Monday, September 2, 2013

Kashmir in Early European Verses

Kashmiri Butterfly in Byron's Infidel

As rising on its purple wing
The insect-queen of easter spring,
O'er emerald meadows of Kashmeer
Invites the young pursuer near,
And leads him on from flower to flower
A weary chase and wasted hour,
Then leaves him, as it soars on high,
With panting heart and tearful eye:
So Beauty lures the full-grown child
With hue as bright, and wing as wild;
A chase of idle hopes and fears,
Begun in folly, closed in tears.
If won, to equal illd betrayed,
Woe waits the insect the maid,
A life of pain, the loss of peace,
From infant's play, or man's caprice:
The lovely toy so fiercely sought,
Has lost its charm by being caught,
For every touch that wooed it's stay
Has brush'd the brightest hues away
Till charm, and hue, and beauty gone,
'Tis left to fly or fall alone.
With wounded wing, or bleeding breast,
Ah! where shall either victim rest?
Can this with faded pinion sir
From rose to tulip as before?
Or Beauty, blighted in an hour,
Find joy within her broken bower?
No: gayer insects fluttering by
Ne'eer droop the wing o'er those that die,
And lovelier things have mercy shown
To every failing but their own,
And every woe a tear can claim
Except an erring sister's shame. 

~ Lines from "The Giaour" (1813) by Lord Byron. A work of romantic Orientalism that looks at contrast between Christian and Islamic ideals. This was also one of the first works in which Vampire made an appearance.

His biography was written by Thomas Moore who went on to make Kashmir famous with his Lalla Rookh. Byron was father of Ada Lovelace, the first programmer.


Not the purple queen of Kashmir
June 2013. Kochi.

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Kashmir in forced exiles and paradise lost

There [in Cashmire's vale], Heaven and Earth are ever bright and kind;
Here [in Albion], blight and storms and damp forever float,
Whilst hearts are more ungenial than the zone -
Gross, spiritless, alive to no pangs but their own.
There, flowers and fruits are ever fair and ripe;
Autumn, there, mingles with the bloom of spring,
And forms unpunched by frost or hunger's gripe
A natural veil o'er natural spirits fling;
Here, woe on all but wealth has set its floor.
Famine, disease and crime even wealth's proud gates pollute



~ lines from 'Zeinab and Kathema' (1809) by Percy Bysshe Shelley, husband of Mary Shelley (of Frankenstein fame), and a friend of Lord Byron. This poem was about a Princess from Paradise: Kashmir forceable taken to Hell: England.



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Kashmir in evil that ignites poetry

The Poet, wandering on, through Arabie,                            
And Persia, and the wild Carmanian waste,
And o'er the aerial mountains which pour down
Indus and Oxus from their icy caves,
In joy and exultation held his way;
Till in the vale of Cashmire, far within                           
Its loneliest dell, where odorous plants entwine
Beneath the hollow rocks a natural bower,
Beside a sparkling rivulet he stretched
His languid limbs. A vision on his sleep
There came, a dream of hopes that never yet                        
Had flushed his cheek. He dreamed a veiled maid
Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones.
Her voice was like the voice of his own soul
Heard in the calm of thought; its music long,
Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held                     
His inmost sense suspended in its web
Of many-coloured woof and shifting hues.
Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme,
And lofty hopes of divine liberty,
Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy,                          
Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood
Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame
A permeating fire; wild numbers then
She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs
Subdued by its own pathos; her fair hands                          
Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp
Strange symphony, and in their branching veins
The eloquent blood told an ineffable tale.
The beating of her heart was heard to fill
The pauses of her music, and her breath                            
Tumultuously accorded with those fits
Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose,
As if her heart impatiently endured
Its bursting burthen: at the sound he turned,
And saw by the warm light of their own life                        
Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil
Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare,
Her dark locks floating in the breath of night,
Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips
Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly.                     
His strong heart sunk and sickened with excess
Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs and quelled
His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet
Her panting bosom:...she drew back a while,
Then, yielding to the irresistible joy,                           
With frantic gesture and short breathless cry
Folded his frame in her dissolving arms.
Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night
Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep,
Like a dark flood suspended in its course,                        
Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain.


Alastor (1815) by Percy Bysshe Shelley, about a man traveling from Arabia finding perfection, a woman, in Kashmir



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All of these works were the by-product of Bernier's description of Kashmir traveling in Europe, including the work that directly influenced these poets - by a novel called The Missionary (1811) by Sydney Owenson. Influenced by more recent travelogues too, this story was about a Missionary traveling from Goa who falls in love with a Prophetess of Kashmir named Luxima whose brave 'Sati' death causes a revolution.

At last, through the branches of a spreading palm-tree, he beheld, at a distance, the object who had thus agitated and disturbed the calmest mind which Heaven's grace had ever visited. She was leaning on the ruins of a Brahminical altar, habited in her sacerdotal vestments, which were rich but fantastic. Her brow was crowned with consecrated flowers; her long dark hair floated on the wind; and she appeared a splendid image of the religion she professed - bright, wild, and illusory; captivating to the senses, fatal to the reason, and powerful and tyrannic to both.
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The modern popular sketch of Lal Ded

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