torpid soil,
Overcast with flare and sound and storm-winged dark
The star-defended doors of heaven’s dim sleep,
30 Or from the gold eye of her paramour
Covered with packed cloud-veils the earth’s brown face.
(S 8)
Armies of revolution crossed the time-field,
The clouds’ unending march besieged the world,
Tempests’ pronunciamentos claimed the sky
35 And thunder drums announced the embattled gods.
(S 9)
A traveller from unquiet neighbouring seas,
The dense-maned monsoon rode neighing through earth’s hours:
Thick now the emissary javelins:
Enormous lightnings split the horizon’s rim
40 And, hurled from the quarters as from contending camps,
Married heaven’s edges steep and bare and blind:
A surge and hiss and onset of huge rain,
The long straight sleet-drift, clamours of winged storm-charge,
Throngs of wind-faces, rushing of wind-feet
45 Hurrying swept through the prone afflicted plains:
Heaven’s waters trailed and dribbled through the drowned land.
(S 10)
Then all was a swift stride, a sibilant race,
Or all was tempest’s shout and water’s fall.
(S 11)
A dimness sagged on the grey floor of day,
50 Its dingy sprawling length joined morn to eve,
Wallowing in sludge and shower it reached black dark.
(S 12)
Day a half darkness wore as its dull dress.
(S 13)
Light looked into dawn’s tarnished glass and met
Its own face there, twin to a half-lit night’s:
55 Downpour and drip and seeping mist swayed all
And turned dry soil to bog and reeking mud:
Earth was a quagmire, heaven a dismal block.
(S 14)
None saw through dank drenched weeks the dungeon sun.
(S 15)
Even when no turmoil vexed air’s sombre rest,
60 Or a faint ray glimmered through weeping clouds
As a sad smile gleams veiled by returning tears,
All promised brightness failed at once denied
Or, soon condemned, died like a brief-lived hope.
(S 16)
Then a last massive deluge thrashed dead mire
65 And a subsiding mutter left all still,
Or only the muddy creep of sinking floods
Or only a whisper and green toss of trees.
(S 17)
Earth’s mood now changed; she lay in lulled repose,
The hours went by with slow contented tread:
70 A wide and tranquil air remembered peace,
Earth was the comrade of a happy sun.
(S 18)
A calmness neared as of the approach of God,
A light of musing trance lit soil and sky
And an identity and ecstasy
75 Filled meditation’s solitary heart.
(S 19)
A dream loitered in the dumb mind of Space,
Time opened its chambers of felicity,
An exaltation entered and a hope:
An inmost self looked up to a heavenlier height,
And the inner sight adored an unseen sun.
(S 20)
Three thoughtful seasons passed with shining tread
And scanning one by one the pregnant hours
Watched for a flame that lurked in luminous depths,
85 The vigil of some mighty birth to come.
(S 21)
Autumn led in the glory of her moons
And dreamed in the splendour of her lotus pools
And Winter and Dew-time laid their calm cool hands
On Nature’s bosom still in a half sleep
90 And deepened with hues of lax and mellow ease
The tranquil beauty of the waning year.
(S 22)
Then Spring, an ardent lover, leaped through leaves
And caught the earth-bride in his eager clasp;
His advent was a fire of irised hues,
95 His arms were a circle of the arrival of joy.
(S 23)
His voice was a call to the Transcendent’s sphere
Whose secret touch upon our mortal lives
Keeps ever new the thrill that made the world,
Remoulds an ancient sweetness to new shapes
100 And guards intact unchanged by death and Time
The answer of our hearts to Nature’s charm
And keeps for ever new, yet still the same,
The throb that ever wakes to the old delight
And beauty and rapture and the joy to live.
(S 24)
105 His coming brought the magic and the spell;
At his touch life’s tired heart grew glad and young;
He made joy a willing prisoner in her breast.
(S 25)
His grasp was a young god’s upon earth’s limbs:
Changed by the passion of his divine outbreak
110 He made her body beautiful with his kiss.
(S 26)
Impatient for felicity he came,
High-fluting with the co¨ıl’s happy voice,
His peacock turban trailing on the trees;
His breath was a warm summons to delight,
115 The dense voluptuous azure was his gaze.
(S 27)
A soft celestial urge surprised the blood
Rich with the instinct of God’s sensuous joys;
Revealed in beauty, a cadence was abroad
Insistent on the rapture-thrill in life:
120 Immortal movements touched the fleeting hours.
(S 28)
A godlike packed intensity of sense
Made it a passionate pleasure even to breathe;
All sights and voices wove a single charm.
(S 29)
The life of the enchanted globe became
125 A storm of sweetness and of light and song,
A revel of colour and of ecstasy,
A hymn of rays, a litany of cries:
A strain of choral priestly music sang
And, swung on the swaying censer of the trees,
130 A sacrifice of perfume filled the hours.
(S 30)
Asocas burned in crimson spots of flame,
Pure like the breath of an unstained desire
White jasmines haunted the enamoured air,
Pale mango-blossoms fed the liquid voice
135 Of the love-maddened co¨ıl, and the brown bee
Muttered in fragrance mid the honey-buds.
(S 31)
The sunlight was a great god’s golden smile.
(S 32)
All Nature was at beauty’s festival.