Part 6 out of 9
yet been corrupted and debased by the savage example of the Turanians,
requested that he might be spared, and given to him to send into Sistan;
and his request was promptly complied with.
When the mother of Barzu, whose name was Shah-ru, heard that her son was
a prisoner, she wept bitterly, and hastened to Iran, and from thence to
Sistan. There happened to be in Rustem's employ a singing-girl, an
old acquaintance of hers, to whom she was much attached, and to whom she
made large presents, calling her by the most endearing epithets, in
order that she might be brought to serve her in the important matter she
had in contemplation. Her object was soon explained, and the
preliminaries at once adjusted, and by the hands of this singing-girl
she secretly sent some food to Barzu, in which she concealed a ring, to
apprise him of her being near him. On finding the ring, he asked who had
supplied him with the food, and her answer was: "A woman recently
arrived from Ma-chin." This was to him delightful intelligence, and he
could not help exclaiming, "That woman is my mother, I am grateful for
thy services, but another time bring me, if thou canst, a large file,
that I may be able to free myself from these chains." The singing-girl
promised her assistance; and having told Shah-ru what her son required,
conveyed to him a file, and resolved to accompany him in his flight.
Barzu then requested that three fleet horses might be provided and kept
ready under the walls, at a short distance; and this being also done, in
the night, he and his mother, and the singing-girl, effected their
escape, and pursued their course towards Turan.
It so happened that Rustem was at this time in progress between Iran and
Sistan, hunting for his own pleasure the elk or wild ass, and he
accidentally fell in with the refugees, who made an attempt to avoid
him, but, unable to effect their purpose, thought proper to oppose him
with all their might, and a sharp contest ensued. Both parties becoming
fatigued, they rested awhile, when Rustem asked Barzu how he had
obtained his liberty. "The Almighty freed me from the bondage I
endured." "And who are these two women?" "One of them," replied Barzu,
"is my mother, and that is a singing-girl of thy own house." Rustem went
aside, and called for breakfast, and thinking in his own mind that it
would be expedient to poison Barzu, mixed up a deleterious substance in
some food, and sent it to him to eat. He was just going to take it, when
his mother cried, "My son, beware!" and he drew his hand from the dish.
But the singing-girl did eat part of it, and died on the spot. Upon
witnessing this appalling scene, Barzu sprang forward with indignation,
and reproached Rustem for his treachery in the severest terms.
"Old man! hast thou mid warrior-chiefs a place,
And dost thou practice that which brings disgrace?
Hast thou no fear of a degraded name,
No fear of lasting obloquy and shame?
O, thou canst have no hope in God, when thou
Stand'st thus defiled--dishonoured, false, as now;
Unfair, perfidious, art thou too, in strife,
By any pretext thou wouldst take my life!"
He then in a menacing attitude exclaimed: "If thou art a man, rise and
fight!" Rustem felt ashamed on being thus detected, and rose up frowning
in scorn. They met, brandishing their battle-axes, and looking as black
as the clouds of night. They then dismounted to wrestle, and fastening
the bridles, each to his own girdle, furiously grasped each other's
loins and limbs, straining and struggling for the mastery. Whilst they
were thus engaged, their horses betrayed equal animosity, and attacked
each other with great violence. Rakush bit and kicked Barzu's steed so
severely that he strove to gallop away, dragging his master, who was at
the same time under the excruciating grip of Rustem. "O, release me for
a moment till I am disentangled from my horse," exclaimed Barzu; but
Rustem heeding him not, now pressed him down beneath him, and was
preparing to give him the finishing blow by cutting off his head, when
the mother seeing the fatal moment approach, shrieked, and cried out,
"Forbear, Rustem! this youth is the son of Sohrab, and thy own
grandchild! Forbear, and bring not on thyself the devouring anguish
which followed the death of his unhappy father.
"Think of Sohrab! take not the precious life
Of sire and son--unnatural is the strife;
Restrain, for mercy's sake, that furious mood,
And pause before thou shedd'st a kinsman's blood."
"Ah!" rejoined Rustem, "can that be true?" upon which Shah-ru showed him
Sohrab's brilliant finger-ring and he was satisfied. He then pressed
Barzu warmly and affectionately to his breast, and kissed his head and
eyes, and took him along with him to Sistan, where he placed him in a
station of honor, and introduced him to his great-grandfather Zal, who
received and caressed him with becoming tenderness and regard.
SUSEN AND AFRASIYAB
Soon after Afrasiyab had returned defeated into Turan, grievously
lamenting the misfortune which had deprived him of the assistance of
Barzu, a woman named Susen, deeply versed in magic and sorcery, came to
him, and promised by her potent art to put him in the way of destroying
Rustem and his whole family.
"Fighting disappointment brings,
Sword and mace are useless things;
If thou wouldst a conqueror be,
Monarch! put thy trust in me;
Soon the mighty chief shall bleed--
Spells and charms will do the deed!"
Afrasiyab at first refused to avail himself of her power, but was
presently induced, by a manifestation of her skill, to consent to what
she proposed. She required that a distinguished warrior should be sent
along with her, furnished with abundance of treasure, honorary tokens
and presents, so that none might be aware that she was employed on the
occasion. Afrasiyab appointed Pilsam, duly supplied with the requisites,
and the warrior and the sorceress set off on their journey, people being
stationed conveniently on the road to hasten the first tidings of their
success to the king. Their course was towards Sistan, and arriving at a
fort, they took possession of a commodious residence, in which they
placed the wealth and property they had brought, and, establishing a
house of entertainment, all travellers who passed that way were
hospitably and sumptuously regaled by them.
For sparkling wine, and viands rare,
And mellow fruit, abounded there.
It is recorded that Rustem had invited to a magnificent feast at his
palace in Sistan a large company of the most celebrated heroes of the
kingdom, and amongst them happened to be Tus, whom the king had deputed
to the champion on some important state affairs. Gudarz was also
present; and between him and Tus ever hostile to each other, a dispute
as usual took place. The latter, always boasting of his ancestry,
reviled the old warrior and said, "I am the son of Nauder, and the
grandson of Feridun, whilst thou art but the son of Kavah, the
blacksmith;--why then dost thou put thyself on a footing with me?"
Gudarz, in reply, poured upon him reproaches equally irritating, accused
him of ignorance and folly, and roused the anger of the prince to such a
degree that he drew his dagger to punish the offender, when Reham
started up and prevented the intended bloodshed. This interposition
increased his rage, and in serious dudgeon he retired from the banquet,
and set off on his return to Iran.
Rustem was not present at the time, but when he heard of the altercation
and the result of it, he was very angry, saying that Gudarz was a
relation of the family, and Tus his guest, and therefore wrong had been
done, since a guest ought always to be protected. "A guest," he said,
"ought to be held as sacred as the king, and it is the custom of heroes
to treat a guest with the most scrupulous respect and consideration--
"For a guest is the king of the feast."
He then requested Gudarz to go after Tus, and by fair words and proper
excuses bring him back to his festive board. Accordingly Gudarz
departed. No sooner had he gone than Giw rose up, and said, "Tus is
little better than a madman, and my father of a hasty temper; I should
therefore wish to follow, to prevent the possibility of further
disagreement." To this Rustem consented. Byzun was now also anxious to
go, and he too got permission. When all the three had departed, Rustem
began to be apprehensive that something unpleasant would occur, and
thought it prudent to send Feramurz to preserve the peace. Zal then came
forward, and thinking that Tus, the descendant of the Kais and his
revered guest, might not be easily prevailed upon to return either by
Gudarz, Giw, Byzun, or Feramurz, resolved to go himself and soothe the
temper which had been so injudiciously and rudely ruffled at the
When Tus, on his journey from Rustem's palace, approached the residence
of Susen the sorceress, he beheld numerous cooks and confectioners on
every side, preparing all kinds of rich and rare dishes of food, and
every species of sweetmeat; and enquiring to whom they belonged, he was
told that the place was occupied by the wife of a merchant from Turan,
who was extremely wealthy, and who entertained in the most sumptuous
manner every traveller who passed that way. Hungry, and curious to see
what was going on, Tus dismounted, and leaving his horse with the
attendants, entered the principal apartment, where he saw a fascinating
female, and was transported with joy.--She was
Tall as the graceful cypress, and as bright,
As ever struck a lover's ravished sight;
Why of her musky locks or ringlets tell?
Each silky hair itself contained a spell.
Why of her face so beautifully fair?
Wondering he saw the moon's refulgence there.
As soon as his transports had subsided he sat down before her, and asked
her who she was, and upon what adventure she was engaged; and she
answered that she was a singing-girl, that a wealthy merchant some time
ago had fallen in love with and married her, and soon afterwards died;
that Afrasiyab, the king, had since wished to take her into his harem,
which alarmed her, and she had in consequence fled from his country; she
was willing, however, she said, to become the handmaid of Kai-khosrau,
he being a true king, and of a sweet and gentle temper.
"A persecuted damsel I,
Thus the detested tyrant fly,
And hastening from impending woes,
In happy Persia seek repose;
For long as cherished life remains,
Pleasure must smile where Khosrau reigns.
Thence did I from my home depart,
To please and bless a Persian heart."
The deception worked effectually on the mind of Tus, and he at once
entered into the notion of escorting her to Kai-khosrau. But he was
immediately supplied with charmed viands and goblets of rich wine, which
he had not the power to resist, till his senses forsook him, and then
Pilsam appeared, and, binding him with cords, conveyed him safely and
secretly into the interior of the fort. In a short time Gudarz arrived,
and he too was received and treated in the same manner. Then Giw and
Byzun were seized and secured; and after them came Zal: but
notwithstanding the enticements that were used, and the attractions that
presented themselves, he would neither enter the enchanted apartment,
nor taste the enchanted food or wine.
The bewitching cup was filled to the brim,
But the magic draught had no charms for him.
A person whispered in his ear that the woman had already wickedly got
into her power several warriors, and he felt assured that they were his
own friends. To be revenged for this treachery he rushed forward, and
would have seized hold of the sorceress, but she fled into the fort and
fastened the gate. He instantly sent a messenger to Rustem, explaining
the perplexity in which he was involved, and exerting all his strength,
broke down the gate that had just been closed against him as soon as the
passage was opened, out rushed Pilsam, who with his mace commenced a
furious battle with Zal, in which he nearly overpowered him, when
Feramurz reached the spot, and telling the venerable old warrior to
stand aside, took his place, and fought with Pilsam without intermission
all day, and till they were parted by the darkness of night.
Early in the morning Rustem, accompanied by Barzu, arrived from Sistan,
and entering the fort, called aloud for Pilsam. He also sent Feramurz to
Kai-khosrau to inform him of what had occurred. Pilsam at length issued
forth, and attacked the champion. They first fought with bows and
arrows, with javelins next, and then successively with maces, and
swords, and daggers. The contest lasted the whole day; and when at night
they parted, neither had gained the victory. The next morning immense
clouds of dust were seen, and they were found to be occasioned by
Afrasiyab and his army marching to the spot. Rustem appointed Barzu to
proceed with his Zabul troops against him, whilst he himself encountered
Pilsam. The strife between the two was dreadful. Rustem struck him
several times furiously upon the head, and at length stretched him
lifeless on the sand. He then impelled Rakush towards the Turanian army,
and aided by Zal and Barzu, committed tremendous havoc among them.
So thick the arrows fell, helmet, and mail,
And shield, pierced through, looked like a field of reeds.
In the meantime Susen, the sorceress, escaped from the fort, and fled to
Another cloud of dust spreading from earth to heaven, was observed in
the direction of Persia, and the waving banners becoming more distinct,
presently showed the approach of the king, Kai-khosrau.
The steely javelins sparkled in the sun,
Helmet and shield, and joyous seemed the sight.
Banners, all gorgeous, floating on the breeze,
And horns shrill echoing, and the tramp of steeds,
Proclaimed to dazzled eye and half-stunned ear,
The mighty preparation.
The hostile armies soon met, and there was a sanguinary conflict, but
the Turanians were obliged to give way. Upon this common result,
Piran-wisah declared to Afrasiyab that perseverance was as ridiculous as
unprofitable. "Our army has no heart, nor confidence, when opposed to
Rustem; how often have we been defeated by him--how often have we been
scattered like sheep before that lion in battle! We have just lost the
aid of Barzu, and now is it not deplorable to put any trust in the
dreams of a singing-girl, to accelerate on her account the ruin of the
country, and to hazard thy own personal safety.
"What! risk an empire on a woman's word!"
Afrasiyab replied, "So it is;" and instantly urged his horse into the
middle of the plain, where he loudly challenged Kai-khosrau to single
combat, saying, "Why should we uselessly shed the blood of our warriors
and people. Let us ourselves decide the day. God will give the triumph
to him who merits it." Kai-khosrau was ashamed to refuse this challenge,
and descending from his elephant, mounted his horse and prepared for the
onset. But his warriors seized the bridle, and would not allow him to
fight. He declared, however, that he would himself take revenge for the
blood of Saiawush, and struggled to overcome the friends who were
opposing his progress. "Forbear awhile," said Rustem, "Afrasiyab is
expert in all the arts of the warrior, fighting with the sword, the
dagger, in archery, and wrestling. When I wrestled with him, and held
him down, he could not have escaped, excepting by the exercise of the
most consummate dexterity. Allow thy warriors to fight for thee." But
the king was angry, and said, "The monarch who does not fight for
himself, is unworthy of the crown." Upon hearing this, Rustem wept tears
of blood. Barzu now took hold of the king's stirrup, and knocked his
forehead against it, and drawing his dagger, threatened to put an end to
himself, saying, "My blood will be upon thy neck, if thou goest;" and he
continued in a strain so eloquent and persuasive that Khosrau relaxed in
his determination, and observed to Rustem: "There can be no doubt that
Barzu is descended from thee." Barzu now respectfully kissed the ground
before the king, and vaulting on his saddle with admirable agility,
rushed onwards to the middle space where Afrasiyab was waiting, and
roared aloud. Afrasiyab burned with indignation at the sight, and said
in his heart: "It seems that I have nurtured and instructed this
ingrate, to shed my own blood. Thou wretch of demon-birth, thou knowest
not thy father's name! and yet thou comest to wage war against me! Art
thou not ashamed to look upon the king of Turan after what he has done
for thee?" Barzu replied: "Although thou didst protect me, thou spilt
the blood of Saiawush and Aghriras unjustly. When I ate thy salt, I
served thee faithfully, and fought for thee. I now eat the salt of
Kai-khosrau, and my allegiance is due to him."
He spoke, and raised his battle-axe, and rushed,
Swift as a demon of Mazinderan,
Against Afrasiyab, who, frowning, cried:--
"Approach not like a furious elephant,
Heedless what may befall thee--nor provoke
The wrath of him whose certain aim is death."
Then placed he on the string a pointed dart,
And shot it from the bow; whizzing it flew,
And pierced the armor of the wondering youth,
Inflicting on his side a painful wound,
Which made his heart with trepidation throb;
High exultation marked the despot's brow,
Seeing the gush of blood his loins distain.
Barzu was now anxious to assail Afrasiyab with his mace, instead of
arrows; but whenever he tried to get near enough, he was disappointed by
the adroitness of his adversary, whom he could not reach. He was at last
compelled to lay aside the battle-axe, and have recourse to his bow, but
every arrow was dexterously received by Afrasiyab on his shield; and
Barzu, on his part, became equally active and successful. Afrasiyab soon
emptied his quiver, and then he grasped his mace with the intention of
extinguishing his antagonist at once, but at the moment Human came up,
and said: "O, king! do not bring thyself into jeopardy by contending
against a person of no account; thy proper adversary is Kai-khosrau, and
not him, for if thou gainest the victory, it can only be a victory over
a fatherless soldier, and if thou art killed, the whole of Turan will be
at the feet of Persia." Both Piran and Human dissuaded the king from
continuing the engagement singly, and directed the Turanians to commence
a general attack. Afrasiyab told them that if Barzu was not slain, it
would be a great misfortune to their country; in consequence, they
surrounded him, and inflicted on him many severe wounds. But Rustem and
Feramurz, beholding the dilemma into which Barzu was thrown, hastened to
his support, and many of the enemy were killed by them, and great
carnage followed the advance of the Persian army.
The noise of clashing swords, and ponderous maces
Ringing upon the iron mail, seemed like
The busy work-shop of an armorer;
Tumultuous as the sea the field appeared,
All crimsoned with the blood of heroes slain.
Kai-khosrau himself hurried to the assistance of Barzu, and the powerful
force which he brought along with him soon put the Turanians to flight.
Afrasiyab too made his escape in the confusion that prevailed. The king
wished to pursue the enemy, but Rustem observed that their defeat and
dispersion was enough. The battle having ceased, and the army being in
the neighborhood of Sistan, the champion solicited permission to return
to his home; "for I am now," said he, "four hundred years old, and
require a little rest. In the meantime Feramurz and Barzu may take my
place." The king consented, and distributing his favors to each of his
distinguished warriors for their prodigious exertions, left Zal and
Rustem to proceed to Sistan, and returned to the capital of his kingdom.
THE EXPEDITION OF GUDARZ
The overthrow of the sovereign of Turan had only a temporary effect, as
it was not long before he was enabled to collect further supplies, and
another army for the defence of his kingdom; and Kai-khosrau's ambition
to reduce the power of his rival being animated by new hopes of success,
another expedition was entrusted to the command of Gudarz. Rustem, he
said, had done his duty in repeated campaigns against Afrasiyab, and the
extraordinary gallantry and wisdom with which they were conducted,
entitled him to the highest applause. "It is now, Gudarz, thy turn to
vanquish the enemy." Accordingly Gudarz, accompanied by Giw, and Tus,
and Byzun, and an immense army, proceeded towards Turan. Feramurz was
directed previously to invade and conquer Hindustan, and from thence to
march to the borders of Chin and Ma-chin, for the purpose of uniting and
co-operating with the army under Gudarz, and, finally, to capture
As soon as it was known in Turan that Gudarz was in motion to resume
hostilities against the king, Human was appointed with a large force to
resist his progress, and a second army of reserve was gathered together
under the command of Piran. The first conflict which occurred was
between the troops of Gudarz and Human. Gudarz directed Byzun to attack
Human. The two chiefs joined in battle, when Human fell under the sword
of his adversary, and his army, being defeated, retired, and united in
the rear with the legions of Piran. The enemy thus became of formidable
strength, and in consequence it was thought proper to communicate the
inequality to Kai-khosrau, that reinforcements might be sent without
loss of time. The king immediately complied, and also wrote to Sistan to
request the aid of Rustem. The war lasted two years, the army on each
side being continually recruited as necessity required, so that the
numbers were regularly kept up, till a great battle took place, in which
the venerable Piran was killed, and nearly the whole of his army
destroyed. This victory was obtained without the assistance of Rustem,
who, notwithstanding the message of the king, had still remained in
Sistan. The loss of Piran, the counsellor and warrior, proved to be a
great affliction to Afrasiyab: he felt as if his whole support was taken
away, and deemed it the signal of approaching ruin to his cause.
"Thou wert my refuge, thou my friend and brother;
Wise in thy counsel, gallant in the field,
My monitor and guide--and thou art gone!
The glory of my kingdom is eclipsed,
Since thou hast vanished from this world, and left me
All wretched to myself. But food, nor sleep
Nor rest will I indulge in, till just vengeance
Has been inflicted on the cruel foe."
When the news of Piran's death reached Kai-khosrau, he rapidly marched
forward, crossed the Jihun without delay, and passed through Samerkand
and Bokhara, to encounter the Turanians. Afrasiyab, in the meantime, had
not been neglectful. He had all his hidden treasure dug up, with which
he assembled a prodigious army, and appointed his son Shydah-Poshang to
the command of a hundred thousand horsemen. To oppose this force,
Khosrau appointed his young relative, Lohurasp, with eight thousand
horsemen, and passing through Sistan, desired Rustem, on account of
Lohurasp's tender age and inexperience, to afford him such good counsel
as he required. When Afrasiyab heard this, he added to the force of
Shydah another hundred thousand men, but first sent his son to
Kai-khosrau in the character of an ambassador to offer terms of peace.
"Tell him," said he, "that to secure this object, I will deliver to him
one of my sons as a hostage, and a number of troops for his service,
with the sacred promise never to depart from my engagements again.--But,
a word in thy ear, Shydah; if Khosrau is not disposed to accept these
terms, say, to prevent unnecessary bloodshed, he and I must personally
decide the day by single combat. If he refuses to fight with me, say
that thou wilt meet him; and shouldst thou be slain in the strife, I
will surrender to him the kingdom of Turan, and retire myself from the
world." He further commanded him to propound these terms with a gallant
and fearless bearing, and not to betray the least apprehension. Shydah
entered fully into the spirit of his father's instructions, and declared
that he would devote his life to the cause, that he would boldly before
the whole assembly dare Kai-khosrau to battle; so that Afrasiyab was
delighted with the valorous disposition he displayed.
Kai-khosrau smiled when he heard of what Afrasiyab intended, and viewed
the proposal as a proof of his weakness. "But never," said he, "will I
consent to a peace till I have inflicted on him the death which Saiawush
was made to suffer." When Shydah arrived, and with proper ceremony and
respect had delivered his message, Kai-khosrau invited him to retire to
his chamber and go to rest, and he would send an answer by one of his
people. Shydah accordingly retired, and the king proceeded to consult
his warrior-friends on the offers that had been made. "Afrasiyab tells
me," said he, "that if I do not wish for peace, I must fight either him
or his son. I have seen Shydah--his eyes are red and blood-shot, and he
has a fierce expression of feature; if I do not accept his terms, I
shall probably soon have a dagger lodged in my breast." Saying this, he
ordered his mail to be got ready; but Rustem and all the great men about
him exclaimed, unanimously: "This must not be allowed; Afrasiyab is full
of fraud, artifice, and sorcery, and notoriously faithless to his
engagements. The sending of Shydah is all a trick, and his letter of
proposal all deceit: his object is simply to induce thee to fight him
"If them shouldst kill this Shydah--what of that!
There would be one Turanian warrior less,
To vex the world withal; would that be triumph?
And to a Persian king? But if it chanced,
That thou shouldst meet with an untimely death,
By dart or javelin, at the stripling's hands,
What scathe and ruin would this realm befall!"
By the advice of Rustem, Kai-khosrau gave Shydah permission
to depart, and said that he would send his answer to Afrasiyab by Karun.
"But," observed the youth, "I have come to fight thee!" which touched
the honor of the king, and he replied: "Be it so, let us then meet
In the meantime Khosrau prepared his letter to Afrasiyab, in which he
"Our quarrel now is dark to view,
It bears the fiercest, gloomiest hue;
And vain have speech and promise been
To change for peace the battle scene;
For thou art still to treachery prone,
Though gentle now in word and tone;
But that imperial crown thou wearest,
That mace which thou in battle bearest,
Thy kingdom, all, thou must resign;
Thy army too--for all are mine!
Thou talk'st of strength, and might, and power,
When revelling in a prosperous hour;
But know, that strength of nerve and limb
We owe to God--it comes from Him!
And victory's palm, and regal sway,
Alike the will of Heaven obey.
Hence thy lost throne, no longer thine,
Will soon, perfidious king! be mine!"
In giving this letter to Karun, Kai-khosrau directed him, in the first
place, to deliver a message from him to Shydah, to the following
"Driven art thou out from home and life,
Doomed to engage in mortal strife,
For deeply lours misfortune's cloud;
That gay attire will be thy shroud;
Blood from thy father's eyes will gush,
As Kaus wept for Saiawush."
In the morning Khosrau went to the appointed place, and when he
approached Shydah, the latter said, "Thou hast come on foot, let our
trial be in wrestling;" and the proposal being agreed to, both applied
themselves fiercely to the encounter, at a distance from the troops.
The youth appeared with joyous mien,
And bounding heart, for life was new;
By either host the strife was seen,
And strong and fierce the combat grew.
Shydah exerted his utmost might, but was unable to move his antagonist
from the ground; whilst Khosrau lifted him up without difficulty, and,
dashing him on the plain,
He sprang upon him as the lion fierce
Springs on the nimble gor, then quickly drew
His deadly dagger, and with cruel aim,
Thrust the keen weapon through the stripling's heart.
Khosrau, immediately after slaying him, ordered the body to be washed
with musk and rose-water, and, after burial, a tomb to be raised to his
When Karun reached the court of Afrasiyab with the answer to the offer
of peace, intelligence had previously arrived that Shydah had fallen in
the combat, which produced in the mind of the father the greatest
anguish. He gave no reply to Karun, but ordered the drums and trumpets
to be sounded, and instantly marched with a large army against the
enemy. The two hosts were soon engaged, the anger of the Turanians being
so much roused and sharpened by the death of the prince, that they were
utterly regardless of their lives. The battle, therefore, was fought
with unusual fury.
Two sovereigns in the field, in desperate strife,
Each by a grievous cause of wrath, urged on
To glut revenge; this, for a father's life
Wantonly sacrificed; that for a son
Slain in his prime.--The carnage has begun,
And blood is seen to flow on every side;
Thousands are slaughtered ere the day is done,
And weltering swell the sanguinary tide;
And why? To soothe man's hate, his cruelty, and pride.
The battle terminated in the discomfiture and defeat of the Turanians,
who fled from the conquerors in the utmost confusion. The people seized
hold of the bridle of Afrasiyab's horse, and obliged him to follow his
Kai-khosrau having despatched an account of his victory to Kaus, went in
pursuit of Afrasiyab, traversing various countries and provinces, till
he arrived on the borders of Chin. The Khakan, or sovereign of that
state, became in consequence greatly alarmed, and presented to him large
presents to gain his favor, but the only object of Khosrau was to secure
Afrasiyab, and he told the ambassador that if his master dared to afford
him protection, he would lay waste the whole kingdom. The Khakan
therefore withdrew his hospitable services, and the abandoned king was
compelled to seek another place of refuge.
THE DEATH OF AFRASIYAB
Melancholy and afflicted, Afrasiyab penetrated through wood and desert,
and entered the province of Mikran, whither he was followed by
Kai-khosrau and his army. He then quitted Mikran, but his followers had
fallen off to a small number and to whatever country or region he
repaired for rest and protection, none was given, lest the vengeance of
Kai-khosrau should be hurled upon the offender. Still pursued and hunted
like a wild beast, and still flying from his enemies, the small retinue
which remained with him at last left him, and he was left alone,
dejected, destitute, and truly forlorn. In this state of desertion he
retired into a cave, where he hoped to continue undiscovered and unseen.
It chanced, however, that a man named Hum, of the race of Feridun, dwelt
hard by. He was remarkable for his strength and bravery, but had
peacefully taken up his abode upon the neighboring mountain, and was
passing a religious life without any communication with the busy world.
His dwelling was a little way above the cave of Afrasiyab. One night he
heard a voice of lamentation below, and anxious to ascertain from whom
and whence it proceeded, he stole down to the spot and listened. The
mourner spoke in the Turkish language, and said:--"O king of Turan and
Chin, where is now thy pomp and power! How has Fortune cast away thy
throne and thy treasure to the winds?" Hearing these words Hum
conjectured that this must be Afrasiyab; and as he had suffered severely
from the tyranny of that monarch, his feelings of vengeance were
awakened, and he approached nearer to be certain that it was he. The
same lamentations were repeated, and he felt assured that it was
Afrasiyab himself. He waited patiently, however, till morning dawned,
and then he called out at the mouth of the cave:--"O, king of the world!
come out of thy cave, and obtain thy desires! I have left the invisible
sphere to accomplish thy wishes. Appear!" Afrasiyab thinking this a
spiritual call, went out of the cave and was instantly recognized by
Hum, who at the same moment struck him a severe blow on the forehead,
which felled him to the earth, and then secured his hands behind his
back. When the monarch found himself in fetters and powerless, he
complained of the cruelty inflicted upon him, and asked Hum why he had
treated a stranger in that manner. Hum replied: "How many a prince of
the race of Feridun hast thou sacrificed to thy ambition? How many a
heart hast thou broken? I, too, am one who was compelled to fly from thy
persecutions, and take refuge here on this desert mountain, and
constantly have I prayed for thy ruin that I might be released from this
miserable mode of existence, and be permitted to return to my paternal
home. My prayer has been heard at last, and God has delivered thee into
my hands. But how earnest thou hither, and by what strange vicissitudes
art thou thus placed before me?" Afrasiyab communicated to him the story
of his misfortunes, and begged of him rather to put him to death on the
spot than convey him to Kai-khosrau. But Hum was too much delighted with
having the tyrant under his feet to consider either his safety or his
feelings, and was not long in bringing him to the Persian king.
Kai-khosrau received the prisoner with exultation, and made Hum a
magnificent present. He well recollected the basin and the dagger used
in the murder of Saiawush, and commanded the presence of the treacherous
Gersiwaz, that he and Afrasiyab might suffer, in every respect, the same
fate together. The basin was brought, and the two victims were put to
death, like two goats, their heads being chopped off from their bodies.
After this sanguinary catastrophe, Kai-khosrau returned to Iran, leaving
Rustem to proceed to his own principality. Kai-kaus quitted his palace,
according to his established custom, to welcome back the conqueror. He
kissed his head and face, and showered upon him praises and blessings
for the valor he had displayed, and the deeds he had done, and
especially for having so signally revenged the cruel murder of his
THE DEATH OF KAI-KHOSRAU
Kai-khosrau at last became inspired by an insurmountable attachment to a
religious life, and thought only of devotion to God. Thus influenced by
a disposition peculiar to ascetics, he abandoned the duties of
sovereignty, and committed all state affairs to the care of his
ministers. The chiefs and warriors remonstrated respectfully against
this mode of government, and trusted that he would devote only a few
hours in the day to the transactions of the kingdom, and the remainder
to prayer and religious exercises; but this he refused, saying:--"One
heart is not equal to both duties; my affections indeed are not for this
transitory world, and I trust to be an inhabitant of the world to come."
The nobles were in great sorrow at this declaration, and anxiously
applied to Zal and Rustem, in the hopes of working some change in the
king's disposition. On their arrival the people cried to them:--
"Some evil eye has smote the king;--Iblis
By wicked wiles has led his soul astray,
And withered all life's pleasures. O release
Our country from the sorrow, the dismay
Which darkens every heart:--his ruin stay.
Is it not mournful thus to see him cold
And gloomy, casting pomp and joy away?
Restore him to himself; let us behold
Again the victor-king, the generous, just and bold."
Zal and Rustem went to the palace of the king in a melancholy mood, and
Khosrau having heard of their approach, enquired of them why they had
left Sistan. They replied that the news of his having relinquished all
concern in the affairs of the kingdom had induced them to wait upon him.
"I am weary of the troubles of this life," said he composedly, "and
anxious to prepare for a future state." "But death," observed Zal, "is a
great evil. It is dreadful to die!" Upon this the king said:--"I cannot
endure any longer the deceptions and the perfidy of mankind. My love of
heaven is so great that I cannot exist one moment without devotion and
prayer. Last night a mysterious voice whispered in my ear:--The time of
thy departure is nigh, prepare the load for thy journey, and neglect not
thy warning angel, or the opportunity will be lost." When Zal and Rustem
saw that Khosrau was resolved, and solemnly occupied in his devotions,
they were for some time silent. But Zal was at length moved, and
said:--"I will go into retirement and solitude with the king, and by
continual prayer, and through his blessing, I too may be forgiven."
"This, indeed," said the king, "is not the place for me. I must seek out
a solitary cell, and there resign my soul to heaven." Zal and Rustem
wept, and quitted the palace, and all the warriors were in the deepest
The next day Kai-khosrau left his apartment, and called together his
great men and warriors, and said to them:--
"That which I sought for, I have now obtained.
Nothing remains of worldly wish, or hope,
To disappoint or vex me. I resign
The pageantry of kings, and turn away
From all the pomp of the Kaianian throne,
Sated with human grandeur.--Now, farewell!
Such is my destiny. To those brave friends,
Who, ever faithful, have my power upheld,
I will discharge the duty of a king,
Paying the pleasing debt of gratitude."
He then ordered his tents to be pitched in the desert, and opened his
treasury, and for seven days made a sumptuous feast, and distributed
food and money among the indigent, the widows, and orphans, and every
destitute person was abundantly supplied with the necessaries of life,
so that there was no one left in a state of want throughout the empire.
He also attended to the claims of his warriors. To Rustem he gave Zabul,
and Kabul, and Nim-ruz. He appointed Lohurasp, the son-in-law of
Kai-kaus, successor to his throne, and directed all his people to pay
the same allegiance to him as they had done to himself; and they
unanimously consented, declaring their firm attachment to his person and
government. He appointed Gudarz the chief minister, and Giw to the chief
command of the armies. To Tus he gave Khorassan; and he said to Friburz,
the son of Kaus:--"Be thou obedient, I beseech thee, to the commands of
Lohurasp, whom I have instructed, and brought up with paternal care; for
I know of no one so well qualified in the art of governing a kingdom."
The warriors of Iran were surprised, and murmured together, that the son
of Kai-kaus should be thus placed under the authority of Lohurasp. But
Zal observed to them:--"If it be the king's will, it is enough!" The
murmurs of the warriors having reached Kai-khosrau, he sent for them,
and addressed them thus:--"Friburz is well known to be unequal to the
functions of sovereignty; but Lohurasp is enlightened, and fully
comprehends all the duties of regal sway. He is a descendant of Husheng,
wise and merciful, and God is my witness, I think him perfectly
calculated to make a nation happy." Hearing this eulogium on the
character of the new king from Kai-khosrau, all the warriors expressed
their satisfaction, and anticipated a glorious reign. Khosrau further
said:--"I must now address you on another subject. In my dreams a
fountain has been pointed out to me; and when I visit that fountain, my
life will be resigned to its Creator." He then bid farewell to all the
people around him, and commenced his journey; and when he had
accomplished one stage he pitched his tent. Next day he resumed his
task, and took leave of Zal and Rustem; who wept bitterly as they parted
"Alas!" they said, "that one on whom
Heaven has bestowed a mind so great,
A heart so brave, should seek the tomb,
And not his hour in patience wait.
The wise in wonder gaze, and say,
No mortal being ever trod
Before, the dim supernal way,
And living, saw the face of God!"
After Zal and Rustem, then Khosrau took leave of Gudarz and Giw and Tus,
and Gustahem, but unwilling to go back, they continued with him. He soon
arrived at the promised fountain, in which he bathed. He then said to
his followers:--"Now is the time for our separation;--you must go;"
but they still remained. Again he said:--"You must go quickly; for
presently heavy showers of snow will fall, and a tempestuous wind will
arise, and you will perish in the storm." Saying this, he went into the
fountain, and vanished!
And not a trace was left behind,
And not a dimple on the wave;
All sought, but sought in vain, to find
The spot which proved Kai-khosrau's grave!
The king having disappeared in this extraordinary manner, a loud
lamentation ascended from his followers; and when the paroxysm of
amazement and sorrow had ceased, Friburz said:--"Let us now refresh
ourselves with food, and rest awhile." Accordingly those that remained
ate a little, and were soon afterwards overcome with sleep. Suddenly a
great wind arose, and the snow fell and clothed the earth in white, and
all the warriors and soldiers who accompanied Kai-khosrau to the
mysterious fountain, and amongst them Tus and Friburz, and Giw, were
while asleep overwhelmed in the drifts of snow. Not a man survived.
Gudarz had returned when about half-way on the road; and not hearing for
a long time any tidings of his companions, sent a person to ascertain
the cause of their delay. Upon proceeding to the fatal place, the
messenger, to his amazement and horror, found them all stiff and
lifeless under the snow!
The reputation of Lohurasp was of the highest order, and it is said that
his administration of the affairs of his kingdom was more just and
paternal than even that of Kai-khosrau. "The counsel which Khosrau gave
me," said he, "was wise and admirable; but I find that I must go beyond
him in moderation and clemency to the poor." Lohurasp had four sons, two
by the daughter of Kai-kaus, one named Ardshir, and the other Shydasp;
and two by another woman, and they were named Gushtasp and Zarir. But
Gushtasp was intrepid, acute, and apparently marked out for sovereignty,
and on account of his independent conduct, no favorite with his father;
in defiance of whom, with a rebellious spirit, he collected together a
hundred thousand horsemen, and proceeded with them towards Hindustan of
his own accord. Lohurasp sent after him his brother Zarir, with a
thousand horsemen, in the hopes of influencing him to return; but when
Zarir overtook him and endeavored to persuade him not to proceed any
further, he said to him, with an animated look:--
"Proceed no farther!--Well thou know'st
We've no Kaianian blood to boast,
And, therefore, but a minor part
In Lohurasp's paternal heart.
Nor thou, nor I, can ever own
From him the diadem or throne.
The brothers of Kaus's race
By birth command the brightest place,
Then what remains for us? We must
To other means our fortunes trust.
We cannot linger here, and bear
A life of discontent--despair."
Zarir, however, reasoned with him so winningly and effectually, that at
last he consented to return; but only upon the condition that he should
be nominated heir to the throne, and treated with becoming respect and
ceremony. Zarir agreed to interpose his efforts to this end, and brought
him back to his father; but it was soon apparent that Lohurasp had no
inclination to promote the elevation of Gushtasp in preference to the
claims of his other sons; and indeed shortly afterwards manifested to
what quarter his determination on this subject was directed. It was
indeed enough that his determination was unfavorable to the views of
Gushtasp, who now, in disgust, fled from his father's house, but without
any attendants, and shaped his course towards Rum. Lohurasp again sent
Zarir in quest of him; but the youth, after a tedious search, returned
without success. Upon his arrival in Rum, Gushtasp chose a solitary
retirement, where he remained some time, and was at length compelled by
poverty and want, to ask for employment in the establishment of the
sovereign of that country, stating that he was an accomplished scribe,
and wrote a beautiful hand. He was told to wait a few days, as at that
time there was no vacancy. But hunger was pressing, and he could not
suffer delay; he therefore went to the master of the camel-drivers and
asked for service, but he too had no vacancy. However, commiserating the
distressed condition of the applicant, he generously supplied him with a
hearty meal. After that, Gushtasp went into a blacksmith's shop, and
asked for work, and his services were accepted. The blacksmith put the
hammer into his hands, and the first blow he struck was given with such
force, that he broke the anvil to pieces. The blacksmith was amazed and
angry, and indignantly turned him out of his shop, uttering upon him a
thousand violent reproaches.
Wounded in spirit, broken-hearted,
Misfortune darkening o'er his head,
To other lands he then departed,
To seek another home for bread.
Disconsolate and wretched, he proceeded on his journey, and observing a
husbandman standing in a field of corn, he approached the spot and sat
down. The husbandman seeing a strong muscular youth, apparently a
Turanian, sitting in sorrow and tears, went up to him and asked him the
cause of his grief, and he soon became acquainted with all the
circumstances of the stranger's life. Pitying his distress, he took him
home and gave him some food.
After having partaken sufficiently of the refreshments placed before
him, Gushtasp inquired of his host to what tribe he belonged, and from
whom he was descended. "I am descended from Feridun," rejoined he, "and
I belong to the Kaianian tribe. My occupation in this retired spot is,
as thou seest, the cultivation of the ground, and the customs and duties
of husbandry." Gushtasp said, "I am myself descended from Husheng, who
was the ancestor of Feridun; we are, therefore, of the same origin." In
consequence of this connection, Gushtasp and the husbandman lived
together on the most friendly footing for a considerable time. At length
the star of his fortune began to illumine his path, and the favor of
Heaven became manifest.
It was the custom of the king of Rum, when his daughters came of age, to
give a splendid banquet, and to invite to it all the youths of
illustrious birth in the kingdom, in order that each might select one of
them most suited to her taste, for her future husband. His daughter
Kitabun was now of age, and in conformity with the established practice,
the feast was prepared, and the youths of royal descent invited; but it
so happened that not one of them was sufficiently attractive for her
choice, and the day passed over unprofitably. She had been told in a
dream that a youth of a certain figure and aspect had arrived in the
kingdom from Iran, and that to him she was destined to be married. But
there was not one at her father's banquet who answered to the
description of the man she had seen in her dream, and in consequence she
was disappointed. On the following day the feast was resumed. She had
again dreamt of the youth to whom she was to be united. She had
presented to him a bunch of roses, and he had given her a rose-branch,
and each regarded the other with smiles of mutual satisfaction. In the
morning Kitabun issued a proclamation, inviting all the young men of
royal extraction, whether natives of the kingdom or strangers, to her
father's feast. On that day Gushtasp and the husbandman had come into
the city from the country, and hearing the proclamation the latter said:
"Let us go, for in this lottery the prize may be drawn in thy name."
They accordingly went. Kitabun's handmaid was in waiting at the door,
and kept every young man standing awhile, that her mistress might mark
him well before she allowed him to pass into the banquet. The keen eyes
of Kitabun soon saw Gushtasp, and her heart instantly acknowledged him
as her promised lord, for he was the same person she had seen in her
As near the graceful stripling drew,
She cried:--"My dream, my dream is true!
Fortune from visions of the night
Has brought him to my longing sight.
Truth has portrayed his form divine;
He lives--he lives--and he is mine!"
She presently descended from her balcony, and gave him a bunch of roses,
the token by which her choice was made known, and then retired. The
king, when he heard of what she had done, was exceedingly irritated,
thinking that her affections were placed on a beggar, or some nameless
stranger of no birth or fortune, and his first impulse was to have her
put to death. But his people assembled around him, and said:--"What can
be the use of killing her?--It is in vain to resist the flood of
destiny, for what will be, will be.
"The world itself is governed still by Fate,
Fate rules the warrior's and the monarch's state;
And woman's heart, the passions of her soul,
Own the same power, obey the same control;
For what can love's impetuous force restrain?
Blood may be shed, but what will be thy gain?"
After this remonstrance he desired enquiries to be made into the
character and parentage of his proposed son-in-law, and was told his
name, the name of his father, and of his ancestors, and the causes which
led to his present condition. But he would not believe a word of the
narration. He was then informed of his daughter's dream, and other
particulars: and he so far relented as to sanction the marriage; but
indignantly drove her from his house, with her husband, without a dowry,
or any money to supply themselves with food.
Gushtasp and his wife took refuge in a miserable cell, which they
inhabited, and when necessity pressed, he used to cross the river, and
bring in an elk or wild ass from the forest, give half of it to the
ferryman for his trouble, and keep the remainder for his own board, so
that he and the ferryman became great friends by these mutual
obligations. It is related that a person of distinction, named Mabrin,
solicited the king's second daughter in marriage; and Ahrun, another man
of rank, was anxious to be espoused to the third, or youngest; but the
king was unwilling to part with either of them, and openly declared his
sentiments to that effect. Mabrin, however, was most assiduous and
persevering in his attentions, and at last made some impression on the
father, who consented to permit the marriage of the second daughter, but
only on the following conditions: "There is," said he, "a monstrous wolf
in the neighboring forest, extremely ferocious, and destructive to my
property. I have frequently endeavored to hunt him down, but without
success. If Mabrin can destroy the animal, I will give him my daughter."
When these conditions were communicated to Mabrin, he considered it
impossible that they could be fulfilled, and looked upon the proposal as
an evasion of the question. One day, however, the ferryman having heard
of Mabrin's disappointment, told him that there was no reason to
despair, for he knew a young man, married to one of the king's
daughters, who crossed the river every day, and though only a
pedestrian, brought home regularly an elk-deer on his back. "He is
truly," added he, "a wonderful youth, and if you can by any means secure
his assistance, I have no doubt but that his activity and strength will
soon put an end to the wolfs depredations, by depriving him of life."
This intelligence was received with great pleasure by Mabrin, who
hastened to Gushtasp, and described to him his situation, and the
conditions required. Gushtasp in reply said, that he would be glad to
accomplish for him the object of his desires, and at an appointed time
proceeded towards the forest, accompanied by Mabrin and the ferryman.
When the party arrived at the borders of the wilderness which the wolf
frequented, Gushtasp left his companions behind, and advanced alone into
the interior, where he soon found the dreadful monster, in size larger
than an elephant, and howling terribly, ready to spring upon him. But
the hand and eye of Gushtasp were too active to allow of his being
surprised, and in an instant he shot two arrows at once into the foaming
beast, which, irritated by the deep wound, now rushed furiously upon
him, without, however, doing him any serious injury; then with the
rapidity of lightning, Gushtasp drew his sharp sword, and with one
tremendous stroke cut the wolf in two, deluging the ground with bubbling
blood. Having performed this prodigious exploit, he called Mabrin and
the ferryman to see what he had done, and they were amazed at his
extraordinary intrepidity and muscular power, but requested, in order
that the special object of the lover might be obtained, that he would
conceal his name, for a time at least. Mabrin, satisfied on this point,
then repaired to the emperor, and claimed his promised bride, as the
reward for his labor. The king of Rum little expected this result, and
to assure himself of the truth of what he had heard, bent his way to the
forest, where he was convinced, seeing with astonishment and delight
that the wolf was really killed. He had now no further pretext, and
therefore fulfilled his engagement, by giving his daughter to Mabrin.
It was now Ahrun's turn to repeat his solicitations for the youngest
daughter. The king of Rum had another evil to root out, so that he was
prepared to propose another condition. This was to destroy a hideous
dragon that had taken possession of a neighboring mountain. Ahrun, on
hearing the condition was in as deep distress as Mabrin had been, until
he accidentally became acquainted with the ferryman, who described to
him the generosity and fearless bravery of Gushtasp. He immediately
applied to him, and the youth readily undertook the enterprise,
saying:--"No doubt the monster's teeth are long and sharp, bring me
therefore a dagger, and fasten round it a number of knives." Ahrun did
so accordingly, and Gushtasp proceeded to the mountain. As soon as the
dragon smelt the approach of a human being, flames issued from his
nostrils, and he darted forward to devour the intruder, but was driven
back by a number of arrows, rapidly discharged into his head and mouth.
Again he advanced, but Gushtasp dodged round him, and continued driving
arrows into him to the extent of forty, which subdued his strength, and
made him writhe in agony. He then fixed the dagger, which was armed at
right angles with knives, upon his spear, and going nearer, thrust it
down his gasping throat.
Dreadful the weapon each two-edged blade
Cut deep into the jaws on either side,
And the fierce monster, thinking to dislodge it,
Crushed it between his teeth with all his strength,
Which pressed it deeper in the flesh, when blood
And poison issued from the gaping wounds;
Then, as he floundered on the earth exhausted,
Seizing the fragment of a flinty rock,
Gushtasp beat out the brains, and soon the beast
In terrible struggles died. Two deadly fangs
Then wrenched he from the jaws, to testify
The wonderful exploit he had performed.
When he descended from the mountain, these two teeth were delivered to
Ahrun, and they were afterwards conveyed to the king, who could not
believe his own eyes, but ascended the mountain himself to ascertain the
fact, and there he beheld with amazement the dragon lifeless, and
covered with blood. "And didst thou thyself kill this terrific dragon?"
said he. "Yes," replied Ahrun. "And wilt thou swear to God that this is
thy own achievement? It must be either the exploit of a demon, or of a
certain Kaianian, who resides in this neighborhood." But there was no
one to disprove his assertion, and therefore the king could no longer
refuse to surrender to him his youngest daughter.
And now between Gushtasp, and Mabrin, and Ahrun, the warmest friendship
subsisted. Indeed they were seldom parted; and the three sisters
remained together with equal affection. One day Kitabun, the wife of
Gushtasp, in conversation with some of her female acquaintance, let out
the secret that her husband was the person who killed the wolf and the
No sooner was this story told, than it spread, and in the end reached
the ears of the queen, who immediately communicated it to the king,
saying:--"This is the work of Gushtasp, thy son-in-law, of him thou hast
banished from thy presence--of him who nobly would not disclose his
name, before Mabrin and Ahrun had attained the object of their wishes."
The king said in reply that it was just as he had suspected; and sending
for Gushtasp, conferred upon him great honor, and appointed him to the
chief command of his army.
Having thus possessed himself of a leader of such skill and intrepidity,
he thought it necessary to turn his attention to external conquest, and
accordingly addressed a letter to Alias, the ruler of Khuz, in which he
said:--"Thou hast hitherto enjoyed thy kingdom in peace and
tranquillity; but thou must now resign it to me, or prepare for war."
Alias on receiving this imperious and haughty menace collected his
forces together, and advanced to the contest, and the king of Rum
assembled his own troops with equal expedition, under the direction of
Gushtasp. The battle was fought with great valor on both sides, and
blood flowed in torrents. Gushtasp challenged Alias to single combat,
and the warriors met; but in a short time the enemy was thrown from his
horse, and dragged by the young conqueror, in fetters, before the king.
The troops witnessing the prowess of Gushtasp, quickly fled; and the
king commencing a hot pursuit, soon entered their city victoriously,
subdued the whole kingdom, and plundered it of all its property and
wealth. He also gained over the army, and with this powerful addition to
his own forces, and with the booty he had secured, returned triumphantly
In consequence of this brilliant success, the king conferred additional
honors on Gushtasp, who now began to display the ambition which he had
long cherished. Aspiring to the sovereignty of Iran, he spoke to the
Rumi warriors on the subject of an invasion of that country, but they
refused to enter into his schemes, conceiving that there was no chance
of success. At this Gushtasp took fire, and declared that he knew the
power and resources of his father perfectly, and that the conquest would
be attended with no difficulty. He then went to the king, and said: "Thy
chiefs are afraid to fight against Lohurasp; I will myself undertake the
task with even an inconsiderable army." The king was overjoyed, and
kissed his head and face, and loaded him with presents, and ordered his
secretary to write to Lohurasp in the following terms: "I am anxious to
meet thee in battle, but if thou art not disposed to fight, I will
permit thee to remain at peace, on condition of surrendering to me half
thy kingdom. Should this be refused, I will myself deprive thee of thy
whole sovereignty." When this letter was conveyed by the hands of Kabus
to Iran, Lohurasp, upon reading it, was moved to laughter, and
exclaimed, "What is all this? The king of Rum has happened to obtain
possession of the little kingdom of Khuz, and he has become insane with
pride!" He then asked Kabus by what means he accomplished the capture of
Khuz, and how he managed to kill Alias. The messenger replied, that his
success was owing to a youth of noble aspect and invincible courage, who
had first destroyed a ferocious wolf, then a dragon, and had afterwards
dragged Alias from his horse, with as much ease as if he had been a
chicken, and laid him prostrate at the feet of the king of Rum. Lohurasp
enquired his name, and he answered, Gushtasp. "Does he resemble in
feature any person in this assembly?" Kabus looked round about him, and
pointed to Zarir, from which Lohurasp concluded that it must be his own
son, and sat silent. But he soon determined on what answer to send, and
it was contained in the following words: "Do not take me for an Alias,
nor think that one hero of thine is competent to oppose me. I have a
hundred equal to him. Continue, therefore, to pay me tribute, or I will
lay waste thy whole country." With this letter he dismissed Kabus; and
as soon as the messenger had departed, addressed himself to Zarir,
saying: "Thou must go in the character of an ambassador from me to the
king of Rum, and represent to him the justice and propriety of
preserving peace. After thy conference with him repair to the house of
Gushtasp, and in my name ask his forgiveness for what I have done. I was
not before aware of his merit, and day and night I think of him with
repentance and sorrow. Tell him to pardon his old father's infirmities,
and come back to Iran, to his own country and home, that I may resign to
him my crown and throne, and like Kai-khosrau, take leave of the world.
It is my desire to deliver myself up to prayer and devotion, and to
appoint Gushtasp my successor, for he appears to be eminently worthy of
that honor." Zarir acted scrupulously, in conformity with his
instructions; and having first had an interview with the king, hastened
to the house of his brother, by whom he was received with affection and
gladness. After the usual interchange of congratulations and enquiry, he
stated to him the views and the resolutions of his father, who on the
faith of his royal word promised to appoint him his successor, and
thought of him with the most cordial attachment. Gushtasp was as much
astonished as delighted with this information, and his anxiety being
great to return to his own country, he that very night, accompanied by
his wife Kitabun, and Zarir, set out for Iran. Approaching the city, he
was met by an istakbal, or honorary deputation of warriors, sent by the
king; and when he arrived at court, Lohurasp descended from his throne
and embraced him with paternal affection, shedding tears of contrition
for having previously treated him not only with neglect but severity.
However he now made him ample atonement, and ordering a golden chair of
royalty to be constructed and placed close to his own, they both sat
together, and the people by command tendered to him unanimously their
respect and allegiance. Lohurasp repeatedly said to him:--
"What has been done was Fate's decree,
Man cannot strive with destiny.
To be unfeeling once was mine,
At length to be a sovereign thine."
Thus spoke the king, and kissed the crown,
And gave it to his valiant son.
Soon afterwards he relinquished all authority in the empire, assumed the
coarse habit of a recluse, retired to a celebrated place of pilgrimage,
near Balkh. There, in a solitary cell, he devoted the remainder of his
life to prayer and the worship of God. The period of Lohurasp's
government lasted one hundred and twenty years.
GUSHTASP, AND THE FAITH OF ZERDUSHT
I've said preceding sovereigns worshipped God,
By whom their crowns were given to protect
The people from oppressors; Him they served,
Acknowledging His goodness--for to Him,
The pure, unchangeable, the Holy One!
They owed their greatness and their earthly power.
But after times produced idolatry,
And Pagan faith, and then His name was lost
In adoration of created things.
Gushtasp had by his wife Kitabun, the daughter of the king of Rum, two
sons named Isfendiyar and Bashutan, who were remarkable for their piety
and devotion to the Almighty. Being the great king, all the minor
sovereigns paid him tribute, excepting Arjasp, the ruler of Chin and
Ma-chin, whose army consisted of Diws, and Peris, and men; for
considering him of superior importance, he sent him yearly the usual
tributary present. In those days lived Zerdusht, the Guber, who was
highly accomplished in the knowledge of divine things; and having waited
upon Gushtasp, the king became greatly pleased with his learning and
piety, and took him into his confidence. The philosopher explained to
him the doctrines of the fire-worshippers, and by his art he reared a
tree before the house of Gushtasp, beautiful in its foliage and
branches, and whoever ate of the leaves of that tree became learned and
accomplished in the mysteries of the future world, and those who ate of
the fruit thereof became perfect in wisdom and holiness.
In consequence of the illness of Lohurasp, who was nearly at the point
of death, Zerdusht went to Balkh for the purpose of administering relief
to him, and he happily succeeded in restoring him to health. On his
return he was received with additional favor by Gushtasp, who
immediately afterwards became his disciple. Zerdusht then told him that
he was the prophet of God, and promised to show him miracles. He said he
had been to heaven and to hell. He could send anyone, by prayer, to
heaven; and whomsoever he was angry with he could send to hell. He had
seen the seven mansions of the celestial regions, and the thrones of
sapphires, and all the secrets of heaven were made known to him by his
attendant angel. He said that the sacred book, called Zendavesta,
descended from above expressly for him, and that if Gushtasp followed
the precepts in that blessed volume, he would attain celestial felicity.
Gushtasp readily became a convert to his principles, forsaking the pure
adoration of God for the religion of the fire-worshippers.
The philosopher further said that he had prepared a ladder, by which he
had ascended into heaven and had seen the Almighty. This made the
disciple still more obedient to Zerdusht. One day he asked Gushtasp why
he condescended to pay tribute to Arjasp; "God is on thy side," said he,
"and if thou desirest an extension of territory, the whole country of
Chin may be easily conquered." Gushtasp felt ashamed at this reproof,
and to restore his character, sent a dispatch to Arjasp, in which he
said, "Former kings who paid thee tribute did so from terror only, but
now the empire is mine; and it is my will, and I have the power, to
resist the payment of it in future." This letter gave great offence to
Arjasp; who at once suspected that the fire-worshipper, Zerdusht, had
poisoned his mind, and seduced him from his pure and ancient religion,
and was attempting to circumvent and lead him to his ruin. He answered
him thus: "It is well known that thou hast now forsaken the right path,
and involved thyself in darkness. Thou hast chosen a guide possessed of
the attributes of Iblis, who with the art of a magician has seduced thee
from the worship of the true God, from that God who gave thee thy
kingdom and thy grandeur. Thy father feared God, and became a holy
Dirvesh, whilst thou hast lost thy way in wickedness and impiety. It
will therefore be a meritorious action in me to vindicate the true
worship and oppose thy blasphemous career with all my demons. In a month
or two I will enter thy kingdom with fire and sword, and destroy thy
authority and thee. I would give thee good advice; do not be influenced
by a wicked counsellor, but return to thy former religious practices.
Weigh well, therefore, what I say." Arjasp sent this letter by two of
his demons, familiar with sorcery; and when it was delivered into the
hands of Gushtasp, a council was held to consider its contents, to which
Zerdusht was immediately summoned. Jamasp, the minister, said that the
subject required deep thought, and great prudence was necessary in
framing a reply; but Zerdusht observed, that the only reply was
obvious--nothing but war could be thought of. At this moment Isfendiyar
gallantly offered to lead the army, but Zarir, his uncle, objected to
him on account of his extreme youth, and proposed to take the command
himself, which Gushtasp agreed to, and the two demon-envoys were
dismissed. The answer was briefly as follows:--
"Thy boast is that thou wilt in two short months
Ravage my country, scathe with fire and sword
The empire of Iran; but on thyself
Heap not destruction; pause before thy pride
Hurries thee to thy ruin. I will open
The countless treasures of the realm; my warriors,
A thousand thousand, armed with shining steel,
Shall overrun thy kingdom; I myself
Will crush that head of thine beneath my feet."
The result of these menaces was the immediate prosecution of the war,
and no time was lost by Arjasp in hastening into Iran.
Plunder and devastation marked his course,
The villages were all involved in flames,
Palace of pride, low cot, and lofty tower;
The trees dug up, and root and branch destroyed.
Gushtasp then hastened to repel his foes;
But to his legions they seemed wild and strange,
And terrible in aspect, and no light
Could struggle through the gloom they had diffused,
To hide their progress.
Zerdusht said to Gushtasp, "Ask thy vizir, Jamasp, what is written in
thy horoscope, that he may relate to thee the dispensations of heaven."
Jamasp, in reply to the inquiry, took the king aside and whispered
softly to him: "A great number of thy brethren, thy relations, and
warriors will be slain in the conflict, but in the end thou wilt be
victorious." Gushtasp deeply lamented the coming event, which involved
the destruction of his kinsmen, but did not shrink from the battle, for
he exulted in the anticipation of obtaining the victory. The contest was
begun with indescribable eagerness and impetuosity.
Approaching, each a prayer addrest
To Heaven, and thundering forward prest;
Thick showers of arrows gloomed the sky,
The battle-storm raged long and high;
Above, black clouds their darkness spread,
Below, the earth with blood was red.
Ardshir, the son of Lohurasp, and descended from Kai-kaus, was one of
the first to engage; he killed many, and was at last killed himself.
After him, his brother Shydasp was killed. Then Bishu, the son of
Jamasp, urged on his steed, and with consummate bravery destroyed a
great number of warriors. Zarir, equally bold and intrepid, also rushed
amidst the host, and whether demons or men opposed him, they were all
laid lifeless on the field. He then rode up towards Arjasp, scattered
the ranks, and penetrated the headquarters, which put the king into
great alarm: for he exclaimed:--"What, have ye no courage, no shame!
whoever kills Zarir shall have a magnificent reward." Bai-derafsh, one
of the demons, animated by this offer, came forward, and with
remorseless fury attacked Zarir. The onset was irresistible, and the
young prince was soon overthrown and bathed in his own blood. The news
of the unfortunate catastrophe deeply affected Gushtasp, who cried, in
great grief: "Is there no one to take vengeance for this?" when
Isfendiyar presented himself, kissed the ground before his father, and
anxiously asked permission to engage the demon. Gushtasp assented, and
told him that if he killed the demon and defeated the enemy, he would
surrender to him his crown and throne.
"When we from this destructive field return,
Isfendiyar, my son, shall wear the crown,
And be the glorious leader of my armies."
Saying this, he dismounted from his famous black horse, called Behzad,
the gift of Kai-khosrau, and presented it to Isfendiyar. The greatest
clamor and lamentation had arisen among the Persian army, for they
thought that Bai-derafsh had committed such dreadful slaughter, the
moment of utter defeat was at hand, when Isfendiyar galloped forward,
mounted on Behzad, and turned the fortunes of the day. He saw the demon
with the mail of Zarir on his breast, foaming at the mouth with rage,
and called aloud to him, "Stand, thou murderer!" The stern voice, the
valor, and majesty of Isfendiyar, made the demon tremble, but he
immediately discharged a blow with his dagger at his new opponent, who
however seized the weapon with his left hand, and with his right plunged
a spear into the monster's breast, and drove it through his body.
Isfendiyar then cut off his head, remounted his horse, and that instant
was by the side of Bishu, the son of the vizir, into whose charge he
gave the severed head of Bai-derafsh, and the armor of Zarir. Bishu now
attired himself in his father's mail, and fastening the head on his
horse, declared that he would take his post close by Isfendiyar,
whatever might betide. Firshaid, another Iranian warrior, came to the
spot at the same moment, and expressed the same resolution, so that all
three, thus accidentally met, determined to encounter Arjasp and capture
him. Isfendiyar led the way, and the other two followed. Arjasp, seeing
that he was singled out by three warriors, and that the enemy's force
was also advancing to the attack in great numbers, gave up the struggle,
and was the first to retreat. His troops soon threw away their arms and
begged for quarter, and many of them were taken prisoners by the
Iranians. Gushtasp now approached the dead body of Zarir, and lamenting
deeply over his unhappy fate, placed him in a coffin, and built over him
a lofty monument, around which lights were ever afterwards kept burning,
night and day; and he also taught the people the worship of fire, and
was anxious to establish everywhere the religion of Zerdusht.
Jamasp appointed officers to ascertain the number of killed in the
battle. Of Iranians there were thirty thousand, among whom were eight
hundred chiefs; and the enemy's loss amounted to nine hundred thousand,
and also eleven hundred and sixty-three chiefs. Gushtasp rejoiced at the
glorious result, and ordered the drums to be sounded to celebrate the
victory, and he increased his favor upon Zerdusht, who originated the
war, and told him to call his triumphant son, Isfendiyar, near him.
The gallant youth the summons hears,
And midst the royal court appears,
Close by his father's side,
The mace, cow-headed, in his hand;
His air and glance express command,
And military pride.
Gushtasp beholds with heart elate.
The conqueror so young, so great,
And places round his brows the crown,
The promised crown, the high reward,
Proud token of a mighty king's regard,
Conferred upon his own.
After Gushtasp had crowned his son as his successor, he told him that he
must not now waste his time in peace and private gratification, but
proceed to the conquest of other countries. Zerdusht was also deeply
interested in his further operations, and recommended him to subdue
kingdoms for the purpose of diffusing everywhere the new religion, that
the whole world might be enlightened and edified. Isfendiyar instantly
complied, and the first kingdom he invaded was Rum. The sovereign of
that country having no power nor means to resist the incursions of the
enemy, readily adopted the faith of Zerdusht, and accepted the sacred
book named Zendavesta, as his spiritual instructor. Isfendiyar
afterwards invaded Hindustan and Arabia, and several other countries,
and successfully established the religion of the fire-worshippers in
Where'er he went he was received
With welcome, all the world believed,
And all with grateful feelings took
The Holy Zendavesta-book,
Proud their new worship to declare,
The worship of Isfendiyar.
The young conqueror communicated by letters to his father the success
with which he had disseminated the religion of Zerdusht, and requested
to know what other enterprises required his aid. Gushtasp rejoiced
exceedingly, and commanded a grand banquet to be prepared. It happened
that Gurzam a warrior, was particularly befriended by the king, but
retaining secretly in his heart a bitter enmity to Isfendiyar, now took
an opportunity to gratify his malice, and privately told Gushtasp that
he had heard something highly atrocious in the disposition of the
prince. Gushtasp was anxious to know what it was; and he said,
"Isfendiyar has subdued almost every country in the world: he is a
dangerous person at the head of an immense army, and at this very moment
meditates taking Balkh, and making even thee his prisoner!
"Thou know'st not that thy son Isfendiyar
Is hated by the army. It is said
Ambition fires his brain, and to secure
The empire to himself, his wicked aim
Is to rebel against his generous father.
This is the sum of my intelligence;
But thou'rt the king, I speak but what I hear."
These malicious accusations by Gurzam insidiously made, produced great
vexation in the mind of Gushtasp. The banquet went on, and for three
days he drank wine incessantly, without sleep or rest because his sorrow
was extreme. On the fourth day he said to his minister: "Go with this
letter to Isfendiyar, and accompany him hither to me." Jamasp, the
minister, went accordingly on the mission, and when he arrived, the
prince said to him, "I have dreamt that my father is angry with
me."--"Then thy dream is true," replied Jamasp, "thy father is indeed
angry with thee."--"What crime, what fault have I committed?
"Is it because I have with ceaseless toil
Spread wide the Zendavesta, and converted
Whole kingdoms to that faith? Is it because
For him I conquered those far-distant kingdoms,
With this good sword of mine? Why clouds his brow
Upon his son--some demon must have changed
His temper, once affectionate and kind,
Calling me to him thus in anger! Thou
Hast ever been my friend, my valued friend
Say, must I go? Thy counsel I require."
"The son does wrong who disobeys his father,
Despising his command," Jamasp replied.
"Yet," said Isfendiyar, "why should I go?
He is in wrath, it cannot be for good."
"Know'st thou not that a father's wrath is kindness?
The anger of a father to his child
Is far more precious than the love and fondness
Felt by that child for him. 'Tis good to go,
Whatever the result, he is the king,
And more--he is thy father!"
Isfendiyar immediately consented, and appointed Bahman, his eldest son,
to fill his place in the army during his absence. He had four sons: the
name of the second was Mihrbus; of the third, Avir; and of the fourth,
Nushahder; and these three he took along with him on his journey.
Before he had arrived at Balkh, Gushtasp had concerted measures to
secure him as a prisoner, with an appearance of justice and
impartiality. On his arrival, he waited on the king respectfully, and
was thus received: "Thou hast become the great king! Thou hast conquered
many countries, but why am I unworthy in thy sight? Thy ambition is
indeed excessive." Isfendiyar replied: "However great I may be, I am
still thy servant, and wholly at thy command." Upon hearing this,
Gushtasp turned towards his courtiers, and said, "What ought to be done
with that son, who in the lifetime of his father usurps his authority,
and even attempts to eclipse him in grandeur? What! I ask, should be
done with such a son!"
"Such a son should either be
Broken on the felon tree,
Or in prison bound with chains,
Whilst his wicked life remains,
Else thyself, this kingdom, all
Will be ruined by his thrall!"
To this heavy denunciation Isfendiyar replied: "I have received all my
honors from the king, by whom I am appointed to succeed to the throne;
but at his pleasure I willingly resign them." However, concession and
remonstrance were equally fruitless, and he was straightway ordered to
be confined in the tower-prison of the fort situated on the adjacent
mountain, and secured with chains.
Dreadful the sentence: all who saw him wept;
And sternly they conveyed him to the tower,
Where to four columns, deeply fixed in earth,
And reaching to the skies, of iron formed,
They bound him; merciless they were to him
Who had given splendour to a mighty throne.
Mournful vicissitude! Thus pain and pleasure
Successive charm and tear the heart of man;
And many a day in that drear solitude,
He lingered, shedding tears of blood, till times
Of happier omen dawned upon his fortunes.
Having thus made Isfendiyar secure in the mountain-prison, and being
entirely at ease about the internal safety of the empire, Gushtasp was
anxious to pay a visit to Zal and Rustem at Sistan, and to convert them
to the religion of Zerdusht. On his approach to Sistan he was met and
respectfully welcomed by Rustem. who afterwards in open assembly
received the Zendavesta and adopted the new faith, which he propagated
throughout his own territory; but, according to common report it was
fear of Gushtasp alone which induced him to pursue this course. Gushtasp
remained two years his guest, enjoying all kinds of recreation, and
particularly the sports of the field and the forests.
When Bahman, the son of Isfendiyar, heard of the imprisonment of his
father, he, in grief and alarm, abandoned his trust, dismissed the army,
and proceeded to Balkh, where he joined his two brothers, and wept over
the fate of their unhappy father.
In the meantime the news of the confinement of Isfendiyar, and the
absence of Gushtasp at Sistan, and the unprotected state of Balkh,
stimulated Arjasp to a further effort, and he despatched his son Kahram
with a large army towards the capital of the enemy, to carry into effect
his purpose of revenge. Lohurasp was still in religious retirement at
Balkh. The people were under great apprehension, and being without a
leader, anxiously solicited the old king to command them, but he said
that he had abandoned all earthly concerns, and had devoted himself to
God, and therefore could not comply with their entreaties. But they
would hear no denial, and, as it were, tore him from his place of refuge
and prayer. There were assembled only about one thousand horsemen, and
with these he advanced to battle; but what were they compared to the
hundred thousand whom they met, and by whom they were soon surrounded.
Their bravery was useless. They were at once overpowered and defeated,
and Lohurasp himself was unfortunately among the slain.
Upon the achievement of his victory, Kahram entered Balkh in triumph,
made the people prisoners, and destroyed all the places of worship
belonging to the Gubers. He also killed the keeper of the altar, and
burnt the Zendavesta, which contained the formulary of their doctrines
One of the women of Gushtasp's household happened to elude the grasp of
the invader, and hastened to Sistan to inform the king of the disaster
that had occurred. "Thy father is killed, the city is taken, and thy
women and daughters in the power of the conqueror." Gushtasp received
the news with consternation, and prepared with the utmost expedition for
his departure. He invited Rustem to accompany him, but the champion
excused himself at the time, and afterwards declined altogether on the
plea of sickness. Before he had yet arrived at Balkh, Kahram hearing of
his approach, went out to meet him with his whole army, and was joined
on the same day by Arjasp and his demon-legions.
Great was the uproar, loud the brazen drums
And trumpets rung, the earth shook, and seemed rent
By that tremendous conflict, javelins flew
Like hail on every side, and the warm blood
Streamed from the wounded and the dying men.
The claim of kindred did not check the arm
Lifted in battle--mercy there was none,
For all resigned themselves to chance or fate,
Or what the ruling Heavens might decree.
At last the battle terminated in the defeat of Gushtasp, who was pursued
till he was obliged to take refuge in a mountain-fort. He again
consulted Jamasp to know what the stars foretold, and Jamasp replied
that he would recover from the defeat through the exertions of
Isfendiyar alone. Pleased with this interpretation, he on that very day
sent Jamasp to the prison with a letter to Isfendiyar, in which he hoped
to be pardoned for the cruelty he had been guilty of towards him, in
consequence, he said, of being deceived by the arts and treachery of
those who were only anxious to effect his ruin. He declared too that he
would put those enemies to death in his presence, and replace the royal
crown upon his head. At the same time he confined in chains Gurzam, the
wretch who first practised upon his feelings. Jamasp rode immediately to
the prison, and delivering the letter, urged the prince to comply with
his father's entreaties, but Isfendiyar was incredulous and not so
easily to be moved.
"Has he not at heart disdained me?
Has he not in prison chained me?
Am I not his son, that he
Treats me ignominiously?
"Why should Gurzam's scorn and hate
Rouse a loving father's wrath?
Why should he, the foul ingrate,
Cast destruction in my path?"
Jamasp, however, persevered in his anxious solicitations, describing to
him how many of his brethren and kindred had fallen, and also the
perilous situation of his own father if he refused his assistance. By a
thousand various efforts he at length effected his purpose, and the
blacksmith was called to take off his chains; but in removing them, the
anguish of the wounds they had inflicted was so great that Isfendiyar
fainted away. Upon his recovery he was escorted to the presence of his
father, who received him with open arms, and the strongest expressions
of delight. He begged to be forgiven for his unnatural conduct to him,
again resigned to him the throne of the empire, and appointed him to the
command of the imperial armies. He then directed Gurzam, upon whose
malicious counsel he had acted, to be brought before him, and the wicked
minister was punished with death on the spot, and in the presence of the
Wretch! more relentless even than wolf or pard,
Thou hast at length received thy just reward!
When Arjasp heard that Isfendiyar had been reconciled to his father, and
was approaching at the head of an immense army, he was affected with the
deepest concern, and forthwith sent his son Kahram to endeavor to resist
the progress of the enemy. At the same time Kurugsar, a gladiator of the
demon race, requested that he might be allowed to oppose Isfendiyar; and
permission being granted, he was the very first on the field, where
instantly wielding his bow, he shot an arrow at Isfendiyar, which
pierced through the mail, but fortunately for him did no serious harm.
The prince drew his sword with the intention of attacking him, but
seeing him furious with rage, and being doubtful of the issue, thought
it more prudent and safe to try his success with the noose. Accordingly
he took the kamund from his saddle-strap, and dexterously flung it round
the neck of his arrogant foe, who was pulled headlong from his horse:
and, as soon as his arms were bound behind his back, dragged a prisoner
in front of the Persian ranks. Isfendiyar then returned to the battle,
attacked a body of the enemy's auxiliaries, killed a hundred and sixty
of their warriors, and made the division of which Kahram was the leader
fly in all directions. His next feat was to attack another force, which
had confederated against him.
With slackened rein he galloped o'er the field;
Blood gushed from every stroke of his sharp sword,
And reddened all the plain; a hundred warriors
Eighty and five, in treasure rich and mail,
Sunk underneath him, such his mighty power.
His remaining object was to assail the centre, where Arjasp himself was
stationed; and thither he rapidly hastened. Arjasp, angry and alarmed at
this success, cried out, "What! is one man allowed to scathe all my
ranks, cannot my whole army put an end to his dreadful career?" The
soldiers replied, "No! he has a body of brass, and the vigor of an
elephant: our swords make no impression upon him, whilst with his sword
he can cut the body of a warrior, cased in mail, in two, with the
greatest ease. Against such a foe, what can we do?" Isfendiyar rushed
on; and after an overwhelming attack, Arjasp was compelled to quit his
ground and effect his escape. The Iranian troops were then ordered to
pursue the fugitives, and in revenge for the death of Lohurasp, not to
leave a man alive. The carnage was in consequence terrible, and the
remaining Turanians were in such despair that they flung themselves from
their exhausted horses, and placing straw in their mouths to show the
extremity of their misfortune, called aloud for quarter. Isfendiyar was
moved at last to compassion, and put an end to the fight; and when he
came before Gushtasp, the mail on his body, from the number of arrows
sticking in it, looked like a field of reeds; about a thousand arrows
were taken out of its folds. Gushtasp kissed his head and face, and
blessed him, and prepared a grand banquet, and the city of Balkh
resounded with rejoicings on account of the great victory.
Many days had not elapsed before a further enterprise was to be
undertaken. The sisters of Isfendiyar were still in confinement, and
required to be released. The prince readily complied with the wishes of
Gushtasp, who now repeated to him his desire to relinquish the cares of
sovereignty, and place the reins of government in his hands, that he
might devote himself entirely to the service of God.
"To thee I yield the crown and throne,
Fit to be held by thee alone;
From worldly care and trouble free,
A hermit's cell is enough for me,"
But Isfendiyar replied, that he had no desire to be possessed of the
power; he rather wished for the prosperity of the king, and no change.
"O, may thy life be long and blessed,
And ever by the good caressed;
For 'tis my duty still to be
Devoted faithfully to thee!
I want no throne, nor diadem;
My soul has no delight in them.
I only seek to give thee joy,
And gloriously my sword employ.
I thirst for vengeance on Arjasp:
To crush him in my iron grasp,
That from his thrall I may restore
My sisters to their home again,
Who now their heavy fate deplore,
And toiling drag a slavish chain."
"Then go!" the smiling monarch said,
Invoking blessings on his head,
"And may kind Heaven thy refuge be,
And lead thee on to victory."
Isfendiyar now told his father that his prisoner Kurugsar was
continually requesting him to represent his condition in the royal ear,
saying, "Of what use will it be to put me to death? No benefit can arise
from such a punishment. Spare my life, and you will see how largely I am
able to contribute to your assistance." Gushtasp expressed his
willingness to be merciful, but demanded a guarantee on oath from the
petitioner that he would heart and soul be true and faithful to his
benefactor. The oath was sworn, after which his bonds were taken from
his hands and feet, and he was set at liberty. The king then called him,
and pressed him with goblets of wine, which made him merry. "I have
pardoned thee," said Gushtasp, "at the special entreaty of
Isfendiyar--be grateful to him, and be attentive to his commands." After
that, Isfendiyar took and conveyed him to his own house, that he might
have an opportunity of experiencing and proving the promised fidelity of
his new ally.
THE HEFT-KHAN OF ISFENDIYAR
Rustem had seven great labours, wondrous power
Nerved his strong arm in danger's needful hour;
And now Firdusi's legend-strains declare
The seven great labours of Isfendiyar.
The prince, who had determined to undertake the new expedition, and
appeared confident of success, now addressed himself to Kurugsar, and
said, "If I conquer the kingdom of Arjasp, and restore my sisters to
liberty, thou shalt have for thyself any principality thou may'st choose
within the boundaries of Iran and Turan, and thy name shall be exalted;
but beware of treachery or fraud, for falsehood shall certainly be
punished with death." To this Kurugsar replied, "I have already sworn a
solemn oath to the king, and at thy intercession he has spared my
life--why then should I depart from the truth, and betray my
"Then tell me the road to the brazen fortress, and how far it is distant
from this place?" said Isfendiyar.
"There are three different routes," replied Kurugsar. "One will occupy
three months; it leads through a beautiful country, adorned with cities,
and gardens, and pastures, and is pleasant to the traveller. The second
is less attractive, the prospects less agreeable, and will only employ
two months; the third, however, may be accomplished in seven days, and
is thence called the Heft-khan, or seven stages; but at every stage some
monster, or terrible difficulty, must be overcome. No monarch, even
supported by a large army, has ever yet ventured to proceed by this
route; and if it is ever attempted, the whole party will be assuredly
"Nor strength, nor juggling, nor the sorcerer's art
Can help him safely through that awful path,
Beset with wolves and dragons, wild and fierce,
From whom the fleetest have no power to fly.
There an enchantress, doubly armed with spells,
The most accomplished of that magic brood.
Spreads wide her snares to charm and to destroy,
And ills of every shape, and horrid aspect,
Cross the tired traveller at every step."
At this description of the terrors of the Heft-khan, Isfendiyar became
thoughtful for awhile, and then, resigning himself to the providence of
God, resolved to take the shortest route. "No man can die before his
time," said he; "heaven is my protector, and I will fearlessly encounter
every difficulty on the road." "It is full of perils," replied Kurugsar,
and endeavored to dissuade him from the enterprise. "But with the
blessing of God," rejoined Isfendiyar, "it will be easy." The prince
then ordered a sumptuous banquet to be served, at which he gave Kurugsar
abundant draughts of wine, and even in a state of intoxication the
demon-guide still warned him against his proposed journey. "Go by the
route which takes two months," said he, "for that will be convenient and
safe;" but Isfendiyar replied:--"I neither fear the difficulties of the
route, nor the perils thou hast described."
And though destruction spoke in every word,
Enough to terrify the stoutest heart,
Still he adhered to what he first resolved.
"Thou wilt attend me," said the dauntless prince;
And thus Kurugsar, without a pause, replied:
"Undoubtedly, if by the two months' way,
And do thee ample service; but if this
Heft-khan be thy election; if thy choice
Be fixed on that which leads to certain death,
My presence must be useless. Can I go
Where bird has never dared to wing its flight?"
Isfendiyar, upon hearing these words, began to suspect the fidelity of
Kurugsar, and thought it safe to bind him in chains. The next day as he
was going to take leave of his father, Kurugsar called out to him, and
said: "After my promises of allegiance, and my solemn oath, why am I
thus kept in chains?" "Not out of anger assuredly; but out of compassion
and kindness, in order that I may take thee along with me on the
enterprise of the Heft-khan; for wert thou not bound, thy faint heart
might induce thee to run away.
"Safe thou art when bound in chains,
Fettered foot can never fly.
Whilst thy body here remains,
We may on thy faith rely.
Terror will in vain assail thee;
For these bonds shall never fail thee.
Guarded by a potent charm,
They will keep thee free from harm."
Isfendiyar having received the parting benediction of Gushtasp, was
supplied with a force consisting of twelve thousand chosen horsemen, and
abundance of treasure, to enable him to proceed on his enterprise, and
conquer the kingdom of Arjasp.
First Stage.--Isfendiyar placed Kurugsar in bonds among his retinue, and
took with him his brother Bashutan. But the demon-guide complained that
he was unable to walk, and in consequence he was mounted on a horse,
still bound, and the bridle given into the hands of one of the warriors.
In this manner they proceeded, directed from time to time by Kurugsar,
till they arrived at the uttermost limits of the kingdom, and entered a
desert wilderness. Isfendiyar now asked what they would meet with, and
the guide answered, "Two monstrous wolves are in this quarter, as large
as elephants, and whose teeth are of immense length." The prince told
his people, that as soon as they saw the wolves, they must at once
attack them with arrows. The day passed away, and in the evening they
came to a forest and a murmuring stream, when suddenly the two enormous
wolves appeared, and rushed towards the legions of Isfendiyar. The
people seeing them advance, poured upon them a shower of arrows.
Several, however, were wounded, but the wolves were much exhausted by
the arrows which had penetrated their bodies. At this moment Bashutan
attacked one of them, and Isfendiyar the other; and so vigorous was
their charge, that both the monsters were soon laid lifeless in the
dust. After this signal overthrow, Isfendiyar turned to Kurugsar, and
exclaimed: "Thus, through the favor of Heaven, the first obstacle has
been easily extinguished!" The guide regarded him with amazement, and
said:--"I am indeed astonished at the intrepidity and valor that has
Seeing the bravery of Isfendiyar,
Amazement filled the soul of Kurugsar.
The warriors and the party now dismounted, and regaled themselves with
feasting and wine. They then reposed till the following morning.
Second Stage.--Proceeding on the second journey, Isfendiyar inquired
what might now be expected to oppose their progress, and Kurugsar
replied: "This stage is infested by lions." "Then," rejoined Isfendiyar,
"thou shalt see with what facility I can destroy them." At about the
close of the day they met with a lion and a lioness. Bashutan said:
"Take one and I will engage the other." But Isfendiyar observed, that
the animals seemed very wild and ferocious, and he preferred attacking
them both himself, that his brother might not be exposed to any harm. He
first sallied forth against the lion, and with one mighty stroke put an
end to his life. He then approached the lioness, which pounced upon him
with great fury, but was soon compelled to desist, and the prince,
rapidly wielding his sword, in a moment cut off her head. Having thus
successfully accomplished the second day's task, he alighted from his
horse, and refreshments being spread out, the warriors and the troops
enjoyed themselves with great satisfaction, exhilarated by plenteous
draughts of ruby wine. Again Isfendiyar addressed Kurugsar, and said:
"Thou seest with what facility all opposition is removed, when I am
assisted by the favor of Heaven!" "But there are other and more terrible
difficulties to surmount, and amazing as thy achievements certainly have
been, thou wilt have still greater exertions to make before thy
enterprise is complete." "What is the next evil I have to subdue?" "An
"With power to fascinate, and from the deep
To lure the finny tribe, his daily food.
Fire sparkles round him; his stupendous bulk
Looks like a mountain. When incensed, his roar
Makes the surrounding country shake with fear.
White poison-foam drops from his hideous jaws,
Which yawning wide, display a dismal gulf,
The grave of many a hapless being, lost
Wandering amidst that trackless wilderness."
Kurugsar described or magnified the ferocity of the animal in such a
way, that Isfendiyar thought it necessary to be cautious, and with that
view he ordered a curious apparatus to be constructed on wheels,
something like a carriage, to which he fastened a large quantity of
pointed instruments, and harnessed horses to it to drag it on the road.
He then tried its motion, and found it admirably calculated for his
purpose. The people were astonished at the ingenuity of the invention,
and lauded him to the skies.
Third Stage--Away went the prince, and having travelled a considerable
distance, Kurugsar suddenly exclaimed: "I now begin to smell the stench
of the dragon." Hearing this, Isfendiyar dismounted, ascended the
machine, and shutting the door fast, took his seat and drove off.
Bashutan and all the warriors upon witnessing this extraordinary act,
began to weep and lament, thinking that he was hurrying himself to
certain destruction, and begged that for his own sake, as well as
theirs, he would come out of the machine. But he replied: "Peace, peace!
what know ye of the matter;" and as the warlike apparatus was so
excellently contrived, that he could direct the movements of the horses
himself, he drove on with increased velocity, till he arrived in the
vicinity of the monster.
The dragon from a distance heard
The rumbling of the wain,
And snuffing every breeze that stirred
Across the neighbouring plain,
Smelt something human in his power,
A welcome scent to him;
For he was eager to devour
Hot reeking blood, or limb.
And darkness now is spread around,
No pathway can be traced;
The fiery horses plunge and bound
Amid the dismal waste.
And now the dragon stretches far
His cavern throat, and soon
Licks in the horses and the car,
And tries to gulp them down.
But sword and javelin, sharp and keen,
Wound deep each sinewy jaw;
Midway, remains the huge machine,
And chokes the monster's maw.
In agony he breathes, a dire
Convulsion fires his blood,
And struggling, ready to expire,
Ejects a poison-flood!
And then disgorges wain and steeds,
And swords and javelins bright;
Then, as the dreadful dragon bleeds,
Up starts the warrior-knight,
And from his place of ambush leaps,
And, brandishing his blade,
The weapon in the brain he steeps,
And splits the monster's head.
But the foul venom issuing thence,
Is so o'erpowering found,
Isfendiyar, deprived of sense,
Falls staggering to the ground!
Upon seeing this result, and his brother in so deplorable a situation,
Bashutan and the troops also were in great alarm, apprehending the most
fatal consequences. They sprinkled rose-water over his face, and
administered other remedies, so that after some time he recovered; then
he bathed, purifying himself from the filth of the monster, and poured
out prayers of thankfulness to the merciful Creator for the protection
and victory he had given him. But it was matter of great grief to
Kurugsar that Isfendiyar had succeeded in his exploit, because under
present circumstances, he would have to follow him in the remaining
arduous enterprises; whereas, if the prince had been slain, his
obligations would have ceased forever.
"What may be expected to-morrow?" inquired Isfendiyar. "To-morrow,"
replied the demon-guide, "thou wilt meet with an enchantress, who can
convert the stormy sea into dry land, and the dry land again into the
ocean. She is attended by a gigantic ghoul, or apparition." "Then thou
shalt see how easily this enchantress and her mysterious attendant can
Fourth Stage.--On the fourth day Isfendiyar and his companions proceeded
on the destined journey, and coming to a pleasant meadow, watered by a
transparent rivulet, the party alighted, and they all refreshed
themselves heartily with various kinds of food and wine. In a short
space of time the enchantress appeared, most beautiful in feature and
elegant in attire, and approaching our hero with a sad but fascinating
expression of countenance, said to him (the ghoul, her pretended
paramour, being at a little distance):--
"I am a poor unhappy thing,
The daughter of a distant king.
This monster with deceit and fraud,
By a fond parent's power unawed,
Seduced me from my royal home,
Through wood and desert wild to roam;
And surely Heaven has brought thee now
To cheer my heart, and smooth my brow,
And free me from his loathed embrace,
And bear me to a fitter place,
Where, in thy circling arms more softly prest,
I may at last be truly loved, and blest."
Isfendiyar immediately called her to him, and requested her to sit down.
The enchantress readily complied, anticipating a successful issue to her
artful stratagems; but the intended victim of her sorcery was too
cunning to be imposed upon. He soon perceived what she was, and
forthwith cast his kamund over her, and in spite of all her entreaties,
bound her too fast to escape. In this extremity, she successively
assumed the shape of a cat, a wolf, and a decrepit old man: and so
perfect were her transformations, that any other person would have been
deceived, but Isfendiyar detected her in every variety of appearance;
and, vexed by her continual attempts to cheat him, at last took out his
sword and cut her in pieces. As soon as this was done, a thick dark
cloud of dust and vapor arose, and when it subsided, a black apparition
of a demon burst upon his sight, with flames issuing from its mouth.
Determined to destroy this fresh antagonist, he rushed forward, sword in
hand, and though the flames, in the attack, burnt his cloth-armor and
dress, he succeeded in cutting off the threatening monster's head.
"Now," said he to Kurugsar, "thou hast seen that with the favor of
Heaven, both enchantress and ghoul are exterminated, as well as the
wolves, the lions, and the dragon." "Very well," replied Kurugsar, "thou
hast achieved this prodigious labor, but to-morrow will be a heavy day,
and thou canst hardly escape with life. To-morrow thou wilt be opposed
by the Simurgh, whose nest is situated upon a lofty mountain. She has
two young ones, each the size of an elephant, which she conveys in her
beak and claws from place to place." "Be under no alarm," said
Isfendiyar, "God will make the labor easy."
Fifth Stage.--On the fifth day, Isfendiyar resumed his journey,
travelling with his little army over desert, plain, mountain, and
wilderness, until he reached the neighborhood of the Simurgh. He then
adopted the same stratagem which he had employed before, and the machine
supplied with swords and spears, and drawn by horses, was soon in
readiness for the new adventure. The Simurgh, seeing with surprise an
immense vehicle, drawn by two horses, approach at a furious rate, and
followed by a large company of horsemen, descended from the mountain,
and endeavored to take up the whole apparatus in her claws to carry it
away to her own nest; but her claws were lacerated by the sharp weapons,
and she was then obliged to try her beak. Both beak and claws were
injured in the effort, and the animal became extremely weakened by the
loss of blood. Isfendiyar seizing the happy moment, sprang out of the
carriage, and with his trenchant sword divided the Simurgh in two parts;
and the young ones, after witnessing the death of their parent,
precipitately fled from the fatal scene. When Bashutan, with the army,
came to the spot, they were amazed at the prodigious size of the
Simurgh, and the valor by which it had been subdued. Kurugsar turned
pale with astonishment and sorrow. "What will be our next adventure?"
said Isfendiyar to him. "To-morrow more pressing ills will surround
thee. Heavy snow will fall, and there will be a violent tempest of wind,
and it will be wonderful if even one man of thy legions remains alive.
That will not be like fighting against lions, a dragon, or the Simurgh,
but against the elements, against the Almighty, which never can be
successful. Thou hadst better therefore, return unhurt." The people on
hearing this warning were alarmed, and proposed to go back; "for if the
advice of Kurugsar is not taken, we shall all perish like the companions
of Kai-khosrau, and lie buried under drifts of snow.
"Let us return then, whilst we may;
Why should we throw our lives away?"
But Isfendiyar replied that he had already overcome five of the perils
of the road, and had no fear about the remaining two. The people,
however, were still discontented, and still murmured aloud; upon which
the prince said, "Return then, and I will go alone.
"I never can require the aid
Of men so easily dismayed."
Finding their leader immovable, the people now changed their tone, and
expressed their devotion to his cause; declaring that whilst life
remained, they would never forsake him, no never.
Sixth Stage.--On the following morning, the sixth, Isfendiyar continued
his labors, and hurried on with great speed. Towards evening he arrived
on the skirts of a mountain, where there was a running stream, and upon
that spot, he pitched his tents.
Presently from the mountain there rushed down
A furious storm of wind, then heavy showers
Of snow fell, covering all the earth with whiteness,
And making desolate the prospect round.
Keen blew the blast, and pinching was the cold;
And to escape the elemental wrath,
Leader and soldier, in the caverned rock
Scooped out by mouldering time, took shelter, there
Continuing three long days. Three lingering days
Still fell the snow, and still the tempest raged,
And man and beast grew faint for want of food.
Isfendiyar and his warriors, with heads exposed, now prostrated
themselves in solemn prayer to the Almighty, and implored his favor and
protection from the calamity which had befallen them. Happily their
prayers were heard, Heaven was compassionate, and in a short space the
snow and the mighty wind entirely ceased. By this fortunate interference
of Providence, the army was enabled to quit the caves of the mountain;
and then Isfendiyar again addressed Kurugsar triumphantly: "Thus the
sixth labor is accomplished. What have we now to fear?" The demon-guide
answered him and said: "From hence to the Brazen Fortress it is forty
farsangs. That fortress is the residence of Arjasp; but the road is full
of peril. For three farsangs the sand on the ground is as hot as fire,
and there is no water to be found during the whole journey." This
information made a serious impression upon the mind of Isfendiyar; who
said to him sternly: "If I find thee guilty of falsehood, I will
assuredly put thee to death." Kurugsar replied: "What! after six trials?
Thou hast no reason to question my veracity. I shall never depart from
the truth, and my advice is, that thou hadst better return; for the
seventh stage is not to be ventured upon by human strength.
"Along those plains of burning sand
No bird can move, nor ant, nor fly;
No water slakes the fiery land,
Intensely glows the flaming sky.