Part 2 out of 9
To any human being? I am young,
And Heaven forbid that I should prove unkind!"
Notwithstanding, however, these declarations of submission, and repeated
assurances of his resolution to resign the monarchy of Persia, Tur would
not believe one word. In a moment he sprung up, and furiously seizing
the golden chair from which he had just risen, struck a violent blow
with it on the head of Irij, calling aloud, "Bind him, bind him!" The
youth, struggling on the ground, exclaimed: "O, think of thy father, and
pity me! Have compassion on thy own soul! I came for thy protection,
therefore do not take my life: if thou dost, my blood will call out for
vengeance to the Almighty. I ask only for peace and retirement. Think of
my father, and pity me!
"Wouldst thou, with life endowed, take life away?
Torture not the poor ant, which drags the grain
Along the dust; it has a life, and life
Is sweet and precious. Did the innocent ant
Offend thee ever? Cruel must he be
Who would destroy a living thing so harmless!
And wilt thou, reckless, shed thy brother's blood,
And agonize the feelings of a father?
Pause, and avoid the wrath of righteous Heaven!"
But Tur was not to be softened by the supplications of his brother.
Without giving any reply, he drew his dagger, and instantly dissevered
the head of the youth from his body.
With musk and ambergris he first embalmed
The head of Irij, then to his old father
Dispatched the present with these cruel words:
"Here is the head of thy beloved son,
Thy darling favourite, dress it with a crown
As thou wert wont; and mark the goodly fruit
Thou hast produced. Adorn thy ivory throne,
In all its splendour, for this worthy head,
And place it in full majesty before thee!"
In the meantime, Feridun had prepared a magnificent reception for his
son. The period of his return had arrived, and he was in anxious
expectation of seeing him, when suddenly he received intelligence that
Irij had been put to death by his brothers. The mournful spectacle soon
reached his father's house.
A scream of agony burst from his heart,
As wildly in his arms he clasped the face
Of his poor slaughtered son; then down he sank
Senseless upon the earth. The soldiers round
Bemoaned the sad catastrophe, and rent
Their garments in their grief. The souls of all
Were filled with gloom, their eyes with flowing tears,
For hope had promised a far different scene;
A day of heart-felt mirth and joyfulness,
When Irij to his father's house returned.
After the extreme agitation of Feridun had subsided, he directed all his
people to wear black apparel, in honor of the murdered youth, and all
his drums and banners to be torn to pieces. They say that subsequent to
this dreadful calamity he always wore black clothes. The head of Irij
was buried in a favorite garden, where he had been accustomed to hold
weekly a rural entertainment. Feridun, in performing the last ceremony,
pressed it to his bosom, and with streaming eyes exclaimed:
"O Heaven, look down upon my murdered boy;
His severed head before me, but his body
Torn by those hungry wolves! O grant my prayer,
That I may see, before I die, the seed
Of Irij hurl just vengeance on the heads
Of his assassins; hear, O hear my prayer."
--Thus he in sorrow for his favourite son
Obscured the light which might have sparkled still,
Withering the jasmine flower of happy days;
So that his pale existence looked like death.
Feridun continued to cherish with the fondest affection the memory of
his murdered son, and still looked forward with anxiety to the
anticipated hour of retribution. He fervently hoped that a son might be
born to take vengeance for his father's death. But it so happened that
Mahafrid, the wife of Irij, gave birth to a daughter. When this daughter
grew up, Feridun gave her in marriage to Pishung, and from that union an
heir was born who in form and feature resembled Irij and Feridun. He was
called Minuchihr, and great rejoicings took place on the occasion of his
The old man's lips, with smiles apart,
Bespoke the gladness of his heart.
And in his arms he took the boy
The harbinger of future joy;
Delighted that indulgent Heaven
To his fond hopes this pledge had given,
It seemed as if, to bless his reign,
Irij had come to life again.
The child was nourished with great tenderness during his infancy, and
when he grew up he was sedulously instructed in every art necessary to
form the character, and acquire the accomplishments of a warrior.
Feridun was accustomed to place him on the throne, and decorate his
brows with the crown of sovereignty; and the soldiers enthusiastically
acknowledged him as their king, urging him to rouse himself and take
vengeance of his enemies for the murder of his grandfather. Having
opened his treasury, Feridun distributed abundance of gold among the
people, so that Minuchihr was in a short time enabled to embody an
immense army, by whom he was looked upon with attachment and admiration.
When Silim and Tur were informed of the preparations that were making
against them, that Minuchihr, having grown to manhood, was distinguished
for his valor and intrepidity, and that multitudes flocked to his
standard with the intention of forwarding his purpose of revenge, they
were seized with inexpressible terror, and anticipated an immediate
invasion of their kingdoms. Thus alarmed, they counselled together upon
the course it would be wisest to adopt.
"Should he advance, his cause is just,
And blood will mingle with the dust,
But heaven forbid our power should be
O'erwhelmed to give him victory;
Though strong his arm, and wild his ire,
And vengeance keen his heart inspire."
They determined, at length, to pursue pacific measures, and endeavor by
splendid presents and conciliatory language to regain the good-will of
Feridun. The elephants were immediately loaded with treasure, a crown of
gold, and other articles of value, and a messenger was dispatched,
charged with an acknowledgment of guilt and abundant expressions of
repentance. "It was Iblis," they said, "who led us astray, and our
destiny has been such that we are in every way criminal. But thou art
the ocean of mercy; pardon our offences. Though manifold, they were
involuntary, and forgiveness will cleanse our hearts and restore us to
ourselves. Let our tears wash away the faults we have committed. To
Minuchihr and to thyself we offer obedience and fealty, and we wait your
commands, being but the dust of your feet."
When the messenger arrived at the court of Feridun he first delivered
the magnificent presents, and the king, having placed Minuchihr on a
golden chair by his side, observed to him, "These presents are to thee a
prosperous and blessed omen--they show that thy enemy is afraid of
thee." Then the messenger was permitted to communicate the object of his
He spoke with studied phrase, intent to hide,
Or mitigate the horror of their crime;
And with excuses plausible and bland
His speech was dressed. The brothers, he observed,
Desired to see their kinsman Minuchihr,
And with the costliest gems they sought to pay
The price of kindred blood unjustly shed--
And they would willingly to him resign
Their kingdoms for the sake of peace and friendship.
The monarch marked him scornfully, and said:
"Canst thou conceal the sun? It is in vain
Truth to disguise with words of shallow meaning.
Now hear my answer. Ask thy cruel masters,
Who talk of their affection for the prince,
Where lies the body of the gentle Irij?
Him they have slain, the fierce, unnatural brothers,
And now they thirst to gain another victim.
They long to see the face of Minuchihr!
Yes, and they shall, surrounded by his soldiers,
And clad in steel, and they shall feel the edge
Of life-destroying swords. Yes, they shall see him!"
After uttering this indignant speech, Feridun showed to the messenger
his great warriors, one by one. He showed him Kavah and his two sons,
Shahpur, and Shirueh, and Karun, and Sam, and Nariman, and other
chiefs--all of admirable courage and valor in war--and thus resumed:
"Hence with your presents, hence, away,
Can gold or gems turn night to day?
Must kingly heads be bought and sold,
And shall I barter blood for gold?
Shall gold a father's heart entice,
Blood to redeem beyond all price?
Hence, hence with treachery; I have heard
Their glozing falsehoods, every word;
But human feelings guide my will,
And keep my honour sacred still.
True is the oracle we read:
'Those who have sown oppression's seed
Reap bitter fruit; their souls, perplext,
Joy not in this world or the next.'
The brothers of my murdered boy,
Who could a father's hopes destroy,
An equal punishment will reap,
And lasting vengeance o'er them sweep.
They rooted up my favourite tree,
But yet a branch remains to me.
Now the young lion comes apace,
The glory of his glorious race;
He comes apace, to punish guilt,
Where brother's blood was basely spilt;
And blood alone for blood must pay;
Hence with your gold, depart, away!"
When the messenger heard these reproaches, mingled with poison, he
immediately took leave, and trembling with fear, returned to Silim and
Tur with the utmost speed. He described to them in strong and alarming
terms the appearance and character of Minuchihr, and his warriors; of
that noble youth who with frowning eyebrows was only anxious for battle.
He then communicated to them in what manner he had been received, and
repeated the denunciations of Feridun, at which the brothers were
exceedingly grieved and disappointed. But Silim said to Tur:
"Let us be first upon the field, before
He marshals his array. It follows not,
That he should be a hero bold and valiant,
Because he is descended from the brave;
But it becomes us well to try our power,--
For speed, in war, is better than delay."
In this spirit the two brothers rapidly collected from both their
kingdoms a large army, and proceeded towards Iran. On hearing of their
progress, Feridun said: "This is well--they come of themselves. The
forest game surrenders itself voluntarily at the foot of the sportsman."
Then he commanded his army to wait quietly till they arrived; for skill
and patience, he observed, will draw the lion's head into your toils.
As soon as the enemy had approached within a short distance, Minuchihr
solicited Feridun to commence the engagement--and the king having
summoned his chief warriors before him, appointed them all, one by one,
to their proper places.
The warriors of renown assembled straight
With ponderous clubs; each like a lion fierce,
Girded his loins impatient. In their front
The sacred banner of the blacksmith waved;
Bright scimitars were brandished in the air;
Beneath them pranced their steeds, all armed for fight,
And so incased in iron were the chiefs
From top to toe, their eyes were only seen.
When Karun drew his hundred thousand troops
Upon the field, the battle-word was given,
And Minuchihr was, like the cypress tall,
Engaged along the centre of the hosts;
And like the moon he shone, amid the groups
Of congregated clouds, or as the sun
Glittering upon the mountain of Alberz.
The squadrons in advance Kabad commanded,
Garshasp the left, and Sam upon the right.
The shedders of a brother's blood had now
Brought their innumerous legions to the strife,
And formed them in magnificent array:
The picket guards were almost thrown together,
When Tur sprung forward, and with sharp reproach,
And haughty gesture, thus addressed Kabad:
"Ask this new king, this Minuchihr, since Heaven
To Irij gave a daughter, who on him
Bestowed the mail, the battle-axe, and sword?"
To this insulting speech, Kabad replied:
"The message shall be given, and I will bring
The answer, too. Ye know what ye have done;
Have ye not murdered him who, trusting, sought
Protection from ye? All mankind for this
Must curse your memory till the day of doom;
If savage monsters were to fly your presence,
It would not be surprising. Those who die
In this most righteous cause will go to Heaven,
With all their sins forgotten!" Then Kabad
Went to the king, and told the speech of Tur:
A smile played o'er the cheek of Minuchihr
As thus he spoke: "A boaster he must be,
Or a vain fool, for when engaged in battle,
Vigour of arm and the enduring soul,
Will best be proved. I ask but for revenge--
Vengeance for Irij slain. Meanwhile, return;
We shall not fight to-day."
He too retired,
And in his tent upon the sandy plain,
Ordered the festive board to be prepared,
And wine and music whiled the hours away.
When morning dawned the battle commenced, and multitudes were slain on
The spacious plain became a sea of blood;
It seemed as if the earth was covered o'er
With crimson tulips; slippery was the ground,
And all in dire confusion.
The army of Minuchihr was victorious, owing to the bravery and skill of
the commander. But Heaven was in his favor.
In the evening Silim and Tur consulted together, and came to the
resolution of effecting a formidable night attack on the enemy. The
spies of Minuchihr, however, obtained information of this intention, and
communicated the secret to the king. Minuchihr immediately placed the
army in charge of Karun, and took himself thirty thousand men to wait in
ambuscade for the enemy, and frustrate his views. Tur advanced with a
hundred thousand men; but as he advanced, he found every one on the
alert, and aware of his approach. He had gone too far to retreat in the
dark without fighting, and therefore began a vigorous conflict.
Minuchihr sprung up from his ambuscade, and with his thirty thousand men
rushed upon the centre of the enemy's troops, and in the end encountered
Tur. The struggle was not long. Minuchihr dexterously using his javelin,
hurled him from his saddle precipitately to the ground, and then with
his dagger severed the head from his body. The body he left to be
devoured by the beasts of the field, and the head he sent as a trophy to
Feridun; after which, he proceeded in search of Silim.
The army of the confederates, however, having suffered such a signal
defeat, Silim thought it prudent to fall back and take refuge in a fort.
But Minuchihr went in pursuit, and besieged the castle. One day a
warrior named Kaku made a sally out of the fort, and approaching the
centre of the besieging army, threw a javelin at Minuchihr, which,
however, fell harmless before it reached its aim. Then Minuchihr seized
the enemy by the girdle, raised him up in air, and flung him from his
saddle to the ground.
He grasped the foe-man by the girth,
And thundering drove him to the earth;
By wound of spear, and gory brand,
He died upon the burning sand.
The siege was continued for some time with the view of weakening the
power of Silim; at last Minuchihr sent a message to him, saying: "Let
the battle be decided between us. Quit the fort, and boldly meet me
here, that it may be seen to whom God gives the victory." Silim could
not, without disgrace, refuse this challenge: he descended from the
fort, and met Minuchihr. A desperate conflict ensued, and he was slain
on the spot. Minuchihr's keen sword severed the royal head from the
body, and thus quickly ended the career of Silim. After that, the whole
of the enemy's troops were defeated and put to flight in every
The leading warriors of the routed army now sought protection from
Minuchihr, who immediately complied with their solicitation, and by
their influence all the forces of Silim and Tur united under him. To
each he gave rank according to his merits. After the victory, Minuchihr
hastened to pay his respects to Feridun, who received him with praises
and thanksgivings, and the customary honors. Returning from the battle,
Feridun met him on foot; and the moment Minuchihr beheld the venerable
monarch, he alighted and kissed the ground. They then, seated in the
palace together, congratulated themselves on the success of their arms.
In a short time after, the end of Feridun approached; when recommending
Minuchihr to the care of Sam and Nariman, he said: "My hour of departure
has arrived, and I place the prince under your protection." He then
directed Minuchihr to be seated on the throne;
And put himself the crown upon his head,
And stored his mind with counsel good and wise.
Upon the death of Feridun, Minuchihr accordingly succeeded to the
government of the empire, and continued to observe strictly all the laws
and regulations of his great grandfather. He commanded his subjects to
be constant in the worship of God.
The army and the people gave him praise,
Prayed for his happiness and length of days;
Our hearts, they said, are ever bound to thee;
Our hearts, inspired by love and loyalty.
ZAL, THE SON OF SAM
According to the traditionary histories from which Firdusi has derived
his legends, the warrior Sam had a son born to him whose hair was
perfectly white. On his birth the nurse went to Sam and told him that
God had blessed him with a wonderful child, without a single blemish,
excepting that his hair was white; but when Sam saw him he was grieved:
His hair was white as goose's wing,
His cheek was like the rose of spring
His form was straight as cypress tree--
But when the sire was brought to see
That child with hair so silvery white,
His heart revolted at the sight.
His mother gave him the name of Zal and the people said to Sam, "This is
an ominous event, and will be to thee productive of nothing but
calamity; it would be better if thou couldst remove him out of sight.
"No human being of this earth
Could give to such a monster birth;
He must be of the Demon race,
Though human still in form and face.
If not a Demon, he, at least,
Appears a party-coloured beast."
When Sam was made acquainted with these reproaches and sneers of the
people, he determined, though with a sorrowful heart, to take him up to
the mountain Alberz, and abandon him there to be destroyed by beasts of
prey. Alberz was the abode of the Simurgh or Griffin, and, whilst
flying about in quest of food for his hungry young ones, that surprising
animal discovered the child lying alone upon the hard rock, crying and
sucking its fingers. The Simurgh, however, felt no inclination to devour
him, but compassionately took him up in the air, and conveyed him to his
He who is blest with Heaven's grace
Will never want a dwelling-place
And he who bears the curse of Fate
Can never change his wretched state.
A voice, not earthly, thus addressed
The Simurgh in his mountain nest--
"To thee this mortal I resign,
Protected by the power divine;
Let him thy fostering kindness share,
Nourish him with paternal care;
For from his loins, in time, will spring
The champion of the world, and bring
Honour on earth, and to thy name;
The heir of everlasting fame."
The young ones were also kind and affectionate to the infant, which was
thus nourished and protected by the Simurgh for several years.
THE DREAM OF SAM
It is said that one night, after melancholy musings and reflecting on
the miseries of this life, Sam was visited by a dream, and when the
particulars of it were communicated to the interpreters of mysterious
warnings and omens, they declared that Zal was certainly still alive,
although he had been long exposed on Alberz, and left there to be torn
to pieces by wild animals. Upon this interpretation being given, the
natural feelings of the father returned, and he sent his people to the
mountain in search of Zal, but without success. On another night Sam
dreamt a second time, when he beheld a young man of a beautiful
countenance at the head of an immense army, with a banner flying before
him, and a Mubid on his left hand. One of them addressed Sam, and
reproached him thus:--
Unfeeling mortal, hast thou from thy eyes
Washed out all sense of shame? Dost thou believe
That to have silvery tresses is a crime?
If so, thy head is covered with white hair;
And were not both spontaneous gifts from Heaven?
Although the boy was hateful to thy sight,
The grace of God has been bestowed upon him;
And what is human tenderness and love
To Heaven's protection? Thou to him wert cruel,
But Heaven has blest him, shielding him from harm.
Sam screamed aloud in his sleep, and awoke greatly terrified. Without
delay he went himself to Alberz, and ascended the mountain, and wept and
prayed before the throne of the Almighty, saying:--
"If that forsaken child be truly mine,
And not the progeny of Demon fell,
O pity me! forgive the wicked deed,
And to my eyes, my injured son restore."
His prayer was accepted. The Simurgh, hearing the lamentations of Sam
among his people, knew that he had come in quest of his son, and thus
said to Zal:--"I have fed and protected thee like a kind nurse, and I
have given thee the name of Dustan, like a father. Sam, the warrior, has
just come upon the mountain in search of his child, and I must restore
thee to him, and we must part." Zal wept when he heard of this
unexpected separation, and in strong terms expressed his gratitude to
his benefactor; for the Wonderful Bird had not omitted to teach him the
language of the country, and to cultivate his understanding, removed as
they were to such a distance from the haunts of mankind. The Simurgh
soothed him by assuring him that he was not going to abandon him to
misfortune, but to increase his prosperity; and, as a striking proof of
affection, gave him a feather from his own wing, with these
instructions:--"Whenever thou art involved in difficulty or danger, put
this feather on the fire, and I will instantly appear to thee to ensure
thy safety. Never cease to remember me.
"I have watched thee with fondness by day and by night,
And supplied all thy wants with a father's delight;
O forget not thy nurse--still be faithful to me--
And my heart will be ever devoted to thee."
Zal immediately replied in a strain of gratitude and admiration; and
then the Simurgh conveyed him to Sam, and said to him: "Receive thy
son--he is of wonderful promise, and will be worthy of the throne and
The soul of Sam rejoiced to hear
Applause so sweet to a parent's ear;
And blessed them both in thought and word,
The lovely boy, and the Wondrous Bird.
He also declared to Zal that he was ashamed of the crime of which he had
been guilty, and that he would endeavor to obliterate the recollection
of the past by treating him in future with the utmost respect and honor.
When Minuchihr heard from Zabul of these things, and of Sam's return, he
was exceedingly pleased, and ordered his son, Nauder, with a splendid
istakbal, to meet the father and son on their approach to the city.
They were surrounded by warriors and great men, and Sam embraced the
first moment to introduce Zal to the king.
Zal humbly kissed the earth before the king,
And from the hands of Minuchihr received
A golden mace and helm. Then those who knew
The stars and planetary signs, were told
To calculate the stripling's destiny;
And all proclaimed him of exalted fortune,
That he would be prodigious in his might,
Outshining every warrior of the age.
Delighted with this information, Minuchihr, seated upon his throne, with
Karun on one side and Sam on the other, presented Zal with Arabian
horses, and armor, and gold, and splendid garments, and appointed Sam to
the government of Kabul, Zabul, and Ind. Zal accompanied his father on
his return; and when they arrived at Zabulistan, the most renowned
instructors in every art and science were collected together to
cultivate and enrich his young mind.
In the meantime Sam was commanded by the king to invade and subdue the
Demon provinces of Karugsar and Mazinderan; and Zal was in
consequence left by his father in charge of Zabulistan. The young
nursling of the Simurgh is said to have performed the duties of
sovereignty with admirable wisdom and discretion, during the absence of
his father. He did not pass his time in idle exercises, but with zealous
delight in the society of accomplished and learned men, for the purpose
of becoming familiar with every species of knowledge and acquirement.
The city of Zabul, however, as a constant residence, did not entirely
satisfy him, and he wished to see more of the world; he therefore
visited several other places, and proceeded as far as Kabul, where he
pitched his tents, and remained for some time.
The chief of Kabul was descended from the family of Zohak. He was named
Mihrab, and to secure the safety of his state, paid annual tribute to
Sam. Mihrab, on the arrival of Zal, went out of the city to see him, and
was hospitably entertained by the young hero, who soon discovered that
he had a daughter of wonderful attractions.
Her name Rudabeh; screened from public view,
Her countenance is brilliant as the sun;
From head to foot her lovely form is fair
As polished ivory. Like the spring, her cheek
Presents a radiant bloom,--in stature tall,
And o'er her silvery brightness, richly flow
Dark musky ringlets clustering to her feet.
She blushes like the rich pomegranate flower;
Her eyes are soft and sweet as the narcissus,
Her lashes from the raven's jetty plume
Have stolen their blackness, and her brows are bent
Like archer's bow. Ask ye to see the moon?
Look at her face. Seek ye for musky fragrance?
She is all sweetness. Her long fingers seem
Pencils of silver, and so beautiful
Her presence, that she breathes of Heaven and love.
Such was the description of Rudabeh, which inspired the heart of Zal
with the most violent affection, and imagination added to her charms.
Mihrab again waited on Zal, who received him graciously, and asked him
in what manner he could promote his wishes. Mihrab said that he only
desired him to become his guest at a banquet he intended to invite him
to; but Zal thought proper to refuse, because he well knew, if he
accepted an invitation of the kind from a relation of Zohak, that his
father Sam and the King of Persia would be offended. Mihrab returned to
Kabul disappointed, and having gone into his harem, his wife, Sindokht,
inquired after the stranger from Zabul, the white-headed son of Sam. She
wished to know what he was like, in form and feature, and what account
he gave of his sojourn with the Simurgh. Mihrab described him in the
warmest terms of admiration--he was valiant, he said, accomplished and
handsome, with no other defect than that of white hair. And so boundless
was his praise, that Rudabeh, who was present, drank every word with
avidity, and felt her own heart warmed into admiration and love. Full of
emotion, she afterwards said privately to her attendants:
"To you alone the secret of my heart
I now unfold; to you alone confess
The deep sensations of my captive soul.
I love, I love; all day and night of him
I think alone--I see him in my dreams--
You only know my secret--aid me now,
And soothe the sorrows of my bursting heart."
The attendants were startled with this confession and entreaty, and
ventured to remonstrate against so preposterous an attachment.
"What! hast thou lost all sense of shame,
All value for thy honored name!
That thou, in loveliness supreme,
Of every tongue the constant theme,
Should choose, and on another's word.
The nursling of a Mountain Bird!
A being never seen before,
Which human mother never bore!
And can the hoary locks of age,
A youthful heart like thine engage?
Must thy enchanting form be prest
To such a dubious monster's breast?
And all thy beauty's rich array,
Thy peerless charms be thrown away?"
This violent remonstrance was more calculated to rouse the indignation
of Rudabeh than to induce her to change her mind. It did so. But she
subdued her resentment, and again dwelt upon the ardor of her passion.
"My attachment is fixed, my election is made,
And when hearts are enchained 'tis in vain to upbraid.
Neither Kizar nor Faghfur I wish to behold,
Nor the monarch of Persia with jewels and gold;
All, all I despise, save the choice of my heart,
And from his beloved image I never can part.
Call him aged, or young, 'tis a fruitless endeavour
To uproot a desire I must cherish for ever;
Call him old, call him young, who can passion control?
Ever present, and loved, he entrances my soul.
'Tis for him I exist--him I worship alone,
And my heart it must bleed till I call him my own."
As soon as the attendants found that Rudabeh's attachment was deeply
fixed, and not to be removed, they changed their purpose, and became
obedient to her wishes, anxious to pursue any measure that might bring
Zal and their mistress together. Rudabeh was delighted with this proof
of their regard.
It was spring-time, and the attendants repaired towards the
halting-place of Zal, in the neighborhood of the city. Their occupation
seemed to be gathering roses along the romantic banks of a pellucid
streamlet, and when they purposely strayed opposite the tent of Zal, he
observed them, and asked his friends--why they presumed to gather roses
in his garden. He was told that they were damsels sent by the moon of
Kabulistan from the palace of Mihrab to gather roses, and upon hearing
this his heart was touched with emotion. He rose up and rambled about
for amusement, keeping the direction of the river, followed by a servant
with a bow. He was not far from the damsels, when a bird sprung up from
the water, which he shot, upon the wing, with an arrow. The bird
happened to fall near the rose-gatherers, and Zal ordered his servant to
bring it to him. The attendants of Rudabeh lost not the opportunity, as
he approached them, to inquire who the archer was. "Know ye not,"
answered the servant, "that this is Nim-ruz, the son of Sam, and also
called Dustan, the greatest warrior ever known." At this the damsels
smiled, and said that they too belonged to a person of distinction--and
not of inferior worth--to a star in the palace of Mihrab. "We have come
from Kabul to the King of Zabulistan, and should Zal and Rudabeh be of
equal rank, her ruby lips may become acquainted with his, and their
wished-for union be effected." When the servant returned, Zal was
immediately informed of the conversation that had taken place, and in
consequence presents were prepared.
They who to gather roses came--went back
With precious gems--and honorary robes;
And two bright finger-rings were secretly
Sent to the princess.
Then did the attendants of Rudabeh exult in the success of their
artifice, and say that the lion had come into their toils. Rudabeh
herself, however, had some fears on the subject. She anxiously sought to
know exactly the personal appearance of Zal, and happily her warmest
hopes were realized by the description she received. But one difficulty
remained--how were they to meet? How was she to see with her own eyes
the man whom her fancy had depicted in such glowing colors? Her
attendants, sufficiently expert at intrigue, soon contrived the means of
gratifying her wishes. There was a beautiful rural retreat in a
sequestered situation, the apartments of which were adorned with
pictures of great men, and ornamented in the most splendid manner. To
this favorite place Rudabeh retired, and most magnificently dressed,
awaiting the coming of Zal, whom her attendants had previously invited
to repair thither as soon as the sun had gone down. The shadows of
evening were falling as he approached, and the enamoured princess thus
addressed him from her balcony:--
"May happiness attend thee ever, thou,
Whose lucid features make this gloomy night
Clear as the day; whose perfume scents the breeze;
Thou who, regardless of fatigue, hast come
On foot too, thus to see me--"
Hearing a sweet voice, he looked up, and beheld a bright face in the
balcony, and he said to the beautiful vision:--
"How often have I hoped that Heaven
Would, in some secret place display
Thy charms to me, and thou hast given
My heart the wish of many a day;
For now thy gentle voice I hear,
And now I see thee--speak again!
Speak freely in a willing ear,
And every wish thou hast obtain."
Not a word was lost upon Rudabeh, and she soon accomplished her object.
Her hair was so luxuriant, and of such a length, that casting it loose
it flowed down from the balcony; and, after fastening the upper part to
a ring, she requested Zal to take hold of the other end and mount up. He
ardently kissed the musky tresses, and by them quickly ascended.
Then hand in hand within the chambers they
Gracefully passed.--Attractive was the scene,
The walls embellished by the painter's skill,
And every object exquisitely formed,
Sculpture, and architectural ornament,
Fit for a king. Zal with amazement gazed
Upon what art had done, but more he gazed
Upon the witching radiance of his love,
Upon her tulip cheeks, her musky locks,
Breathing the sweetness of a summer garden;
Upon the sparkling brightness of her rings,
Necklace, and bracelets, glittering on her arms.
His mien too was majestic--on his head
He wore a ruby crown, and near his breast
Was seen a belted dagger. Fondly she
With side-long glances marked his noble aspect,
The fine proportions of his graceful limbs,
His strength and beauty. Her enamoured heart
Suffused her cheek with blushes, every glance
Increased the ardent transports of her soul.
So mild was his demeanour, he appeared
A gentle lion toying with his prey.
Long they remained rapt in admiration
Of each other. At length the warrior rose,
And thus addressed her: "It becomes not us
To be forgetful of the path of prudence,
Though love would dictate a more ardent course,
How oft has Sam, my father, counselled me,
Against unseeming thoughts,--unseemly deeds,--
Always to choose the right, and shun the wrong.
How will he burn with anger when he hears
This new adventure; how will Minuchihr
Indignantly reproach me for this dream!
This waking dream of rapture! but I call
High Heaven to witness what I now declare--
Whoever may oppose my sacred vows,
I still am thine, affianced thine, for ever."
And thus Rudabeh: "Thou hast won my heart,
And kings may sue in vain; to thee devoted,
Thou art alone my warrior and my love."
Thus they exclaimed,--then Zal with fond adieus
Softly descended from the balcony,
And hastened to his tent.
As speedily as possible he assembled together his counsellors and Mubids
to obtain their advice on the present extraordinary occasion, and he
represented to them the sacred importance of encouraging matrimonial
For marriage is a contract sealed by Heaven--
How happy is the Warrior's lot, amidst
His smiling children; when he dies, his son
Succeeds him, and enjoys his rank and name.
And is it not a glorious thing to say--
This is the son of Zal, or this of Sam,
The heir of his renowned progenitor?
He then related to them the story of his love and affection for the
daughter of Mihrab; but the Mubids, well knowing that the chief of Kabul
was of the family of Zohak, the serpent-king, did not approve the union
desired, which excited the indignation of Zal. They, however,
recommended his writing a letter to Sam, who might, if he thought
proper, refer the matter to Minuchihr. The letter was accordingly
written and despatched, and when Sam received it, he immediately
referred the question to his astrologers, to know whether the nuptials,
if solemnized between Zal and Rudabeh, would be prosperous or not. They
foretold that the nuptials would be prosperous, and that the issue would
be a son of wonderful strength and power, the conqueror of the world.
This announcement delighted the heart of the old warrior, and he sent
the messenger back with the assurance of his approbation of the proposed
union, but requested that the subject might be kept concealed till he
returned with his army from the expedition to Karugsar, and was able to
consult with Minuchihr.
Zal, exulting at his success, communicated the glad tidings to Rudabeh
by their female emissary, who had hitherto carried on successfully the
correspondence between them. But as she was conveying an answer to this
welcome news, and some presents to Zal, Sindokht, the mother of Rudabeh,
detected her, and, examining the contents of the packet, she found
sufficient evidence, she thought, of something wrong.
"What treachery is this? What have we here!
Sirbund and male attire? Thou, wretch, confess!
Disclose thy secret doings."
The emissary, however, betrayed nothing; but declared that she was a
dealer in jewels and dresses, and had been only showing her merchandise
to Rudabeh. Sindokht, in extreme agitation of mind, hastened to her
daughter's apartment to ascertain the particulars of this affair, when
Rudabeh at once fearlessly acknowledged her unalterable affection for
"I love him so devotedly, all day,
All night my tears have flowed unceasingly;
And one hair of his head I prize more dearly
Than all the world beside; for him I live;
And we have met, and we have sat together,
And pledged our mutual love with mutual joy
And innocence of heart."
Rudabeh further informed her of Sam's consent to their nuptials, which
in some degree satisfied the mother. But when Mihrab was made acquainted
with the arrangement, his rage was unbounded, for he dreaded the
resentment of Sam and Minuchihr when the circumstances became fully
known to them. Trembling with indignation he drew his dagger, and would
have instantly rushed to Rudabeh's chamber to destroy her, had not
Sindokht fallen at his feet and restrained him. He insisted, however, on
her being brought before him; and upon his promise not to do her any
harm, Sindokht complied. Rudabeh disdained to take off her ornaments to
appear as an offender and a supplicant, but, proud of her choice, went
into her father's presence, gayly adorned with jewels, and in splendid
apparel. Mihrab received her with surprise.
"Why all this glittering finery? Is the devil
United to an angel? When a snake
Is met with in Arabia, it is killed!"
But Rudabeh answered not a word, and was permitted to retire with her
When Minuchihr was apprised of the proceedings between Zal and Rudabeh,
he was deeply concerned, anticipating nothing but confusion and ruin to
Persia from the united influence of Zal and Mihrab. Feridun had purified
the world from the abominations of Zohak, and as Mihrab was a descendant
of that merciless tyrant, he feared that some attempt would be made to
resume the enormities of former times; Sam was therefore required to
give his advice on the occasion.
The conqueror of Karugsar and Mazinderan was received on his return with
cordial rejoicings, and he charmed the king with the story of his
triumphant success. The monarch against whom he had fought was
descended, on the mother's side, from Zohak, and his Demon army was more
numerous than ants, or clouds of locusts, covering mountain and plain.
Sam thus proceeded in his description of the conflict.
"And when he heard my voice, and saw what deeds
I had performed, approaching me, he threw
His noose; but downward bending I escaped,
And with my bow I showered upon his head
Steel-pointed arrows, piercing through the brain;
Then did I grasp his loins, and from his horse
Cast him upon the ground, deprived of life.
At this, the demons terrified and pale,
Shrunk back, some flying to the mountain wilds,
And others, taken on the battle-field,
Became obedient to the Persian king."
Minuchihr, gratified by this result of the expedition, appointed Sam to
a new enterprise, which was to destroy Kabul by fire and sword,
especially the house of Mihrab; and that ruler, of the serpent-race, and
all his adherents were to be put to death. Sam, before he took leave to
return to his own government at Zabul, tried to dissuade him from this
violent exercise of revenge, but without making any sensible impression
Meanwhile the vindictive intentions of Minuchihr, which were soon known
at Kabul, produced the greatest alarm and consternation in the family of
Mihrab. Zal now returned to his father, and Sam sent a letter to
Minuchihr, again to deprecate his wrath, and appointed Zal the
messenger. In this letter Sam enumerates his services at Karugsar and
Mazinderan, and especially dwells upon the destruction of a prodigious
"I am thy servant, and twice sixty years
Have seen my prowess. Mounted on my steed,
Wielding my battle-axe, overthrowing heroes,
Who equals Sam, the warrior? I destroyed
The mighty monster, whose devouring jaws
Unpeopled half the land, and spread dismay
From town to town. The world was full of horror,
No bird was seen in air, no beast of prey
In plain or forest; from the stream he drew
The crocodile; the eagle from the sky.
The country had no habitant alive,
And when I found no human being left,
I cast away all fear, and girt my loins,
And in the name of God went boldly forth,
Armed for the strife. I saw him towering rise,
Huge as a mountain, with his hideous hair
Dragging upon the ground; his long black tongue
Shut up the path; his eyes two lakes of blood;
And, seeing me, so horrible his roar,
The earth shook with affright, and from his mouth
A flood of poison issued. Like a lion
Forward I sprang, and in a moment drove
A diamond-pointed arrow through his tongue,
Fixing him to the ground. Another went
Down his deep throat, and dreadfully he writhed.
A third passed through his middle. Then I raised
My battle-axe, cow-headed, and with one
Tremendous blow, dislodged his venomous brain,
And deluged all around with blood and poison.
There lay the monster dead, and soon the world
Regained its peace and comfort. Now I'm old,
The vigour of my youth is past and gone,
And it becomes me to resign my station,
To Zal, my gallant son."
Mihrab continued in such extreme agitation, that in his own mind he saw
no means of avoiding the threatened desolation of his country but by
putting his wife and daughter to death. Sindokht however had a better
resource, and suggested the expediency of waiting upon Sam herself, to
induce him to forward her own views and the nuptials between Zal and
Rudabeh. To this Mihrab assented, and she proceeded, mounted on a richly
caparisoned horse, to Zabul with most magnificent presents, consisting
of three hundred thousand dinars; ten horses with golden, and thirty
with silver, housings; sixty richly attired damsels, carrying golden
trays of jewels and musk, and camphor, and wine, and sugar; forty pieces
of figured cloth; a hundred milch camels, and a hundred others for
burden; two hundred Indian swords, a golden crown and throne, and four
elephants. Sam was amazed and embarrassed by the arrival of this
splendid array. If he accepted the presents, he would incur the anger of
Minuchihr; and if he rejected them, Zal would be disappointed and driven
to despair. He at length accepted them, and concurred in the wishes of
Sindokht respecting the union of the two lovers.
When Zal arrived at the court of Minuchihr, he was received with honor,
and the letter of Sam being read, the king was prevailed upon to consent
to the pacific proposals that were made in favor of Mihrab, and the
nuptials. He too consulted his astrologers, and was informed that the
offspring of Zal and Rudabeh would be a hero of matchless strength and
valor. Zal, on his return through Kabul, had an interview with Rudabeh,
who welcomed him in the most rapturous terms:--
Be thou for ever blest, for I adore thee,
And make the dust of thy fair feet my pillow.
In short, with the approbation of all parties the marriage at length
took place, and was celebrated at the beautiful summer-house where first
the lovers met. Sam was present at Kabul on the happy occasion, and soon
afterwards returned to Sistan, preparatory to resuming his martial
labors in Karugsar and Mazinderan.
As the time drew near that Rudabeh should become a mother, she suffered
extremely from constant indisposition, and both Zal and Sindokht were in
the deepest distress on account of her precarious state.
The cypress leaf was withering; pale she lay,
Unsoothed by rest or sleep, death seemed approaching.
At last Zal recollected the feather of the Simurgh, and followed the
instructions which he had received, by placing it on the fire. In a
moment darkness surrounded them, which was, however, immediately
dispersed by the sudden appearance of the Simurgh. "Why," said the
Simurgh, "do I see all this grief and sorrow? Why are the tear-drops in
the warrior's eyes? A child will be born of mighty power, who will
become the wonder of the world."
The Simurgh then gave some advice which was implicitly attended to, and
the result was that Rudabeh was soon out of danger. Never was beheld so
prodigious a child. The father and mother were equally amazed. They
called the boy Rustem. On the first day he looked a year old, and he
required the milk of ten nurses. A likeness of him was immediately
worked in silk, representing him upon a horse, and armed like a warrior,
which was sent to Sam, who was then fighting in Mazinderan, and it made
the old champion almost delirious with joy. At Kabul and Zabul there was
nothing but feasting and rejoicing, as soon as the tidings were known,
and thousands of dinars were given away in charity to the poor. When
Rustem was five years of age, he ate as much as a man, and some say that
even in his third year he rode on horseback. In his eighth year he was
as powerful as any hero of the time.
In beauty of form and in vigour of limb,
No mortal was ever seen equal to him.
Both Sam and Mihrab, though far distant from the scene of felicity, were
equally anxious to proceed to Zabulistan to behold their wonderful
grandson. Both set off, but Mihrab arrived first with great pomp, and a
whole army for his suite, and went forth with Zal to meet Sam, and give
him an honorable welcome. The boy Rustem was mounted on an elephant,
wearing a splendid crown, and wanted to join them, but his father kindly
prevented him undergoing the inconvenience of alighting. Zal and Mihrab
dismounted as soon as Sam was seen at a distance, and performed the
ceremonies of an affectionate reception. Sam was indeed amazed when he
did see the boy, and showered blessings on his head.
Afterwards Sam placed Mihrab on his right hand, and Zal on his left, and
Rustem before him, and began to converse with his grandson, who thus
manifested to him his martial disposition.
"Thou art the champion of the world, and I
The branch of that fair tree of which thou art
The glorious root: to thee I am devoted,
But ease and leisure have no charms for me;
Nor music, nor the songs of festive joy.
Mounted and armed, a helmet on my brow,
A javelin in my grasp, I long to meet
The foe, and cast his severed head before thee."
Then Sam made a royal feast, and every apartment in his palace was
richly decorated, and resounded with mirth and rejoicing. Mihrab was the
merriest, and drank the most, and in his cups saw nothing but himself,
so vain had he become from the countenance he had received. He kept
"Now I feel no alarm about Sam or Zal-zer,
Nor the splendour and power of the great Minuchihr;
Whilst aided by Rustem, his sword, and his mace,
Not a cloud of misfortune can shadow my face.
All the laws of Zohak I will quickly restore,
And the world shall be fragrant and blest as before."
This exultation plainly betrayed the disposition of his race; and though
Sam smiled at the extravagance of Mihrab, he looked up towards Heaven,
and prayed that Rustem might not prove a tyrant, but be continually
active in doing good, and humble before God.
Upon Sam departing, on his return to Karugsar and Mazinderan, Zal went
with Rustem to Sistan, a province dependent on his government, and
settled him there. The white elephant, belonging to Minuchihr, was kept
at Sistan. One night Rustem was awakened out of his sleep by a great
noise, and cries of distress when starting up and inquiring the cause,
he was told that the white elephant had got loose, and was trampling and
crushing the people to death. In a moment he issued from his apartment,
brandishing his mace; but was soon stopped by the servants, who were
anxious to expostulate with him against venturing out in the darkness of
night to encounter a ferocious elephant. Impatient at being thus
interrupted he knocked down one of the watchmen, who fell dead at his
feet, and the others running away, he broke the lock of the gate, and
escaped. He immediately opposed himself to the enormous animal, which
looked like a mountain, and kept roaring like the River Nil. Regarding
him with a cautious and steady eye, he gave a loud shout, and fearlessly
struck him a blow, with such strength and vigor, that the iron mace was
bent almost double. The elephant trembled, and soon fell exhausted and
lifeless in the dust. When it was communicated to Zal that Rustem had
killed the animal with one blow, he was amazed, and fervently returned
thanks to heaven. He called him to him, and kissed him, and said: "My
darling boy, thou art indeed unequalled in valor and magnanimity."
Then it occurred to Zal that Rustem, after such an achievement, would be
a proper person to take vengeance on the enemies of his grandfather
Nariman, who was sent by Feridun with a large army against an enchanted
fort situated upon the mountain Sipund, and who whilst endeavoring to
effect his object, was killed by a piece of rock thrown down from above
by the besieged. The fort, which was many miles high, inclosed
beautiful lawns of the freshest verdure, and delightful gardens
abounding with fruit and flowers; it was also full of treasure. Sam, on
hearing of the fate of his father, was deeply afflicted, and in a short
time proceeded against the fort himself; but he was surrounded by a
trackless desert. He knew not what course to pursue; not a being was
ever seen to enter or come out of the gates, and, after spending months
and years in fruitless endeavors, he was compelled to retire from the
appalling enterprise in despair. "Now," said Zal to Rustem, "the time is
come, and the remedy is at hand; thou art yet unknown, and may easily
accomplish our purpose." Rustem agreed to the proposed adventure, and
according to his father's advice, assumed the dress and character of a
salt-merchant, prepared a caravan of camels, and secreted arms for
himself and companions among the loads of salt. Everything being ready
they set off, and it was not long before they reached the fort on the
mountain Sipund. Salt being a precious article, and much wanted, as soon
as the garrison knew that it was for sale, the gates were opened; and
then was Rustem seen, together with his warriors, surrounded by men,
women, and children, anxiously making their purchases, some giving
clothes in exchange, some gold, and some silver, without fear or
But when the night came on, and it was dark,
Rustem impatient drew his warriors forth,
And moved towards the mansion of the chief--
But not unheard. The unaccustomed noise,
Announcing warlike menace and attack,
Awoke the Kotwal, who sprung up to meet
The peril threatened by the invading foe.
Rustem meanwhile uplifts his ponderous mace,
And cleaves his head, and scatters on the ground
The reeking brains. And now the garrison
Are on the alert, all hastening to the spot
Where battle rages; midst the deepened gloom
Flash sparkling swords, which show the crimson earth
Bright as the ruby.
Rustem continued fighting with the people of the fort all night, and
just as morning dawned, he discovered the chief and slew him. Those who
survived, then escaped, and not one of the inhabitants remained within
the walls alive. Rustem's next object was to enter the governor's
mansion. It was built of stone, and the gate, which was made of iron, he
burst open with his battle-axe, and advancing onward, he discovered a
temple, constructed with infinite skill and science, beyond the power of
mortal man, and which contained amazing wealth, in jewels and gold. All
the warriors gathered for themselves as much treasure as they could
carry away, and more than imagination can conceive; and Rustem wrote to
Zal to know his further commands on the subject of the capture. Zal,
overjoyed at the result of the enterprise, replied:
Thou hast illumed the soul of Nariman,
Now in the blissful bowers of Paradise,
By punishing his foes with fire and sword.
He then recommended him to load all the camels with as much of the
invaluable property as could be removed, and bring it away, and then
burn and destroy the whole place, leaving not a single vestige; and the
command having been strictly complied with, Rustem retraced his steps to
On his return Zal pressed him to his heart,
And paid him public honors. The fond mother
Kissed and embraced her darling son, and all
Uniting, showered their blessings on his head.
DEATH OF MINUCHIHR
To Minuchihr we now must turn again,
And mark the close of his illustrious reign.
The king had flourished one hundred and twenty years, when now the
astrologers ascertained that the period of his departure from this life
was at hand.
They told him of that day of bitterness,
Which would obscure the splendour of his throne;
And said--"The time approaches, thou must go,
Doubtless to Heaven. Think what thou hast to do;
And be it done before the damp cold earth
Inshrine thy body. Let not sudden death
O'ertake thee, ere thou art prepared to die!"
Warned by the wise, he called his courtiers round him,
And thus he counselled Nauder:--"O, my son!
Fix not thy heart upon a regal crown,
For this vain world is fleeting as the wind;
The pain and sorrows of twice sixty years
Have I endured, though happiness and joy
Have also been my portion. I have fought
In many a battle, vanquished many a foe;
By Feridun's commands I girt my loins,
And his advice has ever been my guide.
I hurled just vengeance on the tyrant-brothers
Silim and Tur, who slew the gentle Irij;
And cities have I built, and made the tree
Which yielded poison, teem with wholesome fruit.
And now to thee the kingdom I resign,
That kingdom which belonged to Feridun,
And thou wilt be the sovereign of the world!
But turn not from the worship of thy God,
That sacred worship Moses taught, the best
Of all the prophets; turn not from the path
Of purest holiness, thy father's choice.
"My son, events of peril are before thee;
Thy enemy will come in fierce array,
From the wild mountains of Turan, the son
Of Poshang, the invader. In that hour
Of danger, seek the aid of Sam and Zal,
And that young branch just blossoming; Turan
Will then have no safe buckler of defence,
None to protect it from their conquering arms."
Thus spoke the sire prophetic to his son,
And both were moved to tears. Again the king
Resumed his warning voice: "Nauder, I charge thee
Place not thy trust upon a world like this,
Where nothing fixed remains. The caravan
Goes to another city, one to-day,
The next, to-morrow, each observes its turn
And time appointed--mine has come at last,
And I must travel on the destined road."
At the period Minuchihr uttered this exhortation, he was entirely free
from indisposition, but he shortly afterwards closed his eyes in death.
Upon the demise of Minuchihr, Nauder ascended the throne, and commenced
his reign in the most promising manner; but before two months had
passed, he neglected the counsels of his father, and betrayed the
despotic character of his heart. To such an extreme did he carry his
oppression, that to escape from his violence, the people were induced to
solicit other princes to come and take possession of the empire. The
courtiers labored under the greatest embarrassment, their monarch being
solely occupied in extorting money from his subjects, and amassing
wealth for his own coffers. Nauder was not long in perceiving the
dissatisfaction that universally prevailed, and, anticipating, not only
an immediate revolt, but an invading army, solicited, according to his
father's advice, the assistance of Sam, then at Mazinderan. The
complaints of the people, however, reached Sam before the arrival of the
messenger, and when he received the letter, he was greatly distressed on
account of the extreme severity exercised by the new king. The champion,
in consequence, proceeded forthwith from Mazinderan to Persia, and when
he entered the capital, he was joyously welcomed, and at once entreated
by the people to take the sovereignty upon himself. It was said of
The gloom of tyranny has hid
The light his father's counsel gave;
The hope of life is lost amid
The desolation of the grave.
The world is withering in his thrall,
Exhausted by his iron sway;
Do thou ascend the throne, and all
Will cheerfully thy will obey.
But Sam said, "No; I should then be ungrateful to Minuchihr, a traitor,
and deservedly offensive in the eyes of God. Nauder is the king, and I
am bound to do him service, although he has deplorably departed from the
advice of his father." He then soothed the alarm and irritation of the
chiefs, and engaging to be a mediator upon the unhappy occasion, brought
them to a more pacific tone of thinking. After this he immediately
repaired to Nauder, who received him with great favor and kindness. "O
king," said he, "only keep Feridun in remembrance, and govern the empire
in such a manner that thy name may be honored by thy subjects; for, be
well assured, that he who has a just estimate of the world, will never
look upon it as his place of rest. It is but an inn, where all
travellers meet on their way to eternity, but must not remain. The wise
consider those who fix their affections on this life, as utterly devoid
of reason and reflection:
"Pleasure, and pomp, and wealth may be obtained--
And every want luxuriously supplied:
But suddenly, without a moment's warning,
Death comes, and hurls the monarch from his throne,
His crown and sceptre scattering in the dust.
He who is satisfied with earthly joys,
Can never know the blessedness of Heaven;
His soul must still be dark. Why do the good
Suffer in this world, but to be prepared
For future rest and happiness? The name
Of Feridun is honoured among men,
Whilst curses load the memory of Zohak."
This intercession of Sam produced an entire change in the government of
Nauder, who promised, in future, to rule his people according to the
principles of Husheng, and Feridun, and Minuchihr. The chiefs and
captains of the army were, in consequence, contented, and the kingdom
reunited itself under his sway.
In the meantime, however, the news of the death of Minuchihr, together
with Nauder's injustice and seventy, and the disaffection of his people,
had reached Turan, of which country Poshang, a descendant from Tur, was
then the sovereign. Poshang, who had been unable to make a single
successful hostile movement during the life of Minuchihr, at once
conceived this to be a fit opportunity of taking revenge for the blood
of Silim and Tur, and every appearance seeming to be in his favor, he
called before him his heroic son Afrasiyab, and explained to him his
purpose and views. It was not difficult to inspire the youthful mind of
Afrasiyab with the sentiments he himself cherished, and a large army was
immediately collected to take the field against Nauder. Poshang was
proud of the chivalrous spirit and promptitude displayed by his son, who
is said to have been as strong as a lion, or an elephant, and whose
shadow extended miles. His tongue was like a bright sword, and his heart
as bounteous as the ocean, and his hands like the clouds when rain falls
to gladden the thirsty earth. Aghriras, the brother of Afrasiyab,
however, was not so precipitate. He cautioned his father to be prudent,
for though Persia could no longer boast of the presence of Minuchihr,
still the great warrior Sam, and Karun, and Garshasp, were living, and
Poshang had only to look at the result of the wars in which Silim and
Tur were involved, to be convinced that the existing conjuncture
required mature deliberation. "It would be better," said he, "not to
begin the contest at all, than to bring ruin and desolation on our own
country." Poshang, on the contrary, thought the time peculiarly fit and
inviting, and contended that, as Minuchihr took vengeance for the blood
of his grandfather, so ought Afrasiyab to take vengeance for his. "The
grandson," he said, "who refuses to do this act of justice, is unworthy
of his family. There is nothing to apprehend from the efforts of Nauder,
who is an inexperienced youth, nor from the valor of his warriors.
Afrasiyab is brave and powerful in war, and thou must accompany him and
share the glory." After this no further observation was offered, and the
martial preparations were completed.
AFRASIYAB MARCHES AGAINST NAUDER
The brazen drums on the elephants were sounded as the signal of
departure, and the army proceeded rapidly to its destination,
overshadowing the earth in its progress. Afrasiyab had penetrated as far
as the Jihun before Nauder was aware of his approach. Upon receiving
this intelligence of the activity of the enemy, the warriors of the
Persian army immediately moved in that direction, and on their arrival
at Dehstan, prepared for battle.
Afrasiyab despatched thirty thousand of his troops under the command of
Shimasas and Khazervan to Zabulistan, to act against Zal, having heard
on his march of the death of the illustrious Sam, and advanced himself
upon Dehstan with four hundred thousand soldiers, covering the ground
like swarms of ants and locusts. He soon discovered that Nauder's forces
did not exceed one hundred and forty thousand men, and wrote to Poshang,
his father, in high spirits, especially on account of not having to
contend against Sam, the warrior, and informed him that he had detached
Shimasas against Zabulistan. When the armies had approached to within
two leagues of each other, Barman, one of the Turanian chiefs, offered
to challenge any one of the enemy to single combat: but Aghriras
objected to it, not wishing that so valuable a hero should run the
hazard of discomfiture. At this Afrasiyab was very indignant and
directed Barman to follow the bent of his own inclinations.
"'Tis not for us to shrink from Persian foe,
Put on thy armour, and prepare thy bow."
Accordingly the challenge was given. Karun looked round, and the only
person who answered the call was the aged Kobad, his brother. Karun and
Kobad were both sons of Kavah, the blacksmith, and both leaders in the
Persian army. No persuasion could restrain Kobad from the unequal
conflict. He resisted all the entreaties of Karun, who said to him--
"O, should thy hoary locks be stained with blood,
Thy legions will be overwhelmed with grief,
And, in despair, decline the coming battle."
But what was the reply of brave Kobad?
"Brother, this body, this frail tenement,
Belongs to death. No living man has ever
Gone up to Heaven--for all are doomed to die.--
Some by the sword, the dagger, or the spear,
And some, devoured by roaring beasts of prey;
Some peacefully upon their beds, and others
Snatched suddenly from life, endure the lot
Ordained by the Creator. If I perish,
Does not my brother live, my noble brother,
To bury me beneath a warrior's tomb,
And bless my memory?"
Saying this, he rushed forward, and the two warriors met in desperate
conflict. The struggle lasted all day; at last Barman threw a stone at
his antagonist with such force, that Kobad in receiving the blow fell
lifeless from his horse. When Karun saw that his brother was slain, he
brought forward his whole army to be revenged for the death of Kobad.
Afrasiyab himself advanced to the charge, and the encounter was
dreadful. The soldiers who fell among the Turanians could not be
numbered, but the Persians lost fifty thousand men.
Loud neighed the steeds, and their resounding hoofs.
Shook the deep caverns of the earth; the dust
Rose up in clouds and hid the azure heavens--
Bright beamed the swords, and in that carnage wide,
Blood flowed like water. Night alone divided
The hostile armies.
When the battle ceased Karun fell back upon Dehstan, and communicated
his misfortune to Nauder, who lamented the loss of Kobad, even more than
that of Sam. In the morning Karun again took the field against
Afrasiyab, and the conflict was again terrible. Nauder boldly opposed
himself to the enemy, and singling out Afrasiyab, the two heroes fought
with great bravery till night again put an end to the engagement. The
Persian army had suffered most, and Nauder retired to his tent
disappointed, fatigued, and sorrowful. He then called to mind the words
of Minuchihr, and called for his two sons, Tus and Gustahem. With
melancholy forebodings he directed them to return to Iran, with his
shubistan, or domestic establishment, and take refuge on the mountain
Alberz, in the hope that some one of the race of Feridun might survive
the general ruin which seemed to be approaching.
The armies rested two days. On the third the reverberating noise of
drums and trumpets announced the recommencement of the battle. On the
Persian side Shahpur had been appointed in the room of Kobad, and Barman
and Shiwaz led the right and left of the Turanians under Afrasiyab.
From dawn to sunset, mountain, plain, and stream,
Were hid from view; the earth, beneath the tread
Of myriads, groaned; and when the javelins cast
Long shadows on the plain at even-tide,
The Tartar host had won the victory;
And many a Persian chief fell on that day:--
Shahpur himself was slain.
When Nauder and Karun saw the unfortunate result of the battle, they
again fell back upon Dehstan, and secured themselves in the fort.
Afrasiyab in the meantime despatched Karukhan to Iran, through the
desert, with a body of horsemen, for the purpose of intercepting and
capturing the shubistan of Nauder. As soon as Karun heard of this
expedition he was all on fire, and proposed to pursue the squadron under
Karukhan, and frustrate at once the object which the enemy had in view;
and though Nauder was unfavorable to this movement, Karun, supported by
several of the chiefs and a strong volunteer force, set off at midnight,
without permission, on this important enterprise. It was not long before
they reached the Duz-i-Suped, or white fort, of which Gustahem was the
governor, and falling in with Barman, who was also pushing forward to
Persia, Karun, in revenge for his brother Kobad, sought him out, and
dared him to single combat. He threw his javelin with such might, that
his antagonist was driven furiously from his horse; and then,
dismounting, he cut off his head, and hung it at his saddle-bow. After
this he attacked and defeated the Tartar troops, and continued his march
Nauder having found that Karun had departed, immediately followed, and
Afrasiyab was not long in pursuing him. The Turanians at length came up
with Nauder, and attacked him with great vigor. The unfortunate king,
unable to parry the onset, fell into the hands of his enemies, together
with upwards of one thousand of his famous warriors.
Long fought they, Nauder and the Tartar-chief,
And the thick dust which rose from either host,
Darkened the rolling Heavens. Afrasiyab
Seized by the girdle-belt the Persian king,
And furious, dragged him from his foaming horse.
With him a thousand warriors, high in name,
Were taken on the field; and every legion,
Captured whilst flying from the victor's brand.
Such are the freaks of Fortune: friend and foe
Alternate wear the crown. The world itself
Is an ingenious juggler--every moment
Playing some novel trick; exalting one
In pomp and splendour, crushing down another,
As if in sport,--and death the end of all!
After the achievement of this victory Afrasiyab directed that Karun
should be pursued and attacked wherever he might be found; but when he
heard that he had hurried on for the protection of the shubistan, and
had conquered and slain Barman, he gnawed his hands with rage. The reign
of Nauder lasted only seven years. After him Afrasiyab was the master of
It has already been said that Shimasas and Khazervan were sent by
Afrasiyab with thirty thousand men against Kabul and Zabul, and when Zal
heard of this movement he forthwith united with Mihrab the chief of
Kabul, and having first collected a large army in Sistan, had a conflict
with the two Tartar generals.
Zal promptly donned himself in war attire,
And, mounted like a hero, to the field
Hastened, his soldiers frowning on their steeds.
Now Khazervan grasps his huge battle-axe,
And, his broad shield extending, at one blow
Shivers the mail of Zal, who calls aloud
As, like a lion, to the fight he springs,
Armed with his father's mace. Sternly he looks
And with the fury of a dragon, drives
The weapon through his adversary's head,
Staining the ground with streaks of blood, resembling
The waving stripes upon a tiger's back.
At this time Rustem was confined at home with the smallpox. Upon the
death of Khazervan, Shimasas thirsted to be revenged; but when Zal
meeting him raised his mace, and began to close, the chief became
alarmed and turned back, and all his squadrons followed his example.
Fled Shimasas, and all his fighting train,
Like herds by tempests scattered o'er the plain.
Zal set off in pursuit, and slew a great number of the enemy; but when
Afrasiyab was made acquainted with this defeat, he immediately released
Nauder from his fetters, and in his rage instantly deprived him of life.
He struck him and so deadly was the blow,
Breath left the body in a moment's space.
After this Afrasiyab turned his views towards Tus and Gustahem in the
hope of getting them into his hands; but as soon as they received
intimation of his object, the two brothers retired from Iran, and went
to Sistan to live under the protection of Zal. The champion received
them with due respect and honor. Karun also went, with all the warriors
and people who had been supported by Nauder, and co-operated with Zal,
who encouraged them with the hopes of future success. Zal, however,
considered that both Tus and Gustahem were still of a tender age--that a
monarch of extraordinary wisdom and energy was required to oppose
Afrasiyab--that he himself was not of the blood of the Kais, nor fit for
the duties of sovereignty, and, therefore, he turned his thoughts
towards Aghriras, the younger brother of Afrasiyab, distinguished as he
was for his valor, prudence, and humanity, and to whom Poshang, his
father, had given the government of Rai. To him Zal sent an envoy,
saying, that if he would proceed to Sistan, he should be supplied with
ample resources to place him on the throne of Persia; that by the
co-operation of Zal and all his warriors the conquest would be easy, and
that there would be no difficulty in destroying the power of Afrasiyab.
Aghriras accepted the offer, and immediately proceeded from his kingdom
of Rai towards Sistan. On his arrival at Babel, Afrasiyab heard of his
ambitious plans, and lost no time in assembling his army and marching to
arrest the progress of his brother. Aghriras, unable to sustain a
battle, had recourse to negotiation and a conference, in which Afrasiyab
said to him, "What rebellious conduct is this, of which thou art guilty?
Is not the country of Rai sufficient for thee, that thou art thus
aspiring to be a great king?" Aghriras replied: "Why reproach and insult
me thus? Art thou not ashamed to accuse another of rebellious conduct?
"Shame might have held thy tongue; reprove not me
In bitterness; God did not give thee power
To injure man, and surely not thy kin."
Afrasiyab, enraged at this reproof,
Replied by a foul deed--he grasped his sword,
And with remorseless fury slew his brother!
When intelligence of this cruel catastrophe came to Zal's ears, he
exclaimed: "Now indeed has the empire of Afrasiyab arrived at its
"Yes, yes, the tyrant's throne is tottering now,
And past is all his glory."
Then Zal bound his loins in hostility against Afrasiyab, and gathering
together all his warriors, resolved upon taking revenge for the death of
Nauder, and expelling the tyrant from Persia. Neither Tus nor Gustahem
being yet capable of sustaining the cares and duties of the throne, his
anxiety was to obtain the assistance of some one of the race of Feridun.
These youths were for imperial rule unfit:
A king of royal lineage and worth
The state required, and none could he remember
Save Tahmasp's son, descended from the blood
At the time when Silim and Tur were killed, Tahmasp, the son of Silim,
fled from the country and took refuge in an island, where he died, and
left a son named Zau. Zal sent Karun, the son of Kavah, attended by a
proper escort, with overtures to Zau, who readily complied, and was
under favorable circumstances seated upon the throne:
Speedily, in arms,
He led his troops to Persia, fought, and won
A kingdom, by his power and bravery--
And happy was the day when princely Zau
Was placed upon that throne of sovereignty;
All breathed their prayers upon his future reign,
And o'er his head (the customary rite)
Shower'd gold and jewels.
When he had subdued the country, he turned his arms against Afrasiyab,
who in consequence of losing the co-operation of the Persians, and not
being in a state to encounter a superior force, thought it prudent to
retreat, and return to his father. The reign of Zau lasted five years,
after which he died, and was succeeded by his son Garshasp.
Garshasp, whilst in his minority, being unacquainted with the affairs of
government, abided in all things by the judgment and counsels of Zal.
When Afrasiyab arrived at Turan, his father was in great distress and
anger on account of the inhuman murder of Aghriras; and so exceedingly
did he grieve, that he would not endure his presence.
And when Afrasiyab returned, his sire,
Poshang, in grief, refused to see his face.
To him the day of happiness and joy
Had been obscured by the dark clouds of night;
And thus he said: "Why didst thou, why didst _thou_
In power supreme, without pretence of guilt,
With thy own hand his precious life destroy?
Why hast thou shed thy innocent brother's blood?
In this life thou art nothing now to me;
Away, I must not see thy face again."
Afrasiyab continued offensive and despicable in the mind of his father
till he heard that Garshasp was unequal to rule over Persia, and then
thinking he could turn the warlike spirit of Afrasiyab to advantage, he
forgave the crime of his son. He forthwith collected an immense army,
and sent him again to effect the conquest of Iran, under the pretext of
avenging the death of Silim and Tur.
Afrasiyab a mighty army raised,
And passing plain and river, mountain high,
And desert wild, filled all the Persian realm
With consternation, universal dread.
The chief authorities of the country applied to Zal as their only remedy
against the invasion of Afrasiyab.
They said to Zal, "How easy is the task
For thee to grasp the world--then, since thou canst
Afford us succour, yield the blessing now;
For, lo! the King Afrasiyab has come,
In all his power and overwhelming might."
Zal replied that he had on this occasion appointed Rustem to command the
army, and to oppose the invasion of Afrasiyab.
And thus the warrior Zal to Rustem spoke--
"Strong as an elephant thou art, my son,
Surpassing thy companions, and I now
Forewarn thee that a difficult emprize,
Hostile to ease or sleep, demands thy care.
'Tis true, of battles thou canst nothing know,
But what am I to do? This is no time
For banquetting, and yet thy lips still breathe
The scent of milk, a proof of infancy;
Thy heart pants after gladness and the sweet
Endearments of domestic life; can I
Then send thee to the war to cope with heroes
Burning with wrath and vengeance?" Rustem said--
"Mistake me not, I have no wish, not I,
For soft endearments, nor domestic life,
Nor home-felt joys. This chest, these nervous limbs,
Denote far other objects of pursuit,
Than a luxurious life of ease and pleasure."
Zal having taken great pains in the instruction of Rustem in warlike
exercises, and the rules of battle, found infinite aptitude in the boy,
and his activity and skill seemed to be superior to his own. He thanked
God for the comfort it gave him, and was glad. Then Rustem asked his
father for a suitable mace; and seeing the huge weapon which was borne
by the great Sam, he took it up, and it answered his purpose exactly.
When the young hero saw the mace of Sam
He smiled with pleasure, and his heart rejoiced;
And paying homage to his father Zal,
The champion of the age, asked for a steed
Of corresponding power, that he might use
That famous club with added force and vigor.
Zal showed him all the horses in his possession, and Rustem tried many,
but found not one of sufficient strength to suit him. At last his eyes
fell upon a mare followed by a foal of great promise, beauty, and
Seeing that foal, whose bright and glossy skin
Was dappled o'er, like blossoms of the rose
Upon a saffron lawn, Rustem prepared
His noose, and held it ready in his hand.
The groom recommended him to secure the foal, as it was the offspring of
Abresh, born of a Diw, or Demon, and called Rakush. The dam had killed
several persons who attempted to seize her young one.
Now Rustem flings the noose, and suddenly
Rakush secures. Meanwhile the furious mare
Attacks him, eager with her pointed teeth
To crush his brain--but, stunned by his loud cry,
She stops in wonder. Then with clenched hand
He smites her on the head and neck, and down
She tumbles, struggling in the pangs of death.
Rakush, however, though with the noose round his neck, was not so easily
subdued; but kept dragging and pulling Rustem, as if by a tether, and it
was a considerable time before the animal could be reduced to
subjection. At last, Rustem thanked Heaven that he had obtained the very
horse he wanted.
"Now am I with my horse prepared to join
The field of warriors!" Thus the hero said,
And placed the saddle on his charger. Zal
Beheld him with delight,--his withered heart
Glowing with summer freshness. Open then
He threw his treasury--thoughtless of the past
Or future--present joy absorbing all
His faculties, and thrilling every nerve.
In a short time Zal sent Rustem with a prodigious army against
Afrasiyab, and two days afterwards set off himself and joined his son.
Afrasiyab said, "The son is but a boy, and the father is old; I shall
have no difficulty in recovering the empire of Persia." These
observations having reached Zal, he pondered deeply, considering that
Garshasp would not be able to contend against Afrasiyab, and that no
other prince of the race of Feridun was known to be in existence.
However, he despatched people in every quarter to gather information on
the subject, and at length Kai-kobad was understood to be residing in
obscurity on the mountain Alberz, distinguished for his wisdom and
valor, and his qualifications for the exercise of sovereign power. Zal
therefore recommended Rustem to proceed to Alberz, and bring him from
Thus Zal to Rustem spoke, "Go forth, my son,
And speedily perform this pressing duty,
To linger would be dangerous. Say to him,
'The army is prepared--the throne is ready,
And thou alone, of the Kaianian race,
Deemed fit for sovereign rule.'"
Rustem accordingly mounted Rakush, and accompanied by a powerful force,
pursued his way towards the mountain Alberz; and though the road was
infested by the troops of Afrasiyab, he valiantly overcame every
difficulty that was opposed to his progress. On reaching the vicinity of
Alberz, he observed a beautiful spot of ground studded with luxuriant
trees, and watered by glittering rills. There too, sitting upon a
throne, placed in the shade on the flowery margin of a stream, he saw a
young man, surrounded by a company of friends and attendants, and
engaged at a gorgeous entertainment. Rustem, when he came near, was
hospitably invited to partake of the feast: but this he declined,
saying, that he was on an important mission to Alberz, which forbade the
enjoyment of any pleasure till his task was accomplished; in short, that
he was in search of Kai-kobad: but upon being told that he would there
receive intelligence of him, he alighted and approached the bank of the
stream where the company was assembled. The young man who was seated
upon the golden throne took hold of the hand of Rustem, and filling up a
goblet with wine, gave another to his guest, and asked him at whose
command or suggestion he was in search of Kai-kobad. Rustem replied,
that he was sent by his father Zal, and frankly communicated to him the
special object they had in view. The young man, delighted with the
information, immediately discovered himself, acknowledged that he was
Kai-kobad, and then Rustem respectfully hailed him as the sovereign of
The banquet was resumed again--
And, hark, the softly warbled strain,
As harp and flute, in union sweet,
The voices of the singers meet.
The black-eyed damsels now display
Their art in many an amorous lay;
And now the song is loud and clear,
And speaks of Rustem's welcome here.
"This is a day, a glorious day,
That drives ungenial thoughts away;
This is a day to make us glad,
Since Rustem comes for Kai-kobad;
O, let us pass our time in glee,
And talk of Jemshid's majesty,
The pomp and glory of his reign,
And still the sparkling goblet drain.--
Come, Saki, fill the wine-cup high,
And let not even its brim be dry;
For wine alone has power to part
The rust of sorrow from the heart.
Drink to the king, in merry mood,
Since fortune smiles, and wine is good;
Quaffing red wine is better far
Than shedding blood in strife, or war;
Man is but dust, and why should he
Become a fire of enmity?
Drink deep, all other cares resign.
For what can vie with ruby wine?"
In this manner ran the song of the revellers. After which, and being
rather merry with wine, Kai-kobad told Rustem of the dream that had
induced him to descend from his place of refuge on Alberz, and to
prepare a banquet on the occasion. He dreamt the night before that two
white falcons from Persia placed a splendid crown upon his head, and
this vision was interpreted by Rustem as symbolical of his father and
himself, who at that moment were engaged in investing him with kingly
power. The hero then solicited the young sovereign to hasten his
departure for Persia, and preparations were made without delay. They
travelled night and day, and fell in with several detachments of the
enemy, which were easily repulsed by the valor of Rustem. The fiercest
attack proceeded from Kelun, one of Afrasiyab's warriors, near the
confines of Persia, who in the encounter used his spear with great
dexterity and address.
But Rustem with his javelin soon transfixed
The Tartar knight--who in the eyes of all
Looked like a spitted chicken--down he sunk,
And all his soldiers fled in wild dismay.
Then Rustem turned aside, and found a spot
Where verdant meadows smiled, and streamlets flowed,
Inviting weary travellers to rest.
There they awhile remained--and when the sun
Went down, and night had darkened all the sky,
The champion joyfully pursued his way,
And brought the monarch to his father's house.
--Seven days they sat in council--on the eighth
Young Kai-kobad was crowned--and placed upon
The ivory throne in presence of his warriors,
Who all besought him to commence the war
Against the Tartar prince, Afrasiyab.
Kai-kobad having been raised to the throne at a council of the warriors,
and advised to oppose the progress of Afrasiyab, immediately assembled
his army. Mihrab, the ruler of Kabul, was appointed to one wing, and
Gustahem to the other--the centre was given to Karun and Kishwad, and
Rustem was placed in front, Zal with Kai-kobad remaining in the rear.
The glorious standard of Kavah streamed upon the breeze.
On the other side, Afrasiyab prepared for battle, assisted by his heroes
Akbas, Wisah, Shimasas, and Gersiwaz; and so great was the clamor and
confusion which proceeded from both armies, that earth and sky seemed
blended together. The clattering of hoofs, the shrill roar of
trumpets, the rattle of brazen drums, and the vivid glittering of spear
and shield, produced indescribable tumult and splendor.
Karun was the first in action, and he brought many a hero to the ground.
He singled out Shimasas; and after a desperate struggle, laid him
breathless on the field. Rustem, stimulated by these exploits, requested
his father, Zal, to point out Afrasiyab, that he might encounter him;
but Zal endeavored to dissuade him from so hopeless an effort, saying,
"My son, be wise, and peril not thyself;
Black is his banner, and his cuirass black--
His limbs are cased in iron--on his head
He wears an iron helm--and high before him
Floats the black ensign; equal in his might
To ten strong men, he never in one place
Remains, but everywhere displays his power.
The crocodile has in the rolling stream
No safety; and a mountain, formed of steel,
Even at the mention of Afrasiyab,
Melts into water. Then, beware of him."
Rustem replied:--"Be not alarmed for me--
My heart, my arm, my dagger, are my castle,
And Heaven befriends me--let him but appear,
Dragon or Demon, and the field is mine."
Then Rustem valiantly urged Rakush towards the Turanian army, and called
out aloud. As soon as Afrasiyab beheld him, he inquired who he could be,
and he was told, "This is Rustem, the son of Zal. Seest thou not in his
hand the battle-axe of Sam? The youth has come in search of renown."
When the combatants closed, they struggled for some time together, and
at length Rustem seized the girdle-belt of his antagonist, and threw him
from his saddle. He wished to drag the captive as a trophy to Kai-kobad,
that his first great victory might be remembered, but unfortunately the
belt gave way, and Afrasiyab fell on the ground. Immediately the fallen
chief was surrounded and rescued by his own warriors, but not before
Rustem had snatched off his crown, and carried it away with the broken
girdle which was left in his hand. And now a general engagement took
place. Rustem being reinforced by the advance of the king, with Zal and
Mihrab at his side--
Both armies seemed so closely waging war,
Thou wouldst have said, that they were mixed together.
The earth shook with the tramping of the steeds,
Rattled the drums; loud clamours from the troops
Echoed around, and from the iron grasp
Of warriors, many a life was spent in air.
With his huge mace, cow-headed, Rustem dyed
The ground with crimson--and wherever seen,
Urging impatiently his fiery horse,
Heads severed fell like withered leaves in autumn.
If, brandishing his sword, he struck the head,
Horseman and steed were downward cleft in twain--
And if his side-long blow was on the loins,
The sword passed through, as easily as the blade
Slices a cucumber. The blood of heroes
Deluged the plain. On that tremendous day,
With sword and dagger, battle-axe and noose,
He cut, and tore, and broke, and bound the brave,
Slaying and making captive. At one swoop
More than a thousand fell by his own hand.
Zal beheld his son with amazement and delight. The Turanians left the
fire-worshippers in possession of the field, and retreated towards the
Jihun with precipitation, not a sound of drum or trumpet denoting their
track. After halting three days in a state of deep dejection and misery,
they continued their retreat along the banks of the Jihun. The Persian
army, upon the flight of the enemy, fell back with their prisoners of
war, and Rustem was received by the king with distinguished honor. When
Afrasiyab returned to his father, he communicated to him, with a heavy
heart, the misfortunes of the battle, and the power that had been
arrayed against him, dwelling with wonder and admiration on the
stupendous valor of Rustem.
Seeing my sable banner,
He to the fight came like a crocodile,
Thou wouldst have said his breath scorched up the plain;
He seized my girdle with such mighty force
As if he would have torn my joints asunder;
And raised me from my saddle--that I seemed
An insect in his grasp--but presently
The golden girdle broke, and down I fell
Ingloriously upon the dusty ground;
But I was rescued by my warrior train!
Thou knowest my valour, how my nerves are strung,
And may conceive the wondrous strength, which thus
Sunk me to nothing. Iron is his frame,
And marvellous his power; peace, peace, alone
Can save us and our country from destruction.
Poshang, considering the luckless state of affairs, and the loss of so
many valiant warriors, thought it prudent to acquiesce in the wishes of
Afrasiyab, and sue for peace. To this end Wisah was intrusted with
magnificent presents, and the overtures which in substance ran thus:
"Minuchihr was revenged upon Tur and Silim for the death of Irij.
Afrasiyab again has revenged their death upon Nauder, the son of
Minuchihr, and now Rustem has conquered Afrasiyab. But why should we any
longer keep the world in confusion--Why should we not be satisfied with
what Feridun, in his wisdom, decreed? Continue in the empire which he
appropriated to Irij, and let the Jihun be the boundary between us, for
are we not connected by blood, and of one family? Let our kingdoms be
gladdened with the blessings of peace."
When these proposals of peace reached Kai-kobad, the following answer was
"Well dost thou know that I was not the first
To wage this war. From Tur, thy ancestor,
The strife began. Bethink thee how he slew
The gentle Irij--his own brother;--how,
In these our days, thy son, Afrasiyab,
Crossing the Jihun, with a numerous force
Invaded Persia--think how Nauder died!
Not in the field of battle, like a hero,
But murdered by thy son--who, ever cruel,
Afterwards stabbed his brother, young Aghriras,
So deeply mourned by thee. Yet do I thirst not
For vengeance, or for strife. I yield the realm
Beyond the Jihun--let that river be
The boundary between us; but thy son,
Afrasiyab, must take his solemn oath
Never to cross that limit, or disturb
The Persian throne again; thus pledged, I grant
The peace solicited."
The messenger without delay conveyed this welcome intelligence to
Poshang, and the Turanian army was in consequence immediately withdrawn
within the prescribed line of division, Rustem, however, expostulated
with the king against making peace at a time the most advantageous for
war, and especially when he had just commenced his victorious career;
but Kai-kobad thought differently, and considered nothing equal to
justice and tranquillity. Peace was accordingly concluded, and upon
Rustem and Zal he conferred the highest honors, and his other warriors
engaged in the late conflict also experienced the effects of his bounty
and gratitude in an eminent degree.
Kai-kobad then moved towards Persia, and establishing his throne at
Istakhar, he administered the affairs of his government with
admirable benevolence and clemency, and with unceasing solicitude for
the welfare of his subjects. In his eyes every one had an equal claim to
consideration and justice. The strong had no power to oppress the weak.
After he had continued ten years at Istakhar, building towns and cities,
and diffusing improvement and happiness over the land, he removed his
throne into Iran. His reign lasted one hundred years, which were passed
in the continued exercise of the most princely virtues, and the most
munificent liberality. He had four sons: Kai-kaus, Arish, Poshin and
Aramin; and when the period of his dissolution drew nigh, he solemnly
enjoined the eldest, whom he appointed his successor, to pursue steadily
the path of integrity and justice, and to be kind and merciful in the
administration of the empire left to his charge.
When Kai-kaus ascended the throne of his father, the whole world was
obedient to his will; but he soon began to deviate from the wise customs
and rules which had been recommended as essential to his prosperity and
happiness. He feasted and drank wine continually with his warriors and
chiefs, so that in the midst of his luxurious enjoyments he looked upon
himself as superior to every being upon the face of the earth, and thus
astonished the people, high and low, by his extravagance and pride.
One day a Demon, disguised as a musician, waited upon the monarch, and
playing sweetly on his harp, sung a song in praise of Mazinderan.
And thus he warbled to the king--
"Mazinderan is the bower of spring,
My native home; the balmy air
Diffuses health and fragrance there;
So tempered is the genial glow,
Nor heat nor cold we ever know;
Tulips and hyacinths abound
On every lawn; and all around
Blooms like a garden in its prime,
Fostered by that delicious clime.
The bulbul sits on every spray,
And pours his soft melodious lay;
Each rural spot its sweets discloses,
Each streamlet is the dew of roses;
And damsels, idols of the heart,
Sustain a more bewitching part.
And mark me, that untravelled man
Who never saw Mazinderan,
And all the charms its bowers possess,
Has never tasted happiness!"
No sooner had Kai-kaus heard this description of the country of
Mazinderan than he determined to lead an army thither, declaring to his
warriors that the splendor and glory of his reign should exceed that of
either Jemshid, Zohak, or Kai-kobad. The warriors, however, were alarmed
at this precipitate resolution, thinking it certain destruction to make
war against the Demons; but they had not courage or confidence enough to
disclose their real sentiments. They only ventured to suggest, that if
his majesty reflected a little on the subject, he might not ultimately
consider the enterprise so advisable as he had at first imagined. But
this produced no impression, and they then deemed it expedient to
despatch a messenger to Zal, to inform him of the wild notions which the
Evil One had put into the head of Kai-kaus to effect his ruin, imploring
Zal to allow of no delay, otherwise the eminent services so lately
performed by him and Rustem for the state would be rendered utterly
useless and vain. Upon this summons, Zal immediately set off from Sistan
to Iran; and having arrived at the royal court, and been received with
customary respect and consideration, he endeavored to dissuade the king
from the contemplated expedition into Mazinderan.
"O, could I wash the darkness from thy mind,
And show thee all the perils that surround
This undertaking! Jemshid, high in power,
Whose diadem was brilliant as the sun,
Who ruled the demons--never in his pride
Dreamt of the conquest of Mazinderan!
Remember Feridun, he overthrew
Zohak--destroyed the tyrant, but he never
Thought of the conquest of Mazinderan!
This strange ambition never fired the souls
Of by-gone monarchs--mighty Minuchihr,
Always victorious, boundless in his wealth,
Nor Zau, nor Nauder, nor even Kai-kobad,
With all their pomp, and all their grandeur, ever
Dreamt of the conquest of Mazinderan!
It is the place of demon-sorcerers,
And all enchanted. Swords are useless there,
Nor bribery nor wisdom can obtain
Possession of that charm-defended land,
Then throw not men and treasure to the winds;
Waste not the precious blood of warriors brave,
In trying to subdue Mazinderan!"
Kai-kaus, however, was not to be diverted from his purpose; and with
respect to what his predecessors had not done, he considered himself
superior in might and influence to either Feridun, Jemshid, Minuchihr,
or Kai-kobad, who had never aspired to the conquest of Mazinderan. He
further observed, that he had a bolder heart, a larger army, and a
fuller treasury than any of them, and the whole world was under his
And what are all these Demon-charms,
That they excite such dread alarms?
What is a Demon-host to me,
Their magic spells and sorcery?
One effort, and the field is won;
Then why should I the battle shun?
Be thou and Rustem (whilst afar
I wage the soul-appalling war),
The guardians of the kingdom; Heaven
To me hath its protection given;
And, when I reach the Demon's fort,
Their severed heads shall be my sport!
When Zal became convinced of the unalterable resolution of Kai-kaus, he
ceased to oppose his views, and expressed his readiness to comply with
whatever commands he might receive for the safety of the state.
May all thy actions prosper--may'st thou never