A Haunting Resonance

         Sri Chinmoy has chosen an unusual quaternary metrical unit, the choriamb, as the organising principle for this poem from October 17th:

Age after age,
Age after age,
God loves to live
In my heart-cottage.

         The beautiful paired sequences of falling and rising rhythms emerge most effectively when the poem is spoken aloud. Indeed, the poem lends itself to incantation, an elevated form of speech which accords perfectly with the grand vision of the poem.

         The speaker asserts that God abides inside him not merely day after day, or year after year, but lifetime after lifetime. By the repetition of the first line, he suggests an endless series of such lifetimes. The soul takes on a physical form, becomes embodied, dies, and then returns again in a new body. So it continues age after age. The poet imitates this spiralling motion by omitting all conjunctions, personal pronouns and other particles in the first two lines, so that they may be read exactly the same, forwards or backwards. Everything is reduced, pared down, until only Time remains.

           Something of this hypnotic, repetitive quality carries over to the third line, ‘God loves to live.’ Here there seems to be a deliberate chiasmus, or crossing over of sense, by the poet between the words ‘love’ and ‘live’. The full consonance of the two words encourages us to interchange them. One could equally say, ‘God lives to love.’

            This subtle blending and interweaving of the sense leads us to the final line. From the cumulative grandeur and loftiness of the preceding lines, the poet has led us to expect something majestic—a splendid dénouement. Instead Sri Chinmoy brings the entire focus of the poem to the final compound noun ‘heart-cottage’. This image, denoting utmost humility and simplicity, acts a jolt to the reader by virtue of its very understatement. The poet infers that God actually prefers the humblest abode to the most magnificent palace. His choice of the one word ‘cottage’ weighs heavily against the modern urge for countless possessions, for sophistication and luxury. It is a most vivid and persuasive image. Perhaps the poet is also saying that if we can preserve the humility of the heart from age to
age, then only can God live inside us and not be crowded out.

             Poetically speaking, this is a very restrained poem with respect to word choice, metre, rhyme and so forth. The whole colour and momentum build up to that final compound noun—and it is fully able to support the weight of meaning with which the poet endows it. The poem is, undoubtedly, mantric in its scope and incantatory qualities; the creation of a modern poet, yet anti-modern in its connotations; shorn of adjectives, yet vibrant with atmosphere. It is a testament to the continuum between past and present—the ancient image of a solitary sage meditating in his simple hut is enshrined deep within the heart of a contemporary seeker.