Agra was Shah Jehan's city of residence. It was from its walls that he witnessed the overthrow of Prince Dara, his eldest son. The Jahara Baug is one of the gardens adjoining the river.
Agra. Image from G. W. Forrest’s Cities of India (1903).
It was the lovely twilight-time went down o'er Agra's towers,
And silent were her marble halls, and tranquil were her bowers;
The crimson colours of the rose were melting on the air,
And from the ivory minarets arose the evening prayer.
The snowy herons to the roofs were flocking for the night,
The columns and the cupolas were bathed in purple light;
And the large lilies on the stream grew fairer in their hue,
As they flung up each silver cup to catch the falling dew.
Fill'd with the sweet good-night of flowers tha sigh themselves to sleep,
Along the quiet river's side, the shadowy gardens sweep;
While fair and pale, like some young girl who pines with early love,
The young moon seems as if she fear'd to take her place above.
Is there no feasting in those halls! why is that palace mute?
The silvery cadences unheard of the young dancer's foot:
How changed since that glad marriage eve, when with the dance and song
Prince Dara led his cousin-bride, those lighted halls along.
How changed since that imperial day, when at his father's hand,
The eldest born sat down to share that father's high command;
And the proud nobles of the court drew forth the glittering sword,
In token all were at his will, and waited but his word.
An old man sits upon the walls that guard the eastern side;
'Tis not to hear the wild wind wake the music of the tide:
The rising of the evening star, the perfume from the bough,
The last sweet singing of the doves—all pass unheeded now.
The aged king sits on his tower, and strains his eyes afar,
And asks of every passer by for tidings of the war;
They come—he sees the scatter'd flight of Dara's broken bands;*
At last a fugitive himself—his son before him stands.
The monarch hid his face and wept, he heard his first-born say,
“The crown you placed upon my brow this hour has past away;
My brother is my enemy—a traitor is my friend,
And I must seek these ancient walls, to shelter and defend.”
“Not so,” the old king said, “my son; fly thou with spear and shield,
For never walls could stand for those who stood not in the field;”
He wept before his father's face—then fled across the plain;
The desolate and the fugitive—they never met again.
Time has past on, and Dara's doom is darkly drawing nigh,
The vanquish’d prince has only left to yield—despair and die;
The faithless friend, the conquering foe, have been around his path,
And now a wild and desert home, is all Prince Dara hath.
The sands are bare, the wells are dry, and not a single tree
Extends its shade o'er him who had a royal canopy:
There is not even safety found amid those burning sands;
The exile has a home to seek in far and foreign lands.
He lingers yet upon his way—within his tents is death;
He cannot fly till he has caught Nadira's latest breath.
How can he bear to part with her—she who, since first his bride,
In wo and want his comforter, has never left his side.
He kiss'd the pale unconscious cheek—he flung him at her feet;
He gazed how fondly on those eyes he never more might meet;
“Tis well,” he cried, “my latest friend is from my bosom flown,
Go bear her to her father's tomb, while I go forth alone.”
The traitor is upon his way, the royal prey is found,
And by ignoble hands and chains, the monarch's son is bound;
Garb’d as a slave, they lead him forth the public ways along,
But on his noble brow is scorn, and on his lip a song."**
"Tis midnight; but the midnight crime is darker than the night,
And Aurungzebe with gloomy brow awaits the morning light;
The morning light is dyed for him with an accusing red,
They bring to the usurper's feet his brother Dara's head.*** [285-86]
* [Dara's broken bands] Prince Dara was the favourite son of Shah Jehan, who associated him with himself on the throne. The talents and good fortune, however, of Aurungzebe, the younger brother, turned the scale in his own favour. The struggle between the ‘wo was long and severe; and the final catastrophe fatal to the unfortunate Dara.
** [on his lip a song] Having a talent for poetry, he composed many affect ing verses on his own misfortunes, with the repetition of which he often drew tears from the eyes of the common soldiers who guarded his person. “My name,” said he, “imports that I am in pomp like Darius; I am also like that monarch in my fate. The friends whom he trusted were more fatal than the swords of his enemies.”
*** [Dara’s head] Aurungzebe passed the night destined for his brother's death in great fear and perplexity, when Najis, the instru: ment of his crime, brought before him the last fatal relic. The head of Dara being disfigured with blood, he ordered it to be thrown into a charger of water; and when he had wiped it with his handkerchief, he recognised the features of his brother. He is said to have exclaimed, “Alas, unfortunate man!” and then to have shed some tears.
Landon, Latitia E. The Poetical Works of Miss Landon. Philadelphia: E.L. Cary and A. Hart, 1839. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the New York Public Library. Web. 17 July 2020.
Last modified 20 July 2020