The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

. (page 18 of 35)
Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 18 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

death !

THE SHlH NlMElt. 189

The fate of Kamiis produced a deep sensation among the
Turanians, and Piran "YYisah, partaking of the general alarm,
and thinking it impossible to resist the power of Rustem,
proposed to retire from the contest, but the Khakan of Chin
vras of a different opinion, and offered himself to remedy the
evil which threatened them all. Moreover the warrior, Chin-
gush, volunteered to fight with "Rustem ; and having obtained
the Khakan's permission, he took the field, and boldly challenged
the champion. Rustem received the foe with a smiling counte-
nance, and the struggle began with arrows. After a smart
attack on both sides, Chingush thought it prudent to fly from
the overwhelming force of Rustem, who, however, steadily
pursued him, and adroitly seizing the horse by the tail, hurled
him from his saddle.

He grasped the charger's flowing tail,
And all were struck with terror pale,
To sec a sight so strange ; the foe,
Dismounted by one desperate blow ;
The captive asked for life in vain,
His recreant blood bedewed the plain.
His head was from his shoulders wrung,
His body to the vultures flung.

Rustem, after this exploit, invited some other hero to single
combat ; but at the moment not one replied to his challenge.
At last Human came forward, not however to fight, but to
remonstrate, and make an effort to put an end to the war which
threatened total destruction to his country. "Why such
bitter enmity ? why such a whirlwind of resentment ? " said
he ; " to this I ascribe the calamities under which we suffer ;
but is there no way by which this sanguinary career of ven-
geance can be checked or moderated ? " Rustem, in answer,
enumerated the aggressions and the crimes of Afnisiyab, and
especially dwelt on the atrocious murder of Saiawush, which he
declared could never be pardoned. Humdn wished to know his
name ; but Rustem refused to tell him, and requested Piran
Wisah might be sent to him, to whom he would communicate


his thoughts, and the secrets of his heart freely. Hiimdn ac-
cordingly returned, and informed Piran of the champion's

" This must be Rustem, stronger than the pard,

The lion, or the Egyptian crocodile,

Or fell Iblis ; dreams never painted hero

Half so tremendous on the battle plain."

The old man said to him ;

" If this be Rustem, then the time has come,
Dreaded so long for what but fire and sword,
Can now await us ? Every town laid waste,
Soldier and peasant, husband, wife, and child,
Sharing the miseries of a ravaged land 1 "

"With tears in his eyes and a heavy heart, Piran repaired to
the Khakan, who, after some discussion, permitted him in these
terms to go and confer with Eustem.

" Depart then speedful on thy embassy,

And if he seeks for peace, adjust the terms,

And presents to be sent us. If he talks

Of war and vengeance, and is clothed in mail,

No sign of peace, why we must trust in Heaven

For strength to crush his hopes of victory.

He is not formed of iron, nor of brass,

But flesh and blood, with human nerves and hair,

He does not in the battle tread the clouds,

Nor can he vanish, like the demon race,

Then why this sorrow, why these marks of grief ?

He is not stronger than an elephant ;

Not he, but I will show him what it is

To fight or gambol with an elephant !

Besides, for every man his army boasts,

We have three hundred wherefore then be sad ? "

Notwithstanding these expressions of confidence, Piran's
heart was full of alarm and terror ; but he hastened to the
Persian camp, and made himself known to the champion of
the host, who frankly said, after he had heard Piran's name,
" I am Rustem of Zabul, armed as thou seest for battle ! "
Upon which Piran respectfully dismounted, and paid the
usual homage to his illustrious rank and distinction,


ftustem said to him, " I bring thee the blessings of Kai-khosniu
and Ferangis, his mother, who nightly see thy face in their

(i Blessings from me, upon that royal youth ! "

Exclaimed the good old man. " Blessings on her,

The daughter of Afrasiyab, his mother,

Who saved my life and blessings upon thee,

Thou matchless hero ! Thou hast come for vengeance,

In the dear name of gallant Saiawush,

Of Saiawush, the husband of my child,

(The beautiful Gulshaher), of him who loved me

As I had been his father. His brave son,

Feriid, was slaughtered, and his mother too,

And Khosrau was his brother, now the king,

By whom he fell, or if not by his word,

Whose was the guilty hand ? Has punishment

Been meted to the offender ? I protected,

In mine own house, the princess Ferangis ;

And when her son was born, Kai-khosrau, still

I, at the risk of my existence, kept them

Safe from the fury of Afrasiyab,

Who would have sacrificed the child, or both 1

And night and day I watched them, till the hour

When they escaped and crossed the boundary-stream.

Enough of this ! Now let us speak of peace,

Since the confederates in this mighty war

Are guiltless of the blood of Saiawush ! ''

Ptustem, in answer to Piran, observed, that in negotiating
the terms of pacification, several important points were to be
considered, and several indispensable matters to be attended to.
Xo peace could be made unless the principal actors in the
bloody tragedy of Saiawush's death were first given up, par-
ticularly Gersiwaz ; vast sums of money were also required to be
presented to the king of kings ; and, moreover, Rustem said he
would disdain making peace at all, but that it enabled Piran
to do service to Kai-khosrau. Piran saw the difficulty of ac-
ceding to these demands, but he speedily laid them before the
Khakan, who consulted his confederates on the subject, and
after due consideration, their pride and shame resisted the
overtures, which they thought ignominious. Shinkul, a king
of Iiid, was a violent opposer of the terms, and declared against

192 THE SHlH XAMEtt.

peace on any such conditions. Several other warriors expressed
their readiness to contend against Rustem, and they flattered
themselves that by a rapid succession of attacks, one after the
the other, they would easily overpower him. The Khakan was
pleased with this conceit and permitted Shinkul to begin the
struggle. Accordingly he entered the plain, and summoned
Rustem to renew the fight. The champion came and struck
him with a spear, which, penetrating his breast, threw him off
his horse to the ground. The dagger was already raised to
finish his career, but he sprang on his feet, and quickly ran
away to tell his misfortune to the Khakan of Chin.

And thus he cried, in look forlorn,

" This foe is not of mortal born ;

A furious elephant in fight,

A very mountain to the sight ;

No warrior of the human race,

That ever wielded spear or mace,

Alone this dragon could withstand,

Or live beneath his conquering brand ! "

The Khakan reminded him how different were his feelings
and sentiments in the morning, and having asked him what
he now proposed to do, he said that without a considerable
force it would be useless to return to the field ; five thousand
men were therefore assigned to him, and with them he pro-
ceeded to engage the champion. Rustem had also been joined
by his valiant companions, and a general battle ensued. The
heavens were obscured by the dust which ascended from the
tramp of the horses, and the plain was crimsoned with the
blood of the slain. In the midst of the contest, Sawa, a relation
of Kamus, burst forward and sought to be revenged on Rus-
tem for the fate of his friend. The champion raised his battle-
axe, and giving Rakush the rein, with one blow of his
mace removed him to the other world. No sooner had he
dispatched this assailant than he was attacked by another of the
kindred of Kiimus, named Kahar, whom he also slew, and
thus humbled the pride of the Kushanians. Elated with his


success, aiid having farther displayed his valour among the.
enemy's troops, he vowed that he would now encounter the
Khakan himself, and despoil him of all his pomp and treasure.
For this purpose he selected a thousand horsemen, and thus
supported, approached the kulubgah, or head-quarters of the
monarch of Chin. The clamour of the cavalry, and the clash
of spears and swords, resounded afar. The air became as dark
as the visage of an Ethiopian, and the field was covered with
several heads, broken armour, and the bodies of the slain.
A.midst the conflict Rustem called aloud to the Khakan :

" Surrender to my arms those elephants,

That ivory throne, that crown, and chain of gold ;

Fit trophies for Kai-khosrau, Persia's king ;

For what hast thou to do with diadem

And sovereign power ! My noose shall soon secure thee,

And I will send thee living to his presence ;

Since, looking on my valour and my strength,

Life is enough to grant thee. If thou wilt not

Resign thy crown and throne thy doom is sealed."

The Khakan, filled with indignation at these haughty words,
cautioned Rustem to parry off his own danger, and then com-
manded his troops to assail the enemy with a shower of arrows.
The attack was so tremendous and terrifying, even beyond the
picturings of a dream, that Giidarz was alarmed few* the safety
of Rustem, and sent Reham and G'w to his aid. Rustem said
to Reham : " I fear that my horse Rakush is becoming
weary of exertion, in which case what shall I do in this con-
flict with the enemy ? I must attack on foot the Khakaii of
Chin, though he has an army here as countless as legions of ants
or locusts ; but if Heaven continues my friend, I shall stretch
many of them in the dust, and take many prisoners. The
captives I will send to Khosniu, and all the spoils of Chin."
Saying this he pushed forward, roaring like a tiger, towards
the Khakan, and exclaiming with a stern voice : " The Turks
are allied to the devil, and the wicked are always unprosperous.
Thou hast not yet fallen in with Rustem, or thy brain would


have been bewildered. He is a never-dying dragon, always
seeking the strongest in battle. But thou hast not yet had
enough of even me ! " He then drew his kamund from the
saddle-strap, and praying to God to grant hirn victory over his
foes, urged on Rakush, and wherever he threw the noose, his
aim was successful. Great was the slaughter, and the Khakau,
seeing from the back of his white elephant the extent of his
loss, and beginning to be apprehensive about his own safety,
ordered one of his warriors, well acquainted with the language
of Iran, to solicit from the enemy a cessation of hostilities.

" Say whence this wrath on us, this keen revenge ?

We never injured Saiawush ; the kings

Of Ind and Chin are guiltless of his blood ;

Then why this wrath on strangers ? Spells and charms,

Used by Afrasiyab, the cause of all

Have brought us hither to contend against

The champion Rustem ; and since peace is better

Than war and bloodshed, let us part in peace."

The messenger having delivered his message, Rustem
replied :

41 My words are few. Let him give up his crown,

His golden collar, throne, and elephants ;

These are the terms I grant. He came for plunder,

And now he asks for peace. Tell him again,

Till all his treasure and his crown are mine,

His throne and elephants, he seeks in vain

For peace with Eustem, or the Persian king 1 "

"When the Khakan was informed of these reiterated condi-
tions, he burst out into bitter reproaches and abuse ; and
with so loud a voice, that the wind conveyed them distinctly
to Rustem's ear. The champion immediately prepared for the
attack ; and approaching the enemy, flung his kamund, by
which he at once dragged the Khakan from his white elephant.
The hands of the captured monarch wero straightway bound
behind his back. Degraded and helpless he stood, and a
single stroke deprived him of his crown, and throne, and life.


Such are, since time began, the ways of Heaven ;
Such the decrees of fate ! Sometimes raised up,
And sometimes hunted down by enemies,
Men, struggling, pass through this precarious life,
Exalted now to sovereign power ; and now
Steeped in the gulph of poverty and sorrow.
To one is given the affluence of Karun ;
Another dies in want. How little know we
What hue our future fortune may assume !
The world is all deceit, deception all !

Piraii Wisah beheld the disasters of the day, he saw the
Khakdn of Chin delivered over to Tiis, his death, and the
banners of the confederates overthrown ; and sorrowing said :
" This day is the day of flight, not of victory to us ! This is
no time for son to protect father, nor father son we must
fly ! " In the meanwhile Eastern, animated by feelings of a
very different kind, gave a banquet to his warrior friends, in
celebration of the triumph.

When the intelligence of the overthrow and death of Kd-mus
and the Khakiin of Chin, and the dispersion of their armies,
reached Afrasiyab, he was overwhelmed with distress and con-
sternation, and expressed his determination to be revenged on
the conquerors. Not an Iranian, he said, should remain alive ;
and the doors of his treasury were thrown open to equip and
reward the new army, which was to consist of a hundred
thousand men.

Rustem having communicated to Kai-khosrau, through
Friburz, the account of his success, received the most satis-
factory marks of his sovereign's applause ; but still anxious
to promote the glory of his country, he engaged in new ex-
ploits. He went against Kafiir, the king of the city of Bidjld,
a cannibal, who feasted on human flesh, especially on the young
women of his country, and those of the greatest beauty, being
the richest morsels, were first destroyed. He soon overpowered
and slew the monster, and having given his body to be de-
voured by dogs, plundered and razed his castle to the ground.
After this he invaded and ravaged the province of Khoten,
one of the dependencies of Tiiran, and recently the posses-

O 2


sion of Saiiiwush, which was a n.ew affliction to Afrasiyab, who,
alarmed about his own empire, dispatched a trusty person
secretly to Rustem's camp, to obtain private intelligence of his
hostile movements. The answer of the spy added considerably
to his distress, and in the dilemma he consulted with Piran
Wisah, that he might have the benefit of the old man's ex-
perience and wisdom. Pirau told him that he had failed to
make an impression upon the Persians, even assisted by Kamus
the Kashanian, and the Khakan of Chin ; both had been slain
in battle, and therefore it would be in vain to attempt further
offensive measures without the most powerful aid. There was, he
added, a neighbouring king, named Piiladwund,who alone seemed
equal to contend with Eustem. He was of immense stature,
and of prodigious strength, and might, by the favour of
heaven, be able to subdue him. Afrasiyab was pleased with
this information, and immediately invited Piiladwuud, by
letter, to assist him in exterminating the champion of Persia.
Piiladwund was proud of the honour conferred upon him, and
readily complied ; hastening the preparation of his own army
to co-operate with that of Afrasiyab. He presently joined him,
and the whole of the combined forces rapidly marched against
the enemy. The first warrior he encountered was Giw, whom
he caught with his kamund. Reham and Byzun seeing this,
instantly rushed forward to extricate their brother and
champion in arms ; but they too were also secured in the same
manner ! In the struggle, however, the kamunds gave way,
and then Piiladwund drew his sword, and by several strokes
wounded them all. The father, Giidarz, apprised of this
disaster, which had unfortunately happened to three of his
sons, applied to Rustem for succour. The champion, the
refuge, the protector of all, was, as usual, ready to repel the
enemy. He forthwith advanced, liberated his friends, and
dreadful was the conflict which followed. The club was used
with great dexterity on both sides ; but at length Piiladwund
struck his antagonist such a blow that the sound of it was
heard by the troops at a distance, and Rustem, stunned by its


severity, thought himself opposed with so much vigour, that
he prayed to the Almighty for a prosperous issue to the

'' Should I be in this struggle slain,

What stay for Persia will be left ?
None to defend Kai-khosrau's reign,

Of me, his warrior-chief, bereft.
Then village, town, and city gay,
Will feel the cruel Tartar's swny 1 "

Piiladwund wishing to follow up the blow by a final stroke
of his sword, found to his amazement that it recoiled from the
armour of Kustem, and thence he proposed another mode or
.fighting, which he hoped would be more successful. He wished
to try his power in wrestling. The challenge was accepted.
By agreement both armies retired, and left the space of a
farsang between them, and no one was allowed to afford assist-
ance to cither combatant. Afnisiyab was present, and sent
word to Piiladwund, the moment he got Rustem under him. to
plunge a sword in his heart. The contest began, but Piilad-
wund had no opportunity of fulfilling the wishes of Afnisiyab.
Rustem grasped him with such vigour, lifted him up in his
arms, and dashed him so furiously on the plain, that the boaster
seemed to be killed on the spot. Rustem indeed thought he
had put a period to his life ; and with that impression left him,
and remounted Rakush : but the crafty Piiladwund only pre-
tended to be dead ; and as soon as he found himself released,
sprang up and escaped, flying like an arrow to his own side.
He then told Afnisiyab how he had saved his life by counter-

v /

feiting death, and assured him that it was useless to contend
against Rustem. The champion having witnessed this subter-
fuge, turned round in pursuit, and the Tartars received him
with a shower of arrows ; but the attack was well answered,
Piiladwund being so alarmed that, without saying a word to
Afrasiyab, he fled from the field. Pinin now counselled Afni-
siyab to escape also to the remotest 'part of Tartary. As the
flight of Piiladwnrid had disheartened the Turanian troops, and


there was no chance of profiting by further resistance, Afrasiyab
took his advice, and so precipitate was his retreat, that he en-
tirely abandoned his standards, tents, horses, arms, and treasure
to an immense amount. The most valuable booty was sent by
Rustem to the king of Irdn, and a considerable portion of it
was divided among the chiefs and the soldiers of the army.
He then mounted Rakush, and proceeded to the court of Kai-
khosrau, where he was received with the highest honours and
with unbounded rejoicings. The king opened his jewel chamber,
and gave him the richest rubies, and vessels of gold filled with
musk and aloes, and also splendid garments ; a hundred beau-
tiful damsels wearing crowns and ear-rings, a hundred horses,
and a hundred camels. Having thus terminated triumphantly
the campaign, Rustem carried with him to Ztibul the blessings
and admiration of his country.


And now we come to Akwan Di\v,
Whom Rustem next in combat slu\v.

One day as Kai-khosr<iu was sitting in his beautiful garden,
abounding in roses and the balmy luxuriance of spring, sur-
rounded by his warriors, and enjoying the pleasures of the
banquet with music and singing, a peasant approached, and
informed him of a most mysterious apparition. A wild ass, he
said, had come in from the neighbouring forest ; it had at least
the external appearance of a wild ass, but possessed such super-
natural strength, that it had rushed among the horses in the
royal stables with the ferocity of a lion or a demon, doing ex-
tensive injury, and in fact appeared to be an evil spirit ! Kai-
khosrdu felt assured that it was something more than it seemed


to be, and looked round among his warriors to know what
should be done. It was soon found that Rustem was the only
person capable of giving effectual assistance in this emergency,
and accordingly a message was forwarded to request his ser-
vices. The champion instantly complied, and it was not long
before he occupied himself upon the important enterprise.
Guided by the peasant, he proceeded in the first place towards
the spot where the mysterious animal had been seen ; but it
was not till the fourth day of his search that he fell in with
him, and then, being anxious to secure him alive, and send
him as a trophy to Kai-khosrau, he threw his kamund ; but it
was in vain : the wild ass in a moment vanished out of sight !
From this circumstance Rustem observed, " This can be no
other than Akwan Diw, and my weapon must now be either
dagger or sword." The next time the wild ass appeared he
pursued him with his drawn sword ; but on lifting it up to
strike, nothing was to be seen. He tried again, when he came
near him, both spear and arrow : still the animal vanished, dis-
appointing his blow ; and thus three days and nights he con-
tinued fighting, as it were against a shadow. Wearied at length
with his exertions, he dismounted, and leading Rakush to a
green spot near a limpid fountain or rivulet of spring water,
allowed him to graze, and then went to sleep. Akwiin Diw
seeing from a distance that Rustem had fallen asleep, rushed
towards him like a whirlwind, and rapidly digging up the
ground on every side of him, took up the plot of ground and
the champion together, placed them upon his head, and walked
away with them. Rustem being awakened with the motion, he
was thus addressed by the giant-demon :

Warrior ! now no longer free !
Tell me what thy wish may be ;
Shall I plunge thee in the sea,

Or leave thee on the mountain drear,

None to give thee succour, near I
Tell thy wish to me ! "

Rustem, thus deplorably in the power of the demon, began


to consider what was best to be done, and recollecting that it
was customary with that supernatural race to act by the rule
of contraries, in opposition to an expressed desire, said in reply,
for he knew that if he was thrown into the sea there would be
a good chance of escape :

" 0, plunge me not in the roaring sea,
The maw of a fish is no home for me ;
But cast me forth on the mountain ; there
Is the lion's haunt and the tiger's lair ;
And for them I shall be a morsel of food,
They will eat my flesh and drink my blood ;
But my bones will be left, to shew the place
Where this form was devoured by the feline race ;
Yes, something will then remain of me,
Whilst nothing escapes from the roaring sea ! "

Akwan Diw having heard this particular desire of Rustem,
determined at once to thwart him, and for this purpose he
raised him up with his hands, and flung him from his lofty
position headlong into the deep and roaring ocean. Down he
fell, and a crocodile speedily darted upon him with the eager
intention of devouring him alive ; but Eustem drew his sword
with alacrity, and severed the monster's head from his body.
Another came, and was put to death in the same manner, and
the water was crimsoned with blood. At last he succeeded in
swimming safely on shore, and instantly returned thanks to
Heaven for the signal protection he had experienced.

Breasting the wave, with fearless skill

He used his glittering brand ;
And glorious and triumphant still,

He quickly reached the strand.

He then moved towards the fountain Avhere he had left
Rakush ; but, to his great alarm and vexation his matchless
horse was not there. He wandered about for some time, and
in the end found him among a herd of horses belonging to
Afnlsiyab. Having first caught him, and resumed his seat iu
the saddle, he resolved upon capturing and driving away the


whole herd, arid conveying them to Kai-khosniu. He was
carrying into effect this resolution when the noise awoke the
keepers specially employed by Afrasiyab, and they, indignant
at this outrageous proceeding, called together a strong party to
pursue the aggressor. When they had nearly reached him, he
turned boldly round, and said aloud : " I am Rustem, the
descendant of Sam. I have conquered Afrasiyab in battle, and
after that dost thou presume to oppose me ? " Hearing this,
the keepers of the Tartar stud instantly turned their backs, and
ran away.

It so happened that at this period Afrasiyab paid his annual
visit to his nursery of horses, and on his coming to the meadows
in which they were kept, neither horses nor keepers were to be
seen. In a short time, however, he was informed by those who
had returned from the pursuit, that Rustem was the person who

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 18 of 35)