The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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offering to deliver up Kaiis and all his warriors, and all the
regal property and treasure which had been plundered from him.
The troops of the three kingdoms also urgently prayed for
quarter and protection, and Rustem readily agreed to the
proffered conditions,

l 3


" Kniis to liberty restore,
With all his chiefs, I ask no rnore ;
For him alone I conquering came ;
Than him no other prize I claim."


It was a joyous day when Kaiis and his illustrious heroes
were released from their fetters, and removed from the moun-
tain-fortress in which they were confined. Rustem forthwith
reseated him on his throne, and did not fail to collect for the
public treasury all the valuables of the three states which had
submitted to his power. The troops of Misser, Berberistan,
and Hamaveran, having declared their allegiance to the Persian
king, the accumulated numbers increased Kaiis's army to up-
wards of three hundred thousand men, horse and foot, and
with this immense force he moved towards Iran. Before
marching, however, he sent a message to Afriisiyab, command-
ing him to quit the country he had so unjustly invaded, and
recommending him to be contented with the territory of

" Hast thou forgotten Eustem's power,
When thou wert in that perilous hour
By him o'erthrown ? Thy girdle broke,
Or thou haclst felt the conqueror's yoke.
Thy crowding warriors proved thy shield,
They saved and dragged thee from the field ;
By them unrescued then, would'st thou
Have lived to vaunt thy prowess now? "

This message :vas received with bitter feelings of resentment 1 y
Afnisiyab, who prepared his army for battle without delay, atd
promised to bestow his daughter in marriage and a kingdom upon
the man who should succeed in taking Rustem alive. This pro-
clamation was a powerful excitement : and when the engage-


ment took place, mighty efforts were made for the reward ; but
those who aspired to deserve it were only the first to fall.
Afrasiysib beholding the fall of so many of his chiefs, dashed
forward to cope with the champion : but his bravery was
unavailing ; for, suffering sharply under the overwhelming
attacks of llustem, he was glad to effect his escape, and retire
from the field. In short, he rapidly retraced his steps to Turan,
leaving Kaiis in full possession of the kingdom.

With anguish stricken, he regained his home,
.After a wild and ignominious flight ;
The world presenting nothing to his lips
But poison-beverage ; all was death to him.

Kiiiis being again seated on the throne of Persia, he resumed
the administration of affairs with admirable justice and liber-
ality, and despatched some of his most distinguished warriors
to secure the welfare and prosperity of the states of Mervi, and
Balkh, and Nishapiir, and Hirat. At the same time he con-
ferred on Rustem the title of Jahaui Pahlvdn, or, Champion of
the World.

In safety now from foreign and domestic enemies, Kaiis
turned his attention to pursuits very different from war and
conquest. He directed the Demons to construct two splendid
palaces on the mountain Alberz, and separate mansions for the
accommodation of his household, which he decorated in the
most magnificent manner. All the buildings were beautifully
arranged both for convenience and pleasure ; and gold and
silver and precious stones were used so lavishly, and the bril-
liancy produced by their combined effect was so great, that
night and day appeared to be the same.

Iblis, ever active, observing the vanity and ambition of the
king, was not long in taking advantage of the circumstance,
and he soon persuaded the Demons to enter into his schemes.
Accordingly one of them, disguised as a domestic servant,
was instructed to present a nosegay to Kaiis ; and after re..
Bpectf ully kissing the ground, say to him ; -


" Thou art great as king can be,
Boundless in thy majesty ;
What is all this earth to thee,

All beneath the sky 1
Peris, mortals, demons, hear
Thy commanding voice with fear ;
Thou art lord of all things here,

But, thou canst not fly 1

That remains for thee ; to know
Things above, as things below,

How the planets roll ;
How the sun his light displays,
How the moon darts forth her rays ;
How the nights succeed the days ;
What the secret cause betrays,

And who directs the v, hole ! '

This artful address of the Demon satisfied Ktius of the
imperfection of his nature, and the enviable power which he
had yet to obtain. To him, therefore, it became matter of
deep concern, how he might be enabled to ascend the Heavens
without wings, and for that purpose he consulted his astro-
logers, who presently suggested a way in which his desires
might be successfully accomplished.

They contrived to rob an eagle's nest of its young, which
they reared with great care, supplying them well with in-
vigorating food, till they grew large and strong. A frame-
work of aloes-wood was then prepared ; and at each of the
four corners was fixed perpendicularly, a javelin, surmounted
on the point with flesh of a goat. At each corner again one
of the eagles was bound, and in the middle Kaiis was seated
in great pomp with a goblet of wine before him. As soon
as the eagles became hungry, they endeavoured to get at the
goat's flesh upon the javelins, and by flapping their wings
and flying upwards, they quickly raised up the throne from
the ground. Hunger still pressing them, and still being
distant from their prey, they ascended higher and higher in
the clouds, conveying the astonished king far beyond his
own country ; but after long and fruitless exertion their
strength failed them, and unable to keep their way, the whole


fabric came tumbling down from the sky, and fell upon a
dreary solitude in the kingdom of Chin. There Kiius was
left, a prey to hunger, alone, and in utter despair, until he
was discovered by a band of Demons, whom his anxious
ministers had sent in search of him.

Iiustem, and Giidarz, and TUB, at length heard of what had
befallen the king, and with feelings of sorrow not unmixed
with indignation, set off to his assistance. "Since I was
born," said Giidarz, "never did I see such a man as Kaus.
He seems to be entirely destitute of reason and understand-
ing ; always in distress and affliction. This is the third
calamity in which he has wantonly involved himself. First
at Maziuderan, then at Hanuiveran, and now he is being
punished for attempting to discover the secrets of the Heavens ! "
AYhen they reached the wilderness into which Kaiis had fallen,
Giidarz repeated to him the same observations, candidly telling
him that he Avas fitter for a mad-house than a throne, and
exhorting him to be satisfied with his lot and be obedient to
God, the creator of all things. The miserable king was softened
to tears, acknowledged his folly ; and as soon as he was es-
corted back to his palace, he shut himself up, remaining forty
days, unseen, prostrating himself in shame and repentance.
After that he recovered his spirits, and resumed the administra-
tion of affairs with his former liberality, clemency, and justice,
almost rivalling the glory of Feridiin and Jemshid.

One clay Rustem made a splendid feast ; and whilst he and
his brother warriors, Giw and Giidarz, and Tus, were quaffing
their wine, it was determined upon to form a pretended hunting
party, and repair to the sporting grounds of Afrasiyab. The
feast lasted seven days ; aiK< on the eighth, preparations were
made for the march, an advance party being pushed on to
reconnoitre the motions of the enemy. Afrasiyab was soon
informed of what was going on, and nattered himself with the
hopes of getting Eustcm and his seven champions into his
thrall, for which purpose he called together his wise men and
warriors, and said to them : " You have only to secure these


invaders, and Kaus will soon cease to be the sovereign of
Persia." To accomplish this object, a Turanian army of thirty
thousand veterans was assembled, and ordered to occupy all
the positions and avenues in the vicinity of the sporting ground'.
An immense clamour, and thick clouds of dust, which darkened
the skies, announced their approach ; and when intelligence of
their numbers was brought to Rustem, the undaunted champion
smiled, and said to Garaz : " Fortune favours me ; what cause
is there to fear the king of Tiiran ? his army docs not exceed
a hundred thousand men. Were I alone, with Rakush, with my
armour, and battle-axe, I would not shrink from his legions.
Have I not seven companions in arms, and is not one of theni
equal to five hundred Turanian heroes 1 Let Afhisiyiib dare to
cross the boundary-river, and the contest will presently convince
him that he has only sought his own defeat." Promptly at a
signal the cup-bearer produced goblets of the red wine of
Ziibul ; and in one of them Rustem pledged his royal master
with loyalty, and Tus and Zuiira joined in the convivial and
social demonstration of attachment to the king.

The champion arrayed in his buburiyan, mounted Rakush,
and advanced towards the Turanian army. Afrasiyab, when he
beheld him in all his terrible strength and vigour, was amazed
and disheartened, accompanied, as he was, by Tus, and Giidarz,
and Giirgin, and Giw, and Bahrain, and Berzin, and Ferhad.
The drums and trumpets of Rustem were now heard, and
immediately the hostile forces engaged with dagger, sword, and
javelin. Dreadful was the onset, and the fury with which tha
conflict was continued. In truth, so sanguinary and destruc-
tive was the battle, that Afrasiyab exclaimed in grief and terror :
<; If this carnage lasts till the close of day, not a man of my
army will remain alive. Have I not one warrior endued with
sufficient bravery to oppose and subdue this mighty Rustem ?
What ! not one fit to be rewarded with a diadem, with my own
throne and kingdom, which I will freely give to the victor ! "
Pilsum heard tl\3 promise, and was ambitious of earning the
reward ; but fate decreed it otherwise. His prodigious effort*


were of no avail. Alkiis was equally unsuccessful, though the
bravest of the brave among the Turanian warriors. Encoun-
tering Rustem, his brain was pierced by a javelin wielded by
the Persian hero, and he fell dead from his saddle. This signal
achievement astonished and terrified the Turanians, who, how-
ever, made a further despairing effort against the champion and
his seven conquering companions, but with no better result
than before, and nothing remained to them excepting destruc-
tion or flight. Choosing the latter they wheeled round, and
endeavoured to escape from the sanguinary fate that awaited

Seeing this precipitate movement of the enemy, Rustem
impelled Rakusli forward in pursuit, addressing his favourite
horse with fondness and enthusiasm :

" My valued friend put forth thy speed,
This is a time of pressing need ;
Bear me away amidst the strife,
That I may take that despot's life ;
An'.l with my n:a e and javelin, flood
This dusty plain with foe-man's blood. "

Excited by his master's cry,

The war-horse bounded o'er the plain,

So swiftly that he seemed to fly,

Snorting with pride, and tossing high
His streaming mane.

And soon he reached that despot's side,
" Now is the time ! " the Champion cried,

" This is the hour to victory given."
And flung his noose which bound the king
1'ast for a moment in its ring ;

But soon, alas ! the bond was riven.

Haply the Tartar-monarch slipt away,
Not doomed to suffer on that bloody day ;
And freed from thrall, he hurrying led

lIi-> legions cross the boundary-stream,
Leaving his countless heaps of dead

To rot beneath the solar beam.

Onward he rushed with heart opprest,
And broken fortunes ; he had quaffed

Bright pleasure's cup, but now, unblest,
i'oison. was mingled with the draught 1


The booty in horses, treasure, armour, pavilions, and tents,
was immense ; and when the whole was secured, Rustem and
his companions fell back to the sporting-grounds already men-
tioned, from whence he informed Kai-kaus by letter of the
victory that had been gained. After remaining two weeks
there, resting from the toils of war and enjoying the pleasures
of hunting, the party returned home to pay their respects to
the Persian king.

And this is life 1 Thus conquest and defeat,

Vary the lights and shades of human scenes,

And human thought. Whilst some, immersed in pleasure,

p]njoy the sweets, others again endure

The miseries of the world. Hope is deceived

In this frail dwelling ; certainty and safety

Are only dreams which mock the credulous mind ;

Time sweeps o'er all things ; why then should the wise

Mourn o'er events which roll resistless on,

And set at nought all mortal opposition 1


Kow further mark the search! ess wars of Heaven,
Father and son to mortal combat jclriven !
Alas ! the tale of sorrow must be told,
The tale of tears, derived from minstrel old.

Firdausi relates that Rustem, being. on a hunting excursion
in the neighbourhood of Tiiran, killed an onager, or wild ass,*
which he roasted in the forest ; and having allayed his hunger,
went to sleep, leaving his horse, Rakush, at liberty to graze.
In the mean time a band of Tartar wanderers appeared, and

* Hunting the Gor, or wild-ass, appeal's to have been a favourite fo>ort in
Persia. Bahrain the Sixth was surnamed Gor, in consequence of his being
peculiarly devoted to the chase of this animal, ar.d wlucli at last co.:t him his


seeing so fine an animal astray, succeeded in securing him with
their kamunds, or nooses, and conveyed him home. "When
Eastern awoke from sleep he missed his favourite steed, and felt
convinced from the surrounding traces of his footsteps that he
had been captured and carried away. Accordingly he proceeded
towards Samengtin, a small principality on the borders of
Turin, and his approach being announced to the king, his
majesty went on foot to receive him with due respect and
consideration. Eustem, however, was in great wrath, and
haughtily told the king that his horse had been stolen from
him in his dominions, and that he had traced his footsteps
to Samcngiin. The king begged that he would not be angry,
but become his guest, and he would immediately order a search
for the missing horse. Rustem was appeased by this concilia-
tory address, and readily accepted the proffered hospitality.
Having in the first place dispatched his people in quest of
Eakush, the king of Samengtin prepared a magnificent feast for
the entertainment of his illustrious guest, at which wine and
music and dancing contributed their several charms. Rustem
was delighted with the welcome he received ; and when the
hour of repose arrived, he was accommodated with a couch
suitably provided and decorated. Soon after he hail fallen
asleep, he was awakened by a beautiful vision, which presented
itself close to his pillow, accompanied by a slave girl with a
lamp in her hand.

A moon-faced beauty rose upon his sight,

Like the sun sparkling, full of bloom and fragrance ;

Her eye-brows bended like the archer's bow.

Her ringlets fateful as the warrior's kamiind ;

And graceful as the lofty cypress tree,

She moved towards the champion, who surprised

At this enchanting vision, asked the cause

Which brought her thither. Softly thus she spoke :

" I am the daughter of the king, my name

Tahmlneh, no one from behind the screen

Of privacy has yet beheld me, none ;

Nor even heard the echo of my voice.

But I have heard of thy prodigious deeds,

Of thy unequalled valour and renown"


Rustem was still more astonished when he was apprized
of the nature of this extraordinary adventure, and anxiously
asked more particularly the object of her wishra. She replied
that she had become enamoured of him, on account of the
fame and the glory of his actions, and in consequence had
vowed to God that she would espouse no other man. "I em-
ployed spies to seize upon Rakush and secure him to obtain a
foal of his breed, and happily Almighty God has conducted
thee to Samcngan to fulfil my desires. I have been irresistibly
impelled to make this disclosure, and now I depart ; only,
to-morrow, do thou solicit the consent of my father to our
union, and he certainly will not refuse to bless us." Rustem
acceded to the flattering proposal, and in the morning the
nuptial engagement was sanctioned by the king.

Joyous the monarch smiled, and gave his child,
According to the customs of the kingdom,
To that brave champion,

Rustem could not remain long with his bride, and when
parting from her he said : " If the Almighty should bless thee
with a daughter, place this amulet * in her hair ; but if a son,

* It seems by the text that the Mohreh, or amulet, of Rustem was cele-
brated throughout the world for its wonderful virtues. The Mohrehi Suliman,
Solomon's Seal, was a talisman of extraordinary power, said to be capable of
rendering objects invisible, and of creating every kind of magical illusion.
Josephus relates that he saw a certain Jew, named Eleazar, draw the devil out
of an old woman's nostril, by the application of Solomon s Seal to her nose, in
the presence of the Emperor Tespasian ! But Mohreh is more properly an
amulet, or spell, against misfortune. The wearer of one of them imagines
himself safe under every situation of danger.

The application of the magical instrument to the mouth was often indis-
pensable. Thus Angelica in the Orlando Furioso :

Del clito se lo leva, e a mano a 111,1110,

fce'l chiudo in bocca, e in men, die non balena,

Cosi dagli occhi di Rnggier si ct la,

Come fa il Sol, quando la iiube il vela. CANTO XI. St. 6.

Then from her hand she took with eager haste,

And twixt her lips, the shining circlet placed,

And instant vanished from Rogero's sight !

Like Phcebus when a cloud obscures his light. HOOLK,


bind it on his arm, and it will inspire him with the disposition
and valour of Nariman." Having said these words, and
Rakush being at the same time restored to him, he took leave,
and went away to his own country.

How wept that angel-face at parting, grief
Subdued her heart ; but when nine months had past,
A boy was born as lovely as the moon,
The image of his father, and of Sam,
And Nariman for in one little month
He had attained the growth of a full year ;
His spreading chest was like the chest of Zal.
When nine, there was not in that country round
One who could equal him in feats of arms.

Hatim placed the talisman in his mouth when he plunged into the cauldron of
boiling oil. [See Hatim Ta'i, a Persian Romance, full of magic, and the wild
and marvellous adventures of Knight-errantry.] Aristotle speaks of the ring
of Battus which inspired the wearer with GRATITUDE AND HONOR ! Faith in
rings and amulets prepared at particular seasons, under certain mysterious
forms and circumstances, is an ancient superstition, but in Persia and India,
there is hardly a man without his Bazubund, or bracelet, to preserve him from
the influence of the Demons. "The women of condition, in Persia, have
small silver plates of a circular form, upon which are engraved sentences from
the Koran ; these, as well as the Talismans, they bind about their arms with
pieces of red and green silk, and look upon them as never-failing -.harms
against the fascinations of the devil, wicked spirits, &c." (Franckliu 3 Tour
to Persia. ) Rustem had also a magic garment, or cloak, called according to the
Burhani-katia, Buburiyan. Some say that he received it from his father Zal,
and others, that it was made of the skin of Akwan Diw ; others again say,
that it was made of the skin of a leopard, or some similar animal, which
Rustem killed on the mountain Sham. It had the property of resisting the
impression of every weapon, it was proof against fire, and would not sink in
water. Something like the charm in the curse of Keharaa.

I charm thy life,
From the weapons of strife,
From stone and from wood,
From fire and from flood,
From the serpent's tooth,
And the beasts of blood,

Buhur is an animal of the tiger kind, said to be superior in strength to the
lion. The famous heroes of antiquity usually wore the skins of wild beasts.
Hercules wore the skin of the Kemaean lion. The skins of panthers and
leopards were worn by the Greek and Trojan chiefs. Virgil says of Actstes,

occurrit Acestes,
Horridus in jaculis, et pelle Libystidos JEx. B. 5, v. 30.


The king of Samcngan named him Sohrab ; and when the
youth was ten years old, he said to his mother : " People ask
me who my father is, and want to know his name ! " To this,
Tahmineh replied : " Thy father's name is Rustem,

" Since the God of creation created the earth,
To a hero like Eastern he never gave birth."

And she then described the valour and renown of his ancestors,
which excited in the breast of Sohrab the desire of beino 1


immediately introduced to his father ; but his mother endea-
voured to repress his eagerness, and told him to beware

" For if he knows thou'rt his, he will remove thoe
From me, and thy sweet home ; from thee divided,
Thy mother's heart will break in agony ! "

Rustem had sent a present of jewels and precious stones to
Tahmineh, with inquiries respecting her offspring, and the reply
she returned was, that a daughter was the fruit of their union.
This intelligence disappointed him, and he afterwards thought
no more of Samengan. Tahmineh again said to Sohrdb :
" Beware also of speaking too publicly of thy relationship to
Rustem, for fear of Afnisiyab depriving me of thee." "Never,"
said he, " will I conceal the name of my father ; nay, I will go
to him myself :

Even now, I will oppose the Tartar host,

Whate'er their numbers Kaus shall be hurled

From his imperial throne, and Tus subdued

To Rustem I will give the crown and sceptre,

And place him on the seat, whence Kaus ruled

His myriad subjects I will seize the throne

Of stern Afrasiyab ; my javelin's point

Shall pierce the Heaven of Heavens. And since 'tis so

Between my glorious father and myself,

No crowned tyrant shall remain unpunished."

Tahmineh wept bitterly, but her entreaties were of no avail
the youth being unalterably fixed in his determination. One
day he told her that he wanted a suitable war-horse, and imme-
diately the royal stables were explored ; but the only animal of


sufficient size and vigour that could be found there, was the
foal produced from Rakush, which was at length brought to

His nerve and action pleased the boy,
He stroked and patted him with joy ;
And on his back the saddle placed,
The month and head the bridle graced,
And springing on th' impatient stood.
He proved his fitness and his speed.

Satisfied with the horse he had obtained, and the arms and
armour with which he was supplied, he announced his resolution
of going to war against Kalis, and conquering the kingdom of
Persia for Rustera ! The news of Sohriib's preparations soon
readied Afnlsiyab, who hailed the circumstance as peculiarly
favourable to his own ambitious ends ; and taking advantage of
the youth's enthusiasm, sent an army to his assistance, declar-
ing that Kaiis was also his enemy, and that he was anxious to
share with him in the glory of overcoming the imperial despot.
Sohrab readily accepted the offer, and the Tartar legions, his
auxiliaries, were commanded by two noted warriors, Human
and Barman, to whom Afrasiyab gave the following instruc-
tions : " It must be so contrived that Rustem and Sohrab
shall not know each other's person or name. They must be
brought together in battle. Sohrab is the youngest, and will
no doubt overcome Rustern, in which case the conqueror may
be easily dispatched by stratagem, and when both are destroyed,
the empire of Persia will be all my own ! " Furnished with
these instructions, the Tartar leaders united with Sohrab, and
commenced their march towards Persia. There was a fortress
on the road, in which Hujir, a famous warrior, was stationed ;
and when Sohrab arrived at that fortress, he rushed out alone
to oppose the progress of the invader, crying hastily

" And who art thou ? I am myself Hujir

The champion, coine to conquer thce,*

And to lop otf that towering head of thine."

* This haughty maunor vas common among th>3 heroes of antiquity. "And


Sohrdb Smiled at this fierce menace, and a sharp conflict

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 12 of 35)