Wednesday, February 21, 2007

If Sri Aurobindo keeps something who are we to dismiss it?

Re: 05: A Many-hued inner Dawn by RY Deshpande on Tue 20 Feb 2007 08:22 AM PST Profile Permanent Link
An hour arrives when fail all Nature's means
An hour comes when fail all Nature's means
There is an editorial problem here, whether it should be “An hour arrives…” or “An hour comes…” As far as the sense is concerned there is really not much to choose between “arrives” and “comes”. From the point of view of poetic technique we have: An hour/ arrives/ when fail/ all Nat/ ure’s means—all five beautiful iambs; An ho/ ur comes/ when fail/ all Nat/ ure’s means—this is also acceptable, with ‘hour’ taken with two syllables, not an uncommon thing in Savitri; with this ho /ur the first line would become iamb-anapaest, etc. which is also perfectly fine. In many places Sri Aurobindo scans ‘inspires’ or ‘desires’ with three syllables, though generally they are disyllabic; so too could be taken ‘hour’ as ‘ho/ ur’.
As far as rhythm is concerned, it is a matter of one’s taste and association, one’s predilections also; nor can there be any strict formula everywhere for the same poet; it could depend upon the situation. Then, while in the first line there is a strong ‘r’-alliterative effect, in the second the additional ‘m’-alliteration brings a kind of self-closing poetic result. Nor is this line that kind of a mantra in which nothing can be changed, the exact word in the exact position. There is neither the inevitability of ‘arrives’ nor of ‘comes’.
And yet there is a problem. The whole passage we are discussing was written first by Sri Aurobindo around 1945, written on tiny chit-pad sheets. On it our line in his hand is ‘An hour arrives when fail all Nature's means.” But there were revisions by dictation around it and when the scribe made a fair copy of the text he put—inadvertently I suppose, probably being carried away by the sense of the sentence—‘comes’ instead of ‘arrives’. Obviously, ‘comes’ continued to be there through all the subsequent stages, including a number of times the line with ‘comes’ read out to Sri Aurobindo. Nirodbaran’s fair copy, Nolini’s type-sheets, proofs from the press on three or four occasions—all of them were read out to Sri Aurobindo and he never felt uneasy with his ‘arrives’ having been changed to ‘comes’ by somebody else.
It should also be noted that in a few cases there are differences between what was sent to the press and what came out of it, obviously the proofs had on them Sri Aurobindo’s revisions by dictation; but unfortunately those proofs have not survived. Which could make room for one to argue that Sri Aurobindo, at that stage, could have re-dictated the line as follows: “An hour approaches when fail all Nature's means” with the third foot as an anapaest; but this dictated change was not carried out by the press, again, something which is quite conceivable.
One way of looking at the situation, as vehemently suggested by the upholders of the ‘arrives’, is: “…an accident produced a reading that was not noticeably wrong and even found its way into the printed text. This raises the question: when Sri Aurobindo let a variant introduced by someone else remain intact, is it the same as if he had written it himself? If we want an authentic edition of Savitri in which each word is Sri Aurobindo’s own, it would seem that in such a case the word found in his manuscript should be restored in place of the word that was inadvertently substituted for it by another person.”
That is a very rational argument no doubt and sounds indisputable. But then there could also be another way of looking at things. If an author has allowed to stand something, can we really object to him in that respect? If Sri Aurobindo keeps something who are we to dismiss it? Can that which Sri Aurobindo retained be said to be not ‘authentic’? Perhaps there should be some other way to resolve the issue. I would wait for comments on it. RYD

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