Jahara Baug, Agra - The History of Shah Dara’s Flight and Death

Letitia Elizabeth Landon 1802 (Chelsea) – 1838 (Cape Coast)

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 Jehara Baug is one of the gardens adjoining the river.


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.

Filled with the sweet good-night of flowers that 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 feared 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 scattered 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 vanquished 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 kissed 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 ;
Garbed 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. **

# 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 two was long and severe ; and the final catastrophe fatal to the unfortunate Dara.
* Having a talent for poetry, he composed many affecting 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.”
** Aurungzebe passed the night destined for his brother’s death in great fear and perplexity, when Najis, the instrument 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 recognized the features of his brother. He is said to have exclaimed, “Alas, unfortunate man !” and then to have shed some tears.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on December 03, 2016


Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was an English poet. Born 14th August 1802 at 25 Hans Place, Chelsea, she lived through the most productive period of her life nearby, at No.22. A precocious child with a natural gift for poetry, she was driven by the financial needs of her family to become a professional writer and thus a target for malicious gossip (although her three children by William Jerdan were successfully hidden from the public). In 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, whence she travelled, only to die a few months later (15th October) of a fatal heart condition. Behind her post-Romantic style of sentimentality lie preoccupations with art, decay and loss that give her poetry its characteristic intensity and in this vein she attempted to reinterpret some of the great male texts from a woman’s perspective. Her originality rapidly led to her being one of the most read authors of her day and her influence, commencing with Tennyson in England and Poe in America, was long-lasting. However, Victorian attitudes led to her poetry being misrepresented and she became excluded from the canon of English literature, where she belongs. more…

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