From Volume 8 of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, chapter -II, ‘Writings: Prose And Poems’
In order to truly appreciate this correspondence, the reader has to be informed of the occasion which gave rise to it and also to remember the relation that existed between the correspondents. At the outset of the first letter the Swami speaks of “the hard raps” that he gave to his correspondent. These were nothing but a very strong letter which he wrote to her in vindication of his position, on the 1st of February, 1895, which will be found reproduced in the fifth volume of the Complete Works of the Swami. It was a very beautiful letter full of the fire of a Sannyasin’s spirit, and we request our readers to go through it before they peruse the following text. Mary Hale, to whom the Swami wrote, was one of the two daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Hale whom the Swami used to address as Father Pope and Mother Church. The Misses Hales and their two cousins were like sisters to him, and they also in their turn held the Swami in great love and reverence. Some of the finest letters of the Swami were written to them. In the present correspondence the Swami is seen in a new light, playful and intensely human, yet keyed to the central theme of his life, Brahmajnana. The first letter was written from New York, 15th February 1895– Ed.
Now Sister Mary,
You need not be sorry
For the hard raps I gave you,
You know full well,
Though you like me tell,
With my whole heart I love you.
The babies I bet,
The best friends I met,
Will stand by me in weal and woe.
And so will I do,
You know it too.
Life, name, or fame, even heaven forgo
For the sweet sisters four
Sans reproche et sans peur,
The truest, noblest, steadfast, best.
The wounded snake its hood unfurls,
The flame stirred up doth blaze,
The desert air resounds the calls
Of heart – struck lion’s rage.
The cloud puts forth its deluge strength
When lightning cleaves its breast,
When the soul is stirred to its inmost depth
Great ones unfold their best.
Let eyes grow dim and heart grow faint,
And friendship fail and love betray,
Let Fate its hundred horrors send,
And clotted darkness block the way.
All nature wear one angry frown,
To crush you out — still know, my soul,
You are Divine. March on and on,
Nor right nor left but to the goal.
Nor angel I, nor man, nor brute,
Nor body, mind, nor he or she,
The books do stop in wonder mute
To tell my nature; I am He.
Before the sun, the moon, the earth,
Before the stars or comets free,
Before e’en time has had its birth,
I was, I am, and I will be.
The beauteous earth, the glorious sun,
The calm sweet moon, the spangled sky,
Causation’s laws do make them run;
They live in bonds, in bonds they die.
And mind its mantle dreamy net
Cast o’er them all and holds them fast.
In warp and woof of thought are set,
Earth, hells, and heavens, or worst or best.
Know these are but the outer crust —
All space and time, all effect, cause.
I am beyond all sense, all thoughts,
The witness of the universe.
Not two or many, ’tis but one,
And thus in me all me’s I have;
I cannot hate, I cannot shun
Myself from me, I can but love.
From dreams awake, from bonds be free,
Be not afraid. This mystery,
My shadow, cannot frighten me,
Know once for all that I am He.
Well, so far my poetry. Hope you are all right. Give my love to mother and Father Pope. I am busy to death and have almost no time to write even a line. So excuse me if later on I am rather late in writing.
Miss M.B.H. sent Swami the following doggerel in reply:
The monk he would a poet be
And wooed the muse right earnestly;
In thought and word he could well beat her,
What bothered him though was the metre.
His feet were all too short too long,
The form not suited to his song;
He tried the sonnet, lyric, epic,
And worked so hard, he waxed dyspeptic.
While the poetic mania lasted
He e’en from vegetables fasted,
Which Leon[Leon Landsberg, a disciple of the Swami who lived with him for some time] had with tender care
Prepared for Swami’s dainty fare.
One day he sat and mused alone —
Sudden a light around him shone,
The “still small voice” his thoughts inspire
And his words glow like coals of fire.
And coals of fire they proved to be
Heaped on the head of contrite me —
My scolding letter I deplore
And beg forgiveness o’er and o’er.
The lines you sent to your sisters four
Be sure they’ll cherish evermore
For you have made them clearly see
The one main truth that “all is He”.
In days of yore,
On Ganga’s shore preaching,
A hoary priest was teaching
How Gods they come
As Sita Ram,
And gentle Sita pining, weeping.
The sermons end,
They homeward wend their way —
The hearers musing, thinking.
When from the crowd
A voice aloud
This question asked beseeching, seeking —
“Sir, tell me, pray,
Who were but they
These Sita Ram you were teaching, speaking!”
So Mary Hale,
Allow me tell,
You mar my doctrines wronging, baulking.
I never taught
Such queer thought
That all was God — unmeaning talking!
But this I say,
That God is true, all else is nothing,
This world’s a dream
Though true it seem,
And only truth is He the living!
The real me is none but He,The real me is none but He,
And never, never matter changing!
With undying love and gratitude to you all. . . .
And then Miss M.B.H.:
The difference I clearly see
‘Twixt tweedledum and tweedledee —
That is a proposition sane,
But truly ’tis beyond my vein
To make your Eastern logic plain.
If “God is truth, all else is naught,”
This “world a dream”, delusion up wrought,
What can exist which God is not?
All those who “many” see have much to fear,
He only lives to whom the “One” is clear.
So again I say
In my poor way,
I cannot see but that all’s He,
If I’m in Him and He in me.
Then the Swami replied:
Of temper quick, a girl unique,
A freak of nature she,
A lady fair, no question there,
Rare soul is Miss Mary.
Her feelings deep she cannot keep,
But creep they out at last,
A spirit free, I can foresee,
Must be of fiery cast.
Tho’ many a lay her muse can bray,
And play piano too,
Her heart so cool, chills as a rule
The fool who comes to woo.
Though, Sister Mary, I hear they say
The sway your beauty gains,
Be cautious now and do not bow,
However sweet, to chains.
For ’twill be soon, another tune
The moon – struck mate will hear
If his will but clash, your words will hash
And smash his life I fear.
These lines to thee, Sister Mary,
Free will I offer, take
“Tit for tat”– a monkey chat,
For monk alone can make.