Part 1 out of 9
THE SHAH NAMEH, THE RUBAIYAT
THE DIVAN, AND THE GULISTAN
Revised Edition, Volume 1
With a special introduction by
RICHARD J. H. GOTTHEIL, Ph.D.
A certain amount of romantic interest has always attached to Persia.
With a continuous history stretching back into those dawn-days of
history in which fancy loves to play, the mention of its name brings to
our minds the vision of things beautiful and artistic, the memory of
great deeds and days of chivalry. We seem almost to smell the fragrance
of the rose-gardens of Tus and of Shiraz, and to hear the knight-errants
tell of war and of love. There are other Oriental civilizations, whose
coming and going have not been in vain for the world; they have done
their little bit of apportioned work in the universe, and have done it
well. India and Arabia have had their great poets and their great
heroes, yet they have remained well-nigh unknown to the men and women of
our latter day, even to those whose world is that of letters. But the
names of Firdusi, Sa'di, Omar Khayyam, Jami, and Hafiz, have a place in
our own temples of fame. They have won their way into the book-stalls
and stand upon our shelves, side by side with the other books which
mould our life and shape our character.
Some reason there must be for the special favor which we show to these
products of Persian genius, and for the hold which they have upon us. We
need not go far to find it. The under-current forces, which determine
our own civilization of to-day, are in a general way the same forces
which were at play during the heyday of Persian literary production. We
owe to the Hellenic spirit, which at various times has found its way
into our midst, our love for the beautiful in art and in literature. We
owe to the Semitic, which has been inbreathed into us by religious forms
and beliefs, the tone of our better life, the moral level to which we
aspire. The same two forces were at work in Persia. Even while that
country was purely Iranian, it was always open to Semitic influences.
The welding together of the two civilizations is the true signature of
Persian history. The likeness which is so evident between the religion
of the Avesta, the sacred book of the pre-Mohammedan Persians, and the
religion of the Old and New Testaments, makes it in a sense easy for us
to understand these followers of Zoroaster. Persian poetry, with its
love of life and this-worldliness, with its wealth of imagery and its
appeal to that which is human in all men, is much more readily
comprehended by us than is the poetry of all the rest of the Orient.
And, therefore, Goethe, Platen, Rueckert, von Schack, Fitzgerald, and
Arnold have been able to re-sing their masterpieces so as to delight and
instruct our own days--of which thing neither India nor Arabia can
Tales of chivalry have always delighted the Persian ear. A certain
inherent gayety of heart, a philosophy which was not so sternly vigorous
as was that of the Semite, lent color to his imagination. It guided the
hands of the skilful workmen in the palaces of Susa and Persepolis, and
fixed the brightly colored tiles upon their walls. It led the deftly
working fingers of their scribes and painters to illuminate their
manuscripts so gorgeously as to strike us with wonder at the assemblage
of hues and the boldness of designs. Their Zoroaster was never deified.
They could think of his own doings and of the deeds of the mighty men of
valor who lived before and after him with very little to hinder the free
play of their fancy. And so this fancy roamed up and down the whole
course of Persian history: taking a long look into the vista of the
past, trying even to lift the veil which hides from mortal sight the
beginnings of all things; intertwining fact with fiction, building its
mansions on earth, and its castles in the air.
The greatest of all Eastern national epics is the work of a Persian. The
"Shah Nameh," or Book of Kings, may take its place most worthily by the
side of the Indian Nala, the Homeric Iliad, the German Niebelungen. Its
plan is laid out on a scale worthy of its contents, and its execution is
equally worthy of its planning. One might almost say that with it
neo-Persian literature begins its history. There were poets in Persia
before the writer of the "Shah Nameh"--Rudagi, the blind (died 954),
Zandshi (950), Chusravani (tenth century). There were great poets during
his own day. But Firdusi ranks far above them all; and at the very
beginning sets up so high a standard that all who come after him must
try to live up to it, or else they will sink into oblivion.
The times in which Firdusi lived were marked by strange revolutions. The
Arabs, filled with the daring which Mohammed had breathed into them, had
indeed conquered Persia. In A.D. 657, when Merv fell, and the last
Sassanian king, Yezdegird III, met his end, these Arabs became nominally
supreme. Persia had been conquered--but not the Persian spirit. Even
though Turkish speech reigned supreme at court and the Arabic script
became universal, the temper of the old Arsacides and Sassanians still
lived on. It is true that Ormuzd was replaced by Allah, and Ahriman by
Satan. But the Persian had a glorious past of his own; and in this the
conquered was far above the conqueror. This past was kept alive in the
myth-loving mind of this Aryan people; in the songs of its poets and in
the lays of its minstrels. In this way there was, in a measure, a
continuous opposition of Persian to Arab, despite the mingling of the
two in Islam; and the opposition of Persian Shiites to the Sunnites of
the rest of the Mohammedan world at this very day is a curious survival
of racial antipathy. The fall of the only real Arab Mohammedan
dynasty--that of the Umayyid caliphs at Damascus--the rise of the
separate and often opposing dynasties in Spain, Sicily, Egypt, and
Tunis, served to strengthen the Persians in their desire to keep alive
their historical individuality and their ancient traditions.
Firdusi was not the first, as he was not the only one, to collect the
old epic materials of Persia. In the Avesta itself, with its ancient
traditions, much can be found. More than this was handed down and
bandied about from mouth to mouth. Some of it had even found its way
into the Kalam of the Scribe; to-wit, the "Zarer, or Memorials of the
Warriors" (A.D. 500), the "History of King Ardeshir" (A.D. 600), the
Chronicles of the Persian Kings. If we are to trust Baisonghur's preface
to the "Shah Nameh," there were various efforts made from time to time
to put together a complete story of the nation's history, by Farruchani,
Ramin, and especially by the Dihkan Danishwar (A.D. 651). The work of
this Danishwar, the "Chodainameh" (Book of Kings), deserves to be
specially singled out. It was written, not in neo-Persian and Arabic
script, but in what scholars call middle-Persian and in what is known as
the Pahlavi writing. It was from this "Chodainameh" that Abu Mansur,
lord of Tus, had a "Shah Nameh" of his own prepared in the neo-Persian.
And then, to complete the tale, in 980 a certain Zoroastrian whose name
was Dakiki versified a thousand lines of this neo-Persian Book of Kings.
In this very city of Tus, Abul Kasim Mansur (or Ahmed) Firdusi was born,
A.D. 935. One loves to think that perhaps he got his name from the
Persian-Arabic word for garden; for, verily, it was he that gathered
into one garden all the beautiful flowers which had blossomed in the
fancy of his people. As he has draped the figures in his great epic, so
has an admiring posterity draped his own person. His fortune has been
interwoven with the fame of that Mahmud of Ghazna (998-1030), the first
to bear the proud title of "Sultan," the first to carry Mohammed and the
prophets into India. The Round Table of Mahmud cannot be altogether a
figment of the imagination. With such poets as Farruchi, Unsuri,
Minutsheri, with such scientists as Biruni and Avicenna as intimates,
what wonder that Firdusi was lured by the splendors of a court life! But
before he left his native place he must have finished his epic, at least
in its rough form; for we know that in 999 he dedicated it to Ahmad ibn
Muhammad of Chalandsha. He had been working at it steadily since 971,
but had not yet rounded it out according to the standard which he had
set for himself. Occupying the position almost of a court poet, he
continued to work for Mahmud, and this son of a Turkish slave became a
patron of letters. On February 25, 1010, his work was finished. As poet
laureate, he had inserted many a verse in praise of his master. Yet the
story goes, that though this master had covenanted for a gold dirhem a
line, he sent Firdusi sixty thousand silver ones, which the poet spurned
and distributed as largesses and hied him from so ungenerous a master.
It is a pretty tale. Yet some great disappointment must have been his
lot, for a lampoon which he wrote a short time afterwards is filled with
the bitterest satire upon the prince whose praises he had sung so
beautifully. Happily, the satire does not seem to have gotten under the
eyes of Mahmud; it was bought off by a friend, for one thousand dirhems
a verse. But Firdusi was a wanderer; we find him in Herat, in
Taberistan, and then at the Buyide Court of Bagdad, where he composed
his "Yusuf and Salikha," a poem as Mohammedan in spirit as the "Shah
Nameh" was Persian. In 1021, or 1025, he returned to Tus to die, and to
be buried in his own garden--because his mind had not been orthodox
enough that his body should rest in sacred ground. At the last
moment--the story takes up again--Mahmud repented and sent the poet the
coveted gold. The gold arrived at one gate while Firdusi's body was
being carried by at another; and it was spent by his daughter in the
building of a hospice near the city. For the sake of Mahmud let us try
to believe the tale.
We know much about the genesis of this great epic, the "Shah Nameh"; far
more than we know about the make-up of the other great epics in the
world's literature. Firdusi worked from written materials; but he
produced no mere labored mosaic. Into it all he has breathed a spirit of
freshness and vividness: whether it be the romance of Alexander the
Great and the exploits of Rustem, or the love scenes of Zal and Rodhale,
of Bezhan and Manezhe, of Gushtasp and Kitayim. That he was also an
excellent lyric poet, Firdusi shows in the beautiful elegy upon the
death of his only son; a curious intermingling of his personal woes with
the history of his heroes. A cheerful vigor runs through it all. He
praises the delights of wine-drinking, and does not despise the comforts
which money can procure. In his descriptive parts, in his scenes of
battle and encounters, he is not often led into the delirium of
extravagance. Sober-minded and free from all fanaticism, he leans not
too much to Zoroaster or to Mohammed, though his desire to idealize his
Iranian heroes leads him to excuse their faith to his readers. And so
these fifty or more thousand verses, written in the Arabic heroic
Mutakarib metre, have remained the delight of the Persians down to this
very day--when the glories of the land have almost altogether departed
and Mahmud himself is all forgotten of his descendants.
Firdusi introduces us to the greatness of Mahmud of Ghazna's court. Omar
Khayyam takes us into its ruins; for one of the friends of his boyhood
days was Nizam al-Mulk, the grandson of that Toghrul the Turk, who with
his Seljuks had supplanted the Persian power. Omar's other friend was
Ibn Sabbah, the "old Man of the Mountain," the founder of the Assassins.
The doings of both worked misery upon Christian Europe, and entailed a
tremendous loss of life during the Crusades. As a sweet revenge, that
same Europe has taken the first of the trio to its bosom, and has made
of Omar Khayyam a household friend. "My tomb shall be in a spot where
the north wind may scatter roses" is said to have been one of Omar's
last wishes. He little thought that those very roses from the tomb in
which he was laid to rest in 1123 would, in the nineteenth century,
grace the spot where his greatest modern interpreter--Fitzgerald--lies
buried in the little English town of Woodbridge!
The author of the famous Quatrains--Omar Ibn Ibrahim al-Khayyam--not
himself a tent-maker, but so-called, as are the Smiths of our own
day--was of the city of Nishapur. The invention of the Rubaiyat, or
Epigram, is not to his credit. That honor belongs to Abu Said of
Khorasan (968-1049), who used it as a means of expressing his mystic
pantheism. But there is an Omar Khayyam club in London--not one bearing
the name of Abu Said. What is the bond which binds the Rubaiyat-maker in
far-off Persia to the literati of modern Anglo-Saxondom?
By his own people Omar was persecuted for his want of orthodoxy; and yet
his grave to this day is held in much honor. By others he was looked
upon as a Mystic. Reading the five hundred or so authentic quatrains one
asks, Which is the real Omar? Is it he who sings of wine and of
pleasure, who seems to preach a life of sensual enjoyment? or is it the
stern preacher, who criticises all, high and low; priest, dervish, and
Mystic--yea, even God himself? I venture to say that the real Omar is
both; or, rather, he is something higher than is adequately expressed in
these two words. The Ecclesiastes of Persia, he was weighed down by the
great questions of life and death and morality, as was he whom people so
wrongly call "the great sceptic of the Bible." The "_Weltschmerz_" was
his, and he fought hard within himself to find that mean way which
philosophers delight in pointing out. If at times Omar does preach
_carpe diem_, if he paint in his exuberant fancy the delights of
carousing, Fitzgerald is right--he bragged more than he drank. The
under-current of a serious view of life runs through all he has written;
the love of the beautiful in nature--a sense of the real worth of
certain things and the worthlessness of the Ego. Resignation to what is
man's evident fate; doing well what every day brings to be done--this is
his own answer. It was Job's--it was that of Ecclesiastes.
This same "_Weltschmerz_" is ours to-day; therefore Omar Khayyam is of
us beloved. He speaks what often we do not dare to speak; one of his
quatrains can be more easily quoted than some of those thoughts can be
formulated. And then he is picturesque--picturesque because he is at
times ambiguous. Omar seems to us to have been so many things--a
believing Moslem, a pantheistic Mystic, an exact scientist (for he
reformed the Persian calendar). Such many-sidedness was possible in
Islam; but it gives him the advantage of appealing to many and different
classes of men; each class will find that he speaks their mind and their
mind only. That Omar was also tainted by Sufism there can be no doubt;
and many of his most daring flights must be regarded as the results of
the greater license which Mystic interpretation gave to its votaries.
By the side of Firdusi the epic poet, and Omar the philosopher, Sa'di
the wise man, well deserves a place. His countrymen are accustomed to
speak of him simply as "the Sheikh," much more to his real liking than
the titles "The nightingale of the groves of Shiraz," or "The
nightingale of a Thousand Songs," in which Oriental hyperbole expresses
its appreciation. Few leaders and teachers have had the good fortune to
live out their teachings in their own lives as had Sa'di. And that life
was long indeed. Muharrif al-Din Abdallah Sa'di was born at Shiraz in
1184, and far exceeded the natural span of life allotted to man--for he
lived to be one hundred and ten years of age--and much of the time was
lived in days of stress and trouble. The Mongols were devastating in the
East; the Crusaders were fighting in the West. In 1226 Sa'di himself
felt the effects of the one--he was forced to leave Shiraz and grasp the
wanderer's staff, and by the Crusaders he was taken captive and led away
to Tripoli. But just this look into the wide world, this thorough
experience of men and things, produced that serenity of being that gave
him the firm hold upon life which the true teacher must always have. Of
his own spiritual condition and contentment he says: "Never did I
complain of my forlorn condition but on one occasion, when my feet were
bare, and I had not wherewithal to shoe them. Soon after, meeting a man
without feet, I was thankful for the bounty of Providence to myself, and
with perfect resignation submitted to my want of shoes."
Thus attuned to the world, Sa'di escapes the depths of misanthropy as
well as the transports of unbridled license and somewhat blustering
swagger into which Omar at times fell. In his simplicity of heart he
says very tenderly of his own work;--
"We give advice in its proper place,
Spending a lifetime in the task.
If it should not touch any one's ear of desire,
The messenger told his tale; it is enough."
That tale is a long one. His apprenticeship was spent in Arabic Bagdad,
sitting at the feet of noted scholars, and taking in knowledge not only
of his own Persian Sufism, but also of the science and learning which
had been gathered in the home of the Abbaside Caliphs. His
journeyman-years took him all through the dominions which were under
Arab influence--in Europe, the Barbary States, Egypt, Abyssinia, Arabia,
Syria, Palestine, Asia Minor, India. All these places were visited
before he returned to Shiraz, the "seat of learning," to put to writing
the thoughts which his sympathetic and observing mind had been evolving
during all these years. This time of his mastership was spent in the
seclusion almost of a recluse and in producing the twenty-two works
which have come down to us. An Oriental writer says of these periods of
his life: "The first thirty years of Sa'di's long life were devoted to
study and laying up a stock of knowledge; the next thirty, or perhaps
forty, in treasuring up experience and disseminating that knowledge
during his wide extending travels; and that some portion should
intervene between the business of life and the hour of death (and that
with him chanced to be the largest share of it), he spent the remainder
of his life, or seventy years, in the retirement of a recluse, when he
was exemplary in his temperance and edifying in his piety."
Of Sa'di's versatility, these twenty-two works give sufficient evidence.
He could write homilies (Risalahs) in a Mystic-religious fashion. He
could compose lyrics in Arabic and Turkish as well as in Persian. He was
even led to give forth erotic verses. Fondly we hope that he did this
last at the command of some patron or ruler! But Sa'di is known to us
chiefly by his didactic works, and for these we cherish him. The
"Bustan," or "Tree-Garden," is the more sober and theoretical, treating
of the various problems and questions of ethics, and filled with Mystic
and Sufic descriptions of love.
His other didactic work, the "Gulistan," is indeed a "Garden of Roses,"
as its name implies; a mirror for every one alike, no matter what his
station in life may be. In prose and in poetry, alternating; in the form
of rare adventures and quaint devices; in accounts of the lives of kings
who have passed away; in maxims and apothegms, Sa'di inculcates his
worldly wisdom--worldly in the better sense of the word. Like Goethe in
our own day, he stood above the world and yet in it; so that while we
feel bound to him by the bonds of a common human frailty, he reaches out
with us to a higher and purer atmosphere. Though his style is often
wonderfully ornate, it is still more sober than that of Hafiz. Sa'di is
known to all readers of Persian in the East; his "Gulistan" is often a
The heroic and the didactic are, however, not the only forms in which
the genius of Persian poetry loved to clothe itself. From the earliest
times there were poets who sung of love and of wine, of youth and of
nature, with no thought of drawing a moral, or illustrating a tale. From
the times of Rudagi and the Samanide princes (tenth century), these
poets of sentiment sang their songs and charmed the ears of their
hearers. Even Firdusi showed, in some of his minor poems, that joyous
look into and upon the world which is the soul of all lyric poetry. But
of all the Persian lyric poets, Shams al-Din Mohammed Hafiz has been
declared by all to be the greatest. Though the storms of war and the
noise of strife beat all about his country and even disturbed the peace
of his native place--no trace of all this can be found in the poems of
Hafiz--as though he were entirely removed from all that went on about
him, though seeing just the actual things of life. He was, to all
appearance, unconcerned: glad only to live and to sing. At Shiraz he was
born; at Shiraz he died. Only once, it is recorded, did he leave his
native place, to visit the brother of his patron in Yezd. He was soon
back again: travel had no inducement for him. The great world outside
could offer him nothing more than his wonted haunts in Shiraz. It is
further said that he put on the garb of a Dervish; but he was altogether
free of the Dervish's conceit. "The ascetic is the serpent of his age"
is a saying put into his mouth.
He had in him much that resembled Omar Khayyam; but he was not a
philosopher. Therefore, in the East at least, his "Divan" is more
popular than the Quatrains of Omar; his songs are sung where Omar's name
is not heard. He is substantially a man of melody--with much mannerism,
it is true, in his melody--but filling whatever he says with a wealth of
charming imagery and clothing his verse in delicate rhythms. Withal a
man, despite his boisterous gladsomeness and his overflowing joy in what
the present has to offer, in whom there is nothing common, nothing low.
"The Garden of Paradise may be pleasant," he tells us, "but forget not
the shade of the willow-tree and the fair margin of the fruitful field."
He is very human; but his humanity is deeply ethical in character.
Much more than Omar and Sa'di, Hafiz was a thorough Sufi. "In one and
the same song you write of wine, of Sufism, and of the object of your
affection," is what Shah Shuja said to him once. In fact, we are often
at an entire loss to tell where reality ends and Sufic vacuity
commences. For this Mystic philosophy that we call Sufism patched up a
sort of peace between the old Persian and the conquering Mohammedan. By
using veiled language, by taking all the every-day things of life as
mere symbols of the highest transcendentalism, it was possible to be an
observing Mohammedan in the flesh, whilst the mind wandered in the
realms of pure fantasy and speculation. While enjoying Hafiz, then, and
bathing in his wealth of picture, one is at a loss to tell whether the
bodies he describes are of flesh and blood, or incorporeal ones with a
mystic background; whether the wine of which he sings really runs red,
and the love he describes is really centred upon a mortal being. Yet,
when he says of himself, "Open my grave when I am dead, and thou shalt
see a cloud of smoke rising out from it; then shalt thou know that the
fire still burns in my dead heart--yea, it has set my very winding-sheet
alight," there is a ring of reality in the substance which pierces
through the extravagant imagery. This the Persians themselves have
always felt; and they will not be far from the truth in regarding Hafiz
with a very peculiar affection as the writer who, better than anyone
else, is the poet of their gay moments and the boon companion of their
Firdusi, Omar, Sa'di, Hafiz, are names of which any literature may be
proud. None like unto them rose again in Persia, if we except the great
Jami. At the courts of Shah Abbas the Great (1588-1629) and of Akbar of
India (1556-1605), an attempt to revive Persian letters was indeed made.
But nothing came that could in any measure equal the heyday of the great
poets. The political downfall of Persia has effectually prevented the
coming of another spring and summer. The pride of the land of the Shah
must now rest in its past.
[Illustration: (Signature of Richard Gottheil)]
Columbia University, June 11, 1900.
THE SHAH NAMEH
Mirtas-Tazi, and His Son Zohak
Kavah, the Blacksmith
Feridun and His Three Sons
Zal, the Son of Sam
The Dream of Sam
Death of Minuchihr
Afrasiyab Marches against Nauder
The Seven Labors of Rustem
Invasion of Iran by Afrasiyab
The Return of Kai-Kaus
Story of Sohrab
The Story of Saiawush
The Story of Byzun and Manijeh
Barzu, and His Conflict with Rustem
Susen and Afrasiyab
The Expedition of Gudarz
The Death of Afrasiyab
The Death of Kai-Khosrau
Gushtasp, and the Faith of Zerdusht
The Heft-Khan of Isfendiyar
Capture of the Brazen Fortress
The Death of Isfendiyar
The Death of Rustem
Humai and the Birth of Darab
Darab and Dara
Firdusi's Satire on Mahmud
Fragment by Hafiz
THE SHAH NAMEH
(_Abul Kasim Mansur_)
[_Translated into English by James Atkinson_]
The system of Sir William Jones in the printing of Oriental words has
been kept in view in the following work, viz.: The letter _a_ represents
the short vowel as in _bat, a_ with an accent the broad sound of _a_ in
_hall, i_ as in _lily, i_ with an accent as in _police, u_ as in _bull,
u_ with an accent as in _rude, o_ with an accent as _o_ in _pole_, the
diphthong _ai_ as in _aisle, au_ as in the German word _kraut_ or _ou_
When Sir John Lubbock, in the list of a hundred books which he
published, in the year 1886, as containing the best hundred worth
reading, mentioned the "Shah Nameh" or "Book of Kings," written by the
Persian poet Firdusi, it is doubtful whether many of his readers had
even heard of such a poem or of its author. Yet Firdusi, "The Poet of
Paradise" (for such is the meaning of this pen-name), is as much the
national poet of Persia as Dante is of Italy or Shakespeare of England.
Abul Kasim Mansur is indeed a genuine epic poet, and for this reason his
work is of genuine interest to the lovers of Homer, Vergil, and Dante.
The qualities that go to make up an epic poem are all to be found in
this work of the Persian bard. In the first place, the "Shah Nameh" is
written by an enthusiastic patriot, who glorifies his country, and by
that means has become recognized as the national poet of Persia. In the
second place, the poem presents us with a complete view of a certain
definite phase, and complete era of civilization; in other words, it is
a transcript from the life; a portrait-gallery of distinct and unique
individuals; a description of what was once an actual society. We find
in it delineated the Persia of the heroic age, an age of chivalry,
eclipsing, in romantic emotion, deeds of daring, scenes of love and
violence, even the mediaeval chivalry of France and Spain. Again, this
poem deals principally with the adventures of one man. For all other
parts of the work are but accessories to the single figure of Rustem,
the heroic personage whose superhuman strength, dignity, and beauty make
him to be a veritable Persian Achilles. But when we regard the details
of this work we see how deeply the literary posterity of Homer are
indebted to the Father of European Poetry. The fantastic crowd of
demons, peris, and necromancers that appear as the supernatural
machinery of the Shah Nameh, such grotesque fancies as the serpents that
grew from the shoulders of King Zohak, or the ladder of Zerdusht, on
which he mounted from earth to heaven--all these and a hundred other
fancies compare unfavorably with the reserve of Homer, in his use of
such a personage as Circe, and the human grace and dignity which he
lends to that genial circle on Olympus, whose inextinguishable laughter
is called forth by the halting wine-bearer a god like themselves. While
we read the "Shah Nameh" with keen interest, because from its study the
mind is enlarged and stimulated by new scenes, new ideas and
unprecedented situations, we feel grateful that the battle of Salamis
stopped the Persian invasion of Europe, which would doubtless have
resulted in changing the current of literature from that orderly and
stately course which it had taken from its fountain in a Greek
Parnassus, and diverted it into the thousand brawling rills of Persian
fancy and exaggeration.
It is a hundred years ago that a certain physician in the employment of
the East India Company, who then represented British supremacy in Bengal
and Calcutta, published the "Story of Sohrab," a poem in heroic
couplets, being a translation of the most pathetic episode in the "Shah
Nameh." If we compare this English poem with Jules Mohl's literal
translation of the Persian epic into French, we find that James Atkinson
stands very much in the same relation to Firdusi as Pope does to Homer.
It would be indeed absurd for an English writer to attempt to conform,
in an English version, to the vagaries of Persian idiom, or even to
attempt a literal rendering of the Persian trope. The manner of a poet
can never be faithfully reproduced in a translation, but all that is
really valuable, really affecting, in an epic poem will survive
transfusion into the frank and natural idiom of another tongue. We say
epic poem, because one of the distinguishing features in this form of
literary expression is that its action hinges on those fundamental
passions of humanity, that "touch which makes the whole world kin,"
whose alphabet is the same in every latitude. The publication of
"Sohrab" was nevertheless the revelation of a new world to London
coteries, and the influence of Mr. Atkinson's work can be traced as well
in the Persian pastorals of Collins as in the oriental poems of Southey
and Moore. This metrical version of "Sohrab" is the only complete
episode of the Shah Nameh contained in the present collection. When we
consider that the Persian original consists of some one hundred and
twenty thousand lines, it will easily be understood that a literal
rendering of the whole would make a volume whose bulk would put it far
out of reach to the general reader. Atkinson has very wisely furnished
us with a masterly _resume_ of the chief episodes, each of which he
outlines in prose, occasionally flashing out into passages of sparkling
verse, which run through the narrative like golden threads woven into
the tissue of some storied tapestry. The literary style of the
translator is admirable. Sometimes, as when he describes the tent of
Manijeh, he becomes as simple and direct as Homer in depicting the
palace of Alcinous. The language of his Sohrab recalls the pathos of
Vergil's Nisus and Euryalus, and the paternal love and despair of
Dante's Ugolino. But in Rustem the tears of anguish and sorrow seem to
vanish like morning dew, in the excitement of fresh adventure, and human
feeling, as depicted by Firdusi, lacks not only the refined gradations,
but also the intensity, which we see in the Florentine poet. Atkinson's
versification is rather that of Queen Anne's time than what we of the
Victorian age profess to admire in Browning and Tennyson. But it is one
of the chief praises of Tennyson that he has treated Sir Thomas Malory
very much in the same way as Mr. Atkinson has treated Abul Kasim Mansur,
by bringing the essential features of an extinct society within the
range of modern vision, and into touch with modern sympathies. All that
is of value in Firdusi, to the reader of to-day, will be found in this
version of Atkinson, while the philologist or the antiquarian can
satisfy their curiosity either in the original, or in the French
versions whose fidelity is above suspicion. For it is bare justice to
say that James Atkinson's Firdusi is one of those translations, even
though it be at the same time an abridgment, which have taken their
place in the rank of British classics. It is the highest praise that can
be given to a work of this character to say that it may be placed on the
bookshelf side by side with Jeremy Collier's "Marcus Aurelius," Leland's
"Demosthenes," and the "Montaigne" of Charles Cotton. It embalms the
genuine spirit and life of an Oriental poem in the simple yet tasteful
form of English narrative. The blending of verse and prose is a happy
expedient. If we may use the metaphor of Horace, we should say, that Mr.
Atkinson alternately trudges along on foot, and rises on the wings of
verse into the upper air. The reader follows with pleasure both his
march and his flight, and reaches the end of the volume with the
distinct impression that he has been reading a Persian poem, and all the
while forgotten that it was written in the English language.
THE SHAH NAMEH
According to the traditions of former ages, recorded in the
Bastan-nameh, the first person who established a code of laws and
exercised the functions of a monarch in Persia, was Kaiumers. It is said
that he dwelt among the mountains, and that his garments were made of
the skins of beasts.
His reign was thirty years, and o'er the earth
He spread the blessings of paternal sway;
Wild animals, obsequious to his will,
Assembled round his throne, and did him homage.
He had a son named Saiamuk, a youth
Of lovely form and countenance, in war
Brave and accomplished, and the dear delight
Of his fond father, who adored the boy,
And only dreaded to be parted from him.
So is it ever with the world--the parent
Still doating on his offspring. Kaiumers
Had not a foe, save one, a hideous Demon,
Who viewed his power with envy, and aspired
To work his ruin. He, too, had a son,
Fierce as a wolf, whose days were dark and bitter,
Because the favoring heavens in kinder mood
Smiled on the monarch and his gallant heir.
--When Saiamuk first heard the Demon's aim
Was to o'erthrow his father and himself,
Surprise and indignation filled his heart,
And speedily a martial force he raised,
To punish the invader. Proudly garbed
In leopard's skin, he hastened to the war;
But when the combatants, with eager mien,
Impatient met upon the battle-field.
And both together tried their utmost strength,
Down from his enemy's dragon-grasp soon fell
The luckless son of royal Kaiumers,
Vanquished and lifeless. Sad, unhappy fate!
Disheartened by this disastrous event, the army immediately retreated,
and returned to Kaiumers, who wept bitterly for the loss of his son, and
continued a long time inconsolable. But after a year had elapsed a
mysterious voice addressed him, saying:--"Be patient, and despair
not--thou hast only to send another army against the Demons, and the
triumph and the victory will be thine.
"Drive from the earth that Demon horrible,
And sorrow will be rooted from thy heart."
Saiamuk left a son whose name was Husheng, whom the king loved much more
even than his father.
Husheng his name. There seemed in him combined,
Knowledge and goodness eminent. To him
Was given his father's dignity and station.
And the old man, his grandsire, scarcely deigned
To look upon another, his affection
For him was so unbounded.
Kaiumers having appointed Husheng the leader of the army, the young hero
set out with an immense body of troops to engage the Demon and his son.
It is said that at that time every species of animal, wild and tame, was
obedient to his command.
The savage beasts, and those of gentler kind,
Alike reposed before him, and appeared
To do him homage.
The wolf, the tiger, the lion, the panther, and even the fowls of the
air, assembled in aid of him, and he, by the blessing of God, slew the
Demon and his offspring with his own hand. After which the army of
Kaiumers, and the devouring animals that accompanied him in his march,
defeated and tore to pieces the scattered legions of the enemy. Upon the
death of Kaiumers Husheng ascended the throne of Persia.
It is recorded that Husheng was the first who brought out fire from
stone, and from that circumstance he founded the religion of the
Fire-worshippers, calling the flame which was produced, the Light of the
Divinity. The accidental discovery of this element is thus described:--
Passing, one day, towards the mountain's side,
Attended by his train, surprised he saw
Something in aspect terrible--its eyes
Fountains of blood; its dreadful mouth sent forth
Volumes of smoke that darkened all the air.
Fixing his gaze upon that hideous form,
He seized a stone, and with prodigious force
Hurling it, chanced to strike a jutting rock,
Whence sparks arose, and presently a fire
O'erspread the plain, in which the monster perished.
--Thus Husheng found the element which shed
Light through the world. The monarch prostrate bowed,
Praising the great Creator, for the good
Bestowed on man, and, pious, then he said,
"This is the Light from Heaven, sent down from God;
If ye be wise, adore and worship it!"
It is also related that, in the evening of the day on which the luminous
flash appeared to him from the stone, he lighted an immense fire, and,
having made a royal entertainment, he called it the Festival of Siddeh.
By him the art of the blacksmith was discovered, and he taught river and
streamlet to supply the towns, and irrigate the fields for the purposes
of cultivation. And he also brought into use the fur of the sable, and
the squirrel, and the ermine. Before his time mankind had nothing for
food but fruit, and the leaves of trees and the skins of animals for
clothing. He introduced, and taught his people, the method of making
bread, and the art of cookery.
Then ate they their own bread, for it was good,
And they were grateful to their benefactor;
Mild laws were framed--the very land rejoiced,
Smiling with cultivation; all the world
Remembering Husheng's virtues.
The period of his government is said to have lasted forty years, and he
was succeeded by his son, Tahumers.
This sovereign was also called Diw-bund, or the Binder of Demons. He
assembled together all the wise men in his dominions, to consider and
deliberate upon whatever might be of utility and advantage to the people
of God. In his days wool was spun and woven, and garments and carpets
manufactured, and various animals, such as panthers, falcons, hawks, and
syagoshes, were tamed, and taught to assist in the sports of the field.
Tahumers had also a vizir, renowned for his wisdom and understanding.
Having one day charmed a Demon into his power by philters and magic, he
conveyed him to Tahumers; upon which, the brethren and allies of the
prisoner, feeling ashamed and degraded by the insult, collected an army,
and went to war against the king. Tahumers was equally in wrath when he
heard of these hostile proceedings, and having also gathered together an
army on his part, presented himself before the enemy. The name of the
leader of the Demons was Ghu. On one side the force consisted of fire,
and smoke, and Demons; on the other, brave and magnanimous warriors.
Tahumers lifted his mace, as soon as he was opposed to the enemy, and
giving Ghu a blow on the head, killed him on the spot. The other Demons
being taken prisoners, he ordered them to be destroyed; but they
petitioned for mercy, promising, if their lives were spared, that they
would teach him a wonderful art. Tahumers assented, and they immediately
brought their books, and pens and ink, and instructed him how to read
They taught him letters, and his eager mind
With learning was illumined. The world was blest
With quiet and repose, Peris and Demons
Submitting to his will.
The reign of Tahumers lasted thirty years, and after him the monarchy
descended to Jemshid, his son.
Jemshid was eminently distinguished for learning and wisdom. It is said
that coats of mail, cuirasses, and swords and various kinds of armor
were invented and manufactured in his time, and also that garments of
silk were made and worn by his people.
Helmets and swords, with curious art they made,
Guided by Jemshid's skill; and silks and linen
And robes of fur and ermine. Desert lands
Were cultivated; and wherever stream
Or rivulet wandered, and the soil was good,
He fixed the habitations of his people;
And there they ploughed and reaped: for in that age
All labored; none in sloth and idleness
Were suffered to remain, since indolence
Too often vanquishes the best, and turns
To nought the noblest, firmest resolution.
Jemshid afterwards commanded his Demons to construct a splendid palace,
and he directed his people how to make the foundations strong.
He taught the unholy Demon-train to mingle
Water and clay, with which, formed into bricks,
The walls were built, and then high turrets, towers,
And balconies, and roofs to keep out rain
And cold, and sunshine. Every art was known
To Jemshid, without equal in the world.
He also made vessels for the sea and the river, and erected a
magnificent throne, embellished with pearls and precious stones; and
having seated himself upon it, commanded his Demons to raise him up in
the air, that he might be able to transport himself in a moment wherever
he chose. He named the first day of the year _Nu-ruz_ and on every
_Nu-ruz_ he made a royal feast, so that under his hospitable roof,
mortals, and Genii, and Demons, and Peris, were delighted and happy,
every one being equally regaled with wine and music. His government is
said to have continued in existence seven hundred years, and during that
period, it is added, none of his subjects suffered death, or was
afflicted with disease.
Man seemed immortal, sickness was unknown,
And life rolled on in happiness and joy.
After the lapse of seven hundred years, however, inordinate ambition
inflamed the heart of Jemshid, and, having assembled all the illustrious
personages and learned men in his dominions before him, he said to
them:--"Tell me if there exists, or ever existed, in all the world, a
king of such magnificence and power as I am?" They unanimously
replied:--"Thou art alone, the mightiest, the most victorious: there is
no equal to thee!" The just God beheld this foolish pride and vanity
with displeasure, and, as a punishment, cast him from the government of
an empire into a state of utter degradation and misery.
All looked upon the throne, and heard and saw
Nothing but Jemshid, he alone was king,
Absorbing every thought; and in their praise,
And adoration of that mortal man,
Forgot the worship of the great Creator.
Then proudly thus he to his nobles spoke,
Intoxicated with their loud applause,
"I am unequalled, for to me the earth
Owes all its science, never did exist
A sovereignty like mine, beneficent
And glorious, driving from the populous land
Disease and want. Domestic joy and rest
Proceed from me, all that is good and great
Waits my behest; the universal voice
Declares the splendor of my government,
Beyond whatever human heart conceived,
And me the only monarch of the world."
--Soon as these words had parted from his lips,
Words impious, and insulting to high heaven,
His earthly grandeur faded--then all tongues
Grew clamorous and bold. The day of Jemshid
Passed into gloom, his brightness all obscured.
What said the Moralist? "When thou wert a king
Thy subjects were obedient, but whoever
Proudly neglects the worship of his God,
Brings desolation on his house and home."
--And when he marked the insolence of his people,
He knew the wrath of Heaven had been provoked,
And terror overcame him.
MIRTAS-TAZI, AND HIS SON ZOHAK
The old historians relate that Mirtas was the name of a king of the
Arabs; and that he had a thousand animals which gave milk, and the milk
of these animals he always distributed in charity among the poor. God
was pleased with his goodness, and accordingly increased his favor upon
Goats, sheep, and camels, yielded up their store
Of balmy milk, with which the generous king
Nourished the indigent and helpless poor.
Mirtas had a son called Zohak, who possessed ten thousand Arab horses,
or Tazis, upon which account he was surnamed Biwurasp; biwur meaning ten
thousand, and asp a horse. One day Iblis, the Evil Spirit, appeared to
Zohak in the disguise of a good and virtuous man, and conversed with him
in the most agreeable manner.
Pleased with his eloquence, the youth
Suspected not the speaker's truth;
But praised the sweet impassioned strain,
And asked him to discourse again.
Iblis replied, that he was master of still sweeter converse,
but he could not address it to him, unless he first entered into
a solemn compact, and engaged never on any pretence to divulge
Zohak in perfect innocence of heart
Assented to the oath, and bound himself
Never to tell the secret; all he wished
Was still to hear the good man's honey words.
But as soon as the oath was taken, Iblis said to him: "Thy father has
become old and worthless, and thou art young, and wise, and valiant. Let
him no longer stand in thy way, but kill him; the robes of sovereignty
are ready, and better adapted for thee."
The youth in agony of mind,
Heard what the stranger now designed;
Could crime like this be understood!
The shedding of a parent's blood!
Iblis would no excuses hear--
The oath was sworn--his death was near.
"For if thou think'st to pass it by,
The peril's thine, and thou must die!"
Zohak was terrified and subdued by this warning, and asked Iblis in what
manner he proposed to sacrifice his father. Iblis replied, that he would
dig a pit on the path-way which led to Mirtas-Tazi's house of prayer.
Accordingly he secretly made a deep well upon the spot most convenient
for the purpose, and covered it over with grass. At night, as the king
was going, as usual, to the house of prayer, he fell into the pit, and
his legs and arms being broken by the fall, he shortly expired. O
righteous Heaven! that father too, whose tenderness would not suffer
even the winds to blow upon his son too roughly--and that son, by the
temptation of Iblis, to bring such a father to a miserable end!
Thus urged to crime, through cruel treachery,
Zohak usurped his pious father's throne.
When Iblis found that he had got Zohak completely in his power, he told
him that, if he followed his counsel and advice implicitly, he would
become the greatest monarch of the age, the sovereign of the seven
climes, signifying the whole world. Zohak agreed to every thing, and
Iblis continued to bestow upon him the most devoted attention and
flattery for the purpose of moulding him entirely to his will. To such
an extreme degree had his authority attained, that he became the sole
director even in the royal kitchen, and prepared for Zohak the most
delicious and savory food imaginable; for in those days bread and fruit
only were the usual articles of food. Iblis himself was the original
inventor of the cooking art. Zohak was delighted with the dishes, made
from every variety of bird and four-footed animal. Every day something
new and rare was brought to his table, and every day Iblis increased in
favor. But an egg was to him the most delicate of all! "What can there
be superior to this?" said he. "To-morrow," replied Iblis, "thou shalt
have something better, and of a far superior kind."
Next day he brought delicious fare, and dressed
In manner exquisite to please the eye,
As well as taste; partridge and pheasant rich,
A banquet for a prince. Zohak beheld
Delighted the repast, and eagerly
Relished its flavor; then in gratitude,
And admiration of the matchless art
Which thus had ministered to his appetite,
He cried:--"For this, whatever thou desirest,
And I can give, is thine." Iblis was glad,
And, little anxious, had but one request--
One unimportant wish--it was to kiss
The monarch's naked shoulder--a mere whim.
And promptly did Zohak comply, for he
Was unsuspicious still, and stripped himself,
Ready to gratify that simple wish.
Iblis then kissed the part with fiendish glee,
And vanished in an instant.
From the touch
Sprang two black serpents! Then a tumult rose
Among the people, searching for Iblis
Through all the palace, but they sought in vain.
To young and old it was a marvellous thing;
The serpents writhed about as seeking food,
And learned men to see the wonder came,
And sage magicians tried to charm away
That dreadful evil, but no cure was found.
Some time afterwards Iblis returned to Zohak, but in the shape of a
physician, and told him that it was according to his own horoscope that
he suffered in this manner--it was, in short, his destiny--and that the
serpents would continue connected with him throughout his life,
involving him in perpetual misery. Zohak sunk into despair, upon the
assurance of there being no remedy for him, but Iblis again roused him
by saying, that if the serpents were fed daily with human brains, which
would probably kill them, his life might be prolonged, and made easy.
If life has any charm for thee,
The brain of man their food must be!
With the adoption of this deceitful stratagem, Iblis was highly pleased,
and congratulated himself upon the success of his wicked exertions,
thinking that in this manner a great portion of the human race would be
destroyed. He was not aware that his craft and cunning had no influence
in the house of God; and that the descendants of Adam are continually
When the people of Iran and Turan heard that Zohak kept near him two
devouring serpents, alarm and terror spread everywhere, and so universal
was the dread produced by this intelligence, that the nobles of Persia
were induced to abandon their allegiance to Jemshid, and, turning
through fear to Zohak, confederated with the Arab troops against their
own country. Jemshid continued for some time to resist their efforts,
but was at last defeated, and became a wanderer on the face of the
To him existence was a burden now,
The world a desert--for Zohak had gained
The imperial crown, and from all acts and deeds
Of royal import, razed out the very name
Of Jemshid hateful in the tyrant's eyes.
The Persian government having fallen into the hands of the usurper, he
sent his spies in every direction for the purpose of getting possession
of Jemshid wherever he might be found, but their labor was not crowned
with success. The unfortunate wanderer, after experiencing numberless
misfortunes, at length took refuge in Zabulistan.
Flying from place to place, through wilderness,
Wide plain, and mountain, veiled from human eye,
Hungry and worn out with fatigue and sorrow,
He came to Zabul.
The king of Zabulistan, whose name was Gureng, had a daughter of extreme
beauty. She was also remarkable for her mental endowments, and was
familiar with warlike exercises.
So graceful in her movements, and so sweet,
Her very look plucked from the breast of age
The root of sorrow--her wine-sipping lips,
And mouth like sugar, cheeks all dimpled o'er
With smiles, and glowing as the summer rose--
Won every heart.
This damsel, possessed of these beauties and charms, was accustomed to
dress herself in the warlike habiliments of a man, and to combat with
heroes. She was then only fifteen years of age, but so accomplished in
valor, judgment, and discretion, that Minuchihr, who had in that year
commenced hostile operations against her father, was compelled to
relinquish his pretensions, and submit to the gallantry which she
displayed on that occasion. Her father's realm was saved by her
magnanimity. Many kings were her suitors, but Gureng would not give his
consent to her marriage with any of them. He only agreed that she should
marry the sovereign whom she might spontaneously love.
It must be love, and love alone,
That binds thee to another's throne;
In this my father has no voice,
Thine the election, thine the choice.
The daughter of Gureng had a Kabul woman for her nurse, who was deeply
skilled in all sorts of magic and sorcery.
The old enchantress well could say,
What would befall on distant day;
And by her art omnipotent,
Could from the watery element
Draw fire, and with her magic breath,
Seal up a dragon's eyes in death.
Could from the flint-stone conjure dew;
The moon and seven stars she knew;
And of all things invisible
To human sight, this crone could tell.
This Kabul sorceress had long before intimated to the damsel that,
conformably with her destiny, which had been distinctly ascertained from
the motions of the heavenly bodies, she would, after a certain time, be
married to King Jemshid, and bear him a beautiful son. The damsel was
overjoyed at these tidings, and her father received them with equal
pleasure, refusing in consequence the solicitations of every other
suitor. Now according to the prophecy, Jemshid arrived at the city of
Zabul in the spring season, when the roses were in bloom; and it so
happened that the garden of King Gureng was in the way, and also that
his daughter was amusing herself at the time in the garden. Jemshid
proceeded in that direction, but the keepers of the garden would not
allow him to pass, and therefore, fatigued and dispirited, he sat down
by the garden-door under the shade of a tree. Whilst he was sitting
there a slave-girl chanced to come out of the garden, and, observing
him, was surprised at his melancholy and forlorn condition. She said to
him involuntarily: "Who art thou?" and Jemshid raising up his eyes,
replied:--"I was once possessed of wealth and lived in great affluence,
but I am now abandoned by fortune, and have come from a distant country.
Would to heaven I could be blessed with a few cups of wine, my fatigue
and affliction might then be relieved." The girl smiled, and returned
hastily to the princess, and told her that a young man, wearied with
travelling, was sitting at the garden gate, whose countenance was more
lovely even than that of her mistress, and who requested to have a few
cups of wine. When the damsel heard such high praise of the stranger's
features she was exceedingly pleased, and said: "He asks only for wine,
but I will give him both wine and music, and a beautiful mistress
This saying, she repaired towards the gate,
In motion graceful as the waving cypress,
Attended by her hand-maid; seeing him,
She thought he was a warrior of Iran
With spreading shoulders, and his loins well bound.
His visage pale as the pomegranate flower,
He looked like light in darkness. Warm emotions
Rose in her heart, and softly thus she spoke:
"Grief-broken stranger, rest thee underneath
These shady bowers; if wine can make thee glad,
Enter this pleasant place, and drink thy fill."
Whilst the damsel was still speaking and inviting Jemshid into the
garden, he looked at her thoughtfully, and hesitated; and she said to
him: "Why do you hesitate? I am permitted by my father to do what I
please, and my heart is my own.
"Stranger, my father is the monarch mild
Of Zabulistan, and I his only child;
On me is all his fond affection shown;
My wish is his, on me he dotes alone."
Jemshid had before heard of the character and renown of this
extraordinary damsel, yet he was not disposed to comply with her
entreaty; but contemplating again her lovely face, his heart became
enamoured, when she took him by the hand and led him along the beautiful
With dignity and elegance she passed--
As moves the mountain partridge through the meads;
Her tresses richly falling to her feet,
And filling with perfume the softened breeze.
In their promenade they arrived at the basin of a fountain, near which
they seated themselves upon royal carpets, and the damsel having placed
Jemshid in such a manner that they might face each other, she called for
music and wine.
But first the rose-cheeked handmaids gathered round,
And washed obsequiously the stranger's feet;
Then on the margin of the silvery lake
The youth, after this, readily took the wine and refreshments which were
ordered by the princess.
Three cups he drank with eager zest,
Three cups of ruby wine;
Which banished sorrow from his breast,
For memory left no sign
Of past affliction; not a trace
Remained upon his heart, or smiling face.
Whilst he was drinking, the princess observed his peculiar action and
elegance of manner, and instantly said in her heart: "This must be a
king!" She then offered him some more food, as he had come a long
journey, and from a distant land, but he only asked for more wine. "Is
your fondness for wine so great?" said she. And he replied: "With wine I
have no enemy; yet, without it I can be resigned and contented.
"Whilst drinking wine I never see
The frowning face of my enemy;
Drink freely of the grape, and nought
Can give the soul one mournful thought;
Wine is a bride of witching power,
And wisdom is her marriage dower;
Wine can the purest joy impart,
Wine inspires the saddest heart;
Wine gives cowards valour's rage,
Wine gives youth to tottering age;
Wine gives vigour to the weak,
And crimson to the pallid cheek;
And dries up sorrow, as the sun
Absorbs the dew it shines upon."
From the voice and eloquence of the speaker she now conjectured that
this certainly must be King Jemshid, and she felt satisfied that her
notions would soon be realized. At this moment she recollected that
there was a picture of Jemshid in her father's gallery, and thought of
sending for it to compare the features; but again she considered that
the person before her was certainly and truly Jemshid, and that the
picture would be unnecessary on the occasion.
It is said that two ring-doves, a male and female, happened to alight on
the garden wall near the fountain where they were sitting, and began
billing and cooing in amorous play, so that seeing them together in such
soft intercourse, blushes overspread the cheeks of the princess, who
immediately called for her bow and arrows. When they were brought she
said to Jemshid, "Point out which of them I shall hit, and I will bring
it to the ground." Jemshid replied: "Where a man is, a woman's aid is
not required--give me the bow, and mark my skill;
"However brave a woman may appear,
Whatever strength of arm she may possess,
She is but half a man!"
Upon this observation being made, the damsel turned her head aside
ashamed, and gave him the bow. Her heart was full of love. Jemshid took
the bow, and selecting a feathered arrow out of her hand, said:--"Now
for a wager. If I hit the female, shall the lady whom I most admire in
this company be mine?" The damsel assented. Jemshid drew the string, and
the arrow struck the female dove so skilfully as to transfix both the
wings, and pin them together. The male ring-dove flew away, but moved by
natural affection it soon returned, and settled on the same spot as
before. The bow was said to be so strong that there was not a warrior in
the whole kingdom who could even draw the string; and when the damsel
witnessed the dexterity of the stranger, and the ease with which he used
the weapon, she thought within her heart, "There can be no necessity for
the picture; I am certain that this can be no other than the King
Jemshid, the son of Tahumers, called the Binder of Demons." Then she
took the bow from the hand of Jemshid, and observed: "The male bird has
returned to its former place, if my aim be successful shall the man whom
I choose in this company be my husband?" Jemshid instantly understood
her meaning. At that moment the Kabul nurse appeared, and the young
princess communicated to her all that had occurred. The nurse leisurely
examined Jemshid from head to foot with a slave-purchaser's eye, and
knew him, and said to her mistress--"All that I saw in thy horoscope and
foretold, is now in the course of fulfilment. God has brought Jemshid
hither to be thy spouse. Be not regardless of thy good fortune, and the
Almighty will bless thee with a son, who will be the conqueror of the
world. The signs and tokens of thy destiny I have already explained."
The damsel had become greatly enamoured of the person of the stranger
before she knew who he was, and now being told by her nurse that he was
Jemshid himself, her affection was augmented twofold.
The happy tidings, blissful to her heart,
Increased the ardour of her love for him.
And now the picture was brought to the princess, who, finding the
resemblance exact, put it into Jemshid's hand. Jemshid, in secretly
recognizing his own likeness, was forcibly reminded of his past glory
and happiness, and he burst into tears.
The memory of the diadem and throne
No longer his, came o'er him, and his soul
Was rent with anguish.
The princess said to him: "Why at the commencement of our friendship
dost thou weep? Art thou discontented--dissatisfied, unhappy? and am I
the cause?" Jemshid replied: "No, it is simply this; those who have
feeling, and pity the sufferings of others, weep involuntarily. I pity
the misfortunes of Jemshid, driven as he is by adversity from the
splendor of a throne, and reduced to a state of destitution and ruin.
But he must now be dead; devoured, perhaps, by the wolves and lions of
the forest." The nurse and princess, however, were convinced, from the
sweetness of his voice and discourse, that he could be no other than
Jemshid himself, and taking him aside, they said: "Speak truly, art thou
not Jemshid?" But he denied himself. Again, they observed: "What says
this picture?" To this he replied; "It is not impossible that I may be
like Jemshid in feature; for surely there may be in the world two men
like each other?" And notwithstanding all the efforts made by the damsel
and her nurse to induce Jemshid to confess, he still resolutely denied
himself. Several times she assured him she would keep his secret, if he
had one, but that she was certain of his being Jemshid. Still he denied
himself. "This nurse of mine, whom thou seest," said she, "has often
repeated to me the good tidings that I should be united to Jemshid, and
bear him a son. My heart instinctively acknowledged thee at first sight:
then wherefore this denial of the truth? Many kings have solicited my
hand in marriage, but all have been rejected, as I am destined to be
thine, and united to no other." Dismissing now all her attendants, she
remained with the nurse and Jemshid, and then resumed:--
"How long hath sleep forsaken me? how long
Hath my fond heart been kept awake by love?
Hope still upheld me--give me one kind look,
And I will sacrifice my life for thee;
Come, take my life, for it is thine for ever."
Saying this, the damsel began to weep, and shedding a flood of tears,
tenderly reproached him for not acknowledging the truth. Jemshid was at
length moved by her affection and sorrow, and thus addressed
her:--"There are two considerations which at present prevent the truth
being told. One of them is my having a powerful enemy, and Heaven forbid
that he should obtain information of my place of refuge. The other is, I
never intrust my secrets to a woman!
"Fortune I dread, since fortune is my foe,
And womankind are seldom known to keep
Another's secret. To be poor and safe,
Is better far than wealth exposed to peril."
To this the princess: "Is it so decreed,
That every woman has two tongues, two hearts?
All false alike, their tempers all the same?
No, no! could I disloyally betray thee?
I who still love thee better than my life?"
Jemshid found it impossible to resist the damsel's incessant entreaties
and persuasive tenderness, mingled as they were with tears of sorrow.
Vanquished thus by the warmth of her affections, he told her his name,
and the history of his misfortunes. She then ardently seized his hand,
overjoyed at the disclosure, and taking him privately to her own
chamber, they were married according to the customs of her country.
Him to the secret bower with blushing cheek
Exultingly she led, and mutual bliss,
Springing from mutual tenderness and love,
Entranced their souls.
When Gureng the king found that his daughter's visits to him became less
frequent than usual, he set his spies to work, and was not long in
ascertaining the cause of her continued absence. She had married without
his permission, and he was in great wrath. It happened, too, at this
time that the bride was pale and in delicate health.
The mystery soon was manifest,
And thus the king his child addrest,
Whilst anger darkened o'er his brow:--
"What hast thou done, ungrateful, now?
Why hast thou flung, in evil day,
The veil of modesty away?
That cheek the bloom of spring displayed,
Now all is withered, all decayed;
But daughters, as the wise declare,
Are ever false, if they be fair."
Incensed at words so sharp and strong,
The damsel thus repelled the wrong:--
"Me, father, canst thou justly blame?
I never, never, brought thee shame;
With me can sin and crime accord,
When Jemshid is my wedded lord?"
After this precipitate avowal, the Kabul nurse, of many spells,
instantly took up her defence, and informed the king that the prophecy
she had formerly communicated to him was on the point of fulfilment, and
that the Almighty having, in the course of destiny, brought Jemshid into
his kingdom, the princess, according to the same planetary influence,
would shortly become a mother.
And now the damsel grovels on the ground
Before King Gureng. "Well thou know'st," she cries,
"From me no evil comes. Whether in arms,
Or at the banquet, honour guides me still:
And well thou know'st thy royal will pronounced
That I should be unfettered in my choice,
And free to take the husband I preferred.
This I have done; and to the greatest king
The world can boast, my fortunes are united,
To Jemshid, the most perfect of mankind."
With this explanation the king expressed abundant and unusual
satisfaction. His satisfaction, however, did not arise from the
circumstance of the marriage, and the new connection it established, but
from the opportunity it afforded him of betraying Jemshid, and
treacherously sending him bound to Zohak, which he intended to do, in
the hopes of being magnificently rewarded. Exulting with this
anticipation, he said to her smiling:--
"Glad tidings thou hast given to me,
My glory owes its birth to thee;
I bless the day, and bless the hour,
Which placed this Jemshid in my power.
Now to Zohak, a captive bound,
I send the wanderer thou hast found;
For he who charms the monarch's eyes,
With this long-sought, this noble prize,
On solemn word and oath, obtains
A wealthy kingdom for his pains."
On hearing these cruel words the damsel groaned, and wept exceedingly
before her father, and said to him: "Oh, be not accessory to the murder
of such a king! Wealth and kingdoms pass away, but a bad name remains
till the day of doom.
"Turn thee, my father, from this dreadful thought,
And save his sacred blood: let not thy name
Be syllabled with horror through the world,
For such an act as this. When foes are slain,
It is enough, but keep the sword away
From friends and kindred; shun domestic crime.
Fear him who giveth life, and strength, and power,
For goodness is most blessed. On the day
Of judgment thou wilt then be unappalled.
But if determined to divide us, first
Smite off this head, and let thy daughter die."
So deep and violent was the grief of the princess, and her lamentations
so unceasing, that the father became softened into compassion, and, on
her account, departed from the resolution he had made. He even promised
to furnish Jemshid with possessions, with treasure, and an army, and
requested her to give him the consolation he required, adding that he
would see him in the morning in his garden.
The heart-alluring damsel instant flew
To tell the welcome tidings to her lord.
Next day King Gureng proceeded to the garden, and had an interview with
Jemshid, to whom he expressed the warmest favor and affection; but
notwithstanding all he said, Jemshid could place no confidence in his
professions, and was anxious to effect his escape. He was, indeed, soon
convinced of his danger, for he had a private intimation that the king's
vizirs were consulting together on the expedience of securing his
person, under the apprehension that Zohak would be invading the country,
and consigning it to devastation and ruin, if his retreat was
discovered. He therefore took to flight.
Jemshid first turned his steps towards Chin, and afterwards into Ind. He
had travelled a great distance in that beautiful country, and one day
came to a tower, under whose shadow he sought a little repose, for the
thoughts of his melancholy and disastrous condition kept him almost
And am I thus to perish? Thus forlorn,
To mingle with the dust? Almighty God!
Was ever mortal born to such a fate,
A fate so sad as mine! O that I never
Had drawn the breath of life, to perish thus!
Exhausted by the keenness of his affliction Jemshid at length fell
asleep. Zohak, in the meanwhile, had despatched an envoy, with an escort
of troops, to the Khakan of Chin, and at that moment the cavalcade
happened to be passing by the tower where Jemshid was reposing. The
envoy, attracted to the spot, immediately recognized him, and awakening
him to a sense of this new misfortune, secured the despairing and
agonized wanderer, and sent him to Zohak.
He saw a person sleeping on the ground,
And knew that it was Jemshid. Overjoyed,
He bound his feet with chains, and mounted him
Upon a horse, a prisoner.
What a world!
No place of rest for man! Fix not thy heart,
Vain mortal! on this tenement of life,
On earthly pleasures; think of Jemshid's fate;
His glory reached the Heavens, and now this world
Has bound the valiant monarch's limbs in fetters,
And placed its justice in the hands of slaves.
When Zohak received intelligence of the apprehension of his enemy, he
ordered him to be brought before the throne that he might enjoy the
All fixed their gaze upon the captive king,
Loaded with chains; his hands behind his back;
The ponderous fetters passing from his neck
Down to his feet; oppressed with shame he stood,
Like the narcissus bent with heavy dew.
Zohak received him with a scornful smile,
Saying, "Where is thy diadem, thy throne,
Where is thy kingdom, where thy sovereign rule;
Thy laws and royal ordinances--where,
Where are they now? What change is this that fate
Has wrought upon thee?" Jemshid thus rejoined:
"Unjustly am I brought in chains before thee,
Betrayed, insulted--thou the cause of all,
And yet thou wouldst appear to feel my wrongs!"
Incensed at this defiance, mixed with scorn,
Fiercely Zohak replied, "Then choose thy death;
Shall I behead thee, stab thee, or impale thee,
Or with an arrow's point transfix thy heart!
What is thy choice?"--
"Since I am in thy power,
Do with me what thou wilt--why should I dread
Thy utmost vengeance, why express a wish
To save my body from a moment's pain!"
As soon as Zohak heard these words he resolved upon a horrible deed of
vengeance. He ordered two planks to be brought, and Jemshid being
fastened down between them, his body was divided the whole length with a
saw, making two figures of Jemshid out of one!
Why do mankind upon this fleeting world
Place their affections, wickedness alone
Is nourished into freshness; sounds of death, too,
Are ever on the gale to wear out life.
My heart is satisfied--O Heaven! no more,
Free me at once from this continual sorrow.
It was not long before tidings of the foul proceedings, which put an end
to the existence of the unfortunate Jemshid, reached Zabulistan. The
princess, his wife, on hearing of his fate, wasted away with
inconsolable grief, and at last took poison to unburden herself of
It is related that Jemshid had two sisters, named Shahrnaz and Arnawaz.
They had been both seized, and conveyed to Zohak by his people, and
continued in confinement for some time in the King's harem, but they
were afterwards released by Feridun.
The tyrant's cruelty and oppression had become intolerable. He was
constantly shedding blood, and committing every species of crime.
The serpents still on human brains were fed,
And every day two youthful victims bled;
The sword, still ready--thirsting still to strike,
Warrior and slave were sacrificed alike.
The career of Zohak himself, however, was not unvisited by terrors. One
night he dreamt that he was attacked by three warriors; two of them of
large stature, and one of them small. The youngest struck him a blow on
the head with his mace, bound his hands, and casting a rope round his
neck, dragged him along in the presence of crowds of people. Zohak
screamed, and sprung up from his sleep in the greatest horror. The
females of his harem were filled with amazement when they beheld the
terrified countenance of the king who, in reply to their inquiries,
said, trembling: "This is a dream too dreadful to be concealed." He
afterwards called together the Mubids, or wise men of his court; and
having communicated to them the particulars of what had appeared to him
in his sleep, commanded them to give him a faithful interpretation of
the dream. The Mubids foresaw in this vision the approaching declension
of his power and dominion, but were afraid to explain their opinions,
because they were sure that their lives would be sacrificed if the true
interpretation was given to him. Three days were consumed under the
pretence of studying more scrupulously all the signs and appearances,
and still not one of them had courage to speak out. On the fourth day
the king grew angry, and insisted upon the dream being interpreted. In
this dilemma, the Mubids said, "Then, if the truth must be told, without
evasion, thy life approaches to an end, and Feridun, though yet unborn,
will be thy successor,"--"But who was it," inquired Zohak impatiently,
"that struck the blow on my head?" The Mubids declared, with fear and
trembling, "it was the apparition of Feridun himself, who is destined to
smite thee on the head."--"But why," rejoined Zohak, "does he wish to
injure me?"--"Because, his father's blood being spilt by thee, vengeance
falls into his hands." Hearing this interpretation of his dream, the
king sunk senseless on the ground; and when he recovered, he could
neither sleep nor take food, but continued overwhelmed with sorrow and
misery. The light of his day was forever darkened.
Abtin was the name of Feridun's father, and that of his mother Faranuk,
of the race of Tahumers. Zohak, therefore, stimulated to further cruelty
by the prophecy, issued an order that every person belonging to the
family of the Kais, wherever found, should be seized and fettered, and
brought to him. Abtin had long avoided discovery, continuing to reside
in the most retired and solitary places; but one day his usual
circumspection forsook him, and he ventured beyond his limits. This
imprudent step was dreadfully punished, for the spies of Zohak fell in
with him, recognized him, and carrying him to the king, he was
immediately put to death. When the mother of Feridun heard of this
sanguinary catastrophe, she took up her infant and fled. It is said that
Feridun was at that time only two months old. In her flight, the mother
happened to arrive at some pasturage ground. The keeper of the pasture
had a cow named Pur'maieh, which yielded abundance of milk, and he gave
it away in charity. In consequence of the grief and distress of mind
occasioned by the murder of her husband, Faranuk's milk dried up in her
breasts, and she was therefore under the necessity of feeding the child
with the milk from the cow. She remained there one night, and would have
departed in the morning; but considering the deficiency of milk, and the
misery in which she was involved, continually afraid of being discovered
and known, she did not know what to do. At length she thought it best to
leave Feridun with the keeper of the pasture, and resigning him to the
protection of God, went herself to the mountain Alberz. The keeper
readily complied with the tenderest wishes of the mother, and nourished
the child with the fondness and affection of a parent during the space
of three years. After that period had elapsed, deep sorrow continuing to
afflict the mind of Faranuk, she returned secretly to the old man of the
pasture, for the purpose of reclaiming and conveying Feridun to a safer
place of refuge upon the mountain Alberz. The keeper said to her: "Why
dost thou take the child to the mountain? he will perish there;" but she
replied that God Almighty had inspired a feeling in her heart that it
was necessary to remove him. It was a divine inspiration, and verified
by the event.
Intelligence having at length reached Zohak that the son of Abtin was
nourished and protected by the keeper of the pasture, he himself
proceeded with a large force to the spot, where he put to death the
keeper and all his tribe, and also the cow which had supplied milk to
Feridun, whom he sought for in vain.
He found the dwelling of his infant-foe,
And laid it in the dust; the very ground
Was punished for the sustenance it gave him.
The ancient records relate that a dervish happened to have taken up his
abode in the mountain Alberz, and that Faranuk committed her infant to
his fostering care. The dervish generously divided with the mother and
son all the food and comforts which God gave him, and at the same time
he took great pains in storing the mind of Feridun with various kinds of
knowledge. One day he said to the mother: "The person foretold by wise
men and astrologers as the destroyer of Zohak and his tyranny, is thy
"This child to whom thou gavest birth,
Will be the monarch of the earth;"
and the mother, from several concurring indications and signs, held a
When Feridun had attained his sixteenth year, he descended from the
mountain, and remained for a time on the plain beneath. He inquired of
his mother why Zohak had put his father to death, and Faranuk then told
him the melancholy story; upon hearing which, he resolved to be revenged
on the tyrant. His mother endeavored to divert him from his
determination, observing that he was young, friendless, and alone,
whilst his enemy was the master of the world, and surrounded by armies.
"Be not therefore precipitate," said she. "If it is thy destiny to
become a king, wait till the Almighty shall bless thee with means
sufficient for the purpose."
Displeased, the youth his mother's caution heard,
And meditating vengeance on the head
Of him who robbed him of a father, thus
Impatiently replied:--"'Tis Heaven inspires me;
Led on by Heaven, this arm will quickly bring
The tyrant from his palace, to the dust."
"Imprudent boy!" the anxious mother said;
"Canst thou contend against imperial power?
Must I behold thy ruin? Pause awhile,
And perish not in this wild enterprise."
It is recorded that Zohak's dread of Feridun was so great, that day by
day he became more irritable, wasting away in bitterness of spirit, for
people of all ranks kept continually talking of the young invader, and
were daily expecting his approach. At last he came, and Zohak was
subdued, and his power extinguished.
KAVAH, THE BLACKSMITH
Zohak having one day summoned together all the nobles and philosophers
of the kingdom, he said to them: "I find that a young enemy has risen up
against me; but notwithstanding his tender years, there is no safety
even with an apparently insignificant foe. I hear, too, that though
young, he is distinguished for his prowess and wisdom; yet I fear not
him, but the change of fortune. I wish therefore to assemble a large
army, consisting of Men, Demons, and Peris, that this enemy may be
surrounded, and conquered. And, further, since a great enterprise is on
the eve of being undertaken, it will be proper in future to keep a
register or muster-roll of all the people of every age in my dominions,
and have it revised annually." The register, including both old and
young, was accordingly prepared.
At that period there lived a man named Kavah, a blacksmith, remarkably
strong and brave, and who had a large family. Upon the day on which it
fell to the lot of two of his children to be killed to feed the
serpents, he rose up with indignation in presence of the king, and said:
"Thou art the king, but wherefore on my head
Cast fire and ashes? If thou hast the form
Of hissing dragon, why to me be cruel?
Why give the brains of my beloved children
As serpent-food, and talk of doing justice?"
At this bold speech the monarch was dismayed,
And scarcely knowing what he did, released
The blacksmith's sons. How leapt the father's heart,
How warmly he embraced his darling boys!
But now Zohak directs that Kavah's name
Shall be inscribed upon the register.
Soon as the blacksmith sees it written there,
Wrathful he turns towards the chiefs assembled,
Exclaiming loud: "Are ye then men, or what,
Leagued with a Demon!" All astonished heard,
And saw him tear the hated register,
And cast it under foot with rage and scorn.
Kavah having thus reviled the king bitterly, and destroyed the register
of blood, departed from the court, and took his children along with him.
After he had gone away, the nobles said to the king:
"Why should reproaches, sovereign of the world,
Be thus permitted? Why the royal scroll
Torn in thy presence, with a look and voice
Of proud defiance, by the rebel blacksmith?
So fierce his bearing, that he seems to be
A bold confederate of this Feridun."
Zohak replied: "I know not what o'ercame me,
But when I saw him with such vehemence
Of grief and wild distraction, strike his forehead,
Lamenting o'er his children, doomed to death,
Amazement seized my heart, and chained my will.
What may become of this, Heaven only knows,
For none can pierce the veil of destiny."
Kavah, meanwhile, with warning voice set forth
What wrongs the nation suffered, and there came
Multitudes round him, who called out aloud
For justice! justice! On his javelin's point
He fixed his leathern apron for a banner,
And lifting it on high, he went abroad
To call the people to a task of vengeance.
Wherever it was seen crowds followed fast,
Tired of the cruel tyranny they suffered.
"Let us unite with Feridun," he cried,
"And from Zohak's oppression we are free!"
And still he called aloud, and all obeyed
Who heard him, high and low. Anxious he sought
For Feridun, not knowing his retreat:
But still he hoped success would crown his search.
The hour arrived, and when he saw the youth,
Instinctively he knew him, and thanked Heaven
For that good fortune. Then the leathern banner
Was splendidly adorned with gold and jewels,
And called the flag of Kavah. From that time
It was a sacred symbol; every king
In future, on succeeding to the throne,
Did honor to that banner, the true sign
Of royalty, in veneration held.
Feridun, aided by the directions and advice of the blacksmith, now
proceeded against Zohak. His mother wept to see him depart, and
continually implored the blessing of God upon him. He had two elder
brothers, whom he took along with him. Desirous of having a mace formed
like the head of a cow, he requested Kavah to make one of iron, and it
was accordingly made in the shape he described. In his progress, he
visited a shrine or place of pilgrimage frequented by the worshippers of
God, where he besought inspiration and aid, and where he was taught by a
radiant personage the mysteries of the magic art, receiving from him a
key to every secret.
Bright beamed his eye, with firmer step he strode,
His smiling cheek with warmer crimson glowed.
When his two brothers saw his altered mien, the pomp and splendor of his
appearance, they grew envious of his good fortune, and privately
meditated his fall. One day they found him asleep at the foot of a
mountain, and they immediately went to the top and rolled down a heavy
fragment of rock upon him with the intention of crushing him to death;
but the clattering noise of the stone awoke him, and, instantly
employing the knowledge of sorcery which had been communicated to him,
the stone was suddenly arrested by him in its course. The brothers
beheld this with astonishment, and hastening down the mountain, cried
aloud: "We know not how the stone was loosened from its place: God
forbid that it should have done any injury to Feridun." Feridun,
however, was well aware of this being the evil work of his brothers, but
he took no notice of the conspiracy, and instead of punishing them,
raised them to higher dignity and consequence.
They saw that Kavah directed the route of Feridun over the mountainous
tracts and plains which lie contiguous to the banks of the Dijleh, or
Tigris, close to the city of Bagdad. Upon reaching that river, they
called for boats, but got no answer from the ferryman; at which Feridun
was enraged, and immediately plunged, on horseback, into the foaming
stream. All his army followed without delay, and with the blessing of
God arrived on the other side in safety. He then turned toward the
Bait-el-Mukaddus, built by Zohak. In the Pahlavi language it was called
Kunuk-duz-mokt. The tower of this edifice was so lofty that it might be
seen at the distance of many leagues, and within that tower Zohak had
formed a talisman of miraculous virtues. Feridun soon overthrew this
talisman, and destroyed or vanquished successively with his mace all the
enchanted monsters and hideous shapes which appeared before him. He
captured the whole of the building, and released all the black-eyed
damsels who were secluded there, and among them Shahrnaz and Arnawaz,
the two sisters of Jemshid before alluded to. He then ascended the empty
throne of Zohak, which had been guarded by the talisman, and the Demons
under his command; and when he heard that the tyrant had gone with an
immense army toward Ind, in quest of his new enemy, and had left his
treasury with only a small force at the seat of his government, he
rejoiced, and appropriated the throne and the treasure to himself.
From their dark solitudes the Youth brought forth
The black-haired damsels, lovely as the sun,
And Jemshid's sisters, long imprisoned there;
And gladly did the inmates of that harem
Pour out their gratitude on being freed
From that terrific monster; thanks to Heaven
Devoutly they expressed, and ardent joy.
Feridun inquired of Arnawaz why Zohak had chosen the route towards Ind;
and she replied, "For two reasons: the first is, he expects to encounter
thee in that quarter; and if he fails, he will subdue the whole country,
which is the seat of sorcery, and thus obtain possession of a renowned
magician who can charm thee into his power.
"He wishes to secure within his grasp
That region of enchantment, Hindustan,
And then obtain relief from what he feels;
For night and day the terror of thy name
Oppresses him, his heart is all on fire,
And life is torture to him."
Kandru, the keeper of the talisman, having effected his escape, fled to
Zohak, to whom he gave intelligence of the release of his women, the
destruction of the talisman, and the conquest of his empire.
"The sign of retribution has appeared,
For sorrow is the fruit of evil deeds."
Thus Kandru spoke: "Three warriors have advanced
Upon thy kingdom from a distant land,
One of them young, and from his air and mien
He seems to me of the Kaianian race.
He came, and boldly seized the splendid throne,
And all thy spells, and sorceries, and magic,
Were instantly dissolved by higher power,
And all who dwelt within thy palace walls,
Demon or man, all utterly destroyed,
Their severed heads cast weltering on the ground."
Then was Zohak confounded, and he shrunk
Within himself with terror, thinking now
His doom was sealed; but anxious to appear
In presence of his army, gay and cheerful,
Lest they too should despair, he dressed himself
In rich attire, and with a pleasant look,
Said carelessly: "Perhaps some gamesome guest
Hath in his sport committed this strange act."
"A guest, indeed!" Kandru replied, "a guest,
In playful mood to batter down thy palace!
If he had been thy guest, why with his mace,
Cow-headed, has he done such violence?
Why did he penetrate thy secret chambers,
And bring to light the beautiful Shahrnaz,
And red-lipped Arnawaz?" At this, Zohak
Trembled with wrath--the words were death to him;
And sternly thus he spoke: "What hast thou fled
Through fear, betraying thy important trust?
No longer shalt thou share my confidence,
No longer share my bounty and regard."
To this the keeper tauntingly replied:
"Thy kingdom is overthrown, and nothing now
Remains for thee to give me; thou art lost."
The tyrant immediately turned towards his army, with the intention of
making a strong effort to regain his throne, but he found that as soon
as the soldiers and the people were made acquainted with the proceedings
and success of Feridun, rebellion arose among them, and shuddering with
horror at the cruelty exercised by him in providing food for the
accursed serpents, they preferred embracing the cause of the new king.
Zohak, seeing that he had lost the affections of the army, and that
universal revolt was the consequence, adopted another course, and
endeavored alone to be revenged upon his enemy. He proceeded on his
journey, and arriving by night at the camp of Feridun, hoped to find him
off his guard and put him to death. He ascended a high place, himself
unobserved, from which he saw Feridun sitting engaged in soft dalliance
with the lovely Shahrnaz. The fire of jealousy and revenge now consumed
him more fiercely, and he was attempting to effect his purpose, when
Feridun was roused by the noise, and starting up struck a furious blow
with his cow-headed mace upon the temples of Zohak, which crushed the
bone, and he was on the point of giving him another; but a supernatural
voice whispered in his ear,
"Slay him not now--his time is not yet come,
His punishment must be prolonged awhile;
And as he cannot now survive the wound,
Bind him with heavy chains--convey him straight
Upon the mountain, there within a cave,
Deep, dark, and horrible--with none to soothe
His sufferings, let the murderer lingering die."
The work of heaven performing, Feridun
First purified the world from sin and crime.
Yet Feridun was not an angel, nor
Composed of musk or ambergris. By justice
And generosity he gained his fame.
Do thou but exercise these princely virtues,
And thou wilt be renowned as Feridun.
FERIDUN AND HIS THREE SONS
Feridun had three sons. One of them was named Silim, the other Tur, and
the third Irij. When they had grown up, he called before him a learned
person named Chundel, and said to him: "Go thou in quest of three
daughters, born of the same father and mother, and adorned with every
grace and accomplishment, that I may have my three sons married into one
family." Chundel departed accordingly, and travelled through many
countries in fruitless search, till he came to the King of Yemen, whose
name was Saru, and found that he had three daughters of the character
and qualifications required. He therefore delivered Feridun's
proposition to him, to which the King of Yemen agreed. Then Feridun sent
his three sons to Yemen, and they married the three daughters of the
king, who gave them splendid dowries in treasure and jewels. It is
related that Feridun afterwards divided his empire among his sons. To
Silim he gave Rum and Khawer; to Tur, Turan; and to Irij, Iran or
Persia. The sons then repaired to their respective kingdoms. Persia was
a beautiful country, and the garden of spring, full of freshness and
perfume; Turan, on the contrary, was less cultivated, and the scene of
perpetual broils and insurrections. The elder brother, Silim, was
therefore discontented with the unfair partition of the empire, and
displeased with his father. He sent to Tur, saying: "Our father has
given to Irij the most delightful and productive kingdom, and to us, two
wild uncultivated regions. I am the eldest son, and I am not satisfied
with this distribution--what sayest thou?" When this message was
communicated to Tur, he fully concurred in the sentiments expressed by
his brother, and determined to unite with him in any undertaking that
might promise the accomplishment of their purpose, which was to deprive
Irij of his dominions. But he thought it would be most expedient, in the
first instance, to make their father acquainted with the dissatisfaction
he had produced; "for," he thought to himself, "in a new distribution,
he may assign Persia to me." Then he wrote to Silim, advising that a
messenger should be sent at once to Feridun to inform him of their
dissatisfaction, and bring back a reply. The same messenger was
dispatched by Silim accordingly on that mission,
Charged with unfilial language. "Give," he said,
"This stripling Irij a more humble portion,
Or we will, from the mountains of Turan,
From Rum, and Chin, bring overwhelming troops,
Inured to war, and shower disgrace and ruin
On him and Persia."
When the messenger arrived at the court of Feridun, and had obtained
permission to appear in the presence of the king, he kissed the ground
respectfully, and by command related the purpose of his journey. Feridun
was surprised and displeased, and said, in reply:
"Have I done wrong, done evil? None, but good.
I gave ye kingdoms, that was not a crime;
But if ye fear not me, at least fear God.
My ebbing life approaches to an end,
And the possessions of this fleeting world
Will soon pass from me. I am grown too old
To have my passions roused by this rebellion;
All I can do is, with paternal love,
To counsel peace. Be with your lot contented;
Seek not unnatural strife, but cherish peace."
After the departure of the messenger Feridun called Irij before him, and
said: "Thy two brothers, who are older than thou art, have confederated
together and threaten to bring a large army against thee for the purpose
of seizing thy kingdom, and putting thee to death. I have received this
information from a messenger, who further says, that if I take thy part
they will also wage war upon me." And after Irij had declared that in
this extremity he was anxious to do whatever his father might advise,
Feridun continued: "My son, thou art unable to resist the invasion of
even one brother; it will, therefore, be impossible for thee to oppose
both. I am now aged and infirm, and my only wish is to pass the
remainder of my days in retirement and repose. Better, then, will it be
for thee to pursue the path of peace and friendship, and like me throw
away all desire for dominion.
"For if the sword of anger is unsheathed,
And war comes on, thy head will soon be freed
From all the cares of government and life.
There is no cause for thee to quit the world,
The path of peace and amity is thine."
Irij agreed with his father, and declared that he would willingly
sacrifice his throne and diadem rather than go to war with his brothers.
"Look at the Heavens, how they roll on;
And look at man, how soon he's gone.
A breath of wind, and then no more;
A world like this, should man deplore?"
With these sentiments Irij determined to repair immediately to his
brothers, and place his kingdom at their disposal, hoping by this means
to merit their favor and affection, and he said:
"I feel no resentment, I seek not for strife,
I wish not for thrones and the glories of life;
What is glory to man?--an illusion, a cheat;
What did it for Jemshid, the world at his feet?
When I go to my brothers their anger may cease,
Though vengeance were fitter than offers of peace."
Feridun observed to him: "It is well that thy desire is for
reconciliation, as thy brothers are preparing for war." He then wrote a
letter to his sons, in which he said: "Your younger brother considers
your friendship and esteem of more consequence to him than his crown and
throne. He has banished from his heart every feeling of resentment
against you; do you, in the like manner, cast away hostility from your
hearts against him. Be kind to him, for it is incumbent upon the eldest
born to be indulgent and affectionate to their younger brothers.
Although your consideration for my happiness has passed away, I still
wish to please you." As soon as the letter was finished, Irij mounted
his horse, and set off on his journey, accompanied by several of his
friends, but not in such a manner, and with such an equipment, as might
betray his rank or character. When he arrived with his attendants in
Turkistan, he found that the armies of his two brothers were ready to
march against him. Silim and Tur, being apprised of the approach of
Irij, went out of the city, according to ancient usage, to meet the
deputation which was conveying to them their father's letter. Irij was
kindly received by them, and accommodated in the royal residence.
It is said that Irij was in person extremely prepossessing, and that
when the troops first beheld him, they exclaimed: "He is indeed fit to
be a king!" In every place all eyes were fixed upon him, and wherever he
moved he was followed and surrounded by the admiring army and crowds of
In numerous groups the soldiers met, and blessed
The name of Irij, saying in their hearts,
This is the man to lead an armed host,
And worthy of the diadem and throne.
The courtiers of the two brothers, alarmed by these demonstrations of
attachment to Irij continually before their eyes, represented to Silim
and Tur that the army was disaffected towards them, and that Irij alone
was considered deserving of the supreme authority. This intimation
exasperated the malignant spirit of the two brothers: for although at
first determined to put Irij to death, his youth and prepossessing
appearance had in some degree subdued their animosity. They were
therefore pleased with the intelligence, because it afforded a new and
powerful reason for getting rid of him. "Look at our troops," said Silim
to Tur, "how they assemble in circles together, and betray their
admiration of him. I fear they will never march against Persia. Indeed
it is not improbable that even the kingdom of Turan may fall into his
hands, since the hearts of our soldiers have become so attached to him.
"No time is this to deviate from our course,
We must rush on; our armies plainly show
Their love for Irij, and if we should fail
To root up from its place this flourishing tree,
Our cause is lost for ever."
Again, Silim said to Tur: "Thou must put Irij to death, and then his
kingdom will be thine." Tur readily undertook to commit that crime, and,
on the following day, at an interview with Irij, he said to him: "Why
didst thou consent to be the ruler of Persia, and fail in showing a
proper regard for the interests of thy elder brothers? Whilst our barren
kingdoms are constantly in a state of warfare with the Turks, thou art
enjoying peace and tranquillity upon the throne of a fruitful country?
Must we, thy elder brothers, remain thus under thy commands, and in
"Must thou have gold and treasure,
And thy heart be wrapt in pleasure,
Whilst we, thy elder born,
Of our heritage are shorn?
Must the youngest still be nursed,
And the elder branches cursed?
And condemned, by stern command,
To a wild and sterile land?"
When Irij heard these words from Tur, he immediately replied, saying:
"I only seek tranquillity and peace;
I look not on the crown of sovereignty.
Nor seek a name among the Persian host;
And though the throne and diadem are mine,
I here renounce them, satisfied to lead
A private life. For what hath ever been
The end of earthly power and pomp, but darkness?
I seek not to contend against my brothers;
Why should I grieve their hearts, or give distress