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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

India: Agra

The Taj Mahal

By Anonymous

WITH minarets of marble rising stately from a sea

Of the dark-leaved mango’s foliage streaked by the jaman tree,

Up to the empyrean where the crescent glitters bright,

Calm and unchanged still shining through the fall of Moslem might,

One majesty of whiteness the Taj of Agra stands,

Like no work of human builder, but a care of angel hands.

Look down the entrance vista through the lofty sandstone door;

How near it seems, though distant five hundred yards or more.

So down the shadowy vista of twice one hundred years

The past becomes the present, and the distant near appears,

And in a vision rises before the raptured eye

The splendor of the monarch who ruled in days gone by,

When ’neath the shade of snow-white domes, with pinnacles of gold,

In royal state, surrounded by pomp and wealth untold,

He sat dispensing justice, or discussed affairs of weight,

With councillors and princes of many a subject state;

Or when summoned to the conflict with a vast array he spurred,

To wreak upon Golconda the vengeance long deferred.

But see!—the sinking sun the fort in strong relief has brought,

Whose lengthening shadow forward creeps, as though it fondly thought

To reach the Taj and converse hold of glories passed away,

To hear the deeds of Shah Jahan and tell of Akbar’s sway.

But the cruel sun in sinking turns the shadow from its goal,

And between, a bar forever, the Jumna’s waters roll;

And as the light grows fainter, and clouds lose their golden rim,

The vision also changes, and its glory waxes dim.

The mighty realm is torn by strife, the notes of war resound;

Disgraced, deposed by filial hands, the monarch stands uncrowned!

His servants fled, for none were found of all the craven band

For the beleaguered sovereign in peril firm to stand!

“Ere death call no man happy, lest the future evil bring,”

Such the moral history teaches to the peasant and the king.

But though the sovereign’s sunset days were clouded o’er by ill,

A token of his glory,—the Taj stands firmly still.

Majestic shrine of other days, to thee the power belongs

To resist the flight of ages and to awe the stranger-throng;

Long as the sacred Jumna o’er its bed of sand shall flow,

Thy glorious dome to heaven shall raise its massive breast of snow,

For the spirit of the monarch and the builder’s art combine

To guard from lightning’s levin-bolt, and time’s decay, the shrine.