The Bagh I Wah 37


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.


37 thoughts on “The Bagh I Wah

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  • RobG

    The passage from your book is very well written, Craig. This reader certainly enjoyed it, and looks forward to publication.

    What I often find interesting about your writing is the dichotomy between the more formal stuff (in the sense that you are writing about politics, etc; as on your blog) and the personal stuff (and by that I also include subjects that are of great interest to you).

    But heck, I suppose having to write about present UK politics would make any sane being go into robot mode.

  • fedup

    Bagh-i-Wah!

    The Garden of Dreams (if I am not mistaken) a nice surround for any poet.

    Good piece of work Craig.

  • Trodos

    A Scottish Government would do well to appoint CM as its Afghan Ambassador, the “Great Game” and its current incarnation is intimately known to him. He can take habba along as his personal Devils Advocate, if Mr Ronson will allow it.

  • craig Post author

    Trodos

    I am not at all sure Scotland will need an Embassy in Afghanistan. Assuming Scotland won’t have an ageist retirement policy, I would certainly intend to serve though.

  • Abe Rene

    PS. You may wish to put a picture or two of the place in your book, if it’s important to understanding it, and you plan to include photographs and other artwork anyway.

  • craig Post author

    Abe Rene

    I thought of that, but I am afraid it has been dilapidated, robbed and denuded beyond all recognition now and would give a false impression.

  • giyane

    Secular heterosexual Scottish arseholes with a romantic taste in poetry celebrating their callous victories over a superior culture to their own. Can’t comment on the Burgundy but if it was the real thing it must have been imported 5000 miles somehow.

    This is a passage I would have definitely thrown in the bin. can’t stand colonialists of any period or provenance. Neither their arrogance nor their affectations nor their total disregard of local beliefs and religions.

    This disgusting picnic could have been written about Indian Muslims enslaving the population of Burma, Nazis in Poland, Al Qaida in Syria. Absolute shame on every single one of them.

  • giyane

    If two sword-fish are fighting at the bottom of the oceans, you can bet your life the British started it. We know who divides and rules the universe, who tempts ( a word I heard used this week by the zionist loony fringe on Radio 4’s Moral Maze ) others to invade weaker countries than their own. It’s not very nice to have it stuffed up one’s nose first thing on a Monday morning.

  • Villager

    “can’t stand colonialists of any period or provenance. Neither their arrogance nor their affectations nor their total disregard of local beliefs and religions.

    This disgusting picnic could have been written about Indian Muslims enslaving the population of Burma, Nazis in Poland, Al Qaida in Syria. Absolute shame on every single one of them.”

    Or the Mughals enslaving Hindustan and converting its people by the sword into Islam ?

    Btw, welcome to Tuesday!

  • craig Post author

    Giyane

    They were indeed secular, heterosexual and (mostly) Scottish. I am not sure what is wrong with any of those. The Burgundy came an awful lot further than 5,000 miles. It was shipped round the Cape of Good Hope, by Forbes & Co of Mumbai.

    If the historian only concerned himself with ethical acts, there would be no history written at all.

  • giyane

    Thanks Craig. Some of my ancestors had a good business in Sicily in the early 19th century exporting wine, but the exploits of Sikunder Burnes always seem to be of superman scale.

    as you know I am interested in only the ethics of events, and I do believe that the UK may have given Nazi Germany and Islamic State some green lights, while posing as agents of good faith. We definitely share the belief that UK dissimilation needs to be busted and or broken completely before many things can come to rights in the world. hey are yacking on on Women’s hour as I write about girls education with Mrs Obama, a very tired old wedge indeed, the principle of which everyone agrees with, but what follows ? More drones.

  • craig Post author

    Giyane,

    In the FCO I experienced really nice, good people, who were my friends, going along with lies on Iraqi WMD and with extraordinary rendition. I am fascinated by how people behave as individuals in circumstances where they serve a course of action which they themselves perceive as immoral. That is the crux of the story of Alexander Burnes.

  • Villager

    “Or the Mughals enslaving Hindustan and converting its people by the sword into Islam ?”

    Glyane,

    Are you ignoring my above question? Is it inconvenient; doesn’t fit with your adopted ‘reality’, somehow?

  • giyane

    Ooh arr did you ask me a question then I suppose I’d better give you an answer.

    Yer tis

    In Islam, if people don’t listen to the truth, and connect it to the comprehension/fitra of the God which they were given when they were born, and are utterly contentious against the message that God is one, not trees nor spirits nor men, then the sword is justified against them. but if as in Syria, the indigenous population are Muslims of great knowledge and character, it could not possibly be justified to take the Queen’s shilling or Obama’s green card to serve USUKIS colonial interests to shoot them up and leave 10 million of them starving and homeless.

    i know it’s hard for your little brain.

  • Villager

    “I am fascinated by how people behave as individuals in circumstances where they serve a course of action which they themselves perceive as immoral.”

    I question whether they behave as individuals? Or do they behave as members of a group? Group=security.

    The physical security that every animal is programmed to, i.e. self-preservation, spilling into the need for psychological security by, and in, man. That is, very similar to the need to identify with a tribe, a religion, a nation etc.

    Very difficult to keep the ego in its place and dissolve fear and anxiety — insecurity.

  • giyane

    pillock brains
    So sorry. I went for a pre Ramadhan barbecue picnic yesterday at Colwick Crusader Park in Nottingham and i suppose I must have thought it was part of the weekend.

    Have you worked out the difference between colonial hegemony and jihad yet? I think it might be wednesday or maybe Christmas before that one sinks in.

    Lack of capitals is poetic licence before you start picking on little things. talking of which I was extremely annoyed yesterday by a salafi using his hand to wave me like a man guiding a reversing lorry in the actual prayer recitation. They make Islam small. first put 10 million Syrian refugees into safety, then fill the 2 inch gap between my foot and yours, or move your own foot if you want to think about pathetic unimportant little things.

  • craig Post author

    Enoch,

    The one charge that won’t stand up is plagiarism. Huge amount of manuscript and research gone into the book.

    The direct quote in the above is from Burnes’ Travels. He does not name the garden, which I located. He does not give the specific poem, which I trawled Moore for. He does not mention that Falconer and Cautley were palaeontologists, or they they influenced Darwin.

    I don’t think anybody else has ever written about that evening, anywhere. So you are revealed as mendacious.

  • Villager

    “In Islam, if people don’t listen to the truth, and connect it to the comprehension/fitra of the God which they were given when they were born, and are utterly contentious against the message that God is one, not trees nor spirits nor men, then the sword is justified against them.”

    Says it all. Islamophobes, please close your eyes.

    “i know it’s hard for your little brain.”

    I readily admit to possessing a little human brain, in comparison to the intelligence coded throughout the Universe, indeed, Multiverse. I know what i know and can know. I also know what I don’t know and what I can’t know — the Great Unknown.

  • Villager (BE FREE!)

    Confucius said “Better to see the content of your little brain, than to give it to your imam to have it washed.” (Guaranteed to shrink further!) 😉

    Now time for a walk in Nature, my God, so it will be awash with her natural chemicals; endorphins. Confucius say: “Double Happiness!!”

    BE FREE!

  • Mary

    6/23 Worthy of Habbabkuk.

    One would not imagine that the author of all this other worldly lovey dovey stuff was capable at directing a string of invective comments (including swear words) to me.

  • giyane

    Confucius said;

    You’re better off chewing bubblemint gum, if God has given you gums with teeth in them, a bladder to process unwanted chemicals, endocrins and endomorphins. it’s a complicated piece of kit, the human body, all running automatically every second of the day.
    can we not say a little thank you to God a few times a day?

  • Villager

    LOL Glyane have a good day!

    Yes the mindbody is a miracle! We get here, unlike a computer or a TV, an idiot box, without a manual, a book. I want to know my own book, not somebody else’s second-hand book, however lovely the fables and mythologies.

    So, He gave me a brain. Figure it out for yourself after pressing the delete buttons on ALL you KNOW and the weight of your CONDITIONING!

    Confucius say: “NO dogmas, NO rituals.”

  • Villager

    Mary, it has to be observed that you have of late started addressing Habby by his name and even called him a friend. That’s a change.

    Also I see more circumspect with your C&P’s. But then, Craig also has been posting furiously, outpacing you and RoS with your little offerings. Hope when the Cat’s away, the mice will stay in check!?

  • giyane

    Villager

    LOL? what’s that when it’s at home? respect, shared joke, humanity. much appreciated whatever it actually may be. Thanks.

    This is dogma without the dogcollar. We do have three divine downloads plus the psalms to do a pricecomparison.com choice with. why the christians decided to give Christ the attributes of God, the decision making power on Judgement Day, omniscience etc, only He knows. i remember asking the vicar once about the dogma of easter and getting very little clarification from him. I’ve no idea how anyone makes sense of the islamophobia created by false flag bombings and Al Crimida if they haven;t come across Islam before.
    Fortunately I discovered Islam before Blair started all that crusade.

  • Mary

    9/29 now. Villager does not get irony. The attribution of the word ‘friend’ with reference to Habbabkuk who trolled me without mercy was ironic.

    Villager is also pretending that he has not read my comment about the horrible foul mouthed muck he spewed at me recently.

    Nor do I want any hypocritical enquiries about my health from him, the happy clappy disciple of Krishnamurti.

    The trolls will be coming out to play when Craig is absent without doubt.

    The reason for fewer posts from me is because I have been catching up on a backlog of jobs following 15 months of care and treatment from OUR NHS. The people who work in it are the true angels.

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