By Sa Ashram, Sri Aurobindo
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Additional info for Letters on Poetry and Art (Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo Volume 27)
He does not stray into “the mystic cavern of the heart”, does not follow the inner ﬁre entering like a thief with the Cow of Light into the secrecy of secrecies. Shakespeare does sometimes get in as if by a splendid psychic accident in spite of his preoccupation with the colours and shows of life. I do not know therefore whether I can speak with any certainty about the lines you quote; I would perhaps have to read them in their context ﬁrst, but it seems to me that there is just a touch, as in the lines about the dying man.
One can say that Virgil is greater than Catullus and that many of Virgil’s lines are greater than anything Catullus ever achieved. But poetical perfection is not the same thing as poetical greatness. Virgil is perfect at his best, but Catullus too is perfect at his best: even, each has a certain exquisiteness of perfection, each in his own kind. Virgil’s kind is large and deep, that of Catullus sweet and intense. Virgil’s art reached or had from its beginning 40 Poetry and its Creation a greater and more constant ripeness than that of Catullus.
Shakespeare is a poet of the vital inspiration, Homer of the subtle physical, but there are no greater poets in any literature. No doubt, if one could get a continuous inspiration from the overmind, that would mean a greater, sustained height of perfection and spiritual quality in poetry than has yet been achieved; but it is only in short passages and lines that even a touch of it is attainable. One gets nearer the overmind rhythm and inspiration in another line of Wordsworth — a mind . . Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone or in a line like Milton’s Those thoughts that wander through eternity.