Book Review: The Rhyme of the Mystic Mariner


The Rhyme of the Mystic Mariner
Select Poems
Author: Yayati Madan Gandhi
Edited by: Ravi Dhar
Published by: The Poetry Society of India
Year of Publication: 2017
ISBN: 978-93-83888-76-4
Pp: 170
Price: Rs. 450.00

Review by Wani Nazir


Roger Housden, in his book, Poems of the Mystics: Christian Tradition from Ancient to Modern writes:
                        Poetry is the language of choice for mystics in all traditions. If you want to speak of the ineffable and the essential, there is no better medium than poetry…Poetry is a language of choice for mystics…to communicate their insights and experiences for the benefit of those who will listen.

Since the essence of mysticism is rested on the belief that the things we see and know symbolise something greater, something essential, since poetry is a language consisting in looking for the resemblances, odysseying from the particular to the universal, since poet approaches philosophy obliquely, poetry becomes a medium to transmit the transcendental feelings the very being of a mystic is effervescent with.

Yayati Madan Gandhi’s book, The Rhyme of a Mystic Mariner, too has been written in poetry simply for the reason that the mystic illuminations the poet glimpses can never be expressed in any other medium than the language of poetry, the poet who writes in one of his poems titles as Poems as Actions:

Every time poets chisel words
They lend voice to feelings long pent up
And make portraits themselves

 To describe the indescribable, to say the unsayable is so onerous a task that when St Augustine tried to decipher the spiritual and supernal experience, she was left with no words and uttered just: “Don’t ask me I know, if you ask me I know not.”

Madan Gandhi has made poetry the wind on whose wings he wants to fly over the valleys of the Eternal Truth, his eyes are unflinchingly fixed on. The readers, not the ones like me, who have never experienced such epiphanic moments, too are transported along with the poet from the dry lands of scepticism to the ocean of spirituality. The poet dares to “Vie even with God/to create a new world/ordered or chaotic; grotesque or quixotic” (Poets and Painters). Such kind of daring needs a mystic soul, which Madan Gandhi, no doubt, is.

Madan Gandhi’s book delineates the mystical and transcendental concepts from various religious legacies, not from Brahmanism only. Apart from the concept of Awagaman (cycle of rebirth) as expressed by him in his poem, Time’s River, where he wants to break free from this cycle, he versifies:
                        Coming and going
                        is a cycle
                        which never stops,

he also expatiates on Buddhist concept of nirvana in his poem, Nirvana, and vindicates that nirvana is a release from all sufferings:

Nirvana is not a union
with God or a deity,
or individual self,
but a state of being.
Nirvana is not
void or nothingness
but a release
from all suffering.
He also poetises Sufism and talks about Dervish Dance when a Sufi is in ‘halat-e-sukur’ (Ecstasy) and identifies himself with the ‘music of spheres’. In his poem, The Dervishe’s Dance, the poet writes:
            All dance in harmony with nature; in a certain way
            yields the body to the earth’s movement

Shelley in one of his essays, A Defence of Poetry, attributes poetry with prophetic and mystical prowess and describes poetry as ‘a type of super-conscious intuition’, too awe-inspiring to be gauged by logicality of the intellect. One has to ‘tear the veil of thinking’ to reach the Truth, not to bank upon one’s human mind. This is what the poet of The Rhyme of the Mystic Mariner avers in his poem No Mind-State:
                       
                        Human mind
                        can’t hold
                        the whole.

Yayati Madan Gandhi, a mystic poet, like a mystic who is with the power of spirituality and divine illumination capable of tearing away the surface of autopic façades of things and peeps into the truth of things, is also blessed with this vision when he is bestowed with knowledge of essence of things and their secrets all. The poet, in his poem, Blessed, proves to be a soul blessed with divine illumination:
                       
                        I know the secrets
                        of the self and the cosmos
                        what glows
                        at the other end:
                        Whence life comes, whereto it goes
                        what makes the tide turn,
                        how moves the wheel.
Such is the state of his being tumultuous with the waves of Satya (the eternal truth) that he claims to be with Buddha and Jesus at the last post of divine realisation:

                        With Buddha and Jesus
I stand at the edge of realisation. (Flaming Cross)
                       
He too echoes the words of Socrates ‘know thy self’ and Mohammad (pbuh) ‘One who knows one’s self, knows everything’ because as The New Testament says, “Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or lo there! For, behold the kingdom of God is within you”, the divine is dwelling within – within one’s heart, which he calls a prince:

                        Everyone is but a prince
                        With a crown in heart (Living to Love)
                         
In his poem, Love: The Trusted Ferry, the poet too like all the mystics believes in love as a means to know one’s self and a way leading to the Ultimate Truth, the Divine Reality.
                        In love
                        you are one with all-soul
                        the inner and the outer self
                        lose all distinction
                        the selfless action becomes
                        meditation. 
Here he also seems to be in the shoes of Rumi who when over-brimmed with love admits:
Love has taken away my practices
And filled me with poetry.

The utter beauty of his poetic gems can be gauged by savouring just the lines where he teaches all the salik (those who embark on the path of spiritual odyssey) the message of how to live eternally transgressing space and time:
                       
                        To live eternally
                        you must know
                        the art of dying each moment

 All said and done, one has to but accept that Madan Gandhi, the author of The Rhyme of the Mystic Mariner, has tried to heave up his mystic encounters with his self and the Divine on the wings of poesy. The book is fraught with the ‘spots of time’, the blissful moments of self-realisation and divine illumination. The reader has to be fully equipped with all the paraphernalia he will definitely feel in need of while wading through the waters tiding with mystical and tumultuous waves the poetry of the book is inundated with. All I would say is that the book is not only worth reading but it is indeed worth owing.

Bibliography:
  1. Housdon, RogerPoems of the Mystics:  Christian Tradition from Ancient to Modern, 2009.  RetrievedOctober,2016,fromwww.healyourlife.com/authorRogerhousden/2009/11/wisdom/inspiration/poems-of-the-mystics.
  2. Gandhi Yayati Madan. The Rhyme of the Mystic Mariner, 2017, The Poetry Society of India

 Setu, July 2017

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