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Letters on Poetry and Art ->Literature, Art, Beauty and Yoga ->Appreciation of Poetry and the Arts...


Appreciation of the Arts in General


Poetic and Artistic Value and Popular Appeal

I do not know why your correspondent puts so much value on general understanding and acceptance. Really it is only the few that can be trusted to discern the true value of things in poetry and art and if the “general” run accept it is usually because acceptance is sooner or later imposed or induced in their minds at first by the authority of the few and afterwards by the verdict of Time. There are exceptions of course of a wide spontaneous acceptance because something that is really good happens to meet a taste or a demand in the general mind of the moment.
Poetic and artistic value does not necessarily command massunderstanding and acceptance.

24 October 1936


I do not find your argument from numbers very convincing. Your 999,999 people would also prefer a jazz and turn away from Beethoven or only hear him as a duty and would feel happy in a theatre listening to a common dance tune and cold and dull to the music of Tansen. They would also prefer (even many who pretend otherwise) a catching theatre song to one of Tagore’s lyrics—which proves to the hilt, I suppose, that Beethoven,Tansen, Tagore are pale distant highbrow things, not the real, true, human, joy-giving stuff. In the case ofYogic or divine peace, which is not something neutral, but intense, overwhelming and positive (the neutral quiet is only a first or prefatory stage,) there is this further disadvantage that your million minus one have never known Yogic peace, and what then is the value of their turning away from what they never experienced and could not possibly understand even if it were described to them? The man of the world knows only vital excitement and pleasure or what he can get of it, but does not know the Yogic peace and joy and cannot compare,—but the Yogin has known both and can compare. I have never heard of a Yogin who got the peace of God and turned away from it as something poor, neutral and pallid, rushing back to cakes and ale. If satisfaction in the experience is to be the test, Yogic peace wins by a hundred lengths. However, you write as if I had said peace was the one and only thing to be had by Yoga. I said it was a basis, the only possible secure basis for all other divine experience, even for a fulfilled and lastingintensity of bhakti and Ananda.

29 October 1932

Art and Life

There are artists and artists. A real artistwith the spirit of artistry in his very blood will certainly be artistic in everything. But there are artists who have no taste and there are artists who are not born but made. Your example of Tagore is a different matter. Amastery in one department of art does not give mastery in another—though there may be a few who excel equally in many arts. Gandhi’s phrase about asceticism is only a phrase.
You might just as well say that politics is an art or that cooking is the greatest of arts or apply that phrase to bridge or boxing or any other human field of effort. As for Tolstoy’s dictum it is that of a polemist, a man who had narrowed himself to one line of ideas—and such people can say anything. There is the same insufficiency about the other quotations. An artist or a poet may be the medium of a great power but in his life he may be a very ordinary man or else a criminal like Villon or Cellini. All kinds go to make this rather queer terrestrial creation.

15 August 1933

Modern Art and Poetry

Not only are there no boundaries left in some arts (like poetry of the ultra-modern schools or painting) but no foundations and no Art either. I am referring to the modernist painters and to the extraordinary verbal jazz which is nowadays often put forward as poetry. . . .

Modern Art opines that beauty is functional! that is, whatever serves its function or serves a true purpose is artistic and beautiful—for instance, if a clerk produces a neat copy of an official letter without mistakes, the clerk and his copy are both of them works of art and beautiful!

March 1935

Unity of Idea and Design in the Arts

I would recommend that you send the architect Raymond to Hyderabad to observe the modernised Moghul style of some of the buildings. He could then make some improvements to his design: a big dome in the centre, for instance, and dome-like decorations in the corners.
Two quite different styles cannot be mixed together—it would make a horribly inartistic effect. A dome would be utterly out of place in the plan of this building. Unity of idea and design is the first requisite in architecture as in any other art.

Sri Aurobindo

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The only way to come a little close to him is to love him sincerely and give oneself unreservedly to his work. Thus, each one does his best and contributes as much as he can to that transformation of the world which Sri Aurobindo has predicted.

The Mother
(Vol. 12, pp. 398-99)