The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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Nay, but this dotage of onr general s

O'erflows the measure : those his goodly eyes

That o'er the files and musters of the wai

Have glowed like plated Mars, now bend, now turn,

The office and devotion of their view

Upon a tawny front : his captain's heart,

Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst

The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper

And is become the bellows and the fan

To cool a gipsy's lust. ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, I., 1.


the same manner as Saiawush ; but the captive represented
himself as the particular friend of Saiawush, and begged tc
De pardoned on that account. Rustem, however, had sworn
that he would take his revenge, without pity or remorse, and
accordingly death was inflicted upon the unhappy prisoner,
whose blood was received in a dish, and sent to Kaus, and the
severed head suspended over the gates of the king's palace.
Afrasiyab hearing of this catastrophe, which sealed the fate
of his favourite son, immediately collected together the whole
of the Turanian army, and hastened himself to resist the
conquering career of the enemy.

As on they moved ; with loud and dissonant clang ;
, His numerous troops shut out the prospect round ;
No suu was visible by day ; no moon,
Nor stars by night. The tramp of men and steeds,
And rattling drums, and shouts, were only heard,
And the bright gleams of armour only seen.

Ere long the two armies met, when Pilsam, the brother of
Piran, was ambitious of opposing his single arm against
Rustem, upon which Afrasiyab said : " Subdue Rustem, and
thy reward shall be my daughter, and half my kingdom."
Piran, however, observed that he was too young to be a fit
match for the experience and valour of the Persian champion,
and would have dissuaded him from the unequal contest, but
the choice was his own, and he was consequently permitted by
Afrasiyab to put his bravery to the test. Pilsam accordingly
went forth and summoned Rustem to the fight ; but Giw,
hearing the call, accepted the challenge himself, and had
nearly been thrown from his horse by the superior activity of
his opponent. Feramurz luckily saw him at the perilous
moment, and darting forward, with one stroke of his sword
shattered Pilsam's javelin to pieces, and then a new strife
began. Pilsam and Feramurz fought together with desperation,
till both were almost exhausted, and Rustem himself was
surprised to see the display of so much valour. Perceiving
the wearied state of the two warriors he pushed forward


Rakush, and called aloud to Pilsani : "Am I not the person
challenged ? " and immediately the Turanian chief proceeded
to encounter him, striking with all his might at the head of
the champion ; but though the sword was broken by the blow,
not a hair of his head was disordered.

Then Rustcm urging on his gallant steed,

Fixed his long javelin in the girdle band

Of his ambitious foe, and quick unhorsed him ;

Then dragged him on towards Afrasiyab,

And, scoffing, cast him at the despot's feet.

" Here comes the glorious conqueror," he said ;

" Now give to him thy daughter and thy treasure,

Thy kingdom and thy soldiers ; has he not

Done honour to thy country ? Ts he not

A jewel in thy crown of sovereignty ?

What arrogance inspired the fruitless hope !

Think of thy treachery to Saiawush ;

Thy savage cruelty, and never look

For aught but deadly hatred from mankind ;

And in the field of fight defeat and ruin."

Thus scornful]}'- lie spoke, and not a man,

Though in the presence of Afrasiyab,

Had soul to meet him ; fear o'ercame them all

Monarch and warriors, for a time. At length

Shame was awakened, and the king appeared

In arms against the champion. Fiercely they

Hurled their sharp javelins Rustem's struck the head

Of his opponent's horse, which floundering fell,

And overturned his rider. Anxious then

The champion sprang to seize the royal prize ;

But Human rushed between, and saved his master,

Who vaulted on another horse and fled.

Having thus rescued Afrasiydb, the wary chief exercised all
his cunning and adroitness to escape himself, and at last
succeeded. Rustem pursued him, and the Tiirdnian troops,
who had followed the example of the king ; but though
thousands were slain in the chase which continued for many
farsangs, no further advantage was obtained on that day.
Next morning, however, Rustem resumed his pursuit ; and the
enemy hearing of his approach, retreated into Chinese Tartary,
to secure, among other advantages, the person of Kai-khosrau ;
leaving the kingdom of Turin at the mercy of the invader,


who mounted the throne, and ruled there, it is said, about
seven years, with memorable severity, proscribing and putting
to death every person who mentioned the name of Afrtisiyab.
In the mean time he made splendid presents to Tiis and
Giidarz, suitable to their rank and services ; and Zuiira, in
revenge for the monstrous outrage committed upon Saiawush,
burnt and destroyed every thing that came in his way ; his
wrath being exasperated by the sight of the places in which the
young prince had resided, and recreated himsolf with hunting
and other sports of the field. The whole realm, in fact, was
delivered over to plunder and devastation ; and every individual
of the army was enriched by the appropriation of public and
private wealth. The companions of Rustem, however, grew
weary of residing in Tiiran, and they strongly represented to
him the neglect which Kai-kaus had suffered for so many
years, recommending his return to Persia, as being more
honourable than the exile they endured in an ungenial climate.
Rustem's abandonment of the kingdom was at length earned
into effect ; and he and his warriors did not fail to take away
with them all the immense property that remained in jewels
and gold ; part of which was conveyed by the champion to
Zabul and Sistan, and a goodly proportion to the king of kings
in Persia.

When to Afrasiyab was known

The plunder of his realm and throne,

That the destroyer's reckless hand

With fire and sword had scathed the land,

Sorrow and anguish filled his soul,

And passion raged beyond control ;

And thus he to his warriors said :

" At such a time, is valour dead?

The man who hears the mournful talc.

And is not by his country's bale

Urged on to vengeance, cannot be

Of woman born ; accursed is he !

The time will come when I shall reap

The harvest of resentment deep ;

And till arrives that fated hour,

Farewell to joy in hall or bower."

Rustem, in taking revenge for the murder of, had


not been unmindful of Kai-khosrau, and had actually sent to
the remote parts of Tartaiy in quest of him.

It is said that Giidarz beheld in a dream the young prince,
who pointed out to him his actual residence, and intimated
that of all the warriors of Kaiis, Giw was the only one destined
to restore him to the world and his birth-right. The old man
immediately requested his son Giw to go to the place where the
stranger would be found. Giw readily complied, and in his
progress provided himself at every stage successively with a
guide, whom he afterwards slew to prevent discovery, and in
this manner he proceeded till he reached the boundary of Chin,
enjoying no comfort by day, or sleep by night. His only food
was the flesh of the wild ass, and his only covering the skin of
the same animal. He went on traversing mountain and forest,
enduring every privation, and often did he hesitate, often did
he think of returning, but honour urged him forward in spite
of the trouble and impediments with which he was continually
assailed. Arriving in a desert one day, he happened to meet
with several persons, who upon being interrogated, said that
they were sent by Piran "Wisah in search of Kai-kaiis. Giw
kept his own secret, saying that he was amusing himself with
hunting the wild ass, but took care to ascertain from them the
direction in which they were going. During the night the
parties separated, and in the morning Giw proceeded rapidly
on his route, and after some time discovered a youth sitting by
the side of a fountain, with a cup in his hand, whom he sup-
posed to be Kai-khosrdu. The youth also spontaneously
thought " This must be Giw ; " and when the traveller ap-
proached him, and said, " I am sure thou art the son of Saia-
wush ; " the youth observed, " I am equally sure that thou art
Giw, the son of Giidarz." At this Giw was amazed, and falling
at his feet, asked how, and from what circumstance, he recog-
nized him. The youth replied that he knew all the warriors of
Kalis ; Rustem, and Kishwad, and Tiis, and Giidarz, and the
rest, from their portraits in his father's gallery, they being
deeply impressed on his mind. He then asked in Avhat way


Giw had discovered him to be Kai-khosrau, and Gi\v answered,
" Because I perceived something kingly in thy countenance.
But let me again examine thee ! " The youth, at this request,
removed his garments, and Giw beheld that mark on his body
which was the heritage of the race of Kai-kobad. Upon this
discovery he rejoiced, and congratulating himself and the young
prince on the success of his mission, related to him the purpose
for which he had come. Kai-khosrau was soon mounted on
horseback, and Giw accompanied him respectfully on foot.
They, in the first instance, pursued their way towards the
abode of Ferangis, his mother. The persons sent by Pinln
Wisah did not arrive at the place where Kai-khosrdu had been
kept till long after Giw and the prince departed ; and then
they were told that a Persian horseman had come and carried
off the youth, upon which they immediately returned, and
communicated to Piran what had occurred. Ferangis, in re-
covering her son, mentioned to Giw, with the fondness of a
mother, the absolute necessity of going on without delay, and
pointed out to him the meadow in which some of Afra"siy;ib's
horses were to be met with, particularly one called Behzad,
which once belonged to Saitiwush, and which her father had
kept in good condition for his own riding. Giw, therefore,
went to the meadow, and throwing his kamund, secured Behzad
and another horse ; and all three being thus accommodated,
hastily proceeded on their journey towards Iran.

Tidings of the escape of Kai-khosriu having reached Afra"-
siyab, he dispatched Kulbad with three hundred horsemen after
him ; and so rapid were his movements that he overtook the
fugitives in the vicinity of Bulgharia. Khosrau and his mother
were asleep, but Giw being awake, and seeing an armed force
evidently in pursuit of his party, boldly put on his armour,
mounted Behzad, and before the enemy came up, advanced to
the charge. He attacked the horsemen furiously with sword
and mace, for he had heard the prophecy, which declared that
Kai-khosrau was destined to be the king of kings, and therefore
he braved the direst peril with confidence, and the certainty of


success. It was this feeling which enabled him to perform such
a prodigy of valour, in putting Kulbad and his three hundred
horsemen to the route. They all fled defeated, and dispersed
precipitately before him. After this surprising victory, he re-
turned to the halting place, and told Kai-khosniu what he had
done. The prince was disappointed at not having been
awakened to participate in the exploit, but Giw said, " I did
not wish to disturb thy s \vect slumbers unnecessarily. It was
thy good fortune and prosperous star, however, which made me
triumph over the enemy." The three travellers then resuming
their journey :

Through dreary track, and pathless waste,
And wood and wild, their way they traced.

The return of the defeated Kulbad excited the greatest
indignation in the breast of Piran. " What ! three hundred
soldiers to fly from the valour of one man ! Had Giw pos-
sessed even the activity and might of Rusfcem and Sam, such a
shameful discomfiture could scarcely have happened." Saying
this, he ordered the whole force under his command to be got
ready, and set off himself to overtake and intercept the fugi-
tives, who, fatigued with the toilsome march, were only able to
proceed one stage in the day. Piran, therefore, who travelled
at the rate of one hundred leagues a day, overtook them before
they had passed through Bulgharia. Ferangis, who saw the
enemy's banner floating in the air, knew that it belonged to
Piran, and instantly awoke the two young men from sleep.
Upon this occasion, Khosrau insisted on acting his part, instead
of being left ignominiously idle ; but Giw was still resolute and
determined to preserve him from all risk, at the pei'il of his
own life. " Thou art destined to be the king of the world ;
thou art yet young, and a novice, and hast never known the
toils of war ; Heaven forbid that any misfortune should befall
thee : indeed, whilst I live, I Avill never suffer thee to go into
battle ! " Khosrau then proposed to give him assistance ; but
Giw said he wanted no assistance, not even from Rustem ;


" for," he added, " in art and strength we are equal, having
frequently tried our skill together." Rustem had given his
daughter in marriage to Giw, he himself being married to Giw's
sister. " Bo of good cheer," resumed he, " get upon some high

place, and witness the battle between us.

Fortune will still from Heaven dcscenJ,
The god of victory is my friend."

As soon as he took the field, Piran thus addressed him :
" Thou hast once, singly, defeated three hundred of my
soldiers ; thou shalt now see what punishment awaits thce at
my hands.

For should a warrior be a rock of steel,
A thousand ants, gathered on every side,
In time will make him but a heap of dust."

In reply, Giw said to Piran, " I am the man who bound thy
two women, and sent them from China to Persia Rustem and
I are the same in battle. Thou knowcst, when he encountered
a thousand horsemen, what was the result, and what he accom-
plished ! Thou wilt find me the same : is not a lion enough to
overthrow a thousand kids ?

If but a man survive of thy proud host,

Brand me with coward say I'm not a warrior.

Already have I triumphed o'er Kulbad,

And now I'll take thee prisoner, yea, alive !

And send thce to Kaus there thou wilt be

Slain to avenge the death of Saiawush ;

Turan shall perish, and Af rasiyab,

And every earthly hope extinguished quite."

Hearing this awf ul threat, Piran turned pale

And shook with terror, trembling like a reed ;

And saying : " Go, I will not fight with thce ! "

But Giw asked fiercely : " Why ? " And on he rushed

Against the foe, who fled but 'twas in vain.

The kamund round the old man's neck was thrown,

And he was taken captive. Then his troops

Showered their sharp arrows on triumphant Giw,

To free their master, who was quickly brought

Before Kai-khosrau, and the kamund placed

Within his royal hands. This service done,

Giw sped against the Tartars, and full soon

Defeated and dispersed them.


On his return, Giw expressed his astonishment that Pirdn
\vas still alive ; when Ferangis interposed, and weeping, said
how much she had been indebted to his interposition and the
most active humanity on various occasions, and particularly in
saving herself and Kai-khosrau from the wrath of Afrasiyab
after the deatlTof Saiawush. " If," said she, " after so much
generosity he has committed one fault, let it be forgiven.

Let not the man of many virtues die,
For being guilty of one trifling error.
Let not the friend who nobly saved my life,
And more, the dearer life of Kai-khosrau,
Suffer from us. O, he must never, never,
Feel the sharp pang of foul ingratitude.
From a true prince of the Kaianian race."


But Giw paused, and said, " I have sworn to crimson the
earth with his blood, and I must not pass from my oath."
Khosrdu then suggested to him to pierce the lobes of Piran's
ears, and drop the blood on the ground to stain it, in order that
he might not depart from his word ; and this humane fraud
was accordingly committed. Khosrau further interceded ; and
instead of being sent a captive to Kaiis, the good old man was
set at liberty.

When the particulars of this event were described to Afra-
siyab by Piran "Wisah, he was exceedingly sorrowful, and
lamented deeply that Kai-khosniu had so successfully effected
his escape. But he had recourse to a further expedient, and
sent instructions to all the ferrymen of the Jihun, with a
minute description of the three travellers, to prevent their
passing that river, announcing at the same time that he himself
was in pursuit of them. Not a moment was lost in preparing
his army for the march, and he moved forward with the utmost
expedition, night and day. At the period when G iw arrived on
the banks of the Jihun, the stream was very rapid and for-
midable, and he requested the ferrymen to produce their cer-
tificates to show themselves equal to their duty. They
pretended that their certificates were lost, but demanded for


their fare the black horse upon which Giw rode. Giw replied,
that he could not part with his favourite horse ; and they re-
joined, " Then give us the damsel who accompanies you." Giw
answered, and said, " This is not a damsel, but the mother of
that youth ! " " Then," observed they, " give us the youth's
crown." But Giw told them that he could not comply with
their demand ; yet he was ready to reward them with money to
any extent. The pertinacious ferrymen, who were not anxious
for money, then demanded his armour, and this was also
refused ; and such was their independence or their effrontery,
that they replied, " If not one of these four things you are
disposed to grant, cross the river as best you may." Giw
whispered to Kal-khosrau, and told him that there was no time
for delay. " When Kavah, the blacksmith," said he, " rescued
thy great ancester, Feridiin, he passed the stream in his armour
without impediment ; and why should we, in a cause of equal
glory, hesitate for a moment ? " Under the inspiring influence
of an auspicious omen, and confiding in the protection of the
Almighty, Kai-khosrau at once impelled his foaming horse into
the river ; his mother, Feringis, followed with equal intrepidity,
and then Giw ; and notwithstanding the perilous passage, they
all successfully overcame the boiling surge, and landed in
safety, to the utter amazement of the ferrymen, who of course
had expected they would be drowned.

It so happened that at the moment they touched the shore,
Afrdsiyab with his army arrived, and had the mortification to
see the fugitives on the other bank, beyond his reach. His
wonder was equal to his disappointment.

" What spirits must they have to brave
The terrors of that boiling wave
With steed and harness, riding o'er
The billows to the further shore."
It was a cheering sight, they say,
To see how well they kept their way,
How Ferangis impelled her horse
Across that awful torrent's course,
Guiding him with heroic hand,
To reach unhurt the friendly strand.


Afnlsiyub continued for some time mute with astonishment
and vexation, and when he recovered, ordered the ferrymen, to
get ready their boats to pass him over the river ; but Human
dissuaded him from that measure, saying that they could only
convey a few troops, and they would doubtless be received
by a large force of the enemy on the other side. At these words,
Afrasiytib seemed to devour his own blood with grief and in-
dignation, and immediately retracing his steps, returned to

As soon as Giw entered within the boundary of the Persian
empire, he poured out thanksgivings to God for his protection,
and sent intelligence to Kaiis of the safe arrival of the party
in his dominions. The king rejoiced exceedingly, and ap-
pointed an honorary deputation under the direction of Giidarz,
to meet the young prince on the road. On first seeing him, the
king moved forward to receive him ; and weeping affectionately,
kissed his eyes and face, and had a throne prepared for him
exactly like his own, upon which he seated him ; and calling
the nobles and warriors of the land together, commanded them
to obey him. Ah 1 readily promised their allegiance, excepting
Tiis, who left the court in disgust, and repairing forthwith to
the house of Friburz, one of the sous of Kails, told him that he
would only pay homage and obedience to him, and not to the
infant whom Giw had just brought out of a desert. Next
day the great men and leaders were again assembled to declare
publicly by an official act their fealty to Kai-khosrau, and
Tiis was also invited to the banquet, which was held on the
occasion, but he refused to go. Giw \vas deputed to repeat the
invitation ; and he then said, " I shall pay homage to Friburz,
as the heir to the throne, and to no other.

" For is he not the son of Kai-kaus,

And worthy of the regal crown and throne ?

1 want not any of the race of Posh an g

None of the proud Turanian dynasty

Fruitless has been thy peril, Giw, to bring

A silly child among us, to defraud

The rightful prince of his inheritance 1 "


Giw, in reply, vindicated the character and attainments of
Khosrau, but Tus was not to be appeased. He therefore re-
turned to his father and communicated to him what had oc-
curred. Giidarz was roused to great wrath by this resistance to
the will of the king, and at once took twelve thousand men and
his seventy-eight kinsmen, together with Giw, and proceeded
to support his cause by force of arms. Tus, apprized of his in-
tentions, prepared to meet him, but was reluctant to commit
himself by engaging in a civil war, and said, internally :

" If I unshcath the sword of strife,

Numbers on either side will fall,
I would not sacrifice the life

Of one who owns my sovereign's thrall.

My country would abhor the deed,

And may I never see the hour
When Persia's sons are doomed to bleed,

But when opposed to foreign power.

The cause must be both good and true,

And if their blood in war must flow,
Will it not seem of brighter hue,

When shed to crush the Tartar foe ? "

Possessing these sentiments, Tiis sent an envoy to Giidarz,
suggesting the suspension of any hostile proceedings until
information on the subject had been first communicated to the
king. Kaiis was extremely displeased with Giidarz for his pre-
cipitancy and folly, and directed both him and Tus to repair
immediately to court. Tus there said frankly, " I now owe
honour and allegiance to king Kaiis ; but should he happen to
lay aside the throne and the diadem, my obedience and loyalty
will be due to Friburz his heir, and not to a stranger." To
this, Giidarz replied, " Sai<iwush was the eldest son of the king,
and unjustly murdered, and therefore it becomes his majesty to
appease and rejoice the soul of the deceased, by putting Kai-
khosrau in his place. Kai-khosriiu, like Feridiin, is worthy of
empire ; all the nobles of the land are of this opinion, excepting
thyself, which must arise from ignorance and vanity.


From Naudcr certainly thou art descended,
Not from a stranger, not from foreign loins ;
But though thy ancestor was wise and mighty,
Art thou of equal merit ? No, not thou !
Kegarding Khosrau, thou hast neither shewn
Reason nor sense but most surprising folly ! "
To this contemptuous speech, Tus thus replied :
" Ungenerous warrior ! wherefore thus employ
Such scornful words to me ? Who art thou, pray 1
Who, but the low descendant of a blacksmith ?
No Khosrau claims thee for his son, no chief
Of noble blood ; whilst I can truly boast
Kindred to princes of the highest worth,
And merit not to be obscured by thee ! "
To him then Gudarz : " Hear me for this once,
Then shut thy cars for ever. Need I blush
To be the kinsman of the glorious Kavah ?
It is my humour to be proud of him.
Although he was a blacksmith ; that same mnn,
Who, when the world could little boast of valour,
Tore up the name-roll of the fiend Zohak.
And gave the Persians freedom from the fangs
Of the devouring serpents. He it was,
Who raised the banner, and proclaimed aloud,
Freedom for Persia 1 Need I blush for him 1
To him the empire owes its greatest blessing,
The prosperous rule of virtuous Feridun."
Tus wrathf ally rejoined : " Old man ! thy arrow
May pierce an anvil mine can pierce the heart >
Of the Kaf mountain ! If thy mace can break
A rock asunder mine can strike the sun ! "

The anger of the two heroes beginning to exceed all proper
bounds, Kaiis commanded silence ; when Gudarz came forward,

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 16 of 35)