Part 4 out of 9
And while to thee my gratitude is known,
Still be the pride and glory of my throne."
Rustem, thus answering said:--"Thou art the King,
Source of command, pure honour's sacred spring;
And here I stand to follow thy behest,
Obedient ever--be thy will expressed,
And services required--Old age shall see
My loins still bound in fealty to thee."
To this the King:--"Rejoice we then to-day,
And on the morrow marshal our array."
The monarch quick commands the feast of joy,
And social cares his buoyant mind employ,
Within a bower, beside a crystal spring,
Where opening flowers, refreshing odours fling,
Cheerful he sits, and forms the banquet scene,
In regal splendour on the crowded green;
And as around he greets his valiant bands,
Showers golden presents from his bounteous hands;
Voluptuous damsels trill the sportive lay,
Whose sparkling glances beam celestial day;
Fill'd with delight the heroes closer join,
And quaff till midnight cups of generous wine.
Soon as the Sun had pierced the veil of night,
And o'er the prospect shed his earliest light,
Kaus, impatient, bids the clarions sound,
The sprightly notes from hills and rocks rebound;
His treasure gates are opened:--and to all
A largess given; obedient to the call,
His subjects gathering crowd the mountain's brow,
And following thousands shade the vales below;
With shields, in armor, numerous legions bend;
And troops of horse the threatening lines extend.
Beneath the tread of heroes fierce and strong,
By war's tumultuous fury borne along,
The firm earth shook: the dust, in eddies driven,
Whirled high in air, obscured the face of heaven;
Nor earth, nor sky appeared--all, seeming lost,
And swallowed up by that wide-spreading host.
The steely armour glitter'd o'er the fields,
And lightnings flash'd from gold emblazoned shields;
Thou wouldst have said, the clouds had burst in showers,
Of sparkling amber o'er the martial powers.
Thus, close embodied, they pursued their way,
And reached the Barrier-fort in terrible array.
The legions of Turan, with dread surprise,
Saw o'er the plain successive myriads rise;
And showed them to Sohrab; he, mounting high
The fort, surveyed them with a fearless eye;
To Human, who, with withering terror pale,
Had marked their progress through the distant vale,
He pointed out the sight, and ardent said:--
"Dispel these woe-fraught broodings from thy head,
I wage the war, Afrasiyab! for thee,
And make this desert seem a rolling sea."
Thus, while amazement every bosom quell'd,
Sohrab, unmoved, the coming storm beheld,
And boldly gazing on the camp around,
Raised high the cup with wine nectareous crowned:
O'er him no dreams of woe insidious stole,
No thought but joy engaged his ardent soul.
The Persian legions had restrained their course,
Tents and pavilions, countless foot and horse,
Clothed all the spacious plain, and gleaming threw
Terrific splendours on the gazer's view.
But when the Sun had faded in the west,
And night assumed her ebon-coloured vest,
The mighty Chief approached the sacred throne,
And generous thus made danger all his own:
"The rules of war demand a previous task,
To watch this dreadful foe I boldly ask;
With wary step the wondrous youth to view,
And mark the heroes who his path pursue."
The King assents: "The task is justly thine,
Favourite of heaven, inspired by power divine."
In Turkish habit, secretly arrayed,
The lurking Champion wandered through the shade
And, cautious, standing near the palace gate,
Saw how the chiefs were ranged in princely state.
What time Sohrab his thoughts to battle turned,
And for the first proud fruits of conquest burned,
His mother called a warrior to his aid,
And Zinda-ruzm his sister's call obeyed.
To him Tahmineh gave her only joy,
And bade him shield the bold adventurous boy:
"But, in the dreadful strife, should danger rise,
Present my child before his father's eyes!
By him protected, war may rage in vain,
Though he may never bless these arms again!"
This guardian prince sat on the stripling's right,
Viewing the imperial banquet with delight.
Human and Barman, near the hero placed,
In joyous pomp the full assembly graced;
A hundred valiant Chiefs begirt the throne,
And, all elate, were chaunting his renown.
Closely concealed, the gay and splendid scene,
Rustem contemplates with astonished mien;
When Zind, retiring, marks the listener nigh,
Watching the festal train with curious eye;
And well he knew, amongst his Tartar host,
Such towering stature not a Chief could boast--
"What spy is here, close shrouded by the night?
Art thou afraid to face the beams of light?"
But scarcely from his lips these words had past,
Ere, fell'd to earth, he groaning breathed his last;
Unseen he perish'd, fate decreed the blow,
To add fresh keenness to a parent's woe.
Meantime Sohrab, perceiving the delay
In Zind's return, looked round him with dismay;
The seat still vacant--but the bitter truth,
Full soon was known to the distracted youth;
Full soon he found that Zinda-ruzm was gone,
His day of feasting and of glory done;
Speedful towards the fatal spot he ran,
Where slept in bloody vest the slaughtered man.
The lighted torches now displayed the dead,
Stiff on the ground his graceful limbs were spread;
Sad sight to him who knew his guardian care,
Now doom'd a kinsman's early loss to bear;
Anguish and rage devour his breast by turns,
He vows revenge, then o'er the warrior mourns:
And thus exclaims to each afflicted Chief:--
"No time, to-night, my friends, for useless grief;
The ravenous wolf has watched his helpless prey,
Sprung o'er the fold, and borne its flower away;
But if the heavens my lifted arm befriend,
Upon the guilty shall my wrath descend--
Unsheathed, this sword shall dire revenge pursue,
And Persian blood the thirsty land bedew."
Frowning he paused, and check'd the spreading woe,
Resumed the feast, and bid the wine-cup flow!
The valiant Giw was sentinel that night,
And marking dimly by the dubious light,
A warrior form approach, he claps his hands,
With naked sword and lifted shield he stands,
To front the foe; but Rustem now appears,
And Giw the secret tale astonished hears;
From thence the Champion on the Monarch waits.
The power and splendour of Sohrab relates:
"Circled by Chiefs this glorious youth was seen,
Of lofty stature and majestic mien;
No Tartar region gave the hero birth:
Some happier portion of the spacious earth;
Tall, as the graceful cypress he appears;
Like Sam, the brave, his warrior-front he rears!"
Then having told how, while the banquet shone,
Unhappy Zind had sunk, without a groan;
He forms his conquering bands in close array,
And, cheer'd by wine, awaits the coming day.
When now the Sun his golden buckler raised,
And genial light through heaven diffusive blazed,
Sohrab in mail his nervous limbs attired,
For dreadful wrath his soul to vengeance fired;
With anxious haste he bent the yielding cord,
Ring within ring, more fateful than the sword;
Around his brows a regal helm he bound;
His dappled steed impatient stampt the ground.
Thus armed, ascending where the eye could trace
The hostile force, and mark each leader's place,
He called Hujir, the captive Chief addressed,
And anxious thus, his soul's desire expressed:
"A prisoner thou, if freedom's voice can charm,
And dungeon darkness fill thee with alarm,
That freedom merit, shun severest woe,
And truly answer what I ask to know!
If rigid truth thy ready speech attend,
Honours and wealth shall dignify my friend."
"Obedient to thy wish," Hujir replied,
"Truth thou shalt hear, whatever chance betide;
For what on earth to praise has better claim?
Falsehood but leads to sorrow and to shame!"
"Then say, what heroes lead the adverse host,
Where they command, what dignities they boast;
Say, where does Kaus hold his kingly state,
Where Tus, and Gudarz, on his bidding wait;
Giw, Gust'hem, and Bahram--all known to thee,
And where is mighty Rustem, where is he?
Look round with care, their names and power display
Or instant death shall end thy vital day."
"Where yonder splendid tapestries extend,
And o'er pavilions bright infolding bend,
A throne triumphal shines with sapphire rays,
And golden suns upon the banners blaze;
Full in the centre of the hosts--and round
The tent a hundred elephants are bound,
As if, in pomp, he mocked the power of fate;
There royal Kaus holds his kingly state.
"In yonder tent which numerous guards protect,
Where front and rear illustrious Chiefs collect;
Where horsemen wheeling seem prepared for fight,
Their golden armour glittering in the light;
Tus lifts his banners, deck'd with royal pride,
Feared by the brave, the soldier's friend and guide.
"That crimson tent where spear-men frowning stand,
And steel-clad veterans form a threatening band,
Holds mighty Gudarz, famed for martial fire,
Of eighty valiant sons the valiant sire;
Yet strong in arms, he shuns inglorious ease,
His lion-banners floating in the breeze.
"But mark, that green pavilion; girt around
By Persian nobles, speaks the Chief renowned;
Fierce on the standard, worked with curious art,
A hideous dragon writhing seems to start;
Throned in his tent the warrior's form is seen,
Towering above the assembled host between!
A generous horse before him snorts and neighs,
The trembling earth the echoing sound conveys.
Like him no Champion ever met my eyes,
No horse like that for majesty and size;
What Chief illustrious bears a port so high?
Mark, how his standard flickers through the sky!"
Thus ardent spoke Sohrab. Hujir dismayed,
Paused ere reply the dangerous truth betrayed.
Trembling for Rustem's life the captive groaned;
Basely his country's glorious boast disowned,
And said the Chief from distant China came--
Sohrab abrupt demands the hero's name;
The name unknown, grief wrings his aching heart,
And yearning anguish speeds her venom'd dart;
To him his mother gave the tokens true,
He sees them all, and all but mock his view.
When gloomy fate descends in evil hour,
Can human wisdom bribe her favouring power?
Yet, gathering hope, again with restless mien
He marks the Chiefs who crowd the warlike scene.
"Where numerous heroes, horse and foot, appear,
And brazen trumpets thrill the listening ear,
Behold the proud pavilion of the brave!
With wolves emboss'd the silken banners wave.
The throne's bright gems with radiant lustre glow,
Slaves rank'd around with duteous homage bow.
What mighty Chieftain rules his cohorts there?
His name and lineage, free from guile, declare!"
"Giw, son of Gudarz, long a glorious name,
Whose prowess even transcends his father's fame."
"Mark yonder tent of pure and dazzling white,
Whose rich brocade reflects a quivering light;
An ebon seat surmounts the ivory throne;
There frowns in state a warrior of renown.
The crowding slaves his awful nod obey,
And silver moons around his banners play;
What Chief, or Prince, has grasped the hostile sword?
Friburz, the son of Persia's mighty lord."
Again: "These standards show one champion more,
Upon their centre flames the savage boar;
The saffron-hued pavilion bright ascends,
Whence many a fold of tasselled fringe depends;
Who there presides?"
"Guraz, from heroes sprung,
Whose praise exceeds the power of mortal tongue."
Thus, anxious, he explored the crowded field,
Nor once the secret of his birth revealed;
Heaven will'd it so. Pressed down by silent grief,
Surrounding objects promised no relief.
This world to mortals still denies repose,
And life is still the scene of many woes.
Again his eye, instinctive turned, descried
The green pavilion, and the warrior's pride.
Again he cries: "O tell his glorious name;
Yon gallant horse declares the hero's fame!"
But false Hujir the aspiring hope repelled,
Crushed the fond wish, the soothing balm withheld,
"And why should I conceal his name from thee?
His name and title are unknown to me."
Then thus Sohrab--"In all that thou hast said,
No sign of Rustem have thy words conveyed;
Thou sayest he leads the Persian host to arms,
With him has battle lost its boisterous charms?
Of him no trace thy guiding hand has shown;
Can power supreme remain unmark'd, unknown?"
"Perhaps returned to Zabul's verdant bowers,
He undisturbed enjoys his peaceful hours,
The vernal banquets may constrain his stay,
And rural sports invite prolonged delay."
"Ah! say not thus; the Champion of the world,
Shrink from the kindling war with banners furled!
It cannot be! Say where his lightnings dart,
Show me the warrior, all thou know'st impart;
Treasures uncounted shall be thy reward,
Death changed to life, my friendship more than shared.
Dost thou not know what, in the royal ear,
The Mubid said--befitting Kings to hear?
'Untold, a secret is a jewel bright,
Yet profitless whilst hidden from the light;
But when revealed, in words distinctly given,
It shines refulgent as the sun through heaven.'"
To him, Hujir evasive thus replies:
"Through all the extended earth his glory flies!
Whenever dangers round the nation close,
Rustem approaches, and repels its foes;
And shouldst thou see him mix in mortal strife,
Thou'dst think 'twere easier to escape with life
From tiger fell, or demon--or the fold
Of the chafed dragon, than his dreadful hold--
When fiercest battle clothes the fields with fire,
Before his rage embodied hosts retire!"
"And where didst thou encountering armies see?
Why Rustem's praise so proudly urge to me?
Let us but meet and thou shalt trembling know,
How fierce that wrath which bids my bosom glow:
If living flames express his boundless ire,
O'erwhelming waters quench consuming fire!
And deepest darkness, glooms of ten-fold night,
Fly from the piercing beams of radiant light."
Hujir shrunk back with undissembled dread,
And thus communing with himself, he said--
"Shall I, regardless of my country, guide
To Rustem's tent this furious homicide?
And witness there destruction to our host?
The bulwark of the land for ever lost!
What Chief can then the Tartar power restrain!
Kaus dethroned, the mighty Rustem slain!
Better a thousand deaths should lay me low,
Than, living, yield such triumph to the foe.
For in this struggle should my blood be shed,
No foul dishonour can pursue me, dead;
No lasting shame my father's age oppress,
Whom eighty sons of martial courage bless!
They for their brother slain, incensed will rise,
And pour their vengeance on my enemies."
Then thus aloud--"Can idle words avail?
Why still of Rustem urge the frequent tale?
Why for the elephant-bodied hero ask?
Thee, he will find--no uncongenial task.
Why seek pretences to destroy my life?
Strike, for no Rustem views th' unequal strife!"
Sohrab confused, with hopeless anguish mourned,
Back from the lofty walls he quick returned,
And stood amazed.
Now war and vengeance claim,
Collected thought and deeds of mighty name;
The jointed mail his vigorous body clasps,
His sinewy hand the shining javelin grasps;
Like a mad elephant he meets the foe,
His steed a moving mountain--deeply glow
His cheeks with passionate ardour, as he flies
Resistless onwards, and with sparkling eyes,
Full on the centre drives his daring horse--
The yielding Persians fly his furious course;
As the wild ass impetuous springs away,
When the fierce lion thunders on his prey.
By every sign of strength and martial power,
They think him Rustem in his direst hour;
On Kaus now his proud defiance falls,
Scornful to him the stripling warrior calls:
"And why art thou misnamed of royal strain?
What work of thine befits the tented plain?
This thirsty javelin seeks thy coward breast;
Thou and thy thousands doomed to endless rest.
True to my oath, which time can never change,
On thee, proud King! I hurl my just revenge.
The blood of Zind inspires my burning hate,
And dire resentment hurries on thy fate;
Whom canst thou send to try the desperate strife?
What valiant Chief, regardless of his life?
Where now can Friburz, Tus, Giw, Gudarz, be,
And the world-conquering Rustem, where is he?"
No prompt reply from Persian lip ensued--
Then rushing on, with demon-strength endued,
Sohrab elate his javelin waved around,
And hurled the bright pavilion to the ground;
With horror Kaus feels destruction nigh,
And cries: "For Rustem's needful succour fly!
This frantic Turk, triumphant on the plain,
Withers the souls of all my warrior train."
That instant Tus the mighty Champion sought,
And told the deeds the Tartar Chief had wrought;
"'Tis ever thus, the brainless Monarch's due!
Shame and disaster still his steps pursue!"
This saying, from his tent he soon descried,
The wild confusion spreading far and wide;
And saddled Rakush--whilst, in deep dismay,
Girgin incessant cried--"Speed, speed, away."
Reham bound on the mace, Tus promptly ran,
And buckled on the broad Burgustuwan.
Rustem, meanwhile, the thickening tumult hears
And in his heart, untouched by human fears,
Says: "What is this, that feeling seems to stun!
This battle must be led by Ahirmun,
The awful day of doom must have begun."
In haste he arms, and mounts his bounding steed,
The growing rage demands redoubled speed;
The leopard's skin he o'er his shoulders throws,
The regal girdle round his middle glows.
High wave his glorious banners; broad revealed,
The pictured dragons glare along the field
Borne by Zuara. When, surprised, he views
Sohrab, endued with ample breast and thews,
Like Sam Suwar, he beckons him apart;
The youth advances with a gallant heart,
Willing to prove his adversary's might,
By single combat to decide the fight;
And eagerly, "Together brought," he cries,
"Remote from us be foemen, and allies,
And though at once by either host surveyed,
Ours be the strife which asks no mortal aid."
Rustem, considerate, view'd him o'er and o'er,
So wondrous graceful was the form he bore,
And frankly said: "Experience flows with age,
And many a foe has felt my conquering rage;
Much have I seen, superior strength and art
Have borne my spear thro' many a demon's heart;
Only behold me on the battle plain,
Wait till thou see'st this hand the war sustain,
And if on thee should changeful fortune smile,
Thou needst not fear the monster of the Nile!
But soft compassion melts my soul to save,
A youth so blooming with a mind so brave!"
The generous speech Sohrab attentive heard,
His heart expanding glowed at every word:
"One question answer, and in answering show,
That truth should ever from a warrior flow;
Art thou not Rustem, whose exploits sublime,
Endear his name thro' every distant clime?"
"I boast no station of exalted birth,
No proud pretensions to distinguished worth;
To him inferior, no such powers are mine,
No offspring I of Nirum's glorious line!"
The prompt denial dampt his filial joy,
All hope at once forsook the Warrior-boy,
His opening day of pleasure, and the bloom
Of cherished life, immersed in shadowy gloom.
Perplexed with what his mother's words implied;--
A narrow space is now prepared, aside,
For single combat. With disdainful glance
Each boldly shakes his death-devoting lance,
And rushes forward to the dubious fight;
Thoughts high and brave their burning souls excite;
Now sword to sword; continuous strokes resound,
Till glittering fragments strew the dusty ground.
Each grasps his massive club with added force,
The folding mail is rent from either horse;
It seemed as if the fearful day of doom
Had, clothed in all its withering terrors, come.
Their shattered corslets yield defence no more--
At length they breathe, defiled with dust and gore;
Their gasping throats with parching thirst are dry,
Gloomy and fierce they roll the lowering eye,
And frown defiance. Son and Father driven
To mortal strife! are these the ways of Heaven?
The various swarms which boundless ocean breeds,
The countless tribes which crop the flowery meads,
All know their kind, but hapless man alone
Has no instinctive feeling for his own!
Compell'd to pause, by every eye surveyed,
Rustem, with shame, his wearied strength betrayed;
Foil'd by a youth in battle's mid career,
His groaning spirit almost sunk with fear;
Recovering strength, again they fiercely meet;
Again they struggle with redoubled heat;
With bended bows they furious now contend;
And feather'd shafts in rattling showers descend;
Thick as autumnal leaves they strew the plain,
Harmless their points, and all their fury vain.
And now they seize each other's girdle-band;
Rustem, who, if he moved his iron hand,
Could shake a mountain, and to whom a rock
Seemed soft as wax, tried, with one mighty stroke,
To hurl him thundering from his fiery steed,
But Fate forbids the gallant youth should bleed;
Finding his wonted nerves relaxed, amazed
That hand he drops which never had been raised
Uncrowned with victory, even when demons fought,
And pauses, wildered with despairing thought.
Sohrab again springs with terrific grace,
And lifts, from saddle-bow, his ponderous mace;
With gather'd strength the quick-descending blow
Wounds in its fall, and stuns the unwary foe;
Then thus contemptuous: "All thy power is gone;
Thy charger's strength exhausted as thy own;
Thy bleeding wounds with pity I behold;
O seek no more the combat of the bold!"
Rustem to this reproach made no reply,
But stood confused--meanwhile, tumultuously
The legions closed; with soul-appalling force,
Troop rushed on troop, o'erwhelming man and horse;
Sohrab, incensed, the Persian host engaged,
Furious along the scattered lines he raged;
Fierce as a wolf he rode on every side,
The thirsty earth with streaming gore was dyed.
Midst the Turanians, then, the Champion sped,
And like a tiger heaped the fields with dead.
But when the Monarch's danger struck his thought,
Returning swift, the stripling youth he sought;
Grieved to the soul, the mighty Champion view'd
His hands and mail with Persian blood imbrued;
And thus exclaimed with lion-voice--"O say,
Why with the Persians dost thou war to-day?
Why not with me alone decide the fight,
Thou'rt like a wolf that seek'st the fold by night."
To this Sohrab his proud assent expressed--
And Rustem, answering, thus the youth addressed.
"Night-shadows now are thickening o'er the plain,
The morrow's sun must see our strife again;
In wrestling let us then exert our might!"
He said, and eve's last glimmer sunk in night
Thus as the skies a deeper gloom displayed,
The stripling's life was hastening into shade!
The gallant heroes to their tents retired,
The sweets of rest their wearied limbs required:
Sohrab, delighted with his brave career,
Describes the fight in Human's anxious ear:
Tells how he forced unnumbered Chiefs to yield,
And stood himself the victor of the field!
"But let the morrow's dawn," he cried, "arrive,
And not one Persian shall the day survive;
Meanwhile let wine its strengthening balm impart,
And add new zeal to every drooping heart."
The valiant Giw with Rustem pondering stood,
And, sad, recalled the scene of death and blood;
Grief and amazement heaved the frequent sigh,
And almost froze the crimson current dry.
Rustem, oppressed by Giw's desponding thought,
Amidst his Chiefs the mournful Monarch sought;
To him he told Sohrab's tremendous sway,
The dire misfortunes of this luckless day;
Told with what grasping force he tried, in vain,
To hurl the wondrous stripling to the plain:
"The whispering zephyr might as well aspire
To shake a mountain--such his strength and fire.
But night came on--and, by agreement, we
Must meet again to-morrow--who shall be
Victorious, Heaven knows only:--for by Heaven,
Victory or death to man is ever given."
This said, the King, o'erwhelmed in deep despair,
Passed the dread night in agony and prayer.
The Champion, silent, joined his bands at rest,
And spurned at length despondence from his breast;
Removed from all, he cheered Zuara's heart,
And nerved his soul to bear a trying part:--
"Ere early morning gilds the ethereal plain,
In martial order range my warrior-train;
And when I meet in all his glorious pride,
This valiant Turk whom late my rage defied,
Should fortune's smiles my arduous task requite,
Bring them to share the triumph of my might;
But should success the stripling's arm attend,
And dire defeat and death my glories end,
To their loved homes my brave associates guide;
Let bowery Zabul all their sorrows hide--
Comfort my venerable father's heart;
In gentlest words my heavy fate impart.
The dreadful tidings to my mother bear,
And soothe her anguish with the tenderest care;
Say, that the will of righteous Heaven decreed,
That thus in arms her mighty son should bleed.
Enough of fame my various toils acquired,
When warring demons, bathed in blood, expired.
Were life prolonged a thousand lingering years,
Death comes at last and ends our mortal fears;
Kirshasp, and Sam, and Nariman, the best
And bravest heroes, who have ever blest
This fleeting world, were not endued with power,
To stay the march of fate one single hour;
The world for them possessed no fixed abode,
The path to death's cold regions must be trod;
Then, why lament the doom ordained for all?
Thus Jemshid fell, and thus must Rustem fall."
When the bright dawn proclaimed the rising day,
The warriors armed, impatient of delay;
But first Sohrab, his proud confederate nigh,
Thus wistful spoke, as swelled the boding sigh--
"Now, mark my great antagonist in arms!
His noble form my filial bosom warms;
My mother's tokens shine conspicuous here,
And all the proofs my heart demands, appear;
Sure this is Rustem, whom my eyes engage!
Shall I, O grief! provoke my Father's rage?
Offended Nature then would curse my name,
And shuddering nations echo with my shame."
He ceased, then Human: "Vain, fantastic thought,
Oft have I been where Persia's Champion fought;
And thou hast heard, what wonders he performed,
When, in his prime, Mazinderan was stormed;
That horse resembles Rustem's, it is true,
But not so strong, nor beautiful to view."
Sohrab now buckles on his war attire,
His heart all softness, and his brain all fire;
Around his lips such smiles benignant played,
He seemed to greet a friend, as thus he said:--
"Here let us sit together on the plain,
Here, social sit, and from the fight refrain;
Ask we from heaven forgiveness of the past,
And bind our souls in friendship that may last;
Ours be the feast--let us be warm and free,
For powerful instinct draws me still to thee;
Fain would my heart in bland affection join,
Then let thy generous ardour equal mine;
And kindly say, with whom I now contend--
What name distinguished boasts my warrior-friend!
Thy name unfit for champion brave to hide,
Thy name so long, long sought, and still denied;
Say, art thou Rustem, whom I burn to know?
Ingenuous say, and cease to be my foe!"
Sternly the mighty Champion cried, "Away--
Hence with thy wiles--now practised to delay;
The promised struggle, resolute, I claim,
Then cease to move me to an act of shame."
Sohrab rejoined--"Old man! thou wilt not hear
The words of prudence uttered in thine ear;
Then, Heaven! look on."
Preparing for the shock,
Each binds his charger to a neighbouring rock;
And girds his loins, and rubs his wrists, and tries
Their suppleness and force, with angry eyes;
And now they meet--now rise, and now descend,
And strong and fierce their sinewy arms extend;
Wrestling with all their strength they grasp and strain,
And blood and sweat flow copious on the plain;
Like raging elephants they furious close;
Commutual wounds are given, and wrenching blows.
Sohrab now clasps his hands, and forward springs
Impatiently, and round the Champion clings;
Seizes his girdle belt, with power to tear
The very earth asunder; in despair
Rustem, defeated, feels his nerves give way,
And thundering falls. Sohrab bestrides his prey:
Grim as the lion, prowling through the wood,
Upon a wild ass springs, and pants for blood.
His lifted sword had lopt the gory head,
But Rustem, quick, with crafty ardour said:--
"One moment, hold! what, are our laws unknown?
A Chief may fight till he is twice o'erthrown;
The second fall, his recreant blood is spilt,
These are our laws, avoid the menaced guilt."
Proud of his strength, and easily deceived,
The wondering youth the artful tale believed;
Released his prey, and, wild as wind or wave,
Neglecting all the prudence of the brave,
Turned from the place, nor once the strife renewed,
But bounded o'er the plain and other cares pursued,
As if all memory of the war had died,
All thoughts of him with whom his strength was tried.
Human, confounded at the stripling's stay,
Went forth, and heard the fortune of the day;
Amazed to find the mighty Rustem freed,
With deepest grief he wailed the luckless deed.
"What! loose a raging lion from the snare,
And let him growling hasten to his lair?
Bethink thee well; in war, from this unwise,
This thoughtless act what countless woes may rise;
Never again suspend the final blow,
Nor trust the seeming weakness of a foe!"
"Hence with complaint," the dauntless youth replied,
"To-morrow's contest shall his fate decide."
When Rustem was released, in altered mood
He sought the coolness of the murmuring flood;
There quenched his thirst; and bathed his limbs, and prayed,
Beseeching Heaven to yield its strengthening aid.
His pious prayer indulgent Heaven approved,
And growing strength through all his sinews moved;
Such as erewhile his towering structure knew,
When his bold arm unconquered demons slew.
Yet in his mien no confidence appeared,
No ardent hope his wounded spirits cheered.
Again they met. A glow of youthful grace,
Diffused its radiance o'er the stripling's face,
And when he saw in renovated guise,
The foe so lately mastered; with surprise,
He cried--"What! rescued from my power, again
Dost thou confront me on the battle plain?
Or, dost thou, wearied, draw thy vital breath,
And seek, from warrior bold, the shaft of death?
Truth has no charms for thee, old man; even now,
Some further cheat may lurk upon thy brow;
Twice have I shown thee mercy, twice thy age
Hath been thy safety--twice it soothed my rage."
Then mild the Champion: "Youth is proud and vain!
The idle boast a warrior would disdain;
This aged arm perhaps may yet control,
The wanton fury that inflames thy soul!"
Again, dismounting, each the other viewed
With sullen glance, and swift the fight renewed;
Clenched front to front, again they tug and bend,
Twist their broad limbs as every nerve would rend;
With rage convulsive Rustem grasps him round;
Bends his strong back, and hurls him to the ground;
Him, who had deemed the triumph all his own;
But dubious of his power to keep him down,
Like lightning quick he gives the deadly thrust,
And spurns the Stripling weltering in the dust.
--Thus as his blood that shining steel imbrues,
Thine too shall flow, when Destiny pursues;
For when she marks the victim of her power,
A thousand daggers speed the dying hour.
Writhing with pain Sohrab in murmurs sighed--
And thus to Rustem--"Vaunt not, in thy pride;
Upon myself this sorrow have I brought,
Thou but the instrument of fate--which wrought
My downfall; thou are guiltless--guiltless quite;
O! had I seen my father in the fight,
My glorious father! Life will soon be o'er,
And his great deeds enchant my soul no more!
Of him my mother gave the mark and sign,
For him I sought, and what an end is mine!
My only wish on earth, my constant sigh,
Him to behold, and with that wish I die.
But hope not to elude his piercing sight,
In vain for thee the deepest glooms of night;
Couldst thou through Ocean's depths for refuge fly,
Or midst the star-beams track the upper sky!
Rustem, with vengeance armed, will reach thee there,
His soul the prey of anguish and despair."
An icy horror chills the Champion's heart,
His brain whirls round with agonizing smart;
O'er his wan cheek no gushing sorrows flow,
Senseless he sinks beneath the weight of woe;
Relieved at length, with frenzied look, he cries:
"Prove thou art mine, confirm my doubting eyes!
For I am Rustem!" Piercing was the groan,
Which burst from his torn heart--as wild and lone,
He gazed upon him. Dire amazement shook
The dying youth, and mournful thus he spoke:
"If thou art Rustem, cruel is thy part,
No warmth paternal seems to fill thy heart;
Else hadst thou known me when, with strong desire,
I fondly claimed thee for my valiant sire;
Now from my body strip the shining mail,
Untie these bands, ere life and feeling fail;
And on my arm the direful proof behold!
Thy sacred bracelet of refulgent gold!
When the loud brazen drums were heard afar,
And, echoing round, proclaimed the pending war,
Whilst parting tears my mother's eyes o'erflowed,
This mystic gift her bursting heart bestowed:
'Take this,' she said, 'thy father's token wear,
And promised glory will reward thy care.'
The hour is come, but fraught with bitterest woe,
We meet in blood to wail the fatal blow."
The loosened mail unfolds the bracelet bright,
Unhappy gift! to Rustem's wildered sight,
Prostrate he falls--"By my unnatural hand,
My son, my son is slain--and from the land
Uprooted."--Frantic, in the dust his hair
He rends in agony and deep despair;
The western sun had disappeared in gloom,
And still, the Champion wept his cruel doom;
His wondering legions marked the long delay,
And, seeing Rakush riderless astray,
The rumour quick to Persia's Monarch spread,
And there described the mighty Rustem dead.
Kaus, alarmed, the fatal tidings hears;
His bosom quivers with increasing fears.
"Speed, speed, and see what has befallen to-day
To cause these groans and tears--what fatal fray!
If he be lost, if breathless on the ground,
And this young warrior, with the conquest crowned--
Then must I, humbled, from my kingdom torn,
Wander like Jemshid, through the world forlorn."
The army roused, rushed o'er the dusty plain,
Urged by the Monarch to revenge the slain;
Wild consternation saddened every face,
Tus winged with horror sought the fatal place,
And there beheld the agonizing sight--
The murderous end of that unnatural fight.
Sohrab, still breathing, hears the shrill alarms,
His gentle speech suspends the clang of arms:
"My light of life now fluttering sinks in shade,
Let vengeance sleep, and peaceful vows be made.
Beseech the King to spare this Tartar host,
For they are guiltless, all to them is lost;
I led them on, their souls with glory fired,
While mad ambition all my thoughts inspired.
In search of thee, the world before my eyes,
War was my choice, and thou the sacred prize;
With thee, my sire! in virtuous league combined,
No tyrant King should persecute mankind.
That hope is past--the storm has ceased to rave--
My ripening honours wither in the grave;
Then let no vengeance on my comrades fall,
Mine was the guilt, and mine the sorrow, all;
How often have I sought thee--oft my mind
Figured thee to my sight--o'erjoyed to find
My mother's token; disappointment came,
When thou denied thy lineage and thy name;
Oh! still o'er thee my soul impassioned hung,
Still to my father fond affection clung!
But fate, remorseless, all my hopes withstood,
And stained thy reeking hands in kindred blood."
His faltering breath protracted speech denied:
Still from his eye-lids flowed a gushing tide;
Through Rustem's soul redoubled horror ran,
Heart-rending thoughts subdued the mighty man,
And now, at last, with joy-illumined eye,
The Zabul bands their glorious Chief descry;
But when they saw his pale and haggard look,
Knew from what mournful cause he gazed and shook,
With downcast mien they moaned and wept aloud;
While Rustem thus addressed the weeping crowd
"Here ends the war! let gentle peace succeed,
Enough of death, I--I have done the deed!"
Then to his brother, groaning deep, he said--
"O what a curse upon a parent's head!
But go--and to the Tartar say--no more,
Let war between us steep the earth with gore."
Zuara flew and wildly spoke his grief,
To crafty Human, the Turanian Chief,
Who, with dissembled sorrow, heard him tell
The dismal tidings which he knew too well;
"And who," he said, "has caused these tears to flow?
Who, but Hujir? He might have stayed the blow,
But when Sohrab his Father's banners sought;
He still denied that here the Champion fought;
He spread the ruin, he the secret knew,
Hence should his crime receive the vengeance due!"
Zuara, frantic, breathed in Rustem's ear,
The treachery of the captive Chief, Hujir;
Whose headless trunk had weltered on the strand,
But prayers and force withheld the lifted hand.
Then to his dying son the Champion turned,
Remorse more deep within his bosom burned;
A burst of frenzy fired his throbbing brain;
He clenched his sword, but found his fury vain;
The Persian Chiefs the desperate act represt,
And tried to calm the tumult in his breast:
Thus Gudarz spoke--"Alas! wert thou to give
Thyself a thousand wounds, and cease to live;
What would it be to him thou sorrowest o'er?
It would not save one pang--then weep no more;
For if removed by death, O say, to whom
Has ever been vouchsafed a different doom?
All are the prey of death--the crowned, the low,
And man, through life, the victim still of woe."
Then Rustem: "Fly! and to the King relate,
The pressing horrors which involve my fate;
And if the memory of my deeds e'er swayed
His mind, O supplicate his generous aid;
A sovereign balm he has whose wondrous power,
All wounds can heal, and fleeting life restore;
Swift from his tent the potent medicine bring."
--But mark the malice of the brainless King!
Hard as the flinty rock, he stern denies
The healthful draught, and gloomy thus replies:
"Can I forgive his foul and slanderous tongue?
The sharp disdain on me contemptuous flung?
Scorned 'midst my army by a shameless boy,
Who sought my throne, my sceptre to destroy!
Nothing but mischief from his heart can flow,
Is it, then, wise to cherish such a foe?
The fool who warms his enemy to life,
Only prepares for scenes of future strife."
Gudarz, returning, told the hopeless tale--
And thinking Rustem's presence might prevail;
The Champion rose, but ere he reached the throne,
Sohrab had breathed the last expiring groan.
Now keener anguish rack'd the father's mind,
Reft of his son, a murderer of his kind;
His guilty sword distained with filial gore,
He beat his burning breast, his hair he tore;
The breathless corse before his shuddering view,
A shower of ashes o'er his head he threw;
"In my old age," he cried, "what have I done?
Why have I slain my son, my innocent son!
Why o'er his splendid dawning did I roll
The clouds of death--and plunge my burthened soul
In agony? My son! from heroes sprung;
Better these hands were from my body wrung;
And solitude and darkness, deep and drear,
Fold me from sight than hated linger here.
But when his mother hears, with horror wild,
That I have shed the life-blood of her child,
So nobly brave, so dearly loved, in vain,
How can her heart that rending shock sustain?"
Now on a bier the Persian warriors place
The breathless Youth, and shade his pallid face;
And turning from that fatal field away,
Move towards the Champion's home in long array.
Then Rustem, sick of martial pomp and show,
Himself the spring of all this scene of woe,
Doomed to the flames the pageantry he loved,
Shield, spear, and mace, so oft in battle proved;
Now lost to all, encompassed by despair;
His bright pavilion crackling blazed in air;
The sparkling throne the ascending column fed;
In smoking fragments fell the golden bed;
The raging fire red glimmering died away,
And all the Warrior's pride in dust and ashes lay.
Kaus, the King, now joins the mournful Chief,
And tries to soothe his deep and settled grief;
For soon or late we yield our vital breath,
And all our worldly troubles end in death!
"When first I saw him, graceful in his might,
He looked far other than a Tartar knight;
Wondering I gazed--now Destiny has thrown
Him on thy sword--he fought, and he is gone;
And should even Heaven against the earth be hurled,
Or fire inwrap in crackling flames the world,
That which is past--we never can restore,
His soul has travelled to some happier shore.
Alas! no good from sorrow canst thou reap,
Then wherefore thus in gloom and misery weep?"
But Rustem's mighty woes disdained his aid,
His heart was drowned in grief, and thus he said:
"Yes, he is gone! to me for ever lost!
O then protect his brave unguided host;
From war removed and this detested place,
Let them, unharmed, their mountain-wilds retrace;
Bid them secure my brother's will obey,
The careful guardian of their weary way,
To where the Jihun's distant waters stray."
To this the King: "My soul is sad to see
Thy hopeless grief--but, since approved by thee,
The war shall cease--though the Turanian brand
Has spread dismay and terror through the land."
The King, appeased, no more with vengeance burned,
The Tartar legions to their homes returned;
The Persian warriors, gathering round the dead,
Grovelled in dust, and tears of sorrow shed;
Then back to loved Iran their steps the monarch led.
But Rustem, midst his native bands, remained,
And further rites of sacrifice maintained;
A thousand horses bled at his command,
And the torn drums were scattered o'er the sand;
And now through Zabul's deep and bowery groves,
In mournful pomp the sad procession moves.
The mighty Chief on foot precedes the bier;
His Warrior-friends, in grief assembled near:
The dismal cadence rose upon the gale,
And Zal astonished heard the piercing wail;
He and his kindred joined the solemn train;
Hung round the bier and wondering viewed the slain.
"There gaze, and weep!" the sorrowing Father said,
"For there, behold my glorious offspring dead!"
The hoary Sire shrunk backward with surprise,
And tears of blood o'erflowed his aged eyes;
And now the Champion's rural palace gate
Receives the funeral group in gloomy state;
Rudabeh loud bemoaned the Stripling's doom;
Sweet flower, all drooping in the hour of bloom,
His tender youth in distant bowers had past,
Sheltered at home he felt no withering blast;
In the soft prison of his mother's arms,
Secure from danger and the world's alarms.
O ruthless Fortune! flushed with generous pride,
He sought his sire, and thus unhappy, died.
Rustem again the sacred bier unclosed;
Again Sohrab to public view exposed;
Husbands, and wives, and warriors, old and young,
Struck with amaze, around the body hung,
With garments rent and loosely flowing hair;
Their shrieks and clamours filled the echoing air;
Frequent they cried: "Thus Sam the Champion slept!
Thus sleeps Sohrab!" Again they groaned, and wept.
Now o'er the corpse a yellow robe is spread,
The aloes bier is closed upon the dead;
And, to preserve the hapless hero's name,
Fragrant and fresh, that his unblemished fame
Might live and bloom through all succeeding days,
A mound sepulchral on the spot they raise,
Formed like a charger's hoof.
In every ear
The story has been told--and many a tear,
Shed at the sad recital. Through Turan,
Afrasiyab's wide realm, and Samengan,
Deep sunk the tidings--nuptial bower, and bed,
And all that promised happiness, had fled!
But when Tahmineh heard this tale of woe,
Think how a mother bore the mortal blow!
Distracted, wild, she sprang from place to place;
With frenzied hands deformed her beauteous face;
The musky locks her polished temples crowned.
Furious she tore, and flung upon the ground;
Starting, in agony of grief, she gazed--
Her swimming eyes to Heaven imploring raised;
And groaning cried: "Sole comfort of my life!
Doomed the sad victim of unnatural strife,
Where art thou now with dust and blood defiled?
Thou darling boy, my lost, my murdered child!
When thou wert gone--how, night and lingering day,
Did thy fond mother watch the time away;
For hope still pictured all I wished to see,
Thy father found, and thou returned to me,
Yes--thou, exulting in thy father's fame!
And yet, nor sire nor son, nor tidings, came:
How could I dream of this? ye met--but how?
That noble aspect--that ingenuous brow,
Moved not a nerve in him--ye met--to part,
Alas! the life-blood issuing from the heart
Short was the day which gave to me delight,
Soon, soon, succeeds a long and dismal night;
On whom shall now devolve my tender care?
Who, loved like thee, my bosom-sorrows share?
Whom shall I take to fill thy vacant place,
To whom extend a mother's soft embrace?
Sad fate! for one so young, so fair, so brave,
Seeking thy father thus to find a grave.
These arms no more shall fold thee to my breast,
No more with thee my soul be doubly blest;
No, drowned in blood thy lifeless body lies,
For ever torn from these desiring eyes;
Friendless, alone, beneath a foreign sky,
Thy mail thy death-clothes--and thy father, by;
Why did not I conduct thee on the way,
And point where Rustem's bright pavilion lay?
Thou hadst the tokens--why didst thou withhold
Those dear remembrances--that pledge of gold?
Hadst thou the bracelet to his view restored,
Thy precious blood had never stained his sword."
The strong emotion choked her panting breath,
Her veins seemed withered by the cold of death:
The trembling matrons hastening round her mourned,
With piercing cries, till fluttering life returned;
Then gazing up, distraught, she wept again,
And frantic, seeing 'midst her pitying train,
The favourite steed--now more than ever dear,
The hoofs she kissed, and bathed with many a tear;
Clasping the mail Sohrab in battle wore,
With burning lips she kissed it o'er and o'er;
His martial robes she in her arms comprest,
And like an infant strained them to her breast;
The reins, and trappings, club, and spear, were brought,
The sword, and shield, with which the Stripling fought,
These she embraced with melancholy joy,
In sad remembrance of her darling boy.
And still she beat her face, and o'er them hung,
As in a trance--or to them wildly clung--
Day after day she thus indulged her grief,
Night after night, disdaining all relief;
At length worn out--from earthly anguish riven,
The mother's spirit joined her child in Heaven.
THE STORY OF SAIAWUSH
Early one morning as the cock crew, Tus arose, and accompanied by Giw
and Gudarz and a company of horsemen, proceeded on a hunting excursion,
not far from the banks of the Jihun, where, after ranging about the
forest for some time, they happened to fall in with a damsel of extreme
beauty, with smiling lips, blooming cheeks, and fascinating mien. They
said to her:
"Never was seen so sweet a flower,
In garden, vale, or fairy bower;
The moon is on thy lovely face,
Thy cypress-form is full of grace;
But why, with charms so soft and meek,
Dost thou the lonely forest seek?"
She replied that her father was a violent man, and that she had left her
home to escape his anger. She had crossed the river Jihun, and had
travelled several leagues on foot, in consequence of her horse being too
much fatigued to bear her farther. She had at that time been three days
in the forest. On being questioned respecting her parentage, she said
her father's name was Shiwer, of the race of Feridun. Many sovereigns
had been suitors for her hand, but she did not approve of one of them.
At last he wanted to marry her to Poshang, the ruler of Turan, but she
refused him on account of his ugliness and bad temper! This she said was
the cause of her father's violence, and of her flight from home.
"But when his angry mood is o'er,
He'll love his daughter as before;
And send his horsemen far and near,
To take me to my mother dear;
Therefore, I would not further stray,
But here, without a murmur, stay."
The hearts of both Tus and Giw were equally inflamed with love for the
damsel, and each was equally determined to support his own pretensions,
in consequence of which a quarrel arose between them. At length it was
agreed to refer the matter to the king, and to abide by his decision.
When, however, the king beheld the lovely object of contention, he was
not disposed to give her to either claimant, but without hesitation took
her to himself, after having first ascertained that she was of
distinguished family and connection. In due time a son was born to him,
who was, according to the calculations of the astrologers, of wonderful
promise, and named Saiawush. The prophecies about his surprising
virtues, and his future renown, made Kaus anxious that justice should be
done to his opening talents, and he was highly gratified when Rustem
agreed to take him to Zabulistan, and there instruct him in all the
accomplishments which were suitable to his illustrious rank. He was
accordingly taught horsemanship and archery, how to conduct himself at
banquets, how to hunt with the falcon and the leopard, and made familiar
with the manners and duty of kings, and the hardy chivalry of the age.
His progress in the attainment of every species of knowledge and science
was surprising, and in hunting he never stooped to the pursuit of
animals inferior to the lion or the tiger. It was not long before the
youth felt anxious to pay a visit to his father, and Rustem willingly
complying with his wishes, accompanied his accomplished pupil to the
royal court, where they were both received with becoming distinction,
Saiawush having fulfilled Kaus's expectations in the highest degree, and
the king's gratitude to the champion being in proportion to the eminent
merit of his services on the interesting occasion. After this, however,
preceptors were continued to enlighten his mind seven years longer, and
then he was emancipated from further application and study.
One day Sudaveh, the daughter of the Shah of Hamaveran, happening to see
Saiawush sitting with his father, the beauty of his person made an
instantaneous impression on her heart,
The fire of love consumed her breast,
The thoughts of him denied her rest.
For him alone she pined in grief,
From him alone she sought relief,
And called him to her secret bower,
To while away the passing hour:
But Saiawush refused the call,
He would not shame his father's hall.
The enamoured Sudaveh, however, was not to be disappointed without
further effort, and on a subsequent day she boldly went to the king, and
praising the character and attainments of his son, proposed that he
should be united in marriage to one of the damsels of royal lineage
under her care. For the pretended purpose therefore of making his
choice, she requested he might be sent to the harem, to see all the
ladies and fix on one the most suited to his taste. The king approved of
the proposal, and intimated it to Saiawush; but Saiawush was modest,
timid, and bashful, and mentally suspected in this overture some
artifice of Sudaveh. He accordingly hesitated, but the king overcame his
scruples, and the youth at length repaired to the shubistan, as the
retired apartments of the women are called, with fear and trembling.
When he entered within the precincts of the sacred place, he was
surprised by the richness and magnificence of everything that struck his
sight. He was delighted with the company of beautiful women, and he
observed Sudaveh sitting on a splendid throne in an interior chamber,
like Heaven in beauty and loveliness, with a coronet on her head, and
her hair floating round her in musky ringlets. Seeing him she descended
gracefully, and clasping him in her arms, kissed his eyes and face with
such ardor and enthusiasm that he thought proper to retire from her
endearments and mix among the other damsels, who placed him on a golden
chair and kept him in agreeable conversation for some time. After this
pleasing interview he returned to the king, and gave him a very
favorable account of his reception, and the heavenly splendor of the
retirement, worthy of Jemshid, Feridun, or Husheng, which gladdened his
father's heart. Kaus repeated to him his wish that he would at once
choose one of the lights of the harem for his wife, as the astrologers
had prophesied on his marriage the birth of a prince. But Saiawush
endeavored to excuse himself from going again to Sudaveh's apartments.
The king smiled at his weakness, and assured him that Sudaveh was alone
anxious for his happiness, upon which the youth found himself again in
her power. She was surrounded by the damsels as before, but, whilst his
eyes were cast down, they shortly disappeared, leaving him and the
enamoured Sudaveh together. She soon approached him, and lovingly
"O why the secret keep from one,
Whose heart is fixed on thee alone!
Say who thou art, from whom descended,
Some Peri with a mortal blended.
For every maid who sees that face,
That cypress-form replete with grace,
Becomes a victim to the wiles
Which nestle in those dimpled smiles;
Becomes thy own adoring slave,
Whom nothing but thy love can save."
To this Saiawush made no reply. The history of the adventure of Kaus at
Hamaveran, and what the king and his warriors endured in consequence of
the treachery of the father of Sudaveh, flashed upon his mind. He
therefore was full of apprehension, and breathed not a word in answer to
her fondness. Sudaveh observing his silence and reluctance, threw away
from herself the veil of modesty,
And said: "O be my own, for I am thine,
And clasp me in thy arms!" And then she sprang
To the astonished boy, and eagerly
Kissed his deep crimsoned cheek, which filled his soul
With strange confusion. "When the king is dead,
O take me to thyself; see how I stand,
Body and soul devoted unto thee."
In his heart he said: "This never can be:
This is a demon's work--shall I be treacherous?
What! to my own dear father? Never, never;
I will not thus be tempted by the devil;
Yet must I not be cold to this wild woman,
For fear of further folly."
Saiawush then expressed his readiness to be united in marriage to her
daughter, and to no other; and when this intelligence was conveyed to
Kaus by Sudaveh herself, His Majesty was extremely pleased, and
munificently opened his treasury on the happy occasion. But Sudaveh
still kept in view her own design, and still laboring for its success,
sedulously read her own incantations to prevent disappointment, at any
rate to punish the uncomplying youth if she failed. On another day she
sent for him, and exclaimed:--
"I cannot now dissemble; since I saw thee
I seem to be as dead--my heart all withered.
Seven years have passed in unrequited love--
Seven long, long years. O! be not still obdurate,
But with the generous impulse of affection,
Oh, bless my anxious spirit, or, refusing,
Thy life will be in peril; thou shalt die!"
"Never," replied the youth; "O, never, never;
Oh, ask me not, for this can never be."
Saiawush then rose to depart precipitately, but Sudaveh observing him,
endeavored to cling round him and arrest his flight. The endeavor,
however, was fruitless; and finding at length her situation desperate,
she determined to turn the adventure into her own favor, by accusing
Saiawush of an atrocious outrage on her own person and virtue. She
accordingly tore her dress, screamed aloud, and rushed out of her
apartment to inform Kaus of the indignity she had suffered. Among her
women the most clamorous lamentations arose, and echoed on every side.
The king, on hearing that Saiawush had preferred Sudaveh to her
daughter, and that he had meditated so abominable an offence, thought
that death alone could expiate his crime. He therefore summoned him to
his presence; but satisfied that it would be difficult, if not
impossible, to ascertain the truth of the case from either party
concerned, he had recourse to a test which he thought would be
infallible and conclusive. He first smelt the hands of Saiawush, and
then his garments, which had the scent of rose-water; and then he took
the garments of Sudaveh, which, on the contrary, had a strong flavor of
wine and musk. Upon this discovery, the king resolved on the death of
Sudaveh, being convinced of the falsehood of the accusation she had made
against his son. But when his indignation subsided, he was induced on
various accounts to forego that resolution. Yet he said to her, "I am
sure that Saiawush is innocent, but let that remain concealed."--Sudaveh,
however, persisted in asserting his guilt, and continually urged him to
punish the reputed offender, but without being attended to.
At length he resolved to ascertain the innocence of Saiawush by the
ordeal of fire; and the fearless youth prepared to undergo the terrible
trial to which he was sentenced, telling his father to be under no
"The truth (and its reward I claim),
Will bear me safe through fiercest flame."
A tremendous fire was accordingly lighted on the adjacent plain, which
blazed to an immense distance. The youth was attired in his golden
helmet and a white robe, and mounted on a black horse. He put up a
prayer to the Almighty for protection, and then rushed amidst the
conflagration, as collectedly as if the act had been entirely free from
peril. When Sudaveh heard the confused exclamations that were uttered at
that moment, she hurried upon the terrace of the palace and witnessed
the appalling sight, and in the fondness of her heart, wished even that
she could share his fate, the fate of him of whom she was so deeply
enamoured. The king himself fell from his throne in horror on seeing him
surrounded and enveloped in the flames, from which there seemed no
chance of extrication; but the gallant youth soon rose up, like the moon
from the bursting element, and went through the ordeal unharmed and
untouched by the fire. Kaus, on coming to his senses, rejoiced
exceedingly on the happy occasion, and his severest anger was directed
against Sudaveh, whom he now determined to put to death, not only for
her own guilt, but for exposing his son to such imminent danger. The
noble youth, however, interceded for her. Sudaveh, notwithstanding,
still continued to practise her charms and incantations in secret, to
the end that Saiawush might be put out of the way; and in this pursuit
she was indeed indefatigable.
Suddenly intelligence was received that Afrasiyab had assembled another
army, for the purpose of making an irruption into Iran; and Kaus, seeing
that a Tartar could neither be bound by promise nor oath, resolved that
he would on this occasion take the field himself, penetrate as far as
Balkh, and seizing the country, make an example of the inhabitants. But
Saiawush perceiving in this prospect of affairs an opportunity of
becoming free from the machinations and witchery of Sudaveh, earnestly
requested to be employed, adding that, with the advice and bravery of
Rustem, he would be sure of success. The king referred the matter to
Rustem, who candidly declared that there was no necessity whatever for
His Majesty proceeding personally to the war; and upon this assurance he
threw open his treasury, and supplied all the resources of the empire to
equip the troops appointed to accompany them. After one month the army
marched toward Balkh, the point of attack.
On the other side Gersiwaz, the ruler of Balghar, joined the Tartar
legions at Balkh, commanded by Barman, who both sallied forth to oppose
the Persian host, and after a conflict of three days were defeated, and
obliged to abandon the fort. When the accounts of this calamity reached
Afrasiyab, he was seized with the utmost terror, which was increased by
a dreadful dream. He thought he was in a forest abounding with serpents,
and that the air was darkened by the appearance of countless eagles. The
ground was parched up with heat, and a whirlwind hurled down his tent
and overthrew his banners. On every side flowed a river of blood, and
the whole of his army had been defeated and butchered in his sight. He
was afterwards taken prisoner, and ignominiously conducted to Kaus, in
whose company he beheld a gallant youth, not more than fourteen years of
age, who, the moment he saw him, plunged a dagger in his loins, and with
the scream of agony produced by the wound, he awoke. Gersiwaz had in the
meantime returned with the remnant of his force; and being informed of
these particulars, endeavored to console Afrasiyab, by assuring him that
the true interpretation of dreams was the reverse of appearances. But
Afrasiyab was not to be consoled in this manner. He referred to his
astrologers, who, however, hesitated, and were unwilling to afford an
explanation of the mysterious vision. At length one of them, upon the
solicited promise that the king would not punish him for divulging the
truth, described the nature of the warning implied in what had been
"And now I throw aside the veil,
Which hides the darkly shadowed tale.
Led by a prince of prosperous star,
The Persian legions speed to war,
And in his horoscope we scan
The lordly victor of Turan.
If thou shouldst to the conflict rush,
Opposed to conquering Saiawush,
Thy Turkish cohorts will be slain,
And all thy saving efforts vain.
For if he, in the threatened strife,
Should haply chance to lose his life;
Thy country's fate will be the same,
Stripped of its throne and diadem."
Afrasiyab was satisfied with this interpretation, and felt the prudence
of avoiding a war so pregnant with evil consequences to himself and his
kingdom. He therefore deputed Gersiwaz to the headquarters of Saiawush,
with splendid presents, consisting of horses richly caparisoned, armor,
swords, and other costly articles, and a written dispatch, proposing a
termination to hostilities.
In the meantime Saiawush was anxious to pursue the enemy across the
Jihun, but was dissuaded by his friends. When Gersiwaz arrived on his
embassy he was received with distinction, and the object of his mission
being understood, a secret council was held upon what answer should be
given. It was then deemed proper to demand: first, one hundred
distinguished heroes as hostages; and secondly, the restoration of all
the provinces which the Turanians had taken from Iran. Gersiwaz sent
immediately to Afrasiyab to inform him of the conditions required, and
without the least delay they were approved. A hundred warriors were soon
on their way; and Bokhara, and Samerkand, and Haj, and the Punjab, were
faithfully delivered over to Saiawush. Afrasiyab himself retired towards
Gungduz, saying, "I have had a terrible dream, and I will surrender
whatever may be required from me, rather than go to war."
The negotiations being concluded, Saiawush sent a letter to his father
by the hands of Rustem. Rumor, however, had already told Kaus of
Afrasiyab's dream, and the terror he had been thrown into in
consequence. The astrologers in his service having prognosticated from
it the certain ruin of the Turanian king, the object of Rustem's mission
was directly contrary to the wishes of Kaus; but Rustem contended that
the policy was good, and the terms were good, and he thereby incurred
His Majesty's displeasure. On this account Kaus appointed Tus the leader
of the Persian army, and commanded him to march against Afrasiyab,
ordering Saiawush at the same time to return, and bring with him his
hundred hostages. At this command Saiawush was grievously offended, and
consulted with his chieftains, Bahram, and Zinga, and Shaweran, on the
fittest course to be pursued, saying, "I have pledged my word to the
fulfilment of the terms, and what will the world say if I do not keep my
faith?" The chiefs tried to quiet his mind, and recommended him to write
again to Kaus, expressing his readiness to renew the war, and return the
hundred hostages. But Saiawush was in a different humor, and thought as
Tus had been actually appointed to the command of the Persian army, it
would be most advisable for him to abandon his country and join
Afrasiyab. The chiefs, upon hearing this singular resolution,
unanimously attempted to dissuade him from pursuing so wild a course as
throwing himself into the power of his enemy; but he was deaf to their
entreaties, and in the stubbornness of his spirit, wrote to Afrasiyab,
informing him that Kaus had refused to ratify the treaty of peace, that
he was compelled to return the hostages, and even himself to seek
protection in Turan from the resentment of his father, the warrior Tus
having been already entrusted with the charge of the army. This
unexpected intelligence excited considerable surprise in the mind of
Afrasiyab, but he had no hesitation in selecting the course to be
followed. The ambassadors, Zinga and Shaweran, were soon furnished with
a reply, which was to this effect:--"I settled the terms of peace with
thee, not with thy father. With him I have nothing to do. If thy choice
be retirement and tranquillity, thou shalt have a peaceful and
independent province allotted to thee; but if war be thy object, I will
furnish thee with a large army: thy father is old and infirm, and with
the aid of Rustem, Persia will be an easy conquest." Having thus
obtained the promised favor and support of Afrasiyab, Saiawush gave in
charge to Bahram the city of Balkh, the army and treasure, in order that
they might be delivered over to Tus on his arrival; and taking with him
three hundred chosen horsemen, passed the Jihun, in progress to the
court of Afrasiyab. On taking this decisive step, he again wrote to
"From my youth upward I have suffered wrong.
At first Sudaveh, false and treacherous,
Sought to destroy my happiness and fame;
And thou hadst nearly sacrificed my life
To glut her vengeance. The astrologers
Were all unheeded, who pronounced me innocent,
And I was doomed to brave devouring fire,
To testify that I was free from guilt;
But God was my deliverer! Victory now
Has marked my progress. Balkh, and all its spoils,
Are mine, and so reduced the enemy,
That I have gained a hundred hostages,
To guarantee the peace which I have made;
And what my recompense! a father's anger,
Which takes me from my glory. Thus deprived
Of thy affection, whither can I fly?
Be it to friend or foe, the will of fate
Must be my only guide--condemned by thee."
The reception of Saiawush by Afrasiyab was warm and flattering. From the
gates of the city to the palace, gold and incense were scattered over
his head in the customary manner, and exclamations of welcome uttered on
"Thy presence gives joy to the land,
Which awaits thy command;
It is thine! it is thine!
All the chiefs of the state have assembled to meet thee,
All the flowers of the land are in blossom to greet thee!"
The youth was placed on a golden throne next to Afrasiyab, and a
magnificent banquet prepared in honor of the stranger, and music and the
songs of beautiful women enlivened the festive scene. They chanted the
praises of Saiawush, distinguished, as they said, among men for three
things: first, for being of the line of Kai-kobad; secondly, for his
faith and honor; and, thirdly, for the wonderful beauty of his person,
which had gained universal love and admiration. The favorable sentiments
which characterized the first introduction of Saiawush to Afrasiyab
continued to prevail, and indeed the king of Turan seemed to regard him
with increased attachment and friendship, as the time passed away, and
showed him all the respect and honor to which his royal birth would have
entitled him in his own country. After the lapse of a year, Piran-wisah,
one of Afrasiyab's generals, said to him: "Young prince, thou art now
high in the favor of the king, and at a great distance from Persia, and
thy father is old; would it not therefore be better for thee to marry
and take up thy residence among us for life?" The suggestion was a
rational one, and Saiawush readily expressed his acquiescence;
accordingly, the lovely Gulshaher, who was also named Jarira, having
been introduced to him, he was delighted with her person, and both
consenting to a union, the marriage ceremony was immediately performed.
And many a warm delicious kiss,
Told how he loved the wedded bliss.
Some time after this union, Piran suggested another alliance, for the
purpose of strengthening his political interest and power, and this was
with Ferangis, the daughter of Afrasiyab. But Saiawush was so devoted to
Gulshaher that he first consulted with her on the subject, although the
hospitality and affection of the king constituted such strong claims on
his gratitude that refusal was impossible. Gulshaher, however, was a
heroine, and willingly sacrificed her own feelings for the good of
Saiawush, saying she would rather condescend to be the very handmaid of
Ferangis than that the happiness and prosperity of her lord should be
compromised. The second marriage accordingly took place, and Afrasiyab
was so pleased with the match that he bestowed on the bride and her
husband the sovereignty of Khoten, together with countless treasure in
gold, and a great number of horses, camels, and elephants. In a short
time they proceeded to the seat of the new government.
Meanwhile Kaus suffered the keenest distress and sorrow when he heard of
the flight of Saiawush into Turan, and Rustem felt such strong
indignation at the conduct of the king that he abruptly quitted the
court, without permission, and retired to Sistan. Kaus thus found
himself in an embarrassed condition, and deemed it prudent to recall
both Tus and the army from Balkh, and relinquish further hostile
measures against Afrasiyab.
The first thing that Saiawush undertook after his arrival at Khoten, was
to order the selection of a beautiful site for his residence, and Piran
devoted his services to fulfil that object, exploring all the provinces,
hills, and dales, on every side. At last he discovered a beautiful spot,
at the distance of about a month's journey, which combined all the
qualities and advantages required by the anxious prince. It was situated
on a mountain, and surrounded by scenery of exquisite richness and
variety. The trees were fresh and green, birds warbled on every spray,
transparent rivulets murmured through the meadows, the air was neither
oppressively hot in summer, nor cold in winter, so that the temperature,
and the attractive objects which presented themselves at every glance,
seemed to realize the imagined charms and fascinations of Paradise. The
inhabitants enjoyed perpetual health, and every breeze was laden with
music and perfume. So lovely a place could not fail to yield pleasure to
Saiawush, who immediately set about building a palace there, and
garden-temples, in which he had pictures painted of the most remarkable
persons of his time, and also the portraits of ancient kings. The walls
were decorated with the likenesses of Kai-kobad, of Kai-kaus, Poshang,
Afrasiyab, and Sam, and Zal, and Rustem, and other champions of Persia
and Turan. When completed, it was a gorgeous retreat, and the sight of
it sufficient to give youthful vigor to the withered faculties of age.
And yet Saiawush was not happy! Tears started into his eyes and sorrow
weighed upon his heart, whenever he thought upon his own estrangement
It happened that the lovely Gulshaher, who had been left in the house of
her father, was delivered of a son in due time, and he was named Ferud.
Afrasiyab, on being informed of the proceedings of Saiawush, and of the
heart-expanding residence he had chosen, was highly gratified; and to
show his affectionate regard, despatched to him with the intelligence of
the birth of a son, presents of great value and variety. Gersiwaz, the
brother of Afrasiyab, and who had from the first looked upon Saiawush
with a jealous and malignant eye, being afraid of his interfering with
his own prospects in Turan, was the person sent on this occasion. But he
hid his secret thoughts under the veil of outward praise and
approbation. Saiawush was pleased with the intelligence and the
presents, but failed to pay the customary respect to Gersiwaz on his
arrival, and, in consequence, the lurking indignation and hatred
formerly felt by the latter were considerably augmented. The attention
of Saiawush respecting his army and the concerns of the state, was
unremitting, and noted by the visitor with a jealous and scrutinizing
eye, so that Gersiwaz, on his return to the court of Afrasiyab, artfully
talked much of the pomp and splendor of the prince, and added: "Saiawush
is far from being the amiable character thou hast supposed; he is artful
and ambitious, and he has collected an immense army; he is in fact
dissatisfied. As a proof of his haughtiness, he paid me but little
attention, and doubtless very heavy calamity will soon befall Turan,
should he break out, as I apprehend he will, into open rebellion:--
"For he is proud, and thou has yet to learn
The temper of thy daughter Ferangis,
Now bound to him in duty and affection;
Their purpose is the same, to overthrow
The kingdom of Turan, and thy dominion;
To merge the glory of this happy realm
Into the Persian empire!"
But plausible and persuasive as were the observations and positive
declarations of Gersiwaz, Afrasiyab would not believe the imputed
ingratitude and hostility of Saiawush. "He has sought my protection,"
said he; "he has thrown himself upon my generosity, and I cannot think
him treacherous. But if he has meditated anything unmerited by me, and
unworthy of himself, it will be better to send him back to Kai-kaus, his
father." The artful Gersiwaz, however, was not to be diverted from his
object: he said that Saiawush had become personally acquainted with
Turan, its position, its weakness, its strength, and resources, and
aided by Rustem, would soon be able to overrun the country if he was
suffered to return, and therefore he recommended Afrasiyab to bring him
from Khoten by some artifice, and secure him. In conformity with this
suggestion, Gersiwaz was again deputed to the young prince, and a letter
of a friendly nature written for the purpose of blinding him to the real
intentions of his father-in-law. The letter was no sooner read than
Saiawush expressed his desire to comply with the request contained in
it, saying that Afrasiyab had been a father to him, and that he would
lose no time in fulfilling in all respects the wishes he had received.
This compliance and promptitude, however, was not in harmony with the
sinister views of Gersiwaz, for he foresaw that the very fact of
answering the call immediately would show that some misrepresentation
had been practised, and consequently it was his business now to promote
procrastination, and an appearance of evasive delay. He therefore said
to him privately that it would be advisable for him to wait a little,
and not manifest such implicit obedience to the will of Afrasiyab; but
Saiawush replied, that both his duty and affection urged him to a ready
compliance. Then Gersiwaz pressed him more warmly, and represented how
inconsistent, how unworthy of his illustrious lineage it would be to
betray so meek a spirit, especially as he had a considerable army at his
command, and could vindicate his dignity and his rights. And he
addressed to him these specious arguments so incessantly and with such
earnestness, that the deluded prince was at last induced to put off his
departure, on account of his wife Ferangis pretending that she was ill,
and saying that the moment she was better he would return to Turan. This
was quite enough for treachery to work upon; and as soon as the dispatch
was sealed, Gersiwaz conveyed it with the utmost expedition to
Afrasiyab. Appearances, at least, were thus made strong against
Saiawush, and the tyrant of Turan, now easily convinced of his
falsehood, and feeling in consequence his former enmity renewed,
forthwith assembled an army to punish his refractory son-in-law.
Gersiwaz was appointed the leader of that army, which was put in motion
without delay against the unoffending youth. The news of Afrasiyab's
warlike preparations satisfied the mind of Saiawush that Gersiwaz had
given him good advice, and that he had been a faithful monitor, for
immediate compliance, he now concluded, would have been his utter ruin.
When he communicated this unwelcome intelligence to Ferangis, she was
thrown into the greatest alarm and agitation; but ever fruitful in
expedients, suggested the course that it seemed necessary he should
instantly adopt, which was to fly by a circuitous route back to Iran. To
this he expressed no dissent, provided she would accompany him; but she
said it was impossible to do so on account of the condition she was in.
"Leave me," she added, "and save thy own life!" He therefore called
together his three hundred Iranians, and requesting Ferangis, if she
happened to be delivered of a son, to call him Kai-khosrau, set off on
"I go, surrounded by my enemies;
The hand of merciless Afrasiyab
Lifted against me."
It was not the fortune of Saiawush, however, to escape so easily as had
been anticipated by Ferangis. Gersiwaz was soon at his heels, and in the
battle that ensued, all the Iranians were killed, and also the horse
upon which the unfortunate prince rode, so that on foot he could make
but little progress. In the meantime Afrasiyab came up, and surrounding
him, wanted to shoot him with an arrow, but he was restrained from the
violent act by the intercession of his people, who recommended his being
taken alive, and only kept in prison. Accordingly he was again attacked
and secured, and still Afrasiyab wished to put him to death; but Pilsam,
one of his warriors, and the brother of Piran, induced him to relinquish
that diabolical intention, and to convey him back to his own palace.
Saiawush was then ignominiously fettered and conducted to the royal
residence, which he had himself erected and ornamented with such
richness and magnificence. The sight of the city and its splendid
buildings filled every one with wonder and admiration. Upon the arrival
of Afrasiyab, Ferangis hastened to him in a state of the deepest
distress, and implored his clemency and compassion in favor of Saiawush.
"O father, he is not to blame,
Still pure and spotless is his name;
Faithful and generous still to me,
And never--never false to thee.
This hate to Gersiwaz he owes,
The worst, the bitterest of his foes;
Did he not thy protection seek,
And wilt thou overpower the weak?
Spill royal blood thou shouldest bless,
In cruel sport and wantonness?
And earn the curses of mankind,
Living, in this precarious state,
And dead, the torments of the mind,
Which hell inflicts upon the great
Who revel in a murderous course,
And rule by cruelty and force.
"It scarce becomes me now to tell,
What the accursed Zohak befel,
Or what the punishment which hurled
Silim and Tur from out the world.
And is not Kaus living now,
With rightful vengeance on his brow?
And Rustem, who alone can make
Thy kingdom to its centre quake?
Gudarz, Zuara, and Friburz,
And Tus, and Girgin, and Framurz;
And others too of fearless might,
To challenge thee to mortal fight?
O, from this peril turn away,
Close not in gloom so bright a day;
Some heed to thy poor daughter give,
And let thy guiltless captive live."
The effect of this appeal, solemnly and urgently delivered, was only
transitory. Afrasiyab felt a little compunction at the moment, but soon
resumed his ferocious spirit, and to ensure, without interruption, the
accomplishment of his purpose, confined Ferangis in one of the remotest
parts of the palace:--
And thus to Gersiwaz unfeeling spoke:
"Off with his head, down with the enemy;
But take especial notice that his blood
Stains not the earth, lest it should cry aloud
For vengeance on us. Take good care of that!"
Gersiwaz, who was but too ready an instrument, immediately directed
Karu-zira, a kinsman of Afrasiyab, who had been also one of the most
zealous in promoting the ruin of the Persian prince, to inflict the
deadly blow; and Saiawush, whilst under the grasp of the executioner,
had but time to put up a prayer to Heaven, in which he hoped that a son
might be born to him to vindicate his good name, and be revenged on his
murderer. The executioner then seized him by the hair, and throwing him
on the ground, severed the head from the body. A golden vessel was ready
to receive the blood, as commanded by Afrasiyab; but a few drops
happened to be spilt on the soil, and upon that spot a tree grew up,
which was afterwards called Saiawush, and believed to possess many
wonderful virtues! The blood was carefully conveyed to Afrasiyab, the
head fixed on the point of a javelin, and the body was buried with
respect and affection by his friend Pilsam, who had witnessed the
melancholy catastrophe. It is also related that a tremendous tempest
occurred at the time this amiable prince was murdered, and that a total
darkness covered the face of the earth, so that the people could not
distinguish each other's faces. Then was the name of Afrasiyab truly
execrated and abhorred for the cruel act he had committed, and all the
inhabitants of Khoten long cherished the memory of Saiawush.
Ferangis was frantic with grief when she was told of the sad fate of her
husband, and all her household uttered the loudest lamentations. Pilsam
gave the intelligence to Piran and the proverb was then remembered: "It
is better to be in hell, than under the rule of Afrasiyab!" When the
deep sorrow of Ferangis reached the ears of her father, he determined on
a summary procedure, and ordered Gersiwaz to have her privately made
away with, so that there might be no issue of her marriage with
Piran with horror heard this stern command,
And hasten'd to the king, and thus addressed him:
"What! wouldst thou hurl thy vengeance on a woman,
That woman, too, thy daughter? Is it wise,
Or natural, thus to sport with human life?
Already hast thou taken from her arms
Her unoffending husband--that was cruel;
But thus to shed an innocent woman's blood,
And kill her unborn infant--that would be
Too dreadful to imagine! Is she not
Thy own fair daughter, given in happier time
To him who won thy favour and affection?
Think but of that, and from thy heart root out
This demon wish, which leads thee to a crime,
Mocking concealment; vain were the endeavour
To keep the murder secret, and when known,
The world's opprobrium would pursue thy name.
And after death, what would thy portion be!
No more of this--honour me with the charge,
And I will keep her with a father's care,
In my own mansion." Then Afrasiyab
Readily answered: "Take her to thy home,
But when the child is born, let it be brought
Promptly to me--my will must be obeyed."
Piran rejoiced at his success; and assenting to the command of
Afrasiyab, took Ferangis with him to Khoten, where in due time a child
was born, and being a son, was called Kai-khosrau. As soon as he was
born, Piran took measures to prevent his being carried off to Afrasiyab,
and committed him to the care of some peasants on the mountain Kalun. On
the same night Afrasiyab had a dream, in which he received intimation of
the birth of Kai-khosrau; and upon this intimation he sent for Piran to
know why his commands had not been complied with. Piran replied, that he
had cast away the child in the wilderness. "And why was he not sent to
me?" inquired the despot. "Because," said Piran, "I considered thy own
future happiness; thou hast unjustly killed the father, and God forbid
that thou shouldst also kill the son!" Afrasiyab was abashed, and it is
said that ever after the atrocious murder of Saiawush, he had been
tormented with the most terrible and harrowing dreams. Gersiwaz now
became hateful to his sight, and he began at last deeply to repent of
his violence and inhumanity.
Kai-khosrau grew up under the fostering protection of the peasants, and
showed early marks of surprising talent and activity. He excelled in
manly exercises; and hunting ferocious animals was his peculiar delight.
Instructors had been provided to initiate him in all the arts and
pursuits cultivated by the warriors of those days, and even in his
twelfth year accounts were forwarded to Piran of several wonderful feats
which he had performed.
Then smiled the good old man, and joyful said:
"'Tis ever thus--the youth of royal blood
Will not disgrace his lineage, but betray
By his superior mien and gallant deeds
From whence he sprung. 'Tis by the luscious fruit
We know the tree, and glory in its ripeness!"
Piran could not resist paying a visit to the youth in his mountainous
retreat, and, happy to find him, beyond all expectation, distinguished
for the elegance of his external appearance, and the superior qualities
of his mind, related to him the circumstances under which he had been
exposed, and the rank and misfortunes of his father. An artifice then
occurred to him which promised to be of ultimate advantage. He
afterwards told Afrasiyab that the offspring of Ferangis, thrown by him
into the wilderness to perish, had been found by a peasant and brought
up, but that he understood the boy was little better than an idiot.
Afrasiyab, upon this information, desired that he might be sent for, and
in the meantime Piran took especial care to instruct Kai-khosrau how he
should act; which was to seem in all respects insane, and he accordingly
appeared before the king in the dress of a prince with a golden crown on
his head, and the royal girdle round his loins. Kai-khosrau proceeded on
horseback to the court of Afrasiyab, and having performed the usual
salutations, was suitably received, though with strong feelings of shame
and remorse on the part of the tyrant. Afrasiyab put several questions
to him, which were answered in a wild and incoherent manner, entirely at
variance with the subject proposed. The king could not help smiling, and
supposing him to be totally deranged, allowed him to be sent with
presents to his mother, for no harm, he thought, could possibly be
apprehended from one so forlorn in mind. Piran triumphed in the success
of his scheme, and lost no time in taking Kai-khosrau to his mother. All
the people of Khoten poured blessings on the head of the youth, and
imprecations on the merciless spirit of Afrasiyab. The city built by
Saiawush had been razed to the ground by the exterminating fury of his
enemies, and wild animals and reptiles occupied the place on which it
stood. The mother and son visited the spot where Saiawush was
barbarously killed, and the tree, which grew up from the soil enriched
by his blood, was found verdant and flourishing, and continued to
possess in perfection its marvellous virtues.
The tale of Saiawush is told;
And now the pages bright unfold,
Rustem's revenge--Sudaveh's fate--
Afrasiyab's degraded state,
And that terrific curse and ban
Which fell at last upon Turan!
When Kai-kaus heard of the fate of his son, and all its horrible details
were pictured to his mind, he was thrown into the deepest affliction.
His warriors, Tus, and Gudarz, and Bahram, and Friburz, and Ferhad, felt
with equal keenness the loss of the amiable prince, and Rustem, as soon
as the dreadful intelligence reached Sistan, set off with his troops to
the court of the king, still full of indignation at the conduct of Kaus,
and oppressed with sorrow respecting the calamity which had occurred. On
his arrival he thus addressed the weeping and disconsolate father of
Saiawush, himself at the same time drowned in tears:--
"How has thy temper turned to nought, the seed
Which might have grown, and cast a glorious shadow;
How is it scattered to the barren winds!
Thy love for false Sudaveh was the cause
Of all this misery; she, the Sorceress,
O'er whom thou hast so oft in rapture hung,
Enchanted by her charms; she was the cause
Of this destruction. Thou art woman's slave!
Woman, the bane of man's felicity!
Who ever trusted woman? Death were better
Than being under woman's influence;
She places man upon the foamy ridge
Of the tempestuous wave, which rolls to ruin,
Who ever trusted woman?--Woman! woman!"
Kaus looked down with melancholy mien,
And, half consenting, thus to Rustem said:--
"Sudaveh's blandishments absorbed my soul,
And she has brought this wretchedness upon me."
Rustem rejoined--"The world must be revenged
Upon this false Sudaveh;--she must die."
Kaus was silent; but his tears flowed fast,
And shame withheld resistance. Rustem rushed
Without a pause towards the shubistan;
Impatient, nothing could obstruct his speed
To slay Sudaveh;--her he quickly found,
And rapidly his sanguinary sword
Performed its office. Thus the Sorceress died.
Such was the punishment her crimes received.
Having thus accomplished the first part of his vengeance, he proceeded
with the Persian army against Afrasiyab, and all the Iranian warriors
followed his example. When he had penetrated as far as Turan, the enemy
sent forward thirty thousand men to oppose his progress; and in the
conflict which ensued, Feramurz took Sarkha, the son of Afrasiyab,
prisoner. Rustem delivered him over to Tus to be put to death precisely
in the same manner as Saiawush; but the captive represented himself as
the particular friend of Saiawush, and begged to be pardoned on that
account. Rustem, however, had sworn that he would take his revenge,
without pity or remorse, and accordingly death was inflicted upon the
unhappy prisoner, whose blood was received in a dish, and sent to Kaus,
and the severed head suspended over the gates of the king's palace.
Afrasiyab hearing of this catastrophe, which sealed the fate of his
favorite son, immediately collected together the whole of the Turanian
army, and hastened himself to resist the conquering career of the enemy.
As on they moved; with loud and dissonant clang;
His numerous troops shut out the prospect round;
No sun was visible by day; no moon,
Nor stars by night. The tramp of men and steeds,
And rattling drums, and shouts, were only heard,
And the bright gleams of armour only seen.
Ere long the two armies met, when Pilsam, the brother of Piran, was
ambitious of opposing his single arm against Rustem, upon which
Afrasiyab said:--"Subdue Rustem, and thy reward shall be my daughter,
and half my kingdom." Piran, however, observed that he was too young to
be a fit match for the experience and valor of the Persian champion, and
would have dissuaded him from the unequal contest, but the choice was
his own, and he was consequently permitted by Afrasiyab to put his
bravery to the test. Pilsam accordingly went forth and summoned Rustem
to the fight; but Giw, hearing the call, accepted the challenge himself,
and had nearly been thrown from his horse by the superior activity of
his opponent. Feramurz luckily saw him at the perilous moment, and
darting forward, with one stroke of his sword shattered Pilsam's javelin
to pieces, and then a new strife began. Pilsam and Feramurz fought
together with desperation, till both were almost exhausted, and Rustem
himself was surprised to see the display of so much valor. Perceiving
the wearied state of the two warriors he pushed forward Rakush, and
called aloud to Pilsam:--"Am I not the person challenged?" and
immediately the Turanian chief proceeded to encounter him, striking with
all his might at the head of the champion; but though the sword was
broken by the blow, not a hair of his head was disordered.
Then Rustem urging on his gallant steed,
Fixed his long javelin in the girdle band
Of his ambitious foe, and quick unhorsed him;
Then dragged him on towards Afrasiyab,
And, scoffing, cast him at the despot's feet.
"Here comes the glorious conqueror," he said;
"Now give to him thy daughter and thy treasure,
Thy kingdom and thy soldiers; has he not
Done honour to thy country?--Is he not
A jewel in thy crown of sovereignty?
What arrogance inspired the fruitless hope!
Think of thy treachery to Saiawush;
Thy savage cruelty, and never look
For aught but deadly hatred from mankind;
And in the field of fight defeat and ruin."
Thus scornfully he spoke, and not a man,
Though in the presence of Afrasiyab,
Had soul to meet him; fear o'ercame them all
Monarch and warriors, for a time. At length
Shame was awakened, and the king appeared
In arms against the champion. Fiercely they
Hurled their sharp javelins--Rustem's struck the head
Of his opponent's horse, which floundering fell,
And overturned his rider. Anxious then
The champion sprang to seize the royal prize;
But Human rushed between, and saved his master,
Who vaulted on another horse and fled.
Having thus rescued Afrasiyab, the wary chief exercised all his cunning
and adroitness to escape himself, and at last succeeded. Rustem pursued
him, and the Turanian troops, who had followed the example of the king;
but though thousands were slain in the chase which continued for many
farsangs, no further advantage was obtained on that day. Next morning,
however, Rustem resumed his pursuit; and the enemy hearing of his
approach, retreated into Chinese Tartary, to secure, among other
advantages, the person of Kai-khosrau; leaving the kingdom of Turan at
the mercy of the invader, who mounted the throne, and ruled there, it is
said, about seven years, with memorable severity, proscribing and
putting to death every person who mentioned the name of Afrasiyab. In
the meantime he made splendid presents to Tus and Gudarz, suitable to
their rank and services; and Zuara, in revenge for the monstrous outrage
committed upon Saiawush, burnt and destroyed everything that came in his
way; his wrath being exasperated by the sight of the places in which the
young prince had resided, and recreated himself with hunting and other
sports of the field. The whole realm, in fact, was delivered over to
plunder and devastation; and every individual of the army was enriched
by the appropriation of public and private wealth. The companions of
Rustem, however, grew weary of residing in Turan, and they strongly
represented to him the neglect which Kai-kaus had suffered for so many
years, recommending his return to Persia, as being more honorable than
the exile they endured in an ungenial climate. Rustem's abandonment of
the kingdom was at length carried into effect; and he and his warriors
did not fail to take away with them all the immense property that
remained in jewels and gold; part of which was conveyed by the champion
to Zabul and Sistan, and a goodly proportion to the king of kings in
When to Afrasiyab was known
The plunder of his realm and throne,
That the destroyer's reckless hand
With fire and sword had scathed the land,
Sorrow and anguish filled his soul,
And passion raged beyond control;
And thus he to his warriors said:--
"At such a time, is valour dead?
The man who hears the mournful tale,
And is not by his country's bale
Urged on to vengeance, cannot be
Of woman born; accursed is he!
The time will come when I shall reap
The harvest of resentment deep;
And till arrives that fated hour,
Farewell to joy in hall or bower."
Rustem, in taking revenge for the murder of Saiawush, had not been
unmindful of Kai-khosrau, and had actually sent to the remote parts of
Tartary in quest of him.
It is said that Gudarz beheld in a dream the young prince, who pointed
out to him his actual residence, and intimated that of all the warriors
of Kaus, Giw was the only one destined to restore him to the world and
his birth-right. The old man immediately requested his son Giw to go to
the place where the stranger would be found. Giw readily complied, and
in his progress provided himself at every stage successively with a
guide, whom he afterwards slew to prevent discovery, and in this manner
he proceeded till he reached the boundary of Chin, enjoying no comfort
by day, or sleep by night. His only food was the flesh of the wild ass,
and his only covering the skin of the same animal. He went on traversing
mountain and forest, enduring every privation, and often did he
hesitate, often did he think of returning, but honor urged him forward
in spite of the trouble and impediments with which he was continually
assailed. Arriving in a desert one day, he happened to meet with several
persons, who upon being interrogated, said that they were sent by
Piran-wisah in search of Kai-kaus. Giw kept his own secret, saying that
he was amusing himself with hunting the wild ass, but took care to
ascertain from them the direction in which they were going. During the
night the parties separated, and in the morning Giw proceeded rapidly on
his route, and after some time discovered a youth sitting by the side of
a fountain, with a cup in his hand, whom he supposed to be Kai-khosrau.
The youth also spontaneously thought "This must be Giw"; and when the
traveller approached him, and said, "I am sure thou art the son of
Saiawush"; the youth observed, "I am equally sure that thou art Giw the
son of Gudarz." At this Giw was amazed, and falling to his feet, asked
how, and from what circumstance, he recognized him. The youth replied
that he knew all the warriors of Kaus; Rustem, and Kishwad, and Tus, and
Gudarz, and the rest, from their portraits in his father's gallery, they
being deeply impressed on his mind. He then asked in what way Giw had
discovered him to be Kai-khosrau, and Giw answered, "Because I perceived