Nolini Kanta Gupta
Sri Aurobindo has thrown such a material into his poetic fervour and created a sheer beauty, a stupendous reality out of it. Herein lies the greatness of his achievement. Philosophy, however divine, and in spite of Milton, has been regarded by poets as "harsh and crabbed" and as such unfit for poetic delineation. Not a few poets indeed foundered upon this rock.
A poet in his own way is a philosopher, but a philosopher chanting out his philosophy in sheer poetry has been one of the rarest spectacles.¹ I can think of only one instance just now where a philosopher has almost succeeded being a great poet – I am referring to Lucretius and his De Rerum Natura. Neither Shakespeare nor Homer had anything like philosophy in their poetic creation. And in spite of some inclination to philosophy and philosophical ideas Virgil and Milton were not philosophers either. Dante sought perhaps consciously and deliberately to philosophise in his Paradiso. I Did he? The less Dante then is he. For it is his Inferno, where he is a passionate visionary, and not his Paradiso (where he has put in more thought-power) that marks the nee plus ultra of his poetic achievement.
And yet what can be more poetic in essence than philosophy, if by philosophy we mean, as it should mean, spiritual truth and spiritual realisation? What else can give the full breath, the integral force to poetic inspiration if it is not the problem of existence itself, of God, Soul and Immortality, things that touch, that are at the very root of life and reality? What can most concern man, what can strike the deepest fount in him, unless it is the mystery of his own being, the why and the whither of it all? But mankind has been taught and trained to live merely or mostly on earth, and poetry has been treated as the expression of human joys and sorrows – the tears in mortal things of which Virgil spoke. The savour of earth, the thrill of the flesh has been too sweet for us and we have forgotten other sweetnesses. It is always the human element that we seek in poetry, but we fail to recognise that what we obtain in this way is humanity in its lower degrees, its surface formulations, at its minimum magnitude.