A leal sailor even
In a stormy sea
Drinks deep God’s Name
(17 November 2005)
In this poem, uncharacteristically, the focal point is not a compound noun, or a repetitive structure that isolates and emphasises a single word, but an image with mythical, one might almost say archetypal, overtones. Sri Chinmoy reverts to his beloved water imagery to create a picture of a sailor caught in a storm at sea. Not an inexperienced hand, but a ‘leal’ sailor, the genuine article. This very beautiful old Scottish adjective, rescued perhaps from obscurity by the poet, denotes all that is true, honest and trustworthy. Such a sailor has weathered many storms at sea and can maintain his own poise. This inner equanimity of the sailor is mirrored in the peaceful assonance of the vowels in ‘leal’, ‘even’, ‘stormy’ and ‘sea’.
The poem flows on, calmly and rhythmically, without any inner or outer disturbance. This even flow carries us into the third and fourth lines, where the poet infuses his image with a vast inner dimension. In the midst of the storm, the sailor repeats God’s Name and is filled with bliss. His is not the desperate prayer of the lost or abandoned or fearful, but rather the uninterrupted prayer of one who is wholly absorbed in God.
One moment the poet creates certain expectations; next moment he confounds them. Thus the sailor ‘drinks deep’, but he is not drowning in the turbulent sea. Rather, he is drowning in the mantric repetition of God’s Name. His experience is one not of terror, but of ecstasy. Here again, with both ‘deep’ and ‘ecstasy’, the poet picks up the peaceful assonance of the first half of the poem and continues it as an underlying musical theme until the very last syllable.
Sri Chinmoy’s poem is a powerful reminder to the seeker that someone who is utterly absorbed in God will remain unaffected by life’s crises. By creating an image that appeals to our heroic fibre, he endows us with the courage to withstand such crises.