Part 3 out of 9
Have cause to recollect my warning voice,
With sorrow or repentance. Heaven protect thee!
Zal then took leave of the king and his warrior friends, and returned to
Sistan, not without melancholy forebodings respecting the issue of the
war against Mazinderan.
As soon as morning dawned, the army was put in motion. The charge of the
empire, and the keys of the treasury and jewel-chamber were left in the
hands of Milad, with injunctions, however, not to draw a sword against
any enemy that might spring up, without the consent and assistance of
Zal and Rustem. When the army had arrived within the limits of
Mazinderan, Kai-kaus ordered Giw to select two thousand of the bravest
men, the boldest wielders of the battle-axe, and proceed rapidly towards
the city. In his progress, according to the king's instructions, he
burnt and destroyed everything of value, mercilessly slaying man, woman,
and child. For the king said:
Kill all before thee, whether young or old,
And turn their day to night; thus free the world
From the magician's art.
Proceeding in his career of desolation and ruin, Giw came near to the
city, and found it arrayed in all the splendor of heaven; every street
was crowded with beautiful women, richly adorned, and young damsels with
faces as bright as the moon. The treasure-chamber was full of gold and
jewels, and the country abounded with cattle. Information of this
discovery was immediately sent to Kai-kaus, who was delighted to find
that Mazinderan was truly a blessed region, the very garden of beauty,
where the cheeks of the women seemed to be tinted with the hue of the
pomegranate flower, by the gate-keeper of Paradise.
This invasion filled the heart of the king of Mazinderan with grief and
alarm, and his first care was to call the gigantic White Demon to his
aid. Meanwhile Kai-kaus, full of the wildest anticipations of victory,
was encamped on the plain near the city in splendid state, and preparing
to commence the final overthrow of the enemy on the following day. In
the night, however, a cloud came, and deep darkness like pitch
overspread the earth, and tremendous hail-stones poured down upon the
Persian host, throwing them into the greatest confusion. Thousands were
destroyed, others fled, and were scattered abroad in the gloom. The
morning dawned, but it brought no light to the eyes of Kai-kaus; and
amidst the horrors he experienced, his treasury was captured, and the
soldiers of his army either killed or made prisoners of war. Then did he
bitterly lament that he had not followed the wise counsel of Zal. Seven
days he was involved in this dreadful affliction, and on the eighth day
he heard the roar of the White Demon, saying:
"O king, thou art the willow-tree, all barren,
With neither fruit, nor flower. What could induce
The dream of conquering Mazinderan?
Hadst thou no friend to warn thee of thy folly?
Hadst thou not heard of the White Demon's power--
Of him, who from the gorgeous vault of Heaven
Can charm the stars? From this mad enterprise
Others have wisely shrunk--and what hast thou
Accomplished by a more ambitious course?
Thy soldiers have slain many, dire destruction
And spoil have been their purpose--thy wild will
Has promptly been obeyed; but thou art now
Without an army, not one man remains
To lift a sword, or stand in thy defence;
Not one to hear thy groans and thy despair."
There were selected from the army twelve thousand of the demon-warriors,
to take charge of and hold in custody the Iranian captives, all the
chiefs, as well as the soldiers, being secured with bonds, and only
allowed food enough to keep them alive. Arzang, one of the
demon-leaders, having got possession of the wealth, the crown and
jewels, belonging to Kai-kaus, was appointed to escort the captive king
and his troops, all of whom were deprived of sight, to the city of
Mazinderan, where they were delivered into the hands of the monarch of
that country. The White Demon, after thus putting an end to hostilities,
returned to his own abode.
Kai-kaus, strictly guarded as he was, found an opportunity of sending an
account of his blind and helpless condition to Zal, in which he lamented
that he had not followed his advice, and urgently requested him, if he
was not himself in confinement, to come to his assistance, and release
him from captivity. When Zal heard the melancholy story, he gnawed the
very skin of his body with vexation, and turning to Rustem, conferred
with him in private.
"The sword must be unsheathed, since Kai-kaus
Is bound a captive in the dragon's den,
And Rakush must be saddled for the field,
And thou must bear the weight of this emprize;
For I have lived two centuries, and old age
Unfits me for the heavy toils of war.
Should'st thou release the king, thy name will be
Exalted o'er the earth.--Then don thy mail,
And gain immortal honor."
Rustem replied that it was a long journey to Mazinderan, and that the
king had been six months on the road. Upon this Zal observed that there
were two roads--the most tedious one was that which Kai-kaus had taken;
but by the other, which was full of dangers and difficulty, and lions,
and demons, and sorcery, he might reach Mazinderan in seven days, if he
reached it at all.
On hearing these words Rustem assented, and chose the short road,
"Although it is not wise, they say,
With willing feet to track the way
To hell; though only men who've lost,
All love of life, by misery crossed,
Would rush into the tiger's lair,
And die, poor reckless victims, there;
I gird my loins, whate'er may be,
And trust in God for victory."
On the following day, resigning himself to the protection of Heaven, he
put on his war attire, and with his favorite horse, Rakush, properly
caparisoned, stood prepared for the journey. His mother, Rudabeh, took
leave of him with great sorrow; and the young hero departed from Sistan,
consoling himself and his friends, thus:
"O'er him who seeks the battle-field,
Nobly his prisoned king to free,
Heaven will extend its saving shield,
And crown his arms with victory."
THE SEVEN LABORS OF RUSTEM
First Stage.--He rapidly pursued his way, performing two days' journey
in one, and soon came to a forest full of wild asses. Oppressed with
hunger, he succeeded in securing one of them, which he roasted over a
fire, lighted by sparks produced by striking the point of his spear, and
kept in a blaze with dried grass and branches of trees. After regaling
himself, and satisfying his hunger, he loosened the bridle of Rakush,
and allowed him to graze; and choosing a safe place for repose during
the night, and taking care to have his sword under his head, he went to
sleep among the reeds of that wilderness. In a short space a fierce lion
appeared, and attacked Rakush with great violence; but Rakush very
speedily with his teeth and heels put an end to his furious assailant.
Rustem, awakened by the confusion, and seeing the dead lion before him,
said to his favorite companion:--
"Ah! Rakush, why so thoughtless grown,
To fight a lion thus alone;
For had it been thy fate to bleed,
And not thy foe, my gallant steed!
How could thy master have conveyed
His helm, and battle-axe, and blade,
Kamund, and bow, and buberyan,
Unaided, to Mazinderan?
Why didst thou fail to give the alarm,
And save thyself from chance of harm,
By neighing loudly in my ear;
But though thy bold heart knows no fear,
From such unwise exploits refrain,
Nor try a lion's strength again."
Saying this, Rustem laid down to sleep, and did not awake till the
morning dawned. As the sun rose, he remounted Rakush, and proceeded on
his journey towards Mazinderan.
Second Stage.--After travelling rapidly for some time, he entered a
desert, in which no water was to be found, and the sand was so burning
hot, that it seemed to be instinct with fire. Both horse and rider were
oppressed with the most maddening thirst. Rustem alighted, and vainly
wandered about in search of relief, till almost exhausted, he put up a
prayer to Heaven for protection against the evils which surrounded him,
engaged as he was in an enterprise for the release of Kai-kaus and the
Persian army, then in the power of the demons. With pious earnestness he
besought the Almighty to bless him in the great work; and whilst in a
despairing mood he was lamenting his deplorable condition, his tongue
and throat being parched with thirst, his body prostrate on the sand,
under the influence of a raging sun, he saw a sheep pass by, which he
hailed as the harbinger of good. Rising up and grasping his sword in his
hand, he followed the animal, and came to a fountain of water, where he
devoutly returned thanks to God for the blessing which had preserved his
existence, and prevented the wolves from feeding on his lifeless limbs.
Refreshed by the cool water, he then looked out for something to allay
his hunger, and killing a gor, he lighted a fire and roasted it, and
regaled upon its savory flesh, which he eagerly tore from the bones.
When the period of rest arrived, Rustem addressed Rakush, and said to
"Beware, my steed, of future strife.
Again thou must not risk thy life;
Encounter not with lion fell,
Nor demon still more terrible;
But should an enemy appear,
Ring loud the warning in my ear."
After delivering these injunctions, Rustem laid down to sleep, leaving
Rakush unbridled, and at liberty to crop the herbage close by.
Third Stage.--At midnight a monstrous dragon-serpent issued from the
forest; it was eighty yards in length, and so fierce, that neither
elephant, nor demon, nor lion, ever ventured to pass by its lair. It
came forth, and seeing the champion asleep, and a horse near him, the
latter was the first object of attack. But Rakush retired towards his
master, and neighed and beat the ground so furiously, that Rustem soon
awoke; looking around on every side, however, he saw nothing--the dragon
had vanished, and he went to sleep again. Again the dragon burst out of
the thick darkness, and again Rakush was at the pillow of his master,
who rose up at the alarm: but anxiously trying to penetrate the dreary
gloom, he saw nothing--all was a blank; and annoyed at this apparently
vexatious conduct of his horse, he spoke sharply:--
"Why thus again disturb my rest,
When sleep had softly soothed my breast?
I told thee, if thou chanced to see
Another dangerous enemy,
To sound the alarm; but not to keep
Depriving me of needful sleep;
When nothing meets the eye nor ear,
Nothing to cause a moment's fear!
But if again my rest is broke,
On thee shall fall the fatal stroke,
And I myself will drag this load
Of ponderous arms along the road;
Yes, I will go, a lonely man,
Without thee, to Mazinderan."
Rustem again went to sleep, and Rakush was resolved this time not to
move a step from his side, for his heart was grieved and afflicted by
the harsh words that had been addressed to him. The dragon again
appeared, and the faithful horse almost tore up the earth with his
heels, to rouse his sleeping master. Rustem again awoke, and sprang to
his feet, and was again angry; but fortunately at that moment sufficient
light was providentially given for him to see the prodigious cause of
Then swift he drew his sword, and closed in strife
With that huge monster.--Dreadful was the shock
And perilous to Rustem; but when Rakush
Perceived the contest doubtful, furiously,
With his keen teeth, he bit and tore away
The dragon's scaly hide; whilst quick as thought
The Champion severed off the ghastly head,
And deluged all the plain with horrid blood.
Amazed to see a form so hideous
Breathless stretched out before him, he returned
Thanks to the Omnipotent for his success,
Saying--"Upheld by thy protecting arm,
What is a lion's strength, a demon's rage,
Or all the horrors of the burning desert,
With not one drop to quench devouring thirst?
Nothing, since power and might proceed from Thee."
Fourth Stage.--Rustem having resumed the saddle, continued his journey
through an enchanted territory, and in the evening came to a beautifully
green spot, refreshed by flowing rivulets, where he found, to his
surprise, a ready-roasted deer, and some bread and salt. He alighted,
and sat down near the enchanted provisions, which vanished at the sound
of his voice, and presently a tambourine met his eyes, and a flask of
wine. Taking up the instrument he played upon it, and chanted a ditty
about his own wanderings, and the exploits which he most loved. He said
that he had no pleasure in banquets, but only in the field fighting with
heroes and crocodiles in war. The song happened to reach the ears of a
sorceress, who, arrayed in all the charms of beauty, suddenly approached
him, and sat down by his side. The champion put up a prayer of gratitude
for having been supplied with food and wine, and music, in the desert of
Mazinderan, and not knowing that the enchantress was a demon in
disguise, he placed in her hands a cup of wine in the name of God; but
at the mention of the Creator, the enchanted form was converted into a
black fiend. Seeing this, Rustem threw his kamund, and secured the
demon; and, drawing his sword, at once cut the body in two!
From thence proceeding onward, he approached
A region destitute of light, a void
Of utter darkness. Neither moon nor star
Peep'd through the gloom; no choice of path remained,
And therefore, throwing loose the rein, he gave
Rakush the power to travel on, unguided.
At length the darkness was dispersed, the earth
Became a scene, joyous and light, and gay,
Covered with waving corn--there Rustem paused
And quitting his good steed among the grass,
Laid himself gently down, and, wearied, slept;
His shield beneath his head, his sword before him.
When the keeper of the forest saw the stranger and his horse, he went to
Rustem, then asleep, and struck his staff violently on the ground, and
having thus awakened the hero, he asked him, devil that he was, why he
had allowed his horse to feed upon the green corn-field. Angry at these
words, Rustem, without uttering a syllable, seized hold of the keeper by
the ears, and wrung them off. The mutilated wretch, gathering up his
severed ears, hurried away, covered with blood, to his master, Aulad,
and told him of the injury he had sustained from a man like a black
demon, with a tiger-skin cuirass and an iron helmet; showing at the same
time the bleeding witnesses of his sufferings. Upon being informed of
this outrageous proceeding, Aulad, burning with wrath, summoned together
his fighting men, and hastened by the directions of the keeper to the
place where Rustem had been found asleep. The champion received the
angry lord of the land, fully prepared, on horseback, and heard him
demand his name, that he might not slay a worthless antagonist, and why
he had torn off the ears of his forest-keeper! Rustem replied that the
very sound of his name would make him shudder with horror. Aulad then
ordered his troops to attack Rustem, and they rushed upon him with great
fury; but their leader was presently killed by the master-hand, and
great numbers were also scattered lifeless over the plain. The survivors
running away, Rustem's next object was to follow and secure, by his
kamund, the person of Aulad, and with admirable address and ingenuity,
he succeeded in dismounting him and taking him alive. He then bound his
hands, and said to him:--
"If thou wilt speak the truth unmixed with lies,
Unmixed with false prevaricating words,
And faithfully point out to me the caves
Of the White Demon and his warrior chiefs--
And where Kaus is prisoned--thy reward
Shall be the kingdom of Mazinderan;
For I, myself, will place thee on that throne.
But if thou play'st me false--thy worthless blood
Shall answer for the foul deception."
Be not in wrath," Aulad at once replied--
"Thy wish shall be fulfilled--and thou shalt know
Where king Kaus is prisoned--and, beside,
Where the White Demon reigns. Between two dark
And lofty mountains, in two hundred caves
Immeasurably deep, his people dwell.
Twelve hundred Demons keep the watch by night
And Baid, and Sinja. Like a reed, the hills
Tremble whenever the White Demon moves.
But dangerous is the way. A stony desert
Lies full before thee, which the nimble deer
Has never passed. Then a prodigious stream
Two farsangs wide obstructs thy path, whose banks
Are covered with a host of warrior-Demons,
Guarding the passage to Mazinderan;
And thou art but a single man--canst thou
O'ercome such fearful obstacles as these?"
At this the Champion smiled. "Show but the way,
And thou shalt see what one man can perform,
With power derived from God! Lead on, with speed,
To royal Kaus." With obedient haste
Aulad proceeded, Rustem following fast,
Mounted on Rakush. Neither dismal night
Nor joyous day they rested--on they went
Until at length they reached the fatal field,
Where Kaus was o'ercome. At midnight hour,
Whilst watching with attentive eye and ear,
A piercing clamor echoed all around,
And blazing fires were seen, and numerous lamps
Burnt bright on every side. Rustem inquired
What this might be. "It is Mazinderan,"
Aulad rejoined, "and the White Demon's chiefs
Are gathered there." Then Rustem to a tree
Bound his obedient guide--to keep him safe,
And to recruit his strength, laid down awhile
And soundly slept.
When morning dawned, he rose,
And mounting Rakush, put his helmet on,
The tiger-skin defended his broad chest,
And sallying forth, he sought the Demon chief,
Arzang, and summoned him with such a roar
That stream and mountain shook. Arzang sprang up,
Hearing a human voice, and from his tent
Indignant issued--him the champion met,
And clutched his arms and ears, and from his body
Tore off the gory head, and cast it far
Amidst the shuddering Demons, who with fear
Shrunk back and fled, precipitate, lest they
Should likewise feel that dreadful punishment.
Sixth Stage.--After this achievement Rustem returned to the place where
he had left Aulad, and having released him, sat down under the tree and
related what he had done. He then commanded his guide to show the way to
the place where Kai-kaus was confined; and when the champion entered the
city of Mazinderan, the neighing of Rakush was so loud that the sound
distinctly reached the ears of the captive monarch. Kaus rejoiced, and
said to his people: "I have heard the voice of Rakush, and my
misfortunes are at an end;" but they thought he was either insane or
telling them a dream. The actual appearance of Rustem, however, soon
satisfied them. Gudarz, and Tus, and Bahram, and Giw, and Gustahem, were
delighted to meet him, and the king embraced him with great warmth and
affection, and heard from him with admiration the story of his wonderful
progress and exploits. But Kaus and his warriors, under the influence
and spells of the Demons, were still blind, and he cautioned Rustem
particularly to conceal Rakush from the sight of the sorcerers, for if
the White Demon should hear of the slaughter of Arzang, and the
conqueror being at Mazinderan, he would immediately assemble an
overpowering army of Demons, and the consequences might be terrible.
"But thou must storm the cavern of the Demons
And their gigantic chief--great need there is
For sword and battle-axe--and with the aid
Of Heaven, these miscreant sorcerers may fall
Victims to thy avenging might. The road
Is straight before thee--reach the Seven Mountains,
And there thou wilt discern the various groups,
Which guard the awful passage. Further on,
Within a deep and horrible recess,
Frowns the White Demon--conquer him--destroy
That fell magician, and restore to sight
Thy suffering king, and all his warrior train.
The wise in cures declare, that the warm blood
From the White Demon's heart, dropped in the eye,
Removes all blindness--it is, then, my hope,
Favored by God, that thou wilt slay the fiend,
And save us from the misery we endure,
The misery of darkness without end."
Rustem accordingly, after having warned his friends and companions in
arms to keep on the alert, prepared for the enterprise, and guided by
Aulad, hurried on till he came to the Haft-koh, or Seven Mountains.
There he found numerous companies of Demons; and coming to one of the
caverns, saw it crowded with the same awful beings. And now consulting
with Aulad, he was informed that the most advantageous time for attack
would be when the sun became hot, for then all the Demons were
accustomed to go to sleep, with the exception of a very small number who
were appointed to keep watch. He therefore waited till the sun rose high
in the firmament; and as soon as he had bound Aulad to a tree hand and
foot, with the thongs of his kamund, drew his sword, and rushed among
the prostrate Demons, dismembering and slaying all that fell in his way.
Dreadful was the carnage, and those who survived fled in the wildest
terror from the champion's fury.
Seventh Stage.--Rustem now hastened forward to encounter the White
Advancing to the cavern, he looked down
And saw a gloomy place, dismal as hell;
But not one cursed, impious sorcerer
Was visible in that infernal depth.
Awhile he stood--his falchion in his grasp,
And rubbed his eyes to sharpen his dim sight,
And then a mountain-form, covered with hair,
Filling up all the space, rose into view.
The monster was asleep, but presently
The daring shouts of Rustem broke his rest,
And brought him suddenly upon his feet,
When seizing a huge mill-stone, forth he came,
And thus accosted the intruding chief:
"Art thou so tired of life, that reckless thus
Thou dost invade the precincts of the Demons?
Tell me thy name, that I may not destroy
A nameless thing!" The champion stern replied,
"My name is Rustem--sent by Zal, my father,
Descended from the champion Sam Suwar,
To be revenged on thee--the King of Persia
Being now a prisoner in Mazinderan."
When the accursed Demon heard the name
Of Sam Suwar, he, like a serpent, writhed
In agony of spirit; terrified
At that announcement--then, recovering strength,
He forward sprang, and hurled the mill-stone huge
Against his adversary, who fell back
And disappointed the prodigious blow.
Black frowned the Demon, and through Rustem's heart
A wild sensation ran of dire alarm;
But, rousing up, his courage was revived,
And wielding furiously his beaming sword,
He pierced the Demon's thigh, and lopped the limb;
Then both together grappled, and the cavern
Shook with the contest--each, at times, prevailed;
The flesh of both was torn, and streaming blood
Crimsoned the earth. "If I survive this day,"
Said Rustem in his heart, in that dread strife,
"My life must be immortal." The White Demon,
With equal terror, muttered to himself:
"I now despair of life--sweet life; no more
Shall I be welcomed at Mazinderan."
And still they struggled hard--still sweat and blood
Poured down at every strain. Rustem, at last,
Gathering fresh power, vouchsafed by favouring Heaven
And bringing all his mighty strength to bear,
Raised up the gasping Demon in his arms,
And with such fury dashed him to the ground,
That life no longer moved his monstrous frame.
Promptly he then tore out the reeking heart,
And crowds of demons simultaneous fell
As part of him, and stained the earth with gore;
Others who saw this signal overthrow,
Trembled, and hurried from the scene of blood.
Then the great victor, issuing from that cave
With pious haste--took off his helm, and mail,
And royal girdle--and with water washed
His face and body--choosing a pure place
For prayer--to praise his Maker--Him who gave
The victory, the eternal source of good;
Without whose grace and blessing, what is man!
With it his armor is impregnable.
The Champion having finished his prayer, resumed his war habiliments,
and going to Aulad, released him from the tree, and gave into his charge
the heart of the White Demon. He then pursued his journey back to Kaus
at Mazinderan. On the way Aulad solicited some reward for the services
he had performed, and Rustem again promised that he should be appointed
governor of the country.
"But first the monarch of Mazinderan,
The Demon-king, must be subdued, and cast
Into the yawning cavern--and his legions
Of foul enchanters, utterly destroyed."
Upon his arrival at Mazinderan, Rustem related to his sovereign all that
he had accomplished, and especially that he had torn out and brought
away the White Demon's heart, the blood of which was destined to restore
Kai-kaus and his warriors to sight. Rustem was not long in applying the
miraculous remedy, and the moment the blood touched their eyes, the
fearful blindness was perfectly cured.
The champion brought the Demon's heart,
And squeezed the blood from every part,
Which, dropped upon the injured sight,
Made all things visible and bright;
One moment broke that magic gloom,
Which seemed more dreadful than the tomb.
The monarch immediately ascended his throne surrounded by all his
warriors, and seven days were spent in mutual congratulations and
rejoicing. On the eighth day they all resumed the saddle, and proceeded
to complete the destruction of the enemy. They set fire to the city, and
burnt it to the ground, and committed such horrid carnage among the
remaining magicians that streams of loathsome blood crimsoned all the
Kaus afterwards sent Ferhad as an ambassador to the king of Mazinderan,
suggesting to him the expediency of submission, and representing to him
the terrible fall of Arzang, and of the White Demon with all his host,
as a warning against resistance to the valor of Rustem. But when the
king of Mazinderan heard from Ferhad the purpose of his embassy, he
expressed great astonishment, and replied that he himself was superior
in all respects to Kaus; that his empire was more extensive, and his
warriors more numerous and brave. "Have I not," said he, "a hundred
war-elephants, and Kaus not one? Wherever I move, conquest marks my way;
why then should I fear the sovereign of Persia? Why should I submit to
This haughty tone made a deep impression upon Ferhad, who returning
quickly, told Kaus of the proud bearing and fancied power of the ruler
of Mazinderan. Rustem was immediately sent for; and so indignant was he
on hearing the tidings, that "every hair on his body started up like a
spear," and he proposed to go himself with a second dispatch. The king
was too much pleased to refuse, and another letter was written more
urgent than the first, threatening the enemy to hang up his severed head
on the walls of his own fort, if he persisted in his contumacy and scorn
of the offer made.
As soon as Rustem had come within a short distance of the court of the
king of Mazinderan, accounts reached his majesty of the approach of
another ambassador, when a deputation of warriors was sent to receive
him. Rustem observing them, and being in sight of the hostile army, with
a view to show his strength, tore up a large tree on the road by the
roots, and dexterously wielded it in his hand like a spear. Tilting
onwards, he flung it down before the wondering enemy, and one of the
chiefs then thought it incumbent upon him to display his own prowess. He
advanced, and offered to grasp hands with Rustem: they met; but the
gripe of the champion was so excruciating that the sinews of his
adversary cracked, and in agony he fell from his horse. Intelligence of
this discomfiture was instantly conveyed to the king, who then summoned
his most valiant and renowned chieftain, Kalahur, and directed him to go
and punish, signally, the warrior who had thus presumed to triumph over
one of his heroes. Accordingly Kalahur appeared, and boastingly
stretched out his hand, which Rustem wrung with such grinding force,
that the very nails dropped off, and blood started from his body. This
was enough, and Kalahur hastily returned to the king, and anxiously
recommended him to submit to terms, as it would be in vain to oppose
such invincible strength. The king was both grieved and angry at this
situation of affairs, and invited the ambassador to his presence. After
inquiring respecting Kaus and the Persian army, he said:
"And thou art Rustem, clothed with mighty power,
Who slaughtered the White Demon, and now comest
To crush the monarch of Mazinderan!"
"No!" said the champion, "I am but his servant,
And even unworthy of that noble station;
My master being a warrior, the most valiant
That ever graced the world since time began.
Nothing am I; but what doth he resemble!
What is a lion, elephant, or demon!
Engaged in fight, he is himself a host!"
The ambassador then tried to convince the king of the folly of
resistance, and of his certain defeat if he continued to defy the power
of Kaus and the bravery of Rustem; but the effort was fruitless, and
both states prepared for battle.
The engagement which ensued was obstinate and sanguinary, and after
seven days of hard fighting, neither army was victorious, neither
defeated. Afflicted at this want of success, Kaus grovelled in the dust,
and prayed fervently to the Almighty to give him the triumph. He
addressed all his warriors, one by one, and urged them to increased
exertions; and on the eighth day, when the battle was renewed, prodigies
of valor were performed. Rustem singled out, and encountered the king of
Mazinderan, and fiercely they fought together with sword and javelin;
but suddenly, just as he was rushing on with overwhelming force, his
adversary, by his magic art, transformed himself into a stony rock.
Rustem and the Persian warriors were all amazement. The fight had been
suspended for some time, when Kaus came forward to inquire the cause;
and hearing with astonishment of the transformation, ordered his
soldiers to drag the enchanted mass towards his own tent; but all the
strength that could be applied was unequal to move so great a weight,
till Rustem set himself to the task, and amidst the wondering army,
lifted up the rock and conveyed it to the appointed place. He then
addressed the work of sorcery, and said: "If thou dost not resume thy
original shape, I will instantly break thee, flinty-rock as thou now
art, into atoms, and scatter thee in the dust." The magician-king was
alarmed by this threat, and reappeared in his own form, and then Rustem,
seizing his hand, brought him to Kaus, who, as a punishment for his
wickedness and atrocity, ordered him to be slain, and his body to be cut
into a thousand pieces! The wealth of the country was immediately
afterwards secured; and at the recommendation of Rustem, Aulad was
appointed governor of Mazinderan. After the usual thanksgivings and
rejoicings on account of the victory, Kaus and his warriors returned to
Persia, where splendid honors and rewards were bestowed on every soldier
for his heroic services. Rustem having received the highest
acknowledgments of his merit, took leave, and returned to his father Zal
Suddenly an ardent desire arose in the heart of Kaus to survey all the
provinces and states of his empire. He wished to visit Turan, and Chin,
and Mikran, and Berber, and Zirra. Having commenced his royal tour of
inspection, he found the King of Berberistan in a state of rebellion,
with his army prepared to dispute his authority. A severe battle was the
consequence; but the refractory sovereign was soon compelled to retire,
and the elders of the city came forward to sue for mercy and protection.
After this triumph, Kaus turned towards the mountain Kaf, and visited
various other countries, and in his progress became the guest of the son
of Zal in Zabulistan where he stayed a month, enjoying the pleasures of
the festive board and the sports of the field.
The disaffection of the King of Hamaveran, in league with the King of
Misser and Sham, and the still hostile King of Berberistan, soon,
however, drew him from Nim-ruz, and quitting the principality of Rustem,
his arms were promptly directed against his new enemy, who in the
contest which ensued, made an obstinate resistance, but was at length
overpowered, and obliged to ask for quarter. After the battle, Kaus was
informed that the Shah had a daughter of great beauty, named Sudaveh,
possessing a form as graceful as the tall cypress, musky ringlets, and
all the charms of Heaven. From the description of this damsel he became
enamoured, and through the medium of a messenger, immediately offered
himself to be her husband. The father did not seem to be glad at this
proposal, observing to the messenger, that he had but two things in life
valuable to him, and those were his daughter and his property; one was
his solace and delight, and the other his support; to be deprived of
both would be death to him; still he could not gainsay the wishes of a
king of such power, and his conqueror. He then sorrowfully communicated
the overture to his child, who, however, readily consented; and in the
course of a week, the bride was sent escorted by soldiers, and
accompanied by a magnificent cavalcade, consisting of a thousand horses
and mules, a thousand camels, and numerous female attendants. When
Sudaveh descended from her litter, glowing with beauty, with her rich
dark tresses flowing to her feet, and cheeks like the rose, Kaus
regarded her with admiration and rapture; and so impatient was he to
possess that lovely treasure, that the marriage rites were performed
according to the laws of the country without delay.
The Shah of Hamaveran, however, was not satisfied, and he continually
plotted within himself how he might contrive to regain possession of
Sudaveh, as well as be revenged upon the king. With this view he invited
Kaus to be his guest for a while; but Sudaveh cautioned the king not to
trust to the treachery which dictated the invitation, as she apprehended
from it nothing but mischief and disaster. The warning, however, was of
no avail, for Kaus accepted the proffered hospitality of his new
father-in-law. He accordingly proceeded with his bride and his most
famous warriors to the city, where he was received and entertained in
the most sumptuous manner, seated on a gorgeous throne, and felt
infinitely exhilarated with the magnificence and the hilarity by which
he was surrounded. Seven days were passed in this glorious banqueting
and delight; but on the succeeding night, the sound of trumpets and the
war-cry was heard. The intrusion of soldiers changed the face of the
scene; and the king, who had just been waited on, and pampered with such
respect and devotion, was suddenly seized, together with his principal
warriors, and carried off to a remote fortress, situated on a high
mountain, where they were imprisoned, and guarded by a thousand valiant
men. His tents were plundered, and all his treasure taken away. At this
event his wife was inconsolable and deaf to all entreaties from her
father, declaring that she preferred death to separation from her
husband; upon which she was conveyed to the same dungeon, to mingle
groans with the captive king.
Alas! how false and fickle is the world,
Friendship nor pleasure, nor the ties of blood,
Can check the headlong course of human passions;
Treachery still laughs at kindred;--who is safe
In this tumultuous sphere of strife and sorrow?
INVASION OF IRAN BY AFRASIYAB
The intelligence of Kaus's imprisonment was very soon spread through the
world, and operated as a signal to all the inferior states to get
possession of Iran. Afrasiyab was the most powerful aspirant to the
throne; and gathering an immense army, he hurried from Turan, and made a
rapid incursion into the country, which after three months he succeeded
in conquering, scattering ruin and desolation wherever he came.
Some of those who escaped from the field bent their steps towards
Zabulistan, by whom Rustem was informed of the misfortunes in which Kaus
was involved; it therefore became necessary that he should again
endeavor to effect the liberation of his sovereign; and accordingly,
after assembling his troops from different quarters, the first thing he
did was to despatch a messenger to Hamaveran, with a letter, demanding
the release of the prisoners; and in the event of a refusal, declaring
the king should suffer the same fate as the White Demon and the
magician-monarch of Mazinderan. Although this threat produced
considerable alarm in the breast of the king of Hamaveran, he arrogantly
replied, that if Rustem wished to be placed in the same situation as
Kaus, he was welcome to come as soon as he liked.
Upon hearing this defiance, Rustem left Zabulistan, and after an arduous
journey by land and water, arrived at the confines of Hamaveran. The
king of that country, roused by the noise and uproar, and bold aspect of
the invading army, drew up his own forces, and a battle ensued, but he
was unequal to stand his ground before the overwhelming courage of
Rustem. His troops fled in confusion, and then almost in despair he
anxiously solicited assistance from the chiefs of Berber and Misser,
which was immediately given. Thus three kings and their armies were
opposed to the power and resources of one man. Their formidable array
covered an immense space.
Each proud his strongest force to bring,
The eagle of valour flapped his wing.
But when the King of Hamaveran beheld the person of Rustem in all its
pride and strength, and commanding power, he paused with apprehension
and fear, and intrenched himself well behind his own troops. Rustem, on
the contrary, was full of confidence.
"What, though there be a hundred thousand men
Pitched against one, what use is there in numbers
When Heaven is on my side: with Heaven my friend,
The foe will soon be mingled with the dust."
Having ordered the trumpets to sound, he rushed on the enemy, mounted on
Rakush, and committed dreadful havoc among them.
It would be difficult to tell
How many heads, dissevered, fell,
Fighting his dreadful way;
On every side his falchion gleamed,
Hot blood in every quarter streamed
On that tremendous day.
The chief of Hamaveran and his legions were the first to shrink from the
conflict; and then the King of Misser, ashamed of their cowardice,
rapidly advanced towards the champion with the intention of punishing
him for his temerity, but he had no sooner received one of Rustem's hard
blows on his head, than he turned to flight, and thus hoped to escape
the fury of his antagonist. That fortune, however, was denied him, for
being instantly pursued, he was caught with the kamund, or noose, thrown
round his loins, dragged from his horse, and safely delivered into the
hands of Bahram, who bound him, and kept him by his side.
Ring within ring the lengthening kamund flew,
And from his steed the astonished monarch drew.
Having accomplished this signal capture, Rustem proceeded against the
troops under the Shah of Berberistan, which, valorously aided as he was,
by Zuara, he soon vanquished and dispatched; and impelling Rakush
impetuously forward upon the shah himself, made him and forty of his
principal chiefs prisoners of war. The King of Hamaveran, seeing the
horrible carnage, and the defeat of all his expectations, speedily sent
a messenger to Rustem, to solicit a suspension of the fight, offering to
deliver up Kaus and all his warriors, and all the regal property and
treasure which had been plundered from him. The troops of the three
kingdoms also urgently prayed for quarter and protection, and Rustem
readily agreed to the proffered conditions.
"Kaus to liberty restore,
With all his chiefs, I ask no more;
For him alone I conquering came;
Than him no other prize I claim."
THE RETURN OF KAI-KAUS
It was a joyous day when Kaus and his illustrious heroes were released
from their fetters, and removed from the mountain-fortress in which they
were confined. Rustem forthwith reseated him on his throne, and did not
fail to collect for the public treasury all the valuables of the three
states which had submitted to his power. The troops of Misser,
Berberistan, and Hamaveran, having declared their allegiance to the
Persian king, the accumulated numbers increased Kaus's army to upwards
of three hundred thousand men, horse and foot, and with this immense
force he moved towards Iran. Before marching, however, he sent a message
to Afrasiyab, commanding him to quit the country he had so unjustly
invaded, and recommending him to be contented with the territory of
"Hast thou forgotten Rustem's power,
When thou wert in that perilous hour
By him overthrown? Thy girdle broke,
Or thou hadst felt the conqueror's yoke.
Thy crowding warriors proved thy shield,
They saved and dragged thee from the field;
By them unrescued then, wouldst thou
Have lived to vaunt thy prowess now?"
This message was received with bitter feelings of resentment by
Afrasiyab, who prepared his army for battle without delay, and promised
to bestow his daughter in marriage and a kingdom upon the man who should
succeed in taking Rustem alive.
This proclamation was a powerful excitement: and when the engagement
took place, mighty efforts were made for the reward; but those who
aspired to deserve it were only the first to fall. Afrasiyab beholding
the fall of so many of his chiefs, dashed forward to cope with the
champion: but his bravery was unavailing; for, suffering sharply under
the overwhelming attacks of Rustem, he was glad to effect his escape,
and retire from the field. In short, he rapidly retraced his steps to
Turan, leaving Kaus in full possession of the kingdom.
With anguish stricken, he regained his home,
After a wild and ignominious flight;
The world presenting nothing to his lips
But poison-beverage; all was death to him.
Kaus being again seated on the throne of Persia, he resumed the
administration of affairs with admirable justice and liberality, and
despatched some of his most distinguished warriors to secure the welfare
and prosperity of the states of Mervi, and Balkh, and Nishapur, and
Hirat. At the same time he conferred on Rustem the title of Jahani
Pahlvan, or, Champion of the World.
In safety now from foreign and domestic enemies, Kaus turned his
attention to pursuits very different from war and conquest. He directed
the Demons to construct two splendid palaces on the mountain Alberz, and
separate mansions for the accommodation of his household, which he
decorated in the most magnificent manner. All the buildings were
beautifully arranged both for convenience and pleasure; and gold and
silver and precious stones were used so lavishly, and the brilliancy
produced by their combined effect was so great, that night and day
appeared to be the same.
Iblis, ever active, observing the vanity and ambition of the king, was
not long in taking advantage of the circumstance, and he soon persuaded
the Demons to enter into his schemes. Accordingly one of them, disguised
as a domestic servant, was instructed to present a nosegay to Kaus; and
after respectfully kissing the ground, say to him:--
"Thou art great as king can be,
Boundless in thy majesty;
What is all this earth to thee,
All beneath the sky?
Peris, mortals, demons, hear
Thy commanding voice with fear;
Thou art lord of all things here,
But, thou canst not fly!
"That remains for thee; to know
Things above, as things below,
How the planets roll;
How the sun his light displays,
How the moon darts forth her rays;
How the nights succeed the days;
What the secret cause betrays,
And who directs the whole!"
This artful address of the Demon satisfied Kaus of the imperfection of
his nature, and the enviable power which he had yet to obtain. To him,
therefore, it became matter of deep concern, how he might be enabled to
ascend the Heavens without wings, and for that purpose he consulted his
astrologers, who presently suggested a way in which his desires might be
They contrived to rob an eagle's nest of its young, which they reared
with great care, supplying them well with invigorating food, till they
grew large and strong. A framework of aloes-wood was then prepared; and
at each of the four corners was fixed perpendicularly, a javelin,
surmounted on the point with flesh of a goat. At each corner again one
of the eagles was bound, and in the middle Kaus was seated in great pomp
with a goblet of wine before him. As soon as the eagles became hungry,
they endeavored to get at the goat's flesh upon the javelins, and by
flapping their wings and flying upwards, they quickly raised up the
throne from the ground. Hunger still pressing them, and still being
distant from their prey, they ascended higher and higher in the clouds,
conveying the astonished king far beyond his own country; but after long
and fruitless exertion their strength failed them, and unable to keep
their way, the whole fabric came tumbling down from the sky, and fell
upon a dreary solitude in the kingdom of Chin. There Kaus was left, a
prey to hunger, alone, and in utter despair, until he was discovered by
a band of Demons, whom his anxious ministers had sent in search of him.
Rustem, and Gudarz, and Tus, at length heard of what had befallen the
king, and with feelings of sorrow not unmixed with indignation, set off
to his assistance. "Since I was born," said Gudarz, "never did I see
such a man as Kaus. He seems to be entirely destitute of reason and
understanding; always in distress and affliction. This is the third
calamity in which he has wantonly involved himself. First at Mazinderan,
then at Hamaveran, and now he is being punished for attempting to
discover the secrets of the Heavens!" When they reached the wilderness
into which Kaus had fallen, Gudarz repeated to him the same
observations, candidly telling him that he was fitter for a mad-house
than a throne, and exhorting him to be satisfied with his lot and be
obedient to God, the creator of all things. The miserable king was
softened to tears, acknowledged his folly; and as soon as he was
escorted back to his palace, he shut himself up, remaining forty days,
unseen, prostrating himself in shame and repentance. After that he
recovered his spirits, and resumed the administration of affairs with
his former liberality, clemency, and justice, almost rivalling the glory
of Feridun and Jemshid.
One day Rustem made a splendid feast; and whilst he and his brother
warriors, Giw and Gudarz, and Tus, were quaffing their wine, it was
determined upon to form a pretended hunting party, and repair to the
sporting grounds of Afrasiyab. The feast lasted seven days; and on the
eighth, preparations were made for the march, an advance party being
pushed on to reconnoitre the motions of the enemy. Afrasiyab was soon
informed of what was going on, and flattered himself with the hopes of
getting Rustem and his seven champions into his thrall, for which
purpose he called together his wise men and warriors, and said to them:
"You have only to secure these invaders, and Kaus will soon cease to be
the sovereign of Persia." To accomplish this object, a Turanian army of
thirty thousand veterans was assembled, and ordered to occupy all the
positions and avenues in the vicinity of the sporting grounds. An
immense clamor, and thick clouds of dust, which darkened the skies,
announced their approach; and when intelligence of their numbers was
brought to Rustem, the undaunted champion smiled, and said to Garaz:
"Fortune favors me; what cause is there to fear the king of Turan? his
army does not exceed a hundred thousand men. Were I alone, with Rakush,
with my armor, and battle-axe, I would not shrink from his legions. Have
I not seven companions in arms, and is not one of them equal to five
hundred Turanian heroes? Let Afrasiyab dare to cross the boundary-river,
and the contest will presently convince him that he has only sought his
own defeat." Promptly at a signal the cup-bearer produced goblets of the
red wine of Zabul; and in one of them Rustem pledged his royal master
with loyalty, and Tus and Zuara joined in the convivial and social
demonstration of attachment to the king.
The champion arrayed in his buburiyan, mounted Rakush, and advanced
towards the Turanian army. Afrasiyab, when he beheld him in all his
terrible strength and vigor, was amazed and disheartened, accompanied,
as he was, by Tus, and Gudarz, and Gurgin, and Giw, and Bahram, and
Berzin, and Ferhad. The drums and trumpets of Rustem were now heard, and
immediately the hostile forces engaged with dagger, sword, and javelin.
Dreadful was the onset, and the fury with which the conflict was
continued. In truth, so sanguinary and destructive was the battle that
Afrasiyab exclaimed in grief and terror: "If this carnage lasts till the
close of day, not a man of my army will remain alive. Have I not one
warrior endued with sufficient bravery to oppose and subdue this mighty
Rustem? What! not one fit to be rewarded with a diadem, with my own
throne and kingdom, which I will freely give to the victor!" Pilsum
heard the promise, and was ambitious of earning the reward; but fate
decreed it otherwise. His prodigious efforts were of no avail. Alkus was
equally unsuccessful, though the bravest of the brave among the Turanian
warriors. Encountering Rustem, his brain was pierced by a javelin
wielded by the Persian hero, and he fell dead from his saddle. This
signal achievement astonished and terrified the Turanians, who, however,
made a further despairing effort against the champion and his seven
conquering companions, but with no better result than before, and
nothing remained to them excepting destruction or flight. Choosing the
latter they wheeled round, and endeavored to escape from the sanguinary
fate that awaited them.
Seeing this precipitate movement of the enemy, Rustem impelled Rakush
forward in pursuit, addressing his favorite horse with fondness and
"My valued friend--put forth thy speed,
This is a time of pressing need;
Bear me away amidst the strife,
That I may take that despot's life;
And with my mace and javelin, flood
This dusty plain with foe-man's blood."
Excited by his master's cry,
The war-horse bounded o'er the plain,
So swiftly that he seemed to fly,
Snorting with pride, and tossing high
His streaming mane.
And soon he reached that despot's side,
"Now is the time!" the Champion cried,
"This is the hour to victory given,"
And flung his noose--which bound the king
Fast for a moment in its ring;
But soon, alas! the bond was riven.
Haply the Tartar-monarch slipt away,
Not doomed to suffer on that bloody day;
And freed from thrall, he hurrying led
His legions cross the boundary-stream,
Leaving his countless heaps of dead
To rot beneath the solar beam.
Onward he rushed with heart opprest,
And broken fortunes; he had quaffed
Bright pleasure's cup--but now, unblest,
Poison was mingled with the draught!
The booty in horses, treasure, armor, pavilions, and tents, was immense;
and when the whole was secured, Rustem and his companions fell back to
the sporting-grounds already mentioned, from whence he informed Kai-kaus
by letter of the victory that had been gained. After remaining two weeks
there, resting from the toils of war and enjoying the pleasures of
hunting, the party returned home to pay their respects to the Persian
And this is life! Thus conquest and defeat,
Vary the lights and shades of human scenes,
And human thought. Whilst some, immersed in pleasure,
Enjoy the sweets, others again endure
The miseries of the world. Hope is deceived
In this frail dwelling; certainty and safety
Are only dreams which mock the credulous mind;
Time sweeps o'er all things; why then should the wise
Mourn o'er events which roll resistless on,
And set at nought all mortal opposition?
STORY OF SOHRAB
O ye, who dwell in Youth's inviting bowers,
Waste not, in useless joy, your fleeting hours,
But rather let the tears of sorrow roll,
And sad reflection fill the conscious soul.
For many a jocund spring has passed away,
And many a flower has blossomed, to decay;
And human life, still hastening to a close,
Finds in the worthless dust its last repose.
Still the vain world abounds in strife and hate,
And sire and son provoke each other's fate;
And kindred blood by kindred hands is shed,
And vengeance sleeps not--dies not, with the dead.
All nature fades--the garden's treasures fall,
Young bud, and citron ripe--all perish, all.
And now a tale of sorrow must be told,
A tale of tears, derived from Mubid old,
And thus remembered.--
With the dawn of day,
Rustem arose, and wandering took his way,
Armed for the chase, where sloping to the sky,
Turan's lone wilds in sullen grandeur lie;
There, to dispel his melancholy mood,
He urged his matchless steed through glen and wood.
Flushed with the noble game which met his view,
He starts the wild-ass o'er the glistening dew;
And, oft exulting, sees his quivering dart,
Plunge through the glossy skin, and pierce the heart.
Tired of the sport, at length, he sought the shade,
Which near a stream embowering trees displayed,
And with his arrow's point, a fire he raised,
And thorns and grass before him quickly blazed.
The severed parts upon a bough he cast,
To catch the flames; and when the rich repast
Was drest; with flesh and marrow, savory food,
He quelled his hunger; and the sparkling flood
That murmured at his feet, his thirst represt;
Then gentle sleep composed his limbs to rest.
Meanwhile his horse, for speed and form renown'd,
Ranged o'er the plain with flowery herbage crown'd,
Encumbering arms no more his sides opprest,
No folding mail confined his ample chest,
Gallant and free, he left the Champion's side,
And cropp'd the mead, or sought the cooling tide;
When lo! it chanced amid that woodland chase,
A band of horsemen, rambling near the place,
Saw, with surprise, superior game astray,
And rushed at once to seize the noble prey;
But, in the imminent struggle, two beneath
His steel-clad hoofs received the stroke of death;
One proved a sterner fate--for downward borne,
The mangled head was from the shoulders torn.
Still undismayed, again they nimbly sprung,
And round his neck the noose entangling flung:
Now, all in vain, he spurns the smoking ground,
In vain the tumult echoes all around;
They bear him off, and view, with ardent eyes,
His matchless beauty and majestic size;
Then soothe his fury, anxious to obtain,
A bounding steed of his immortal strain.
When Rustem woke, and miss'd his favourite horse,
The loved companion of his glorious course;
Sorrowing he rose, and, hastening thence, began
To shape his dubious way to Samengan;
"Reduced to journey thus, alone!" he said,
"How pierce the gloom which thickens round my head;
Burthen'd, on foot, a dreary waste in view,
Where shall I bend my steps, what path pursue?
The scoffing Turks will cry, 'Behold our might!
We won the trophy from the Champion-knight!
From him who, reckless of his fame and pride,
Thus idly slept, and thus ignobly died,'"
Girding his loins he gathered from the field,
His quivered stores, his beamy sword and shield,
Harness and saddle-gear were o'er him slung.
Bridle and mail across his shoulders hung.
Then looking round, with anxious eye, to meet,
The broad impression of his charger's feet,
The track he hail'd, and following, onward prest.
While grief and hope alternate filled his breast.
O'er vale and wild-wood led, he soon descries.
The regal city's shining turrets rise.
And when the Champion's near approach is known,
The usual homage waits him to the throne.
The king, on foot, received his welcome guest
With preferred friendship, and his coming blest:
But Rustem frowned, and with resentment fired,
Spoke of his wrongs, the plundered steed required.
"I've traced his footsteps to your royal town,
Here must he be, protected by your crown;
But if retained, if not from fetters freed,
My vengeance shall o'ertake the felon-deed."
"My honored guest!" the wondering King replied--
"Shall Rustem's wants or wishes be denied?
But let not anger, headlong, fierce, and blind,
O'ercloud the virtues of a generous mind.
If still within the limits of my reign,
The well known courser shall be thine again:
For Rakush never can remain concealed,
No more than Rustem in the battle-field!
Then cease to nourish useless rage, and share
With joyous heart my hospitable fare."
The son of Zal now felt his wrath subdued,
And glad sensations in his soul renewed.
The ready herald by the King's command,
Convened the Chiefs and Warriors of the land;
And soon the banquet social glee restored,
And China wine-cups glittered on the board;
And cheerful song, and music's magic power,
And sparkling wine, beguiled the festive hour.
The dulcet draughts o'er Rustem's senses stole,
And melting strains absorbed his softened soul.
But when approached the period of repose,
All, prompt and mindful, from the banquet rose;
A couch was spread well worthy such a guest,
Perfumed with rose and musk; and whilst at rest,
In deep sound sleep, the wearied Champion lay,
Forgot were all the sorrows of the way.
One watch had passed, and still sweet slumber shed
Its magic power around the hero's head--
When forth Tahmineh came--a damsel held
An amber taper, which the gloom dispelled,
And near his pillow stood; in beauty bright,
The monarch's daughter struck his wondering sight.
Clear as the moon, in glowing charms arrayed,
Her winning eyes the light of heaven displayed;
Her cypress form entranced the gazer's view,
Her waving curls, the heart, resistless, drew,
Her eye-brows like the Archer's bended bow;
Her ringlets, snares; her cheek, the rose's glow,
Mixed with the lily--from her ear-tips hung
Rings rich and glittering, star-like; and her tongue,
And lips, all sugared sweetness--pearls the while
Sparkled within a mouth formed to beguile.
Her presence dimmed the stars, and breathing round
Fragrance and joy, she scarcely touched the ground,
So light her step, so graceful--every part
Perfect, and suited to her spotless heart.
Rustem, surprised, the gentle maid addressed,
And asked what lovely stranger broke his rest.
"What is thy name," he said--"what dost thou seek
Amidst the gloom of night? Fair vision, speak!"
"O thou," she softly sigh'd, "of matchless fame!
With pity hear, Tahmineh is my name!
The pangs of love my anxious heart employ,
And flattering promise long-expected joy;
No curious eye has yet these features seen,
My voice unheard, beyond the sacred screen.
How often have I listened with amaze,
To thy great deeds, enamoured of thy praise;
How oft from every tongue I've heard the strain,
And thought of thee--and sighed, and sighed again.
The ravenous eagle, hovering o'er his prey,
Starts at thy gleaming sword and flies away:
Thou art the slayer of the Demon brood,
And the fierce monsters of the echoing wood.
Where'er thy mace is seen, shrink back the bold,
Thy javelin's flash all tremble to behold.
Enchanted with the stories of thy fame,
My fluttering heart responded to thy name;
And whilst their magic influence I felt,
In prayer for thee devotedly I knelt;
And fervent vowed, thus powerful glory charms,
No other spouse should bless my longing arms.
Indulgent heaven propitious to my prayer,
Now brings thee hither to reward my care.
Turan's dominions thou hast sought, alone,
By night, in darkness--thou, the mighty one!
O claim my hand, and grant my soul's desire;
Ask me in marriage of my royal sire;
Perhaps a boy our wedded love may crown,
Whose strength like thine may gain the world's renown.
Nay more--for Samengan will keep my word--
Rakush to thee again shall be restored."
The damsel thus her ardent thought expressed,
And Rustem's heart beat joyous in his breast,
Hearing her passion--not a word was lost,
And Rakush safe, by him still valued most;
He called her near; with graceful step she came,
And marked with throbbing pulse his kindled flame.
And now a Mubid, from the Champion-knight,
Requests the royal sanction to the rite;
O'erjoyed, the King the honoured suit approves,
O'erjoyed to bless the doting child he loves,
And happier still, in showering smiles around,
To be allied to warrior so renowned.
When the delighted father, doubly blest,
Resigned his daughter to his glorious guest,
The people shared the gladness which it gave,
The union of the beauteous and the brave.
To grace their nuptial day--both old and young,
The hymeneal gratulations sung:
"May this young moon bring happiness and joy,
And every source of enmity destroy."
The marriage-bower received the happy pair,
And love and transport shower'd their blessings there.
Ere from his lofty sphere the morn had thrown
His glittering radiance, and in splendour shone,
The mindful Champion, from his sinewy arm,
His bracelet drew, the soul-ennobling charm;
And, as he held the wondrous gift with pride,
He thus address'd his love-devoted bride!
"Take this," he said, "and if, by gracious heaven,
A daughter for thy solace should be given,
Let it among her ringlets be displayed,
And joy and honour will await the maid;
But should kind fate increase the nuptial-joy,
And make thee mother of a blooming boy,
Around his arm this magic bracelet bind,
To fire with virtuous deeds his ripening mind;
The strength of Sam will nerve his manly form,
In temper mild, in valour like the storm;
His not the dastard fate to shrink, or turn
From where the lions of the battle burn;
To him the soaring eagle from the sky
Will stoop, the bravest yield to him, or fly;
Thus shall his bright career imperious claim
The well-won honours of immortal fame!"
Ardent he said, and kissed her eyes and face,
And lingering held her in a fond embrace.
When the bright sun his radiant brow displayed,
And earth in all its loveliest hues arrayed,
The Champion rose to leave his spouse's side,
The warm affections of his weeping bride.
For her, too soon the winged moments flew,
Too soon, alas! the parting hour she knew;
Clasped in his arms, with many a streaming tear,
She tried, in vain, to win his deafen'd ear;
Still tried, ah fruitless struggle! to impart,
The swelling anguish of her bursting heart.
The father now with gratulations due
Rustem approaches, and displays to view
The fiery war-horse--welcome as the light
Of heaven, to one immersed in deepest night;
The Champion, wild with joy, fits on the rein,
And girds the saddle on his back again;
Then mounts, and leaving sire and wife behind,
Onward to Sistan rushes like the wind.
But when returned to Zabul's friendly shade,
None knew what joys the Warrior had delayed;
Still, fond remembrance, with endearing thought,
Oft to his mind the scene of rapture brought.
When nine slow-circling months had roll'd away,
Sweet-smiling pleasure hailed the brightening day--
A wondrous boy Tahmineh's tears supprest,
And lull'd the sorrows of her heart to rest;
To him, predestined to be great and brave,
The name Sohrab his tender mother gave;
And as he grew, amazed, the gathering throng,
View'd his large limbs, his sinews firm and strong;
His infant years no soft endearment claimed:
Athletic sports his eager soul inflamed;
Broad at the chest and taper round the loins,
Where to the rising hip the body joins;
Hunter and wrestler; and so great his speed,
He could overtake, and hold the swiftest steed.
His noble aspect, and majestic grace,
Betrayed the offspring of a glorious race.
How, with a mother's ever anxious love,
Still to retain him near her heart she strove!
For when the father's fond inquiry came,
Cautious, she still concealed his birth and name,
And feign'd a daughter born, the evil fraught
With misery to avert--but vain the thought;
Not many years had passed, with downy flight,
Ere he, Tahmineh's wonder and delight,
With glistening eye, and youthful ardour warm,
Filled her foreboding bosom with alarm.
"O now relieve my heart!" he said, "declare,
From whom I sprang and breathe the vital air.
Since, from my childhood I have ever been,
Amidst my play-mates of superior mien;
Should friend or foe demand my father's name,
Let not my silence testify my shame!
If still concealed, you falter, still delay,
A mother's blood shall wash the crime away."
"This wrath forego," the mother answering cried,
"And joyful hear to whom thou art allied.
A glorious line precedes thy destined birth,
The mightiest heroes of the sons of earth.
The deeds of Sam remotest realms admire,
And Zal, and Rustem thy illustrious sire!"
In private, then, she Rustem's letter placed
Before his view, and brought with eager haste
Three sparkling rubies, wedges three of gold,
From Persia sent--"Behold," she said, "behold
Thy father's gifts, will these thy doubts remove
The costly pledges of paternal love!
Behold this bracelet charm, of sovereign power
To baffle fate in danger's awful hour;
But thou must still the perilous secret keep,
Nor ask the harvest of renown to reap;
For when, by this peculiar signet known,
Thy glorious father shall demand his son,
Doomed from her only joy in life to part,
O think what pangs will rend thy mother's heart!--
Seek not the fame which only teems with woe;
Afrasiyab is Rustem's deadliest foe!
And if by him discovered, him I dread,
Revenge will fail upon thy guiltless head."
The youth replied: "In vain thy sighs and tears,
The secret breathes and mocks thy idle fears.
No human power can fate's decrees control,
Or check the kindled ardour of my soul.
Then why from me the bursting truth conceal?
My father's foes even now my vengeance feel;
Even now in wrath my native legions rise,
And sounds of desolation strike the skies;
Kaus himself, hurled from his ivory throne,
Shall yield to Rustem the imperial crown,
And thou, my mother, still in triumph seen,
Of lovely Persia hailed the honoured queen!
Then shall Turan unite beneath my hand,
And drive this proud oppressor from the land!
Father and Son, in virtuous league combined,
No savage despot shall enslave mankind;
When Sun and Moon o'er heaven refulgent blaze,
Shall little stars obtrude their feeble rays?"
He paused, and then: "O mother, I must now
My father seek, and see his lofty brow;
Be mine a horse, such as a prince demands,
Fit for the dusty field, a warrior's hands;
Strong as an elephant his form should be,
And chested like the stag, in motion free,
And swift as bird, or fish; it would disgrace
A warrior bold on foot to show his face."
The mother, seeing how his heart was bent,
His day-star rising in the firmament,
Commands the stables to be searched to find
Among the steeds one suited to his mind;
Pressing their backs he tries their strength and nerve,
Bent double to the ground their bellies curve;
Not one, from neighbouring plain and mountain brought,
Equals the wish with which his soul is fraught;
Fruitless on every side he anxious turns,
Fruitless, his brain with wild impatience burns,
But when at length they bring the destined steed,
From Rakush bred, of lightning's winged speed,
Fleet, as the arrow from the bow-string flies,
Fleet, as the eagle darting through the skies,
Rejoiced he springs, and, with a nimble bound,
Vaults in his seat, and wheels the courser round;
"With such a horse--thus mounted, what remains?
Kaus, the Persian King, no longer reigns!"
High flushed he speaks--with youthful pride elate,
Eager to crush the Monarch's glittering state;
He grasps his javelin with a hero's might,
And pants with ardour for the field of fight.
Soon o'er the realm his fame expanding spread,
And gathering thousands hasten'd to his aid.
His Grand-sire, pleased, beheld the warrior-train
Successive throng and darken all the plain;
And bounteously his treasures he supplied,
Camels, and steeds, and gold.--In martial pride,
Sohrab was seen--a Grecian helmet graced
His brow--and costliest mail his limbs embraced.
Afrasiyab now hears with ardent joy,
The bold ambition of the warrior-boy,
Of him who, perfumed with the milky breath
Of infancy, was threatening war and death,
And bursting sudden from his mother's side,
Had launched his bark upon the perilous tide.
The insidious King sees well the tempting hour,
Favouring his arms against the Persian power,
And thence, in haste, the enterprise to share,
Twelve thousand veterans selects with care;
To Human and Barman the charge consigns,
And thus his force with Samengan combines;
But treacherous first his martial chiefs he prest,
To keep the secret fast within their breast:--
"For this bold youth must not his father know,
Each must confront the other as his foe--
Such is my vengeance! With unhallowed rage,
Father and Son shall dreadful battle wage!
Unknown the youth shall Rustem's force withstand,
And soon o'erwhelm the bulwark of the land.
Rustem removed, the Persian throne is ours,
An easy conquest to confederate powers;
And then, secured by some propitious snare,
Sohrab himself our galling bonds shall wear.
Or should the Son by Rustem's falchion bleed,
The father's horror at that fatal deed,
Will rend his soul, and 'midst his sacred grief,
Kaus in vain will supplicate relief."
The tutored chiefs advance with speed, and bring
Imperial presents to the future king;
In stately pomp the embassy proceeds;
Ten loaded camels, ten unrivalled steeds,
A golden crown, and throne, whose jewels bright
Gleam in the sun, and shed a sparkling light,
A letter too the crafty tyrant sends,
And fraudful thus the glorious aim commends.--
"If Persia's spoils invite thee to the field,
Accept the aid my conquering legions yield;
Led by two Chiefs of valour and renown,
Upon thy head to place the kingly crown."
Elate with promised fame, the youth surveys
The regal vest, the throne's irradiant blaze,
The golden crown, the steeds, the sumptuous load
Of ten strong camels, craftily bestowed;
Salutes the Chiefs, and views on every side,
The lengthening ranks with various arms supplied.
The march begins--the brazen drums resound,
His moving thousands hide the trembling ground;
For Persia's verdant land he wields the spear,
And blood and havoc mark his groaning rear.
To check the Invader's horror-spreading course,
The barrier-fort opposed unequal force;
That fort whose walls, extending wide, contained
The stay of Persia, men to battle trained.
Soon as Hujir the dusky crowd descried,
He on his own presumptuous arm relied,
And left the fort; in mail with shield and spear,
Vaunting he spoke--"What hostile force is here?
What Chieftain dares our war-like realms invade?"
"And who art thou?" Sohrab indignant said,
Rushing towards him with undaunted look--
"Hast thou, audacious! nerve and soul to brook
The crocodile in fight, that to the strife
Singly thou comest, reckless of thy life?"
To this the foe replied--"A Turk and I
Have never yet been bound in friendly tie;
And soon thy head shall, severed by my sword,
Gladden the sight of Persia's mighty lord,
While thy torn limbs to vultures shall be given,
Or bleach beneath the parching blast of heaven."
The youthful hero laughing hears the boast,
And now by each continual spears are tost,
Mingling together; like a flood of fire
The boaster meets his adversary's ire;
The horse on which he rides, with thundering pace,
Seems like a mountain moving from its base;
Sternly he seeks the stripling's loins to wound,
But the lance hurtless drops upon the ground;
Sohrab, advancing, hurls his steady spear
Full on the middle of the vain Hujir,
Who staggers in his seat. With proud disdain
The youth now flings him headlong on the plain,
And quick dismounting, on his heaving breast
Triumphant stands, his Khunjer firmly prest,
To strike the head off--but the blow was stayed--Trembling,
for life, the craven boaster prayed.
That mercy granted eased his coward mind,
Though, dire disgrace, in captive bonds confined,
And sent to Human, who amazed beheld
How soon Sohrab his daring soul had quelled.
When Gurd-afrid, a peerless warrior-dame,
Heard of the conflict, and the hero's shame,
Groans heaved her breast, and tears of anger flowed,
Her tulip cheek with deeper crimson glowed;
Speedful, in arms magnificent arrayed,
A foaming palfrey bore the martial maid;
The burnished mail her tender limbs embraced,
Beneath her helm her clustering locks she placed;
Poised in her hand an iron javelin gleamed,
And o'er the ground its sparkling lustre streamed;
Accoutred thus in manly guise, no eye
However piercing could her sex descry;
Now, like a lion, from the fort she bends,
And 'midst the foe impetuously descends;
Fearless of soul, demands with haughty tone,
The bravest chief, for war-like valour known,
To try the chance of fight. In shining arms,
Again Sohrab the glow of battle warms;
With scornful smiles, "Another deer!" he cries,
"Come to my victor-toils, another prize!"
The damsel saw his noose insidious spread,
And soon her arrows whizzed around his head;
With steady skill the twanging bow she drew,
And still her pointed darts unerring flew;
For when in forest sports she touched the string,
Never escaped even bird upon the wing;
Furious he burned, and high his buckler held,
To ward the storm, by growing force impell'd;
And tilted forward with augmented wrath,
But Gurd-afrid aspires to cross his path;
Now o'er her back the slacken'd bow resounds;
She grasps her lance, her goaded courser bounds,
Driven on the youth with persevering might--
Unconquer'd courage still prolongs the fight;
The stripling Chief shields off the threaten'd blow,
Reins in his steed, then rushes on the foe;
With outstretch'd arm, he bending backwards hung,
And, gathering strength, his pointed javelin flung;
Firm through her girdle belt the weapon went,
And glancing down the polish'd armour rent.
Staggering, and stunned by his superior force,
She almost tumbled from her foaming horse,
Yet unsubdued, she cut the spear in two,
And from her side the quivering fragment drew,
Then gain'd her seat, and onward urged her steed,
But strong and fleet Sohrab arrests her speed:
Strikes off her helm, and sees--a woman's face,
Radiant with blushes and commanding grace!
Thus undeceived, in admiration lost,
He cries, "A woman, from the Persian host!
If Persian damsels thus in arms engage,
Who shall repel their warrior's fiercer rage?"
Then from his saddle thong--his noose he drew,
And round her waist the twisted loop he threw--
"Now seek not to escape," he sharply said,
"Such is the fate of war, unthinking maid!
And, as such beauty seldom swells our pride,
Vain thy attempt to cast my toils aside."
In this extreme, but one resource remained,
Only one remedy her hope sustained--
Expert in wiles each siren-art she knew,
And thence exposed her blooming face to view;
Raising her full black orbs, serenely bright,
In all her charms she blazed before his sight;
And thus addressed Sohrab--"O warrior brave,
Hear me, and thy imperilled honour save,
These curling tresses seen by either host,
A woman conquered, whence the glorious boast?
Thy startled troops will know, with inward grief,
A woman's arm resists their towering chief,
Better preserve a warrior's fair renown,
And let our struggle still remain unknown,
For who with wanton folly would expose
A helpless maid, to aggravate her woes;
The fort, the treasure, shall thy toils repay,
The chief, and garrison, thy will obey,
And thine the honours of this dreadful day."
Raptured he gazed, her smiles resistless move
The wildest transports of ungoverned love.
Her face disclosed a paradise to view,
Eyes like the fawn, and cheeks of rosy hue--
Thus vanquished, lost, unconscious of her aim,
And only struggling with his amorous flame,
He rode behind, as if compelled by fate,
And heedless saw her gain the castle-gate.
Safe with her friends, escaped from brand and spear,
Smiling she stands, as if unknown to fear.
--The father now, with tearful pleasure wild,
Clasps to his heart his fondly-foster'd child;
The crowding warriors round her eager bend,
And grateful prayers to favouring heaven ascend.
Now from the walls, she, with majestic air,
Exclaims: "Thou warrior of Turan! forbear,
Why vex thy soul, and useless strife demand!
Go, and in peace enjoy thy native land."
Stern he rejoins: "Thou beauteous tyrant! say,
Though crown'd with charms, devoted to betray,
When these proud walls, in dust and ruins laid,
Yield no defence, and thou a captive maid,
Will not repentance through thy bosom dart,
And sorrow soften that disdainful heart?"
Quick she replied: "O'er Persia's fertile fields
The savage Turk in vain his falchion wields;
When King Kaus this bold invasion hears,
And mighty Rustem clad in arms appears!
Destruction wide will glut the slippery plain,
And not one man of all thy host remain.
Alas! that bravery, high as thine, should meet
Amidst such promise, with a sure defeat,
But not a gleam of hope remains for thee,
Thy wondrous valour cannot keep thee free.
Avert the fate which o'er thy head impends,
Return, return, and save thy martial friends!"
Thus to be scorned, defrauded of his prey,
With victory in his grasp--to lose the day!
Shame and revenge alternate filled his mind;
The suburb-town to pillage he consigned,
And devastation--not a dwelling spared;
The very owl was from her covert scared;
Then thus: "Though luckless in my aim to-day,
To-morrow shall behold a sterner fray;
This fort, in ashes, scattered o'er the plain."
He ceased--and turned towards his troops again;
There, at a distance from the hostile power,
He brooding waits the slaughter-breathing hour.
Meanwhile the sire of Gurd-afrid, who now
Governed the fort, and feared the warrior's vow;
Mournful and pale, with gathering woes opprest,
His distant Monarch trembling thus addrest.
But first invoked the heavenly power to shed
Its choicest blessings o'er his royal head.
"Against our realm with numerous foot and horse,
A stripling warrior holds his ruthless course.
His lion-breast unequalled strength betrays,
And o'er his mien the sun's effulgence plays:
Sohrab his name; like Sam Suwar he shows,
Or Rustem terrible amidst his foes.
The bold Hujir lies vanquished on the plain,
And drags a captive's ignominious chain;
Myriads of troops besiege our tottering wall,
And vain the effort to suspend its fall.
Haste, arm for fight, this Tartar-power withstand,
Let sweeping Vengeance lift her flickering brand;
Rustem alone may stem the roaring wave,
And, prompt as bold, his groaning country save.
Meanwhile in flight we place our only trust,
Ere the proud ramparts crumble in the dust."
Swift flies the messenger through secret ways,
And to the King the dreadful tale conveys,
Then passed, unseen, in night's concealing shade,
The mournful heroes and the warrior maid.
Soon as the sun with vivifying ray,
Gleams o'er the landscape, and renews the day;
The flaming troops the lofty walls surround,
With thundering crash the bursting gates resound.
Already are the captives bound, in thought,
And like a herd before the conqueror brought;
Sohrab, terrific o'er the ruin, views
His hopes deceived, but restless still pursues.
An empty fortress mocks his searching eye,
No steel-clad chiefs his burning wrath defy;
No warrior-maid reviving passion warms,
And soothes his soul with fondly-valued charms.
Deep in his breast he feels the amorous smart,
And hugs her image closer to his heart.
"Alas! that Fate should thus invidious shroud
The moon's soft radiance in a gloomy cloud;
Should to my eyes such winning grace display,
Then snatch the enchanter of my soul away!
A beauteous roe my toils enclosed in vain,
Now I, her victim, drag the captive's chain;
Strange the effects that from her charms proceed,
I gave the wound, and I afflicted bleed!
Vanquished by her, I mourn the luckless strife;
Dark, dark, and bitter, frowns my morn of life.
A fair unknown my tortured bosom rends,
Withers each joy, and every hope suspends."
Impassioned thus Sohrab in secret sighed,
And sought, in vain, o'er-mastering grief to hide.
Can the heart bleed and throb from day to day,
And yet no trace its inmost pangs betray?
Love scorns control, and prompts the labouring sigh,
Pales the red lip, and dims the lucid eye;
His look alarmed the stern Turanian Chief,
Closely he mark'd his heart-corroding grief;--
And though he knew not that the martial dame,
Had in his bosom lit the tender flame;
Full well he knew such deep repinings prove,
The hapless thraldom of disastrous love.
Full well he knew some idol's musky hair,
Had to his youthful heart become a snare,
But still unnoted was the gushing tear,
Till haply he had gained his private ear:--
"In ancient times, no hero known to fame,
Not dead to glory e'er indulged the flame;
Though beauty's smiles might charm a fleeting hour,
The heart, unsway'd, repelled their lasting power.
A warrior Chief to trembling love a prey?
What! weep for woman one inglorious day?
Canst thou for love's effeminate control,
Barter the glory of a warrior's soul?
Although a hundred damsels might be gained,
The hero's heart shall still be free, unchained.
Thou art our leader, and thy place the field
Where soldiers love to fight with spear and shield;
And what hast thou to do with tears and smiles,
The silly victim to a woman's wiles?
Our progress, mark! from far Turan we came,
Through seas of blood to gain immortal fame;
And wilt thou now the tempting conquest shun,
When our brave arms this Barrier-fort have won?
Why linger here, and trickling sorrows shed,
Till mighty Kaus thunders o'er thy head!
Till Tus, and Giw, and Gudarz, and Bahram,
And Rustem brave, Feramurz, and Reham,
Shall aid the war! A great emprise is thine,
At once, then, every other thought resign;
For know the task which first inspired thy zeal,
Transcends in glory all that love can feel.
Rise, lead the war, prodigious toils require
Unyielding strength, and unextinguished fire;
Pursue the triumph with tempestuous rage,
Against the world in glorious strife engage,
And when an empire sinks beneath thy sway
(O quickly may we hail the prosperous day),
The fickle sex will then with blooming charms,
Adoring throng to bless thy circling arms!"
Human's warm speech, the spirit-stirring theme,
Awoke Sohrab from his inglorious dream.
No more the tear his faded cheek bedewed,
Again ambition all his hopes renewed:
Swell'd his bold heart with unforgotten zeal,
The noble wrath which heroes only feel;
Fiercely he vowed at one tremendous stroke,
To bow the world beneath the tyrant's yoke!
"Afrasiyab," he cried, "shall reign alone,
The mighty lord of Persia's gorgeous throne!"
Burning, himself, to rule this nether sphere,
These welcome tidings charmed the despot's ear.
Meantime Kaus, this dire invasion known,
Had called his chiefs around his ivory throne:
There stood Gurgin, and Bahram, and Gushwad,
And Tus, and Giw, and Gudarz, and Ferhad;
To them he read the melancholy tale,
Gust'hem had written of the rising bale;
Besought their aid and prudent choice, to form
Some sure defence against the threatening storm.
With one consent they urge the strong request,
To summon Rustem from his rural rest.--
Instant a warrior-delegate they send,
And thus the King invites his patriot-friend,
"To thee all praise, whose mighty arm alone,
Preserves the glory of the Persian throne!
Lo! Tartar hordes our happy realms invade;
The tottering state requires thy powerful aid;
A youthful Champion leads the ruthless host,
His savage country's widely-rumoured boast.
The Barrier-fortress sinks beneath his sway,
Hujir is vanquished, ruin tracks his way;
Strong as a raging elephant in fight,
No arm but thine can match his furious might.
Mazinderan thy conquering prowess knew;
The Demon-king thy trenchant falchion slew,
The rolling heavens, abash'd with fear, behold
Thy biting sword, thy mace adorned with gold!
Fly to the succour of a King distress'd,
Proud of thy love, with thy protection blest.
When o'er the nation dread misfortunes lower,
Thou art the refuge, thou the saving power.
The chiefs assembled claim thy patriot vows,
Give to thy glory all that life allows;
And while no whisper breathes the direful tale,
O, let thy Monarch's anxious prayers prevail."
Closing the fragrant page o'ercome with dread,
The afflicted King to Giw, the warrior, said:--
"Go, bind the saddle on thy fleetest horse,
Outstrip the tempest in thy rapid course,
To Rustem swift his country's woes convey,
Too true art thou to linger on the way;
Speed, day and night--and not one instant wait,
Whatever hour may bring thee to his gate."
Followed no pause--to Giw enough was said,
Nor rest, nor taste of food, his speed delayed.
And when arrived, where Zabul's bowers exhale
Ambrosial sweets and scent the balmy gale,
The sentinel's loud voice in Rustem's ear,
Announced a messenger from Persia, near;
The Chief himself amidst his warriors stood,
Dispensing honours to the brave and good,
And soon as Giw had joined the martial ring,
(The sacred envoy of the Persian King),
He, with becoming loyalty inspired,
Asked what the monarch, what the state required;
But Giw, apart, his secret mission told--
The written page was speedily unrolled.
Struck with amazement, Rustem--"Now on earth
A warrior-knight of Sam's excelling worth?
Whence comes this hero of the prosperous star?
I know no Turk renowned, like him, in war;
He bears the port of Rustem too, 'tis said,
Like Sam, like Nariman, a warrior bred!
He cannot be my son, unknown to me;
Reason forbids the thought--it cannot be!
At Samengan, where once affection smiled,
To me Tahmineh bore her only child,
That was a daughter?" Pondering thus he spoke,
And then aloud--"Why fear the invader's yoke?
Why trembling shrink, by coward thoughts dismayed,
Must we not all in dust, at length, be laid?
But come, to Nirum's palace, haste with me,
And there partake the feast--from sorrow free;
Breathe, but awhile--ere we our toils renew,
And moisten the parched lip with needful dew.
Let plans of war another day decide,
We soon shall quell this youthful hero's pride.
The force of fire soon flutters and decays
When ocean, swelled by storms, its wrath displays.
What danger threatens! whence the dastard fear!
Rest, and at leisure share a warrior's cheer."
In vain the Envoy prest the Monarch's grief;
The matchless prowess of the stripling chief;
How brave Hujir had felt his furious hand;
What thickening woes beset the shuddering land.
But Rustem, still, delayed the parting day,
And mirth and feasting rolled the hours away;
Morn following morn beheld the banquet bright,
Music and wine prolonged the genial rite;
Rapt by the witchery of the melting strain,
No thought of Kaus touch'd his swimming brain.
The trumpet's clang, on fragrant breezes borne,
Now loud salutes the fifth revolving morn;
The softer tones which charm'd the jocund feast,
And all the noise of revelry, had ceased,
The generous horse, with rich embroidery deckt,
Whose gilded trappings sparkling light reflect,
Bears with majestic port the Champion brave,
And high in air the victor-banners wave.
Prompt at the martial call, Zuara leads
His veteran troops from Zabul's verdant meads.
Ere Rustem had approached his journey's end,
Tus, Gudarz, Gushwad, met their champion-friend
With customary honours; pleased to bring
The shield of Persia to the anxious King.
But foaming wrath the senseless monarch swayed;
His friendship scorned, his mandate disobeyed,
Beneath dark brows o'er-shadowing deep, his eye
Red gleaming shone, like lightning through the sky
And when the warriors met his sullen view,
Frowning revenge, still more enraged he grew:--
Loud to the Envoy thus he fiercely cried:--
"Since Rustem has my royal power defied,
Had I a sword, this instant should his head
Roll on the ground; but let him now be led
Hence, and impaled alive." Astounded Giw
Shrunk from such treatment of a knight so true;
But this resistance added to the flame,
And both were branded with revolt and shame;
Both were condemned, and Tus, the stern decree
Received, to break them on the felon-tree.
Could daring insult, thus deliberate given,
Escape the rage of one to frenzy driven?
No, from his side the nerveless Chief was flung,
Bent to the ground. Away the Champion sprung;
Mounted his foaming horse, and looking round--
His boiling wrath thus rapid utterance found:--
"Ungrateful King, thy tyrant acts disgrace
The sacred throne, and more, the human race;
Midst clashing swords thy recreant life I saved,
And am I now by Tus contemptuous braved?
On me shall Tus, shall Kaus dare to frown?
On me, the bulwark of the regal crown?
Wherefore should fear in Rustem's breast have birth,
Kaus, to me, a worthless clod of earth!
Go, and thyself Sohrab's invasion stay,
Go, seize the plunderers growling o'er their prey!
Wherefore to others give the base command?
Go, break him on the tree with thine own hand.
Know, thou hast roused a warrior, great and free,
Who never bends to tyrant Kings like thee!
Was not this untired arm triumphant seen,
In Misser, Rum, Mazinderan, and Chin!
And must I shrink at thy imperious nod!
Slave to no Prince, I only bow to God.
Whatever wrath from thee, proud King! may fall,
For thee I fought, and I deserve it all.
The regal sceptre might have graced my hand,
I kept the laws, and scorned supreme command.
When Kai-kobad and Alberz mountain strayed,
I drew him thence, and gave a warrior's aid;
Placed on his brows the long-contested crown,
Worn by his sires, by sacred right his own;
Strong in the cause, my conquering arms prevailed,
Wouldst thou have reign'd had Rustem's valour failed
When the White Demon raged in battle-fray,
Wouldst thou have lived had Rustem lost the day?"
Then to his friends: "Be wise, and shun your fate,
Fly the wide ruin which o'erwhelms the state;
The conqueror comes--the scourge of great and small,
And vultures, following fast, will gorge on all.
Persia no more its injured Chief shall view"--
He said, and sternly from the court withdrew.
The warriors now, with sad forebodings wrung,
Torn from that hope to which they proudly clung,
On Gudarz rest, to soothe with gentle sway,
The frantic King, and Rustem's wrath allay.
With bitter grief they wail misfortune's shock,
No shepherd now to guard the timorous flock.
Gudarz at length, with boding cares imprest,
Thus soothed the anger in the royal breast.
"Say, what has Rustem done, that he should be
Impaled upon the ignominious tree?
Degrading thought, unworthy to be bred
Within a royal heart, a royal head.
Hast thou forgot when near the Caspian-wave,
Defeat and ruin had appalled the brave,
When mighty Rustem struck the dreadful blow,
And nobly freed thee from the savage foe?
Did Demons huge escape his flaming brand?
Their reeking limbs bestrew'd the slippery strand.
Shall he for this resign his vital breath?
What! shall the hero's recompense be death?
But who will dare a threatening step advance,
What earthly power can bear his withering glance?
Should he to Zabul fired with wrongs return,
The plunder'd land will long in sorrow mourn!
This direful presage all our warriors feel,
For who can now oppose the invader's steel;
Thus is it wise thy champion to offend,
To urge to this extreme thy warrior-friend?
Remember, passion ever scorns control,
And wisdom's mild decrees should rule a Monarch's soul."
Kaus, relenting, heard with anxious ear,
And groundless wrath gave place to shame and fear;
"Go then," he cried, "his generous aid implore,
And to your King the mighty Chief restore!"
When Gudarz rose, and seized his courser's rein,
A crowd of heroes followed in his train.
To Rustem, now (respectful homage paid),
The royal prayer he anxious thus conveyed.
"The King, repentant, seeks thy aid again,
Grieved to the heart that he has given thee pain;
But though his anger was unjust and strong,
Thy country still is guiltless of the wrong,
And, therefore, why abandoned thus by thee?
Thy help the King himself implores through me."
Rustem rejoined: "Unworthy the pretence,
And scorn and insult all my recompense?
Must I be galled by his capricious mood?
I, who have still his firmest champion stood?
But all is past, to heaven alone resigned,
No human cares shall more disturb my mind!"
Then Gudarz thus (consummate art inspired
His prudent tongue, with all that zeal required);
"When Rustem dreads Sohrab's resistless power,
Well may inferiors fly the trying hour!
The dire suspicion now pervades us all,
Thus, unavenged, shall beauteous Persia fall!
Yet, generous still, avert the lasting shame,
O, still preserve thy country's glorious fame!
Or wilt thou, deaf to all our fears excite,
Forsake thy friends, and shun the pending fight?
And worse, O grief! in thy declining days,
Forfeit the honours of thy country's praise?"
This artful censure set his soul on fire,
But patriot firmness calm'd his burning ire;
And thus he said--"Inured to war's alarms,
Did ever Rustem shun the din of arms?
Though frowns from Kaus I disdain to bear,
My threatened country claims a warrior's care."
He ceased, and prudent joined the circling throng,
And in the public good forgot the private wrong.
From far the King the generous Champion viewed,
And rising, mildly thus his speech pursued:--
"Since various tempers govern all mankind,
Me, nature fashioned of a froward mind;
And what the heavens spontaneously bestow,
Sown by their bounty must for ever grow.
The fit of wrath which burst within me, soon
Shrunk up my heart as thin as the new moon;
Else had I deemed thee still my army's boast,
Source of my regal power, beloved the most,
Unequalled. Every day, remembering thee,
I drain the wine cup, thou art all to me;
I wished thee to perform that lofty part,
Claimed by thy valour, sanctioned by my heart;
Hence thy delay my better thoughts supprest,
And boisterous passions revelled in my breast;
But when I saw thee from my Court retire
In wrath, repentance quenched my burning ire.
O, let me now my keen contrition prove,
Again enjoy thy fellowship and love: