I am sleeping four hours a night in my push to get the book finished by Friday. I felt an overwhelming urge to share at least a passage of what I am working on, I suppose because it is one of the few passages that is about feeling not policy, and feelings should be shared. Or something like that, maybe its just lack of sleep. This differs from previous passages I have published as it is going to be in the book, not something I have removed in editing down.
On 1st August they were joined by Hugh Falconer and his collaborator Captain Proby Cautley. Burnes received a letter from Dost Mohammed explaining that he was receiving proposals and diplomatic representatives were being sent from both Persia and Russia, but he would do nothing until Burnes arrived. Burnes immediately wrote to Colvin and Macnaghten insisting that he needed more powers and discretion to act in these circumstances, noting in his diary “I am to talk, they [the Persians and Russians] are to act. They had better recall me than act thus.” He was to repeat often a belief that Auckland was placing him in an impossible situation.
But that same evening there was time for enjoyment amid the gloom. They dined al fresco in the beautiful but decaying Mughal garden, flooded with roses, the Bagh-i-Wah. “We pitched our camp by the crystal rivulet, filled our glasses with Burgundy, and drank to the memory of the fame of Noor Muhal and her immortal poet Thomas Moore.”
Burnes frequently quotes Moore and his “Mughal” poetry, especially Lalla Rook. He had met Moore in London, and Burnes’ own works are accounted an influence on Moore’s poetry. Undoubtedly this poetic sensibility affected Burnes’ attitudes, particularly his partiality for Islamic culture. Moore’s reputation has not proved “immortal”, but he was enormously popular at this time, across all of Europe. His poetry inspired music by Schumann and Berlioz, and countless artists and writers. The passage Burnes is here referencing – and presumes his readers will get the reference – is
The mask is off – the charm is wrought –
And Selim to his heart has caught,
In blushes, more than ever bright
His Nourmahal, his Haram’s light!
And well do vanish’d frowns enhance
The charm of every brighten’d glance;
And dearer seems each dawning smile
For having lost its light awhile;
And happier now, for all its sighs,
As on his arm her head reposes,
She whispers him, with laughing eyes,
“Remember, love, the Feast of Roses!1
That was a wonderful evening under the stars in Hasan Abdal – the rivulet, the roses, the burgundy, Goncalves’ guitar, the poetry and added to Burnes’ mission of already very remarkable men, the great paleontologists Falconer and Cautley, who much influenced Darwin. Cautley also was the genius who designed and constructed the great Ganges canal.