Category Archives: Love

Love Poetry

The Surrender

Today’s fragment comes from Henry King (1592-1669), poet, bishop of Chichester, and close friend of John Donne.

The Surrender

My once dear love, hapless that I no more
Must call thee so: the rich affection’s store
That fed our hopes, lies now exhaust and spent,
Like summes of treasure unto Bankrupts lent.

We that did nothing study but the way
To love each other, with which thoughts the day
Rose with delight to us and with them set,
Must learn the hateful Art how to forget.

We that did nothing wish that Heav’n would give
Beyond ourselves, nor did desire to live
Beyond that wish, all these now cancel must
As if not writ in faith, but words and dust.

Yet witness those clear vows which lovers make,
Witness the chaste desires that never brake
Into unruly heats; witness that breast
Which in thy bosom anchor’d his whole rest;
‘Tis no default in us: I dare acquite
Thy maiden faith, thy purpose fair and white
As thy pure self. Cross planets did envy
Us to each other, and Heaven did untie
Faster than vows could bind. Oh, that the stars,
When lovers meet, should stand opposed in wars!

Since then some higher destinies command,
Let us not strive, nor labour to withstand
What is past help. The longest date of grief
Can never yield a hope of our relief;
And though we waste ourselves in moist laments,
Tears may drown us, but not our discontents.

Fold back our arms, take home our fruitless loves,
That must new fortunes try, like turtle doves
Dislodged from their haunts. We must in tears
Unwind a love knit up in many years.
In this last kiss I here surrender thee
Back to thy self, so thou again art free;
Thou in another, sad as that, resend
The truest heart that lover e’er did lend.

Now turn from each. So fare our severed hearts
As the divorced soul from her body parts.

Henry King

Art Biography Court Love

The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs

As regular visitors to Fragments will know, I’ve recently returned from a tour of 17th century India. Taking in the forts, mosques, temples and buildings of mogul Rajasthan brought new layers of meaning to my research into early modern England.  For example, every day goods such as cloves, pepper and nutmeg, and fabrics like silk and calico, were finding their way into the homes of Shakespeare’s London via the East India Company, which was founded in 1600 and given a royal charter by Elizabeth I.  That trade links between England and the Indian sub-continent had been established so early came as something of a surprise to me, and as I delved a little deeper, by way of a little bookshop in Jaipur, in which I spent embarrassingly large amounts of rupees, one name in particular came to the fore again and again. The 17th century mogul emperor Shah Jahan. I became quite fascinated by Shah Jahan, quizzing the Indian historians I met over Kingfisher beers late at night, and poring over accounts of his building works as well as his love life.  His name will no doubt be unfamiliar to many, but his achievements certainly will not. It was Shah Jahan who oversaw the construction of the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, and possibly the most beautiful building on earth.  I visited the Taj Mahal on Independence Day, which somehow lent the occasion a certain gravity.  I was both awe-inspired, and humbled, and the story behind this most famous of monuments is as enduring as the building itself.

Shah Jahan (1592-1666), became the fifth Mogul ruler of Rajasthan when he succeeded his father, Jahangir, in 1628. Born in Lahore, Prince Shihab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram came to the throne at the age of thirty-five. He was a clever and intelligent, and had already impressed many with his flair for building works, having enlarged the fort at Agra, home of the then royal court, at the age of 16. In 1607, he became engaged to Arjumand Banu Begum, the daughter of a Persian noble.  The legend goes that their eyes met in the marketplace and it was love at first sight. After the wedding, Khurram nicknamed his wife Jewel of the Palace, or Mumtaz Mahal.

Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan 

On Khurram’s accession to the throne, the court at Agra, which he preferred to that at Delhi, was greatly expanded. He built public and private audience halls, a residential hall known as the Court of the Grapes overlooking the river, and a congregational mosque known as the Pearl Mosque.   In 1638 Jahan moved the court from Agra to Delhi, forming a new city known as Shahjahanabad.  Its design was undertaken by Ahmed Lahwari, the chief architect of the Taj Mahal.  This walled city included water courses, homes for the nobility, mosques, gardens, and a fortified palace known as the Red Fort.

Red Fort at Delhi

During their marriage, Mumtaz and Shah Jahan were inseparable.  She was not his only wife; he married two other women during his reign, but his relationships with these wives was said to be nothing more than ceremonial. Mumtaz was the true love of his life. But while on campaign with her husband in 1631, she died giving birth to their fourteenth child.  Khurram was utterly grief-stricken. It is said he ordered his court into a period of mourning from which he emerged white-haired and broken.  Rumours abound that Mumtaz, on her deathbed, demanded that Khurram build her a lasting monument, a building unrivalled throughout the world, in order to demonstrate his love for her.  Whatever the truth, Shah Jahan began construction of a mausoleum for Mumtaz in 1632 on the banks of the river Yamuna in Agra.  ‘He intends it shall excel all other,’ wrote an East India employee travelling through Agra in the 1630s. ‘The building goes on with excessive labour and cost, prosecuted with extraordinary diligence, gold and silver [being] esteemed common metall and marble as ordinarie stone.’

The design of the Taj Mahal is purely Islamic.  It is said to represent the image of the Throne of God; the marble dome which sits over Mumtaz’s tomb is 35 metres high, and the four minarets set at each of the four corners are over 40 metres high.  Earlier buildings overseen by Shah Jahan were constructed from red sandstone, but the Taj Mahal was built entirely from white marble, inlaid with semi-precious stones.  As a Muslim tomb, pictorial representations were strictly forbidden, so in addition to the exquisite patterns laid into the marble, verses from the Koran decorate and adorn the building.   The Taj Mahal was completed in 1643 and was instantly considered a masterpiece.

In 1657, Khurram’s son, Aurangzeb, seized power and imprisoned his father in the fort at Agra with a small retinue.  Now in poor health, and under house arrest, Shah Jahan spent the remainder of his days in a small suite of rooms which overlooked the river and his monument to Mumtaz.

 Shah Jahan’s rooms at Agra Fort
View of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort

It is said that Khurram planned to build a mirror monument to himself in black marble across the river from the Taj Mahal, but this claim has yet to be substantiated. He said of his wife’s tomb:

Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator’s glory.

On his deathbed in 1666, Shah Jahan reportedly kept his eyes fixed firmly on the Taj Mahal. After his death he was buried alongside his beloved Mumtaz in the dazzling building he had erected in her memory.

Sources for this post are largely confined to the many people I spoke to in India. However some biographical information and other details comes from John Keay’s authoratitive India: A History, Harper Collins, India (2004).
© 2009-2014 All Rights Reserved
Love Poetry

To his coy love

This week’s poem is from Michael Drayton (1563 -1631).

To his coy love (1619)

I pray thee, leave, love me no more,
Call home the heart you gave me!
I but in vain that saint adore
That can but will not save me.
These poor half-kisses kill me quite—
Was ever man thus servèd?
Amidst an ocean of delight
For pleasure to be starvèd?

Show me no more those snowy breasts
With azure riverets branchèd,
Where, whilst mine eye with plenty feasts,
Yet is my thirst not stanchèd;
O Tantalus, thy pains ne’er tell!
By me thou art prevented:
‘Tis nothing to be plagued in Hell,
But thus in Heaven tormented.

Clip me no more in those dear arms,
Nor thy life’s comfort call me,
O these are but too powerful charms,
And do but more enthral me!
But see how patient I am grown
In all this coil about thee:
Come, nice thing, let my heart alone,
I cannot live without thee!

Michael Drayton

Crime Curiosities Love Marriage

Stealing Mrs Rawlins

The fragments come from The last Dying words and Confession of Haagen Swendsen, who was Convicted and Executed for stealing Mrs Rawlins an Heiress (1702).

That I had a Design to have Mrs Rawlins for my Wife is most true. I was told of her by a Neighbour and Friend of hers and then made a further enquiry, and found her Quality such as I might, without any exceptions, her Father being the Son of a Tradesman, the next was how to get into her Acquaintance, and not knowing how to be introduced, I prevailed with, and persuaded Mrs Bainton to take a Lodging in the same House with Mrs Rawlins, by which means I found easie Access to my wishes, and was as welcome to the Family as if I had been one of themselves.

By degrees I possess’d my self of Mrs Rawlins Attention so far that she seem’d uneasie without me, and frequently importun’d for my speedy return, and oblig’d me to sit next to her at Table, saying that if I did not she would not eat, and treated me with many private caresses, by which Lovers who have not frequent Opportunity of speaking do by signs and tokens express themselves. I do declare that I had as good Reception as a Lover could wish for, and all the Encouragement imaginable; Insomuch that nothing seem’d disagreeable to my intentions, but all things did promise to facilitate my Design with Success, she herself having told me that she was at her own disposal and would Marry to please herself.

My familiarity with Mrs Rawlins before my Marriage was so great that there was no room left for me to practise Violence upon her. Without any force or violence [my wife] declar’d to the Minister that she was at her own disposal, and free to marry me, which the Minister declar’d in open Court at my Tryal. After [the wedding] we had been in Bed [when] in comes one Mr Bennet a Constable, with some of Mrs Rawlins Relations, who requir’d me to go with them before a justice of the Peace. I refused to give Obedience to their Commands, which created some dispute. My Wife, hearing the Noise came out of the Bed-Chamber, desir’d me to be quiet, and let her speak to them, which accordingly she did in these express words: Cousin, I have Married this Gentleman with my own free Consent, he is my Husband, and this is my Wedding Ring, shewing the Ring on her Finger. Then said they, if it be so then God bless you both together, and drank a Flask of Wine or two with me, then departed.

They were no sooner gone but I ask’d her whether she would be willing to appeare and declare what she had said to her Friends to a Justice of Peace, and she said she would with all her Heart, then we went to Mr Justice Baber and declar’d the same to him. The next Day about 11 of the Clock, there came a Constable with a Warrant who said unto my Wife, Alas child, they made you Drunk and you did not know what you did.  To which she answered that there were a great many there present [at the wedding] that knew her Life and Conversation, that knew she did not use to be Drunk. He then ordered me to be pull’d away by force from her, at which she fell a weeping; and after I was Committed to Newgate.

In my Tryal Mr Justice Baber shewed himself coldly in giving his Testimony, and said that my Wife did confess before him that she was Married by her own Consent but at the same time he added that she seemed very much disorder’d. It is to be noted that my Wife did not deny in open Court that she had made the Declaration aforesaid to Mr Bennet the Constable, but said she did not know what she did when she said so, and many other things she positively upon Oath denied at my Trial. Among my many Misfortunes I was represented by my Wife’s Friends to the Court to be a Sharper and a Bully, but I called in and produced several Gentlemen of Repute to give account of my Life and Conversation, who have all accordingly attested the Honesty of my Principles by my Practise.

My Jury disagreed about the Verdict, there was one Mr Johnson who did declare that none of the Evidence did Prove or Swear that I used any Force or Violence to the Gentlewoman.  I am now going to suffer an ignominious Death for a Crime which my own Conscience doth not accuse me of, but the rigour of the Law has made it my unpardonable Crime. And as I forgive all Mankind, so I beg forgiveness of those whom thro’Inadvertency or otherwise I have injured or offended, beseeching God of his great Mercy to vouchsafe them forgiveness whensoever they shall ask it.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

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