Discoveries of The Vedic Rishis - Discoveries of The Vedic Rishis 104

The third characteristic of the Veda is: it is beautiful, not only in linguistic expression but beautiful in its poetic expression. Rig Veda is nothing but sheer poetry. Now what is poetry? One must be able to understand that this is a great poetry. I can also write poems, Jivatma can write poems, Fanny can write poems, Vishwamitra can write poems. Is there any difference? There is a difference. First of all, good poetry must have rhythmic words. I spoke of this once before, but it can be repeated, because it is very important. Poetry is poetry only when it consists of rhythmic words. If the words are not rhythmic, it is not poetry. In prose writing, the words may not be rhythmic, but in poetry, if the words are not rhythmic, it is not poetry. That is one mark of poetry. The expression must be rhythmic. There must be rhythm. The second is, it must have style. In prose also there is style, but it is not a necessary element of prose. In poetry there must be style. And what is style? What you want to express and the manner of expression should coincide. The substance of what you want to say, and the manner of saying, must gel with each other. That is called style. What you are and the manner of your being should be consistent with each other, then it is style. To take a very small example: if you are very tall and your dress is short, it is not style. To have style, what you are and the manner of your expression should have some kind of harmony. Similarly in the case of poetry, what you want to say and the way of saying must be harmonious. And the third characteristic of poetry is that it must have images. This is very important. In prose, you may not have images. But poetry without images is out of question. Image is the fundamental thing in poetry. Whatever you want to say must have a very concrete image. I want to express laughter, for example, and then you may give an image of the fall of Ganges from the Himalayas. It is like laughter. In laughter there is a kind of rhythm of fall, and an image of it would be something like the fall of Ganges from the Himalayas. So you might say; Himalayas are laughing. The Ganges is nothing but the laughter of the Himalayas. This is an image. Poetry must have images of whatever is to be expressed. But what image? That is very important. And that is the crux of the matter. The image must image profounder and profounder and profoundest reality. If it is an image of an ordinary thing, poetry is ordinary. If what is imaged is of a profounder thing, it is a profounder poetry. If the image is an image of the profoundest reality, poetry is profoundest. That is how you can judge poetry. Is it ordinary poetry, or is it profounder poetry or profoundest poetry? It depends upon what is the substance which is imaged. Now, when all the three: rhythm, style, image and the substance that is imaged are of the highest order, then that is the best poetry. There are many poets who are rhythmic, but they don’t have style. There are poets who have got great style, but no sense of rhythm or very little rhythm; there are poets who are profound, their images are good, but style is poor and the rhythm is poor. That is how many poets can be understood. When you read any poetry you ask these three questions and you will find out the value or evaluation of a good poet. Poets like Shakespeare, or Shelley or Keats, or like Milton for example, are very great poets and have great merits. And then if you read Sri Aurobindo’s poetry, Savitri. Savitri is the one poem which has intensest rhythmic expression. Most wonderful rhythm in English literature that you find is found in Savitri. The style in Savitri is most marvelous. What is to be expressed and the manner of expression, they completely harmonise. And the images — abounding images! One of the best images of Savitri you find in the very beginning of the book: as a young girl how she is growing up, (one day we shall read together these particular few lines of Savitri and you will see the abundance of images, and the image is so profound, the profoundest reality of Savitri is brought out. That is why Savitri is regarded as the highest poetry that we have in the world literature.

Now if you judge Vedic poetry from this point of view, Sri Aurobindo himself has written on this, and he has himself said that when these three things are of the highest order, poetry becomes mantric, poetry becomes full of mantra. And Vedic poetry is mantric poetry. The word mantra is very important. What is mantra? Mantra is poetic expression which has a highest rhythmic value, whose style is most appropriate, and whose images reflect the highest reality, highest experience of reality. When the three combine together and these are expressed, then that expression is called mantra, and mantra has power. Actually every sound has a power, every word has power. But there are different kinds of power. You must yourself have seen how a powerful dialogue, may be very short, very pithy, and it make an effect like a bolt upon you. Even twenty lines cannot produce that effect which one line can produce, because the power of it is so great. Different kinds of words and sounds have different kinds of power. But mantra has the highest power. When it is uttered, then the substance of it is realised, that is the meaning of mantra. You just recite a mantra and what is recited is itself experienced by you on the spot that is the power of mantra. And Sri Aurobindo has said that Vedic poetry is mantric poetry. Rishis themselves who composed poetry, called that poetry mantra.