The poet is alone these days, and this world is filled with emptiness.
He still lives off past bonfires, yearning for ripe tongues, or future ones.
René Char, one day, invited « Aeschylus, Lao Tzu, the Presocratics, Teresa of Avila, Shakespeare, Saint-Just, Rimbaud, Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Melville » to appear with him in on the cover of Fury and Mystery (1948). He also invited a few poets of centuries past, who had reached « incandescence and the unaltered ».
Given a choice, I would have added Homer, Tchouang-tseu, Zoroaster, Campanella, Donne, Hugo, Baudelaire, Jaurès, Gauguin, Bradbury.
Infinite, are the fine lines drawn in the memories.
Millions of billions of dream lines, multitudes of unique horizons. Each one has its own suave flavor, and each one reveals an awakening, setting one spirit ablaze with sparkle, another with blaze.
One day poets will be elected companions for every single moment.
They will weave the universe, and undress the Being:
« All the poems recited and all the songs without exception are portions of Vishnu, of the Great Being, clothed in a sonorous form.»i
René Daumal learned Sanskrit to translate the Veda and Upaniṣad into sincere and sounding words. Did he get the ‘incandescence’?
Hymn 69 of the Rig Veda was the first challenge to his fresh science:
« Arrow? No: against the bow is the thought that is posed.
A Calf being born? No, it is she who rushes to her mother’s udder;
Like a wide river she drags her course towards the headland…
In her own vows the liquid is launched.»ii
Daumal launched himself – like a liquid, during the rise of Nazism, into an ocean of metaphors, into the infinite Sanskrit sea, its cries, its hymns, all the breaths that emanate from its verses.
In the din of the times, he alone searched for the right words to sing the Bhagavad Gita, in a faithful, concise style:
« Roots up and branches down…
imperishable is called Açvattha.
The Metres are its leaves,
and whoever knows him knows Knowledge (the Veda).»iii
Emile-Louis Burnouf had proposed in 1861 a more laminated, fluid version of this same passage:
« He is a perpetual fig tree, an Açwattha,
that grows up its roots, down its branches,
and whose leaves are poems:
he who knows it, knows the Veda. »
Who is the Açwattha, who is this « fig tree »? The fig tree is an image of the Blessed (Bhagavad).
Who is the Blessed One? Burnouf indicates that it is Krishna, the 10th incarnation of Vishnu.
In the Katha-Upaniṣad, we again find the image of the fig tree, – this time associated with the brahman :
« Roots above, branches below…
is this evergreen fig tree,
he’s the shining one, he’s the brahman,
he who is called immortal,
on him lean all the worlds,
no one gets past him.
This is that. »iv
Who are these « Blessed » (Bhagavad ), of whom the fig tree is but an image?
The Taittirîya-Upaniṣad offers the following explanation.
Take a young man, good, quick, strong, educated in the Veda, and possessing the whole earth and all its riches. That is the only human bliss.
One hundred human bliss is only one Gandharva bliss.
One hundred bliss of Gandharva are one bliss of the gods born since creation.
The Upaniṣad thus continues the progression, with a multiplicative factor of 100 at each stage, evoking the bliss of the gods, then the bliss of Indra, then the bliss of Brihaspati, then the bliss of Prajāpati, and finally, the bliss of the brahman.
The gist of the Upaniṣad is in its conclusion:
The bliss of the brahman is similar to that of « the man who knows the Veda, unaffected by desire.»
iRené Daumal. Pour approcher l’art poétique Hindou, Cahiers du Sud, 1942
ii« Flèche ? Non : contre l’arc c’est la pensée qui est posée.
Veau qu’on délivre ? Non, c’est elle qui s’élance au pis de sa mère ;
Comme un large fleuve elle trait vers la pointe son cours
Dans ses propre vœux le liquide est lancé. »
iiiBhagavad Gîta 15, 1. Transl. René Daumal :
« Racines-en-haut et branches-en-bas,
impérissable on dit l’Açvattha.
Les Mètres sont ses feuilles,
et qui le connaît connaît le Savoir (le Véda). »
Emile-Louis Burnouf’ s translation (1861):
« Il est un figuier perpétuel, un açwattha,
qui pousse en haut ses racines, en bas ses rameaux,
et dont les feuilles sont des poèmes :
celui qui le connaît, connaît le Veda. »
ivKatha-Upanishad 2, 3