The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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asked him what had happened. " I have done that," said he,
" which has made me weary of life. I have, in my old age,
slain my son ! " Ziiura, his brother, hearing this, turned in
sorrow to Sohrab, who said to him : " Such is my destiny, such
the will of fortune. It was decreed that I should perish by the
hand of my father. I came like a flash of lightning, and now
I depart like the empty wind." Both Rustem and Zuara were
inconsolable, but Sohrab again tried to soothe them, and said,
" No person remains for ever in the world ; then why this
grief ? " He then addressed Rustem, " let not those who
have followed my fortunes be put to trouble, or punished on my
account, they are not to blame." And Rustem set his mind
entirely at rest about them.

Giidarz was no\v sent by the champion to Kiius to ask him
for a cordial balm which he possessed of wonderful virtue, in
the hope that it might restore Sohrab to life. But when the
king heard the request, he said: "Doubtless the cordial will
make him better, but I cannot forget the scandal and disgrace
which this youth heaped upon me even in presence of my own
army. Besides which, he threatened to deprive me of my
crown, and give it to Rustem. I will not serve him."

When Giidarz heard this cruel speech,
Which flinty heart alone could,
He hastened back and told the tale ;
But though it was his fate to fail,


Rustem himself, the king might calm,
And gain the life-reviving balm !
Then Rustem to his sovereign went,
But scarcely had he reached the tent,
Ere news arrived that all was past,
The warrior-youth had breathed his last !

Rustem returned with the utmost speed, and continued
mourning intensely. " Son of the valiant ! thou art gone, the
descendant of heroes has departed. Eight would it be were I
to cut off both my hands, and sit for evermore in dust and
darkness." The body of Sohrsib was then placed on a bier,
and there was nothing but lamentation.

Alas ! for that valour, that wisdom of thine,
Alas ! that sweet life thou wert doomed to resign ;
Alas 1 for the anguish thy mother must feel,
And thy father's affliction, which time will not heal.

The champion now proceeded to his tent, and consigned all
his property, warlike appurtenances, and armour, to the flames.

Why should affection cling to this vain world,
Still fleeting, never for a moment fixed?
Who that has reason or reflection ever
Can be deceived by life's delusive joys 1

Kaus himself now repaired to Rustem, and offered him the
consolation he required :

" No one is free from sorrow, all
Who sojourn on this earthly ball,
Must weep o'er friends and kindred gone,
And some are left to mourn, alone.
'Twas ever thus since time began,
For sorrow is the lot of man."

Upon this Rustem observed : " Thus it is, the arrow has
reached the mark. My son is dead ! and after this, I shall
never more gird my loins against the Turanians. Let me
request that Human may be allowed to return with his army
unmolested to his own country, and that peace he made with


Afrasiyab." The king acceded to this solicitation, saving,
" My heart bleeds for thee, and on thy account I will overlook
the injuries and insults which I have received from my implac-
able enemy. Let them go." Zuara was appointed to see Hiimau
and the Tartar troops across the Jihun, and at the same time
Kalis with his army returned to Iran.

Meanwhile Rustem accompanied the bier of Sohrab to Sistan,
and was met by Zal, with his household and troops in mourning
raiment, throwing ashes over their heads. He said to his father,
"Alas! in this narrow coffin lies the very image of Sam
Siiwar ! " and when the bier was conveyed into the house, loud
and continued lamentations burst forth from the mother of
Rustem and the women of her family. At length the body of
Sohrab was honourably interred, and a lasting monument
erected to his memory.

When the melancholy tidings of the stripling's fate arrived
at Samengan, and were communicated to Tahmineh, she lighted
a fire and threw herself into it ; and when rescued from the
flames by her people, she burnt her flowing hair, and disfigured
her body in the agony of desperation.

With her clenched hand she tore her raven locks,

Locks of ensnaring beauty, as these words,

Uttered with frenzied look, and trembling accent,

Fell from ht-i lips : " My child, my darling child !

Where art tl/ou now, mixed with the worthless earth,

In a remote, inhospitable land ?

Seeking thy father, what hast thou obtained ?

Death from a parent's hand ! how I loved thee.

And watched thee night and day ; whom can I new

Clasp in these longing arms, to whom relate

The agony I suffer ! my child !

Where were the tokens which I gave to thee,

Why didst thou not present them to his view ?

But wherefore did I madly stay behind,

And not point out to thee thy mighty father 1 "

Thus wildly she exclaimed, and all around

Seeing her frantic grief, shed floods of tears.

The stripling's horse was brought, and to her bosom

She pressed the hoofs, and kissed the head and face,

Bathing them with her tears. His mail, and helm,

Bow, spear, and mace, his bridle, shield, and saddle,


Were all before her, and with these she beat
Her bursting head, as if she could not feel
Aught but the wounds of her maternal spirit.
Thus she unceasing raved and wept by turns,
Till one long year had passed then, welcome death
Keleased her from the heavy load of life,
The pressure of unmitigated woe.


Early one morning as the cock crew, Tiis arose, aiid accom-
panied by Giw and Giidarz and a company of horsemen, pro-
ceeded on a hunting excursion, not far from the banks of the
Jihun, where, after ranging about the forest for some time,
they happened to fall in with a damsel of extreme beauty, with
smiling lips, blooming cheeks, and fascinating mien. They said
to her :

" Never was seen so sweet a flower,

In garden, vale, or fairy bower ;

The moon is on thy lovely face,

Thy cypress-form is full of grace ;

But why, with charms so soft and meek,

Dost thou the lonely forest seek ? "

She replied that her father was a violent man, and that she
had left her home to escape his anger. She had crossed the
river Jihun, and had travelled several leagues on foot, in con-
sequence of her horse being too much fatigued to bear her
farther. She had at that time been three days in the forest.
On being questioned respecting her parentage, she said her
father's name was Shlwer, of the race of Feridun. Many
sovereigns had been suitors for her hand, but she did not
approve of one of them. At last he wanted to marry her to
Poshang, the ruler of Tiirau, but she refused him on account


of his ugliness and bad temper ! This she said was the cause
of her father's violence, and of her flight from home.

" But when his angry mood is o'er,
He'll love his daughter as before ;
And send his horsemen far and near,
To take me to my mother dear ;
Therefore, I would not further stray,
But here, without a murmur, stay."

The hearts of both Tiis and Giw were equally inflamed with
love for the damsel, and each was equally determined to support
his own pretensions, in consequence of which a quarrel arose
between them. At length it was agreed to refer the matter to
the king, and to abide by his decision. When, however, the
king beheld the lovely object of contention, he was not dis-
posed to give her to either claimant, but without hesitation
took her to himself, after having first ascertained that she was
of distinguished family and connection. In due time a son
was born to him, who was, according to the calculations of the
astrologers, of wonderful promise, and named Saiawush. The
prophecies about his surprising virtues, and his future renown,
made Kaus anxious that justice should be done to his opening
talents, and he was highly gratified when Rustem agreed to
take him to Ztibulistdn, and there instruct him in all the ac-
complishments which were suitable to his illustrious rank. He
was accordingly taught horsemanship and archery, how to con-
duct himself at banquets, how to hunt with the falcon and the
leopard, and made familiar with the manners and duty of
kings, and the hardy chivalry of the age. His progress in the
attainment of every species of knowledge and science was sur-
priting, and in hunting he never stooped to the pursuit of
animals inferior to the lion or the tiger. It was not long before
the youth felt anxious to pay a visit to his father, and Rustem
willingly complying with his wishes, accompanied his accom-
plished pupil to the royal court, where they were both received
with becoming distinction, Saiawush having fulfilled Kaus
expectations in the highest degree, and the king's gratitude to


the champion being in proportion to the eminent merit of his
services on the interesting occasion. After this, however, pre-
ceptors were continued to enlighten his mind seven years
longer, and then he was emancipated from further application
and study.

One day Siidaveh, the daughter of the Shah of Hamdveran,
happening to see Saitiwush sitting with his father, the beauty
of his person made an instantaneous impression on her heart.

The fire of love consumed her breast,
The thoughts of him denied her rest.
For him alone she pined in grief,
From him alone she sought relief,
And called him to her secret bower,
To while away the passing hour :
But Saiavrash refused the call,
He would not shame his father's hall.

The enamoured Siidaveh, however, was not to be disap-
pointed without further effort, and on a subsequent day she
boldly went to the king, and praising the character and attain-
ments of his son, proposed that he should be united in marriage
to one of the damsels of royal lineage under her care. For the
pretended purpose therefore of making his choice, she requested
he might be sent to the harem, to see all the ladies and fix on
one the most suited to his taste. The king approved of the
proposal, and intimated it to Saiawush ; but Saiawush was
modest, timid, and bashful, and mentally suspected in this
overture some artifice of Siidiiveh. He accordingly hesitated,
but the king overcame his scruples, and the youth at length
repaired to the shubistan, as the retired apartments of the
women are called, with fear and trembling. When he entered
within the precincts of the sacred place, he was surprised by
the richness and magnificence of every thing that struck hia
sight. He was delighted with the company of beautiful women,
and he observed Siidaveh sitting on a splendid throne in an
interior chamber, like Heaven in beauty and loveliness, with a
coronet on her head, and her hair floating round her in muskr/



ringlets. Seeing him she descended gracefully, and clasping
him in her arms, kissed his eyes and face with such ardour and
enthusiasm that he thought proper to retire from her endear-
ments and mix among the other damsels, who placed him on a
golden chair and kept him in agreeable conversation for some
time. After this pleasing interview he returned to the king,
and gave him a very favourable account of his reception, and
the heavenly splendour of the retirement, worthy of Jemshid,
Feridun, or Husheng, which gladdened his father's heart. Kaiis
repeated to him his wish that he would at once choose one of the
lights of the harem for his wife, as the astrologers had prophe-
sied on his marriage the birth of a prince. But Saiawush
endeavoured to excuse himself from going again to Sudaveli's
apartments. The king smiled at his weakness, and assured
him that Sudaveh was alone anxious for his happiness, upon
which the youth found himself again in her power. She was
surrounded by the damsels as before, but, whilst his eyes were
cast down, they shortly disappeared, leaving him and the
enamoured Sudaveh together. She soon approached him, and
lovingly said :

" why the secret keep from one,
Whose heart is fixed on thee alone !
Say who thou art. from whom descended,
Some Peri with a mortal blended.
For every maid who sees that face,
That cypress form replete with grace,
Becomes a victim to the wiles
Which nestle in those dimpled smiles ;
Becomes thy own adoring slave,
Whom nothing but thy love can save."

To this Saiawush made no reply. The history of the adven-
ture of KYius at ILimavenin, and what the king and his warriors
endured in consequence of the treachery of the father of Stida,-
veh, flashed upon his mind. He therefore was full of appre-
hension, and breathed not a word in answer to her fondness.
Sudaveh observing his silence and reluctance, threw away from
hcrrclf the veil of modesty,


And said : " be my own, for I am thine,

And clasp me in thy arms ! " And then she sprang

To the astonished boy, and eagerly

Kissed his deep crimsoned cheek, which filled his soul

With strange confusion. " When the king is dead,

take me to thyself ; see how I stand,
Body and soul devoted unto thee."

In his heart he said : " This never can be :
This is a demon's work shall I be treacherous?
What I to my own dear father ? Never, never ;

1 will not thus be tempted by the devil ;
Yet must I not be cold to this wild woman,
For fear of further folly."

Saiawush then expressed his readiness to be united in mar-
riage to her daughter, and to no other ; and when this intelli-
gence was conveyed to Kaiis by Siidaveh herself, his majesty
was extremely pleased, and munificently opened his treasury
on the happy occasion. But Siidaveh still kept in view her
own design, and still labouring for its success, sedulously read
her own incantations to prevent disappointment, at any rate to
punish the uncomplying youth if she failed. On another day
she sent for him, and exclaimed :

" I cannot now dissemble ; since I saw thee
I seem to be as dead my heart all withered.
Seven years have passed in unrequited love
Seven long, long years. O ! be not still obdurate,
But with the generous impulse of affection,
Oh, bless my anxious spirit, or, refusing,
Thy life will be in peril ; thou shalt die ! "
" Never," replied the youth ; " 0, never, never ;
Oh, ask me not, for this can never be."

SaUwush then rose to depart precipitately, but Siidaveh
observing him, endeavoured to cling round him and arrest his
flight. The endeavour, however, was fruitless ; and finding at
length her situation desperate, she determined to turn the
adventure into her own favour, by accusing Saiawush of an
atrocious outrage on her own person and virtue. She accord-
ingly tore her dress, screamed aloud, and rushed out of her
apartment to inform Kaiis of the indignity she had suffered.
Among her women the most clamorous lamentations arose, and

L 2


echoed on every side. The king, on hearing that Saiawush
had preferred Siidaveh to her daughter, and that he had medi-
tated so abominable an offence, thought that death alone could
expiate his crime. He therefore summoned him to his pre-
sence ; but satisfied that it would be difficult, if not impossible,
to ascertain the truth of the case from either party concerned,
he had recourse to a test which he thought would be infallible
and conclusive. He first smelt the hands of Saiawush, and
then his garments, which had the scent of rose-water ; and
then he took the garments of Siidaveh, which, on the contrary,
had a strong flavour of wine and musk. Upon this discovery,
the king resolved on the death of Siidaveh, being convinced of
the falsehood of the accusation she had made against his son.
But when his indignation subsided, he Avas induced on various
accounts to forego that resolution. Yet he said to her, " I am
sure that Saiawush is innocent, but let that remain concealed."
Siidaveh, however, persisted in asserting his guilt, and continually
urged him to punish the reputed offender, but without being
attended to.

At length he resolved to ascertain the innocence of Saiawush
by the ordeal of fire ; and the fearless youth prepared to
undergo the terrible trial to which he was sentenced, telling
his father to be under no alarm.

" The truth (and its reward I claim),
Will bear me safe through fiercest flame."

A tremendous fire was accordingly lighted on the adjacent
plain, which blazed to an immense distance. The youth was
attired in his golden helmet and a white robe, and mounted on
a black horse. He put up a prayer to the Almighty for protec-
tion, and then rushed amidst the conflagration, as collectedly as
if the act had been entirely free from peril. When Siidaveh
heard the confused exclamations that were uttered at that
moment, she hurried upon the ten-ace of the palace and wit-
nessed the appalling sight, and in the fondness of her heart,
Trished even that she could share his fate, the fate of him of


whom she was so deeply enamoured. The king himself fell
from his throne in horror on seeing him surrounded and
enveloped in the flames, from which there seemed no chance
of extrication ; but the gallant youth soon rose up, like the
moon from the bursting element, and went through the ordeal
unharmed and untouched by the fire. Kiliis, on coming to his
senses, rejoiced exceedingly on the happy occasion, and his
severest anger was directed against Siidaveh, whom he now
determined to put to death, not only for her own guilt, but for
exposing his son to such imminent danger. The noble youth,
however, interceded for her. Siidaveh, notwithstanding, still
continued to practice her charms and incantations in secret, to
the end that Saiawush might be put out of the way ; and in
this pursuit she was indeed indefatigable.

Suddenly intelligence was received that Afrasiyab had
assembled another army, for the purpose of making an irrup-
tion into Iran ; and Kaus, seeing that a Tartar could neither
be bound by promise nor oath, resolved that he would on this
occasion take the field himself, penetrate as far as Balkh, and
seizing the country, make an example of the inhabitants. But
Saiawush perceiving in this prospect of affairs an opportunity
of becoming free from the machinations and witchery of Sii-
daveh, earnestly requested to be employed, adding that, with
the advice and bravery of Rustem, he would be sure of success.
The king referred the matter to Rustem, who candidly declared
that there was no necessity whatever for his majesty proceeding
personally to the war ; and upon this assurance he threw open
his treasury, and supplied all the resources of the empire to
equip the troops appointed to accompany them. After one
month the army marched towards Balkh, the point of attack.

On the other side Gerslwaz, the ruler of Balghar, joined the
Tartar legions at Balkh, commanded by Barman, who both
sallied forth to oppose the Persian host, and after a conflict of
three days were defeated, and obliged to abandon the fort.
When the accounts of this calamity reached Afrasiyab, he was
seized with the utmost terror, which was increased by a dreadful


dream. He thought he was in a forest abounding with serpeuts,
and that the air was darkened by the appearance of countless
eagles. The ground was parched up with heat, and a whirlwind
hurled down his tent and overthrew his banners. On every
side flowed a river of blood, and the whole of his army had
been defeated and butchered in his sight. He was afterwards
taken prisoner, and ignorniniously conducted to Kalis, in whose
company he beheld a gallant youth, not more than fourteen
years of age, who, the moment he saw him, plunged a dagger
in his loins, and with the scream of agony produced by the
wound, he awoke. Gersiwaz had in the meantime returned
with the remnant of his force ; and being informed of these
particulars, endeavoured to console Afriisiyab, by assuring him
that the true interpretation of dreams was the reverse of ap-
pearances. But Afrasiyab was not to be consoled in this
manner. He referred to his astrologers, who, however, hesi-
tated, and were unwilling to afford an explanation of the
mysterious vision. At length one of them, upon the solicited
promise that the king would not punish him for divulging the
truth, described the nature of the warning implied in what had
been witnessed.

" And now I throw aside the veil.
Which hides the darkly shadowed tale.
Led by a prince of prosperous star,
The Persian legions speed to war,
And in his horoscope we scan
The lordly victor of Tiiran.
If thou shouldst to the conflict rush.
Opposed to conquering Saiawush,
Tby Turkish cohorts will be slain,
And all thy saving efforts vain.
For if he. in the threatened strife,
Should haply chance to lose his life ;
Thy country's fate will be the same,
Stripped of its throne and diadem."

Afra'siyab was satisfied with this interpretation, and felfc the
prudence of avoiding a war so pregnant with evil consequences
to himself and his kingdom. He therefore deputed Gersiwaz


to the head-quarters of Saiawush, with splendid presents, con-
sisting of horses richly caparisoned, armour, swords, and other
costly articles, and a written despatch, proposing a termination
to hostilities.

In the meantime Saitiwush was anxious to pursue the enemy
across the Jihiin, but was dissuaded by his friends. When
Gersiwaz arrived on his embassy he was received with distinc-
tion, and the object of his mission being understood, a secret
council was held upon what answer should be given. It was
then deemed proper to demand : first, one hundred distin-
guished heroes as hostages ; and secondly, the restoration of
all the provinces which the Turanians had taken from Iran.
Gersiwaz sent immediately to Afrasiyab to inform him of the
conditions required, and without the least delay they were
approved. A hundred warriors were soon on their way ; and
Bokhara, and Samerkand, and Haj, and the Punjab, were
faithfully delivered over to Saiawush. Afrasiyab himself re-
tired towards Gungduz, saying, " I have had a terrible dream,
and I will surrender whatever may be required from me, rather
than go to war."

The negotiations being concluded, Saitiwush sent a letter to
his father by the hands of Rustem. Rumour, however, had
already told Kaiis of Afrasiyab's dream, and the terror he had
been thrown into in consequence. The astrologers in his
service having prognosticated from it the certain ruin of the
Turanian king, the object of Rustem's mission was directly
contrary to the wishes of Kaiis ; but Rustem contended that
the policy was good, and the terms were good, and he thereby
incurred his majesty's displeasure. On this account Kaiis ap-
pointed Tiis the leader of the Persian army, and commanded
him to march against Afrasiyab, ordering Saiawush at the same
time to return, and bring with him his hundred hostages. At
this command Saiawush was grievously offended, and consulted
with his chieftains, Bahrain, and Zinga, and Shaweran, on the
fittest course to be pursued, saying, " 1 have pledged my word
to the fulfilment of the terms, and what will the world say if I


do not keep my faith ? " The chiefs tried to quiet his mind,
and recommended him to write again to Kaiis, expressing hia
readiness to renew the war, and return the hundred hostages.
But Saidwush was in a different humour, and thought as Tus
had been actually appointed to the command of the Persian
army, it would be most advisable for him to abandon his
country and join Afrasiyab. The chiefs, upon hearing this
singular resolution, unanimously attempted to dissuade him
from pursuing so wild a course as throwing himself into the
power of his enemy ; but he was deaf to their entreaties, and
in the stubbornness of his spirit, wrote to Afrasiyab, informing
him that Kaiis had refused to ratify the treaty of peace, that
he was compelled to return the hostages, and even himself to
seek protection in Tiiran from the resentment of his father, the
warrior TILS having been already entrusted with the charge of
the army. This unexpected intelligence excited considerable
surprise in the mind of Afrasiyab, but he had no hesitation in
selecting the course to be followed. The ambassadors, Zinga
and Shaweran, were soon furnished with a reply, which was to
this effect : " I settled the terms of peace with thee, not with
thy father. With him I have nothing to do. If thy choice
be retirement and tranquillity, thou shalt have a peaceful and
independent province allotted to thee j but if war be thy object,
I will furnish thee with a large army : thy father is old and
infirm, and with the aid of Rustem, Persia will be an easy con-

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 14 of 35)