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Ruskin Bond Poem: At the Grave of John Mildenhall in Agra

There are many understated themes in this poem, which is about a traveller called John Mildenhall. He comes from England, and via Lahore and Ajmer reaches Agra, where the king Akbar sits.

When he is brought face-to-face with the king, the king being curios about his country begins asking him questions about his Queen and the Poet Shakespeare and the British navy which is famous for ships and strength.

Subtly, this poem draws a comparison between India and England. John liked our county so much that he didn’t opt to go back to his country. He lived and died here. But thankfully the British Raj that came after him left the country in 1947. There is also a comparison drawn between Shakespeare and Indian poets like Fazl or Faiz, and it is stated that the former is not as good as Indian poets.

In the year 1594,
Visiting first Lahore
And then the garden city of Ajmer,
Came a merchant adventurer
John Mildenhall by name
From London by the river Thame.
To Agra’s mart he bought
His goods and baggage; then sought
Audience with the great
Moghul, who sat in state
In vast red sandstone audience-hall.
We are pleased, Mr. Mildenhall,
‘To have you at our court,’ great Akbar said;
‘Your Queen is known to have an astute head’,
Your country many ships, and I hear
Of a poet called Shakespeare – 
Who though not as good as Fazl or Faiz,
Writes a pretty line and does play on the side.
But tell us –when will you be on your way?
Most gracious King, I would like to stay –
With your permission – for a while
Said the traveller with the Elizabethan smile.
To this request the Emperor complied.
John stayed, and settled down, and died.
Over three hundred years had passed
When those who followed, left at last

By Ruskin Bond


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