Speaciality of Rig Vedic Poetry

We need to stress on the peculiar character of the mantra, the revelatory origin of the world-rhythm proceeding from the Infinite and caught by the disciplined audition of the rişhi.

It is not that there is no poetical charm or other qualities that we associate with Poetry. On the other hand there is sublime poetry in the Rig Veda-sublime even when judged from modern standards. What is true of poetry in a general way is preeminently true in the case of mantra-poetry. It must be borne in mind that to know the thought-content of a poem is not the same as to allow the soul and substance of poetry to invade and possess the sense and feeling and thought in the core of one’s being in communion with the spirit of Poetry. Of the untranslatable elements in poetry, especially in the mantra poetry, the word-rhythm and the word-order stand prominently as the two wings of the soaring soul of poetic sound. Nevertheless, to the composer of the Vedic hymn it was only a help, a means for his progress and a help for others. The act of expression was just a means, not an aim. That is why pursuit of aesthetic grace or beauty or richness does not act as an incentive to the rişhi for varying the consecrated form which was an accepted principle among the mystics of the Rig Veda. On this point Sri Aurobindo’s view is noteworthy. He explains the apparent monotony in many places which even lesser minds could easily vary or break by simple or artful devices or common poetical conceits.

“Only out of the sameness of experience and out of the impersonality of knowledge, there arise a fixed body of conceptions constantly repeated and a fixed symbolic language which was the inevitable form of these conceptions… We have at any rate the same notions repeated from hymn to hymn with the same constant terms and figures and frequently in the same phrases with an entire indifference to search for poetical originality or any demand for novelty of thought and freshness of language ……. The mystic poets do not vary the consecrated form which has become for them a sort of divine algebra transmitting the eternal formulae of the knowledge to the continuous succession of initiates.

“The hymns possess indeed a finished metrical form, a constant subtlety and skill in their technique, great variations of style and poetical personality – they are not the work of rude, barbarous and primitive craftsman…… They differ in temperament and personality; some are inclined to a more rich, subtle and profound use of Vedic symbolism; others give voice to their spiritual experience in a barer and simpler dictum …… There are risings and fallings in the same hymn …… Some hymns are plain and almost modern in their language; others baffle us at first by their semblance of antique obscurity. But these differences take nothing from the unity of spiritual experience. In the deep and mystic style of Dīrghatamas as in the melodious lucidity of Medhātithi, in the puissant and energetic hymns of Vishvāmitra as in Vasişhţha’s even harmonies we have the same firm foundation of knowledge and the same scrupulous adherence to the sacred conventions of the Initiates” (Sri Aurobindo).

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