The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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and asked permission to say one word more : " Call Khosrau
and Friburz before thee, and decide impartially between them
which is the most worthy of sovereignty let the wisest and
the bravest only be thy successor to the throne of Persia."
Kaiis replied :

" The father has no choice among his children,
He loves them all alike his only care
Is to prevent disunion ; to preserve
Brotherly kindness and respect among them."

After a pause, he requested the attendance of Friburz and
Khosrdu, and told them that there was a demon-fortress in the


vicinity of his dominions called Bahmen, from which fire was
continually issuing. " Go, each of you," said he, "against this for-
tress, supported by an army with which you shall each be equally
provided, and the conqueror shall be the sovereign of Persia."
Friburz was not sorry to hear of this probationary scheme, and
only solicited to be sent first on the expedition. He and Tiis
looked upon the task as perfectly easy, and promised to be back
triumphant in a short time.

But when the army reached that awful fort,

The ground seemed all in flames on every side ;

One universal fire raged round and round,

And the hot wind was like the scorching breath

Which issues from red furnaces, where spirits

Infernal dwell. Full many a warrior brave,

And many a soldier perished in that heat,

Consumed to ashes. Nearer to the fort

Advancing, they beheld it in mid-air,

But not a living thing nor gate, nor door ;

Yet they remained one week, hoping to find

Some hidden inlet, suffering cruel loss

Hour after hour but none could they descry.

At length, despairing, they returned, worn out,

Scorched, and half -dead with watching, care, and toil.

And thus Friburz and Tus, discomfited

And sad, appeared before the Persian king.

Then was it Khosrau's turn, and him Kaiis
Dispatched with Giw, and Gudarz, and the troops
Appointed for that enterprise, and blessed them.
When the young prince approached the destined scene
Of his exploit, he saw the blazing fort
Reddening the sky and earth, and well he knew
This was the work of sorcery, the spell
Of demon-spirits. In a heavenly dream,
He had been taught how to destroy the charms
Of fell magicians, and defy their power,
Though by the devil, the devil himself, sustained,
He wrote the name of God, and piously
Bound it upon his javelin's point, and pressed
Fearlessly forward, showing it on high ;
And Giw displayed it on the magic walls
Of that proud fortress breathing forth a prayer
Craving the aid of the Almighty arm ;
When suddenly the red fires died awav f
And all the world was darkness. Khosrau's troopl
Following the orders of their prince, then shot
Thick clouds of arrows from ten thousand bows,
lu the direction of the enchanted tower,

tfd filE SHAfi NAMES.

The arrows fell like rain, and quickly slew

A host of demons, presently bright light

Dispelled the gloom, and as the mist relied off

In sulphury circles, the surviving fiends

Were seen in rapid flight ; the fortress, too,

Distinctly shone, and its prodigious gate.

Through which the conquerors passed. Great wealth they


And having sacked the place, Khosrau erected
A lofty temple, to commemorate
His name and victory there, then back returned
Triumphantly to gladden king Kaus,
Whose heart expanded at the joyous news.

The result of Kai-khosrau's expedition against the enchanted
castle, compared -with that of Friburz, was sufficient of itself to
establish the former in the king's estimation, and accordingly
it was announced to the princes and nobles and warriors of the
land, that he should succeed to the throne, and be crowned on
a fortunate day. A short time afterwards the coronation took
place with great pomp and splendour ; and Khosrau conducted
himself towards men of every rank and station with such perfect
kindness and benevolence, that he gained the affections of all
and never failed daily to pay a visit to his grandfather Kaiis,
and to familiarize himself with the affairs of the kingdom which
he was destined to govern.

Justice he spread with equal hand,
Rooting oppression from the land ;
And every desert, wood, and wild,
With early cultivation smiled ;
And every plain, with verdure clad,
And every Persian heart was glad.



The tidings of Khosrau's accession to the throne were received
at Sistan by Zal and Rustem with heartfelt pleasure, and they
forthwith hastened to court with rich presents, to pay him
their homage, and congratulate him on the occasion of his
elevation. The heroes were met on the road with suitable
honours, and Khosrau embracing Rustem affectionately, lost no
time in asking for his assistance in taking vengeance for the
death of Saiawush. The request was no sooner made than
granted, and the champion having delivered his presents, then
proceeded with his father Zdl to wait upon Kaiis, who prepared
a royal banquet, and entertained Khosrau and them in the most
sumptuous manner. It was there agreed to march a large army
against Afrasiydb ; and all the warriors zealously came forward
with their best services, except Zal, who on account of his age
requested to remain tranquilly in his own province. Khosrau
said to Kalis :

" The throne can yield no happiness for me,
Nor can I sleep the sleep of health and joy
Till I have been revenged on that destroyer.
The tyrant of Tiiran ; to please the spirit
Of my poor butchered father."

Kaiis, on delivering over to him the imperial army, made him
acquainted with the character and merits of every individual of
importance. He appointed Friburz, and a hundred warriors,
who were the prince's friends and relatives, to situations of
trust and command, and Tiis was among them. Giidarz and
his seventy-eight sons and grandsons were placed on the right,
and Gustahem, the brother of Tiis, with an immense levy on
the left. There were also close to Khosrau's person, in the
centre of the hosts, thirty-three warriors of the race of Poshang,
and a separate guard under Byzun.

In their progress Khosrau said to Friburz and Tiis, " Fenid,
who is my brother, has built a strong fort in Bokhara, called


Kulliib, which stands on the way to the enemy, and there he
resides with his mother, Giilshaher. Let him not be molested,
for he is also the son of Saiawush, but pass on one side of his
possessions." Friburz did pass on one side as requested ; but
Tiis, not liking to proceed by the way of the desert, and prefer-
ing a cultivated and pleasant country, went directly on through
the places which led to the very fort in question. When Fenid
was informed of the approach of Tiis with an armed force, he
naturally concluded that he was coming to fight him, and con-
sequently determined to oppose his progress. TUB, however, sent
Riu, his son-in-law, to explain to Ferud that he had no quarrel
or business with him, and only wished to pass peaceably through
his province ; but Ferud thought this was merely an idle pre-
text, and proceeding to hostilities, Riii was killed by him in the
conflict that ensued. TUB, upon being informed of this result,
drew up his army, and besieged the fort into which Fenid had
precipitately retired. When Fenid, however, found that Tiis
himself was in the field, he sallied forth from his fastness, and
assailed him with his bow and arrows. One of the darts struck
and killed the horse of Tus, and tumbled his rider to the ground.
Upon this occurrence Giw rushed forward in the hopes of
capturing the prince ; but it so happened that he was unhorsed
in the same way. Byzun, the son of Giw, seeing with great
indignation this signal overthrow, wished to be revenged on the
victor ; and though his father endeavoured to restrain him,
nothing could control his wrath. He sprang speedily forward
to fulfil his menace, but by the bravery and expertness of Fenid,
his horse was killed, and he too Avas thrown headlong from his
saddle. Unsubdued, however, he rose upon his feet, and invited
his antagonist to single combat. In consequence of this chal-
lenge, they fought a short time with spears till Fenid deemed
it advisable to retire into his fort, from the lofty walls of which
he cast down so many stones, that Byzun was desperately
wounded, and compelled to leave the place. When he informed
Tiis of the misfortune which had befallen him, that warrior
vowed that on the following day not a man should remain alive


in the fort. The mother of Feriid, who was the daughter of
Wisah, had at this period a dream which informed her that th<
fortress had taken fire, and that the whole of the inhabitants
had been consumed to death. This dream she communicated
to Ferud, who said in reply :

" Mother 1 I have no dread of death ;
What is there in this vital breath ?
My sire was wounded, and he died ;
And fate may lay me by his side 1
Was ever man immortal ? never !
We cannot, mother, live for ever.
Mine be the task in life to claim
In war a bright and spotless name.
What boots it to be pale with fear,
And dread each grief that waits us here ?
Protected by the power divine,
Our lot is written why repine ?

Tiis, according to his threat, attacked the fort, and burst
open the gates. Feriid defended himself with great valour
against Byzun ; and whilst they were engaged in deadly battle,
Bahrain, the hero, sprang up from his ambuscade, and striking
furiously upon the head of Ferud, killed that unfortunate youth
on the spot. The mother, the beautiful Gulshaher, seeing what
had befallen her son, rushed out of the fort in a state of frenzy,
and flying to him, clasped him in her arms in an agony of
grief. Unable to survive his loss, she plunged a dagger in her
own breast, and died at his feet. The Persians then burst open
the gates, and plundered the city. Bahrdm, when he saw what
had been done, reproached Tiis with being the cause of this
melancholy tragedy, and asked him what account he would
give of his conduct to Kai-khosra'u. Tiis was extremely con-
cerned, and remaining three days at that place, erected a lofty
monument to the memory of the unfortunate youth, and scented
it with musk and camphor. He then pushed forward his
army to attack another fort. That fort gave way, the com-
mandant being killed in the attack ; and he then hastened on
towards Afrasiydb, who had ordered Niziid with thirty thousand
horsemen to meet him. Byzun distinguished himself in the.


contest which followed, but would have fallen into the hands of
the enemy if he had not been rescued by his men, and conveyed
from the field of battle. Afrasiyab pushed forward another
force of forty thousand horsemen under Piran "\Visah, who
suffered considerable loss in an engagement with Giw ; and in
consequence fell back for the purpose of retrieving himself by a
shubkhiin, or night attack. The resolution proved to be a
good one ; for when night came on, the Persians were found
off their guard, many of them being intoxicated, and the havoc
and destruction committed among them by the Tartars was
dreadful. The survivors were in a miserable state of despon-
dency, but it was not till morning dawned that Tiis beheld the
full extent of his defeat and the ruin that surrounded him.
"When Kai-khosrau heard of this heavy reverse, he wrote to
Friburz, saying, " I warned Tiis not to proceed by the way of
KulLib, because my brother and his mother dwelt in that place,
and their residence ought to have been kept sacred. He has
not only despised my orders, but he has cruelly occasioned the
untimely death of both.. Let him be bound, and sent to me a
prisoner, and do thou assume the command of the army."
Friburz accordingly placed Tiis in confinement, and sent him
to Khosrdu, who received and treated him with reproaches and
wrath, and consigned him to a dungeon. He then wrote to
Pirdn, reproaching him for resorting to a night attack so un-
worthy of a brave man, and challenging him to resume the
battle with him. Piran said that he would meet him after the
lapse of a month, and at the expiration of that period both
armies were opposed to each other. The contest commenced
with arrows, then swords, and then with javelins ; and Giw
and Byzun were the foremost in bearing down the warriors of
the enemy, who suffered so severely that they turned aside to
attack Friburz, against whom they hoped to be more successful.
The assault which they made was overwhelming, and vast
numbers were slain, so that Friburz, finding himself driven to
extremity, was obliged to shelter himself and his remaining
troops on the skirts of a mountain. In the meantime Gudarz


and Giw determined to keep their ground or perish, and sent
Byzun to Friburz to desire him to join them, or if that was
impracticable, to save the imperial banner by dispatching it to
their care. To this message, Friburz replied : " The traitors
are triumphant over me on every side, and I cannot go, nor
will I give up the imperial banner, but, tell Giidarz to come to
my aid." Upon receiving this answer, Byzun struck the
standard-bearer dead, and snatching up the Derafsh Gavahni,
conveyed it to Giidarz, who, raising it on high, directed his
troops against the enemy ; and so impetuous was the charge,
that the carnage on both sides was prodigious. Only eight of
the sons of Giidarz remained alive, seventy of his kindred
having been slain on that day, and many of the family of
Kalis were also killed. Nor did the relations of Afriisiyab and
Piriin suffer in a less degree, nine hundred of them, warriors
and cavaliers, were sent out of the world ; yet victory remained
with the Turanians.

When Afnisiyab was informed of the result of this battle, he
sent presents and honorary dresses to his officers, saying, " We
must not be contented with this triumph ; you have yet to
obscure the martial glory of Rustem and Khosrau." Piran
replied, " No doubt that object will be accomplished with equal

After the defeat of the Persian army, Friburz retired under
the cover of night, and at length arrived at the court of
Khosrau, who was afflicted with the deepest sorrow, both on
account of his loss in battle and the death of his brother
Fenid. Rustem was now as usual applied to for the purpose of
consoling the king, and extricating the empire from its present
misfortunes. Khosrau was induced to liberate Tus from his
confinement, and requested Eustem to head the army against
Piriin, but Tus promptly offered his services, and the champion
observed, " He is fully competent to oppose the arms of Piran ;
but if Afnisiyab takes the field, I will myself instantly follow
to the war." Khosrdu accordingly deputed Tus and Giidan.
with a large army, and the two hostile powers were soon placed


in opposition to each other. It is said that they were engaged
seven days and nights, and that on the eighth Hum^n came
forward, and challenged several warriors to fight singly, all of
whom he successively slew. He then called upon Tiis, but
Giidarz not permitting him to accept the challenge, sent Giw in
his stead. The combatants met ; and after being wounded and
exhausted by their struggles for mastery, each returned to his
own post. The armies again engaged with arrows, and again
the carnage was great, but the battle remained undecided.

Pirdn had now recourse to supernatural agency, and sent
Bani, a renowned magician, perfect in his art, upon the neigh-
bouring mountains, to involve them in darkness, and produce
by his conjuration tempestuous showers of snow and hail.
He ordered him to direct all their intense severity against the
enemy, and to avoid giving any annoyance to the Turanian
army. Accordingly when Human and Pirdn Wisah made their
attack, they had the co-operation of the elements, and the
consequence was a desperate overthrow of the Persian army.

So dreadful was the carnage, that the plain
"Was crimsoned with the blood of warriors slain.

In this extremity, Tiis and Giidarz piously put up a prayer to
God, earnestly soliciting protection from the horrors with which
they were surrounded.

Thou 1 the clement, the compassionate,
We are thy servants, succour our distress,
And save us from the sorcery that now
Yields triumph to the foe. In thee alone
We place our trust ; graciously hear our prayer !

Scarcely had this petition been uttered, when a mysterious
person appeared to Rehiim from the invisible world, and
pointed to the mountain from whence the tempest descended.
Reham immediately attended to the sign, and galloped forward
to the" mountain, where he discovered the magician upon its
summit, deeply engaged in incantations and witchcraft. Forth-
with he drew his sword and cut off this wizard's arms.


Suddenly a whirlwind arose, which dissipated the utter dark-
ness that prevailed ; and then nothing remained of the preter-
natural gloom, not a particle of the hail or snow was to be
seen : Reham, however, brought him down from the mountain
and after presenting him before Tiis, put an end to his wicked
existence. The armies were now on a more equal footing :
they beheld more clearly the ravages that had been committed
by each, and each had great need of rest. They acccordingly
retired till the following day, and then again opposed each
other with renewed vigour and animosity. But fortune would
not smile on the exertions of the Persian hosts, they being
obliged to fall back upon the mountain Hamawun and in the
fortress situated there Tiis deposited all his sick and wounded,
continuing himself in advance to ensure their protection.
Pinin seeing this, ordered his troops to besiege the place where
Tus had posted himself. This was objected to by Human, but
Piran was resolved upon the measure, and had several con-
flicts with the enemy without obtaining any advantage over
them. In the mountain-fortress there happened to be wells of
water and abundance of grain and provisions, so that the
Persians were in no danger of being reduced by starvation.
Khosniu, however, being informed of their situation, sent
Kustem, accompanied by Friburz, to their assistance, and they
were both welcomed, and received with rejoicing, and cordial
satisfaction. The fortress gates were thrown open, and Kustem
was presently seen seated upon a throne in the public hall,
deliberating on the state of affairs, surrounded by the most
distinguished leaders of the army.

In the mean while Piran "Wisah had written to Afnisiyab,
informing him that he had reduced the Persian army to great
distress, had forced them to take refuge in a mountain fort, and
requested a further reinforcement to complete the victory, and
make them all prisoners. Afrasiyab in consequence dispatched
three illustrious confederates from different regions. There
was Shinkul of Sugsar, the Khakaii of Chin, whose crown was


the starry heavens, and Kamiis of Kushan, a hero of high
renown and wondrous in every deed.

For when he frowned, the air grew freezing cold ;
And when he smiled, the genial spring showered clown
Roses and hyacinths, and all was brightness !

Piran went first to pay a visit to Kamiis, to whom he, almost
trembling, described the amazing strength and courage of
Rustem : but Kamiis was too powerful to express alarm ; on
the contrary, he said :

" Is praise like this to Rustem due ?
And what, if all thou say'st be true ?
Are his large limbs of iron made 1
Will they resist my trenchant blade ?
His head may now his shoulders grace,
But will it long retain its place 1
Let me but meet him in the fight,
Ai-id thou shalt see Kamiis's might 1 "

Pirdn's spirits rose at this bold speech, and encouraged by
its effects, he repaired to the Khakan of Chin, with whom he
settled the necessary arrangements for commencing battle on
the following day. Early in the morning the different armies
under Kamus, the Khakan, and Piran "VVisah, were drawn out,
and Rustem was also prepared with the troops under his
command for the impending conflict. He saw that the force
arrayed against him was prodigious, and most tremendous in
aspect ; and offering a prayer to the Creator, he plunged into
the battle.

'Twas at midday the strife began,
With steed to steed and man to man ;
The clouds of dust which rolled on high,
Threw darkness o'er the earth and sky.
Each soldier on the other rushed,
And every blade with crimson blushed ,
And valiant hearts were trod upon,

Like sand beneath the horse's feet,
And when the warrior's life was gone,

His mail became his winding sheet.


The first leader who advanced conspicuously from among the
Tartar army was Ushkabus, against whom Rehiim. boldly
opposed himself ; but after a short conflict, in which he had
some difficulty in defending his life from the assaults of his
antagonist, he thought it prudent to retire. When Ushkabiis
saw this, he turned round with the intention of rejoining his
own troops ; but Rustem having witnessed the triumph over
his friend, sallied forth on foot, taking up his bow, and placing
a few arrows in his girdle, and asked him whither he was

Astonished, Ushkabiis cried, " Who art thou ?

What kindred hast thou to lament thy fall ? "

Rustem replied : " Why madly seek to know

That which can never yield thee benefit ?

3Iy name is death to thee, thy hour is come I "

" Indeed 1 and thou on foot, mid mounted warriors,

To talk so bravely I " " Yes," the champion said ;

" And hast thou never heard of men on foot,

Who conquered horsemen ? I am sent by Tiis,

To take for him the horse of Ushkabus."

" What ! and unarmed ?" inquired the Tartar chief ;

" No 1 " cried the champion, " Mark, my bow and arrow 1

Mark, too, with what effect they may be used ! "

So saying, Rustem drew the string, and straight

The arrow flew, and faithful to its aim,

Struck dead the foeman's horse. This done, he laughed,

But Ushkabus was wroth, and showered upon

His bold antagonist his quivered store

Then Rustem raised his bow, with eager eye

Choosing a dart, and placed it on the string,

A thong of elk-skin ; to his ear he drew

The feathered notch, and when the point had touched

The other hand, the bended horn recoiled,

And twang the arrow sped, piercing the breast

Of Ushkabus, who fell a lifeless corse,

As if he never had been born 1 Erect,

And firm, the champion stood upon the plain,

Towering like mount Alberz, immoveable,

The gaze and wonder of the adverse host !

When Rustem, still unknown to the Turanian forces, returned
to his own army, the Tartars carried away the body of Ush-
kabus, and took it to the Khakan of Chin, who ordered the
arrow to be drawn out before him ; and when he and Kiiinus


saw how deeply it had penetrated, and that the feathered end
was wet with blood, they were amazed at the immense power
which had driven it from the bow ; they had never witnessed
or heard of any thing so astonishing. The fight was, in
consequence, suspended till the following day. The Khakdu
of Chin then inquired who was disposed or ready to be
revenged on the enemy for the death of Ushkabiis, when
Kiimus advanced, and, soliciting permission, urged forward his
horse to the middle of the plain. He then called aloud for
Rustem, but a Kabul hero, named Alwund, a pupil of Rustem's
asked his master's permission to oppose the challenger, which
being granted, he rushed headlong to the combat. Luckless
however were his efforts, for he was soon overthrown and slain,
and then Rustem appeared in arms before the conqueror, who
hearing his voice, cried : " Why this arrogance and clamour !
I am not like Ushkabus, a trembler in thy presence." Rustem
replied :

" When the lion sees his prey,

Sees the elk-deer cross his way,

Roars he not ? The very ground

Trembles at the dreadful sound.

And art thou from terror free,

When opposed in fight to me ? "

Karnus now examined him with a stern eye, and was satisfied
that he had to contend against a powerful warrior : he there-
fore with the utmost alacrity threw his kamund, which
Rustem avoided, but it fell over the head of his horse
Rakush. Anxious to extricate himself from this dilemma,
Rustem dexterously caught hold of one end of the kamund,
whilst Kamiis dragged and strained at the other ; and so much
strength was applied that the line broke in the middle, and
Kamiis in consequence tumbled backwards to the ground. The
boaster had almost succeeded in remounting his horse, when
he was secured round the neck by Rustem's own kamund, and
conveyed a prisoner to the Persian army, where he was put to

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 17 of 35)