I now know why
God has brought me so close;
Because I have placed
At His Feet my heart-rose.
(10 October 2005)
This miniature poem, replete with precise and unadorned monosyllables, has come into being in answer to a question that lies beyond its framework. Finding himself singled out by God, the seeker has clearly wondered what he has done to merit such blessings. This
poem is his private epiphany, his moment of realisation. The poet reflects this sudden onrush of understanding by basing the organisation of the poem on anapaestic dimeters. The quickening movement of each phrase from weak syllables to a single strong syllable breathes energy into the poet’s symbolic action:
Because I have placed
At His Feet my heart-rose
The strength of the poem carries through to the end where the poet employs a spondee in the form of the compound noun ‘heart-rose’. This compound noun is the only descriptive feature in the poem and, as such, it has to bear the entire weight of the poet’s meaning.
Sri Chinmoycould have said ‘my heart’s rose’ or ‘my roseate heart’ or another more elaborate phrase requiring connecting words. Instead he chooses to confer equal weight on both words, making neither one subordinate to the other.
It is this compound noun which acts as the vehicle to lift the poem from a purely concrete and literal level to a mystical level. If the seeker’s spiritual heart is synonymous with a rose, it suggests that the seeker has offered to God something of extraordinary beauty and fragrance. Each reader must discover for himself what these qualities are, whether love, devotion, sweetness, joy, surrender, beauty and so forth. That is the unfolding mystery of the poem.
What Sri Chinmoy has done, in effect, is create a poem of very specific images—placed, Feet, rose—and then withdraw any literal interpretation of these images so that we are compelled to read them symbolically. The clues, like a kind of rhythmic shorthand, are to be found in each strong anapaestic beat.
In many ways, Sri Chinmoy’s poem is supremely reassuring by its very reciprocity between man and God. The action of placing a rose before a sacred image or statue is one that is familiar to us all. Yet we so often think of the deity embodied in stone or wood as being cold and unfeeling. We do not dare to imagine a God who actually receives our gifts in a highly personal way. Sri Chinmoy portrays a God who is so deeply moved by the offering of a single rose that He draws the seeker close to Him; in effect, God clasps the seeker to His own universal Heart. Man’s small offering seems but a drop in comparison with God’s overwhelming response.
As with many other aspects of the spiritual life, Sri Chinmoy makes us believe that the hardest things are, in fact, the easiest to accomplish. What is it, after all, to offer God our heart-rose, he is saying. Each and every person can do it. And what the result will be, we know: God will draw us closer to Him than we ever dared to dream of.
Thus, in many ways, Sri Chinmoy’s small poem empowers us. Why not us, we ask. It also highlights the tremendous reserves of meaning that he is able to evoke with his seemingly simple and transparent compound nouns. He uses them with deliberate effect in the poems to focus our attention on something very specific. It would take pages of prose to adequately convey the spiritual consciousness of a seeker who has fully surrendered himself to God. Sri Chinmoy accomplishes the same thing with a mere sketch: the placing of a rose at God’s Feet.