The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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had carried off the herd, and upon hearing of this outrage, he
proceeded with his troops at once to attack him. Impatient at
the indignity, he approached Rustem with great fury, but was
presently compelled to fly to save his life, and thus allow his
herd of favourite steeds, together with four elephants, to be
placed in the possession of Kai-khosrau. Rustem then returned
to the meadows and the fountain near the habitation of Akwtin
Diw ; and there he again met with the demon, who thus
accosted him :

" What 1 art thou then aroused from death's dark sleep ?
Hast thou escaped the monsters of the deep 1
And dost thou seek upon the dusty plain
To struggle with a demon's power again ?
Of flint, or brass, or iron is thy form ?
Or canst thou, like the demons, raise the dreadful battle
storm ? "

Rustem, hearing this taunt from the tongue of Akwau Diw,
prepared for fight, and threw his kamuud with such precision
and force, that the demon was entangled in it, and then he
struck him such a mighty blow with his sword, that it severed
the head from the body. The severed head of the unclean


monster he transmitted as a trophy to Kai-khosrau, by whom
it was regarded with amazement, on account of its hideous
expression and its vast size. After this extraordinary feat,
Rustem paid his respects to the king, and was received as usual
with distinguished honour and affection ; and having enjoyed
the magnificent hospitality of the court for some time, he re-
turned to Zabulistdn, accompanied part of the way by Kai-
khosrdu himself and a crowd of valiant warriors, ever anxious
to acknowledge his superior worth and prodigious strength.


One day the people of Armdn petitioned Kai-khosrau to
remove from them a grievous calamity. The country they
inhabited was overrun with herds of wild boars, which not
only destroyed the produce of their fields, but the fruit and
flowers in their orchards and gardens, and so extreme was the
ferocity of the animals that it was dangerous to go abroad ;
they therefore solicited protection from this disastrous visita-
tion, and hoped for relief. The king was at the time enjoying
himself amidst his warriors at a banquet, drinking wine, and
listening to music and the songs of bewitching damsels.

The glance of beauty, and the charm
OJ! heavenly sounds, so soft and thrilling,

And ruby wine, must ever warm
The heart, with love and rapture filling.

Can aught more sweet, more genial prove,

Than melting music, wine, and love 1

The moment he was made acquainted with the grievances
endured by the Armenians, he referred the matter to the
consideration of his counsellors and nobles, in order that a


remedy might be immediately applied. Byzun, when he heard
what was required, and had learned the disposition of the
king, rose up at onee with all the enthusiasm of youth, and
offered to undertake the extermination of the wild boars himself.
But Giw objected to so great a hazard, for he was too young,
he said ; a hero of greater experience being necessary for such
an arduous enterprise. Byzun, however, was not to be rejected
on this account, and observed, that though young, he was
mature in judgment and discretion, and he relied on the liberal
decision of the king, who at length permitted him to go, but
he was to be accompanied by the veteran warrior Girgin.
Accordingly Byzun and Girgin set off on the perilous expe-
dition ; and after a journey of several days arrived at the place
situated between Iran and Tiinln, where the wild boars were
the most destructive. In a short time a great number were
hunted down and killed, and Byzun, utterly to destroy the
sustenance of the depredators, set fire to the forest, and reduced
the whole of the cultivation to ashes. His exertions were, in
short, entirely successful, and the country was thus freed from
the visitation which had occasioned so much distress and ruin.
To give incontestable proof of this exploit, he cut off the heads
of all the wild boars, and took out the tusks, to send to Kai-
khosniu. When Girgin had witnessed the intrepidity and
boldness of Byzun, and found him determined to send the
evidence of his bravery to Kai-khosrau, he became envious of
the youth's success, and anticipated by comparison the ruin of
his own name and the gratification of his foes. He therefore
attempted to dissuade him from sending the trophies to the
king, and having failed, he resolved upon getting him out of
the way. To effect this purpose he worked upon the feelings
and the passions of Byzun with consummate art, and whilst
his victim was warm with wine, praised him beyond all the
warriors of the age. He then told him he had heard that at no
great distance from them there was a beautiful place, a garden
of perpetual spring, which was visited every vernal season by
Manijeh, the lovely daughter of Afrasiyab.


" It is a spot beyond imagination

Delightful to the heart, where roses bloom,

And sparkling fountains murmur where the earth

Is rich with many-coloured flowers ; and musk

Floats on the gentle breezes, hyacinths

And lilies add their perfume golden fruit

Weigh down the branches of the lofty trees,

The glittering pheasant moves in stately pomp,

The bulbul warbles from the cypress bough,

And love-inspiring damsels may be seen

O'er hill and dale, their lips all winning smiles,

Their cheeks like roses in their sleepy eyes

Delicious languor dwelling. Over them

Presides the daughter of Af rasiyab,

The beautiful Manijeh ; should we go,

('Tis but a little distance), and encamp

Among the lovely groups in that retre;vt

Which blooms like Paradise we may secure

A bevy of fair virgins for the king ! "

Byzun was excited by this description ; and impatient to
realize what it promised, repaired without delay, accompanied
by Girgin, to the romantic retirement of the princess. They
approached so close to the summer-tent in which she dwelt that
she had a full view of Byzun, and immediately becoming deeply
enamoured of his person, dispatched a confidential domestic,
her nurse, to inquire who he was, and from whence he came.

" Go, and beneath that cypress tree,
Where now he sits so gracefully,
Ask him his name, that radiant moon,
And he may grant another boon 1
Perchance he may to me impart
The secret wishes of his heart !
Tell him he must, and further say,
That I have lived here many a day ;
That every year, whilst spring discloses
The fragrant breath of budding roses,
I pass my time in rural pleasure ;
But never never such a treasure,
A mortal of such perfect mould,
Did these admiring eyes behold 1
Never, since it has been my lot
To dwell in this sequestered spot.
A youth by nature so designed
To soothe a love-lorn damsel's mind I
His wondrous looks my bosom thrill
Can Saiawush be living still I "


The nurse communicated faithfully the message of Manijch,
and Byzun's countenance glowed with delight when he heard it.
" Tell thy fair mistress," he said in reply, " that I am not
Saiawush, but the son of Giw. I came from Iran, with the
express permission of the king, to exterminate a terrible and
destructive herd of wild boars in this neighbourhood ; and I
have cut off their heads, and torn out their tusks to be sent to
Kai-khosrau, that the king and his warriors may fully appreciate
the exploit I have performed. But having heard afterwards
of thy mistress's beauty and attractions, home and my father
were forgotten, and I have preferred following my own desires
by coming hither. If thou wilt therefore forward my views ;
if thou wilt become my friend by introducing me to thy
mistress, who is possessed of such matchless charms, these
precious gems are thine and this coronet of gold. Perhaps the
daughter of Afnisiyab may be induced to listen to my suit."
The nurse was not long in making known the sentiments of
the stranger, and Manijeh was equally prompt in expressing
her consent. The message was full of ardour and affection.

" gallant youth, no farther roam,
This summer-tent shall be thy home ;
Then will the clouds of grief depart
From this enamoured, anxious heart.
For thee I live thou art the light
Which makes my future fortune bright.
Should arrows pour like showers of rain
Upon my head 'twould be in vain ;
Nothing can ever injure me,
Blessed with thy love possessed of thee ! "

Byzun therefore proceeded unobserved to the tent of the
princess, who on meeting and receiving him, pressed him to her
bosom ; and taking off his Kaiani girdle, that he might be
more at his ease, asked him to sit down and relate the particulars
of his enterprise among the wild boars of the forest. Having
done so, he added that he had left Girgin behind him.

" Enraptured, and impatient to survey

Thy charms, I brook'd no pause upon the way."


Ho was immediately perfumed with musk and rose-water,
and refreshments of every kind were set before him ; musicians
played their sweotcst airs, and dark-eyed damsels waited upon
him. The walls of the tent were gorgeously adorned with
amber, and gold, and rubies ; and the sparkling old wine was
drank out of crystal goblets. The feast of joy lasted three
nights and three days, Byzun and Manijeh enjoying the
precious moments with unspeakable rapture. Overcome with
wine and the felicity of the scene, he at length sunk into
repose, and on the fourth day came the time of departure ; but
the princess, unable to relinquish the society of her lover,
ordered a narcotic draught to be administered to him, and
whilst he continued in a state of slumber and insensibility, he
was conveyed secretly and in disguise into Tiiran, He was
taken even to the palace of Afrasiyab, unknown to all but to
the emissaries and domestics of the princess, and there he
awoke from the trance into which he had been thrown, and
found himself clasped in the arms of his idol. Considering, on
coming to his senses, that he had been betrayed by some
witchery, he made an attempt to get out of the seclusion :
above all, he was apprehensive of a fatal termination to the
adventure ; but Manljeh's blandishments induced him to remain,
and for some time he was contented to be immersed in con-
tinual enjoyment, such pleasure as arises from the social
banquet and the attractions of a fascinating woman.

" Grieve not my love be not so sad,
'Tis now the season to be glad ;
There is a time for war and strife,
A time to soothe the ills of life.
Drink of the cup which yields delight,
The ruby glitters in thy sight ;
Steep not thy heart in fruitless care,
But in the -wine-flask sparkling there."

At length, however, the love of the princess for a Persian-
youth was discovered, and the keepers and guards of the palace
wore in the greatest terror, expecting the most signal punish-


ment for their neglect or treachery. Dreadful indeed was the
rage of the king when he was first told the tidings ; he
trembled like a reed in the wind, and the colour fled from his
checks. Groaning, he exclaimed :

" A daughter, even from a royal stock,
Is ever a misfortune hast thou one ?
The grave will be thy fittest son-in-law 1
Rejoice not in the wisdom of a daughter ;
Who ever finds a daughter good and virtuous ?
Who ever looks on woman-kind for aught
Save wickedness and folly 1 Hence how fow
Ever enjoy the bliss of Paradise :
Such the sad destiny of erring woman ! "

Afrisiyab consulted the nobles of his household upon the
measures to be pursued on this occasion, and Gersiwaz was in
consequence deputed to secure Byzun, and put him to death.
The guilty retreat was first surrounded by troops, and then
Gersiwaz entered the private apartments, and with surprise and
indignation saw Byzuii in all his glory, Manijeh at his side,
his lips stained with wine, his face full of mirth and gladness,
and encircled by the damsels of the shubistdn. He accosted
him in severe terms, and was promptly answered by Byzun,
who, drawing his sword, gave his name and family, and declared
that if any violence or insult was offered, he would slay
every man that came before him with hostile intentions.
Gersiwaz, on hearing this, thought it prudent to change his
plan, and conduct him to Afrisiyzib, and he was permitted to
do so on the promise of pardon for the alleged offence. When
brought before Afrasiyab, he was assailed with further oppro-
brium, and called a dog and a wicked remorseless demon.

" Thou caitiff wretch, of monstrous birth,
Allied to hell, and not of earth ! "

But he thus answered the king :

" Listen awhile, if justice be thy aim,

And thou wilt find me guiltless. I was sent


From Persia to destroy herds of wild boars,

Which laid the country waste. That labour done,

I lost my way. and weary with the toil,

Weary with wandering in a wildering maze,

Haply reposed beneath a shady cypress ;

Thither a Peri came, and whilst I slept,

Lifted me from the ground, and quick as thought

Conveyed me to a summer-tent, where dwelt

A princess of incomparable beauty.

From thence, by hands unknown, I was removed,

Still slumbering in a litter still unconscious ;

And when I woke, I found myself reclining

In a retired pavilion of thy palace,

Attended by that soul-entrancing beauty !

My heart was filled with sorrow, and I shed

Showers of vain tears, and desolate I sate,

Thinking of Persia, with no power to fly

From my imprisonment, though soft and kind,

Being the victim of a sorcerer's art.

Yes, I am guiltless, and Manijeh too,

Both by some magic influence pursued,

And led away against our will or choice 1 "

Afrasiyiib listened to this speech with distrust, and hesitated
not to charge him with falsehood and cowardice. Byzun's
indignation was roused by this insulting accusation; and he
said to him aloud, " Cowardice, what ! cowardice ! I have
encountered the tusks of the formidable wild boar and the
claws of the raging lion. I have met the bravest in battle with
sword and arrow ; and if it be thy desire to witness the
streugth of my arm, give me but a horse and a battle-axe, and
marshal twice five hundred Turanians against me, and not
a man of them shall survive the contest. If this be not thy
pleasure, do thy worst, but remember my blood will be avenged.
Thou knowest the power of Rustem ! " The mention of
Rustem's name renewed all. the deep feelings of resentment
and animosity in the mind of Afnisiyab, who, resolved upon
the immediate execution of his purpose, commanded Gersiwaz
to bind the youth, and put an end to his life on the gallows
tree. The good old man Pirtin Wisah happened to be passing
by the place to which Byzun had just been conveyed to suffer
death ; and seeing a great concourse of people, and a lofty


dar erected, from which hung a noose, he inquired for whom
it was intended. Gersiwaz heard the question, and replied
that it was for a Persian, an enemy of Tiiriin, a son of Giw,
and related to Rustem. Piriln straightway rode up to the
youth, who was standing in deep affliction, almost naked,
and with his hands bound behind his back, and he said to
him :

" Why didst thou quit thy country, why come hither,
Why choose the road to an untimely grave ? "

Upon this Byzun told him his whole story, and the treachery
of Girgin. Pirdn wept at the recital, and remembering the
circumstances under which he had encountered Giw, and how
he had been himself delivered from death by the interposition
of Ferangis, he requested the execution to be stayed until he
had seen the king, which was accordingly done. The king
received him with honour, praised his wisdom and prudence,
and conjecturing from his manner that something was heavy
at his heart, expressed his readiness to grant any favour which
he might have come to solicit. Pir&n said : "Then, my only
desire is this : do not put Byzun to death ; do not repeat
the tragedy of Saiawush, and again consign Tiiran and Iran
to all the horrors of war and desolation. Remember how I
warned thee against taking the life of that young prince ; but
malignant and evil advisers exerted their influence, were
triumphant, and brought upon thee and thy kingdom the
vengeance of Kaus, of Rustem, and all the warriors of the
Persian empire. The swords now sleeping in their scabbards
are ready to flash forth again, for assuredly if the blood of
Byzun be spilt the land will be depopulated by fire and sword.
The honour of a king is sacred ; when that is lost, all is lost."
But Afrasiyab replied : " I fear not the thousands that can be
brought against me. Byzun has committed an offence which
can never be pardoned ; it covers me with shame, and I shall
be universally despised if I suffer him to live. Death were
better for me than life in disgrace. He must die." " That is



not necessary," rejoined Pirau, " let him be imprisoned in a
deep cavern ; he will never be heard of more, and then thou
canst not be accused of having shed his blood." After some
deliberation, Afrasiytlb altered his determination, and com-
manded Gersiwaz to bind the yonth with chains from head to
foot, and hang him within a deep pit with his head downwards,
that he might never see sun or moon again ; and he sentenced
Manijeh to share the same fate : and to make their death more
sure, he ordered the enormous fragment of rock which Akwan
Diw had dragged out of the ocean and flung upon the plain of
Tartary, to be placed over the mouth of the pit. In respect to
Byzun, Cfersiwaz did as he was commanded ; but the lamenta-
tions in the shubistiiu were so loud and distressing upon
Mauijeh being sentenced to the same punishment, that the
tyrant was induced to change her doom, allowing her to dwell
near the pit, but forbidding, by proclamation, any one going to
her or supplying her with food. Gersiwaz conducted her to the
place ; and stripping her of her rich garments and jewels, left
her bare-headed and bare-footed, weeping torrents of tears.

He left her the unhappy maid ;
Her head upon the earth was laid,
In bitterness of grief, and lone,
Beside that dreadful demon-stone.

There happened, however, to be a fissure in the huge rock
that covered the mouth of the pit, which allowed of Byzun's
voice being heard, and bread and water was let down to him,
so that they had the melancholy satisfaction of hearing each
other's woes.

The story now relates to Girgin, who finding after several
days that Byzun had not returned, began to repent of his
treachery ; but what is the advantage of such repentance ? it
is like the smoke that rises from a conflagration.

When flames have done their worst, thick clouds arise
Of lurid smoke, which useless mount the skies.


He sought everywhere for him ; went to the romantic retreat
where the daughter of Afrasiyab resided ; but the place was
deserted, nothing was to be seen, and nothing to be heard. At
length he saw Byzun's horse astray, and securing him with his
kamund, thought it useless to remain in Tiiran, and therefore
proceeded in sorrow back to Iran. Giw, finding that his son
had not returned with him from Arman, was frantic with
grief ; he tore his garments and his hair, and threw ashes over
his head ; and seeing the horse which his son had rode, caressed
it in the fondest manner, demanding from Girgin a full account
of what he knew of his fate. " Heaven forbid," said he,
" that my son should have fallen into the power of the merci-
less demons ! " Girgin could not safely confess the truth, and
therefore told a falsehood, in the hope of escaping from the
consequences of his own guilt. " When we arrived at Arman,"
said he, " we entered a large forest, and cutting down the trees,
set them on tire. We then attacked the wild boars, which were
found in vast numbers ; and as soon as they were all destroyed,
left the' place on our return. Sporting all the way, we fell in
with an elk, of a most beautiful and wonderful form. It was
like the Simiirgh ; it had hoofs of steel, and the head and ears
and tail of a horse. It was strong as a lion and fleet as the
wind, and came fiercely before us, yet seemed to be a thing of
air. Byzun threw his kamund over him ; and when entangled
in the noose, the animal became furious and sprung away,
dragging Byzun after him. Presently the prospect was enve-
loped in smoke, the earth looked like the ocean, and Byzun and
the phantom-elk disappeared. I wandered about in search of
my companion, but found him not : his horse only remained.
My heart was rent with anguish, for it seemed to me that the
furious elk must have been the White Demon." But Giw was
not to be deceived by this fabricated tale : on the contrary, he
felt convinced that treachery had been at work, and in his rage
seized Girgin by the beard, dragged him to and fro, and inflicted
on him two hundred strokes with a scourge. The unhappy
wretch, from the wounds he had received, fell senseless on the

P 2


ground. Giw then hastened to Kai-khosrau to inform him of
his misfortune ; and though the first resolve was to put the
traitor to death, the king was contented to load him with,
chains and cast him into prison. The astrologers being now
consulted, pronounced that Byzun was still living, and Giw was
consoled and cheered by the promptitude with which the king
dispatched troops in every quarter in search of his son.

" Weep no longer, warrior bold,
Thou shalt soon thy son behold.
In this Cup, this mirror bright.
All that's dark is brought to light ;
All above and under ground,
All that's lost is quickly found."
Thus spake the monarch, and held up
Before his view that wondrous Cup
Which first to Jemshid's eye revealed
All that was in the world concealed.
And first before him lay exposed
All that the seven climes enclosed,
Whether in ocean or amid
The stars the secret things were hid,
Whether in rock or cavern placed.
In that bright Cup were clearly traced.
And now his eye Karugsar surveys,
The Cup the province wide displays.
He sees within that dismal cave
Byzun the good, the bold, the brave ;
And sitting on that demon-stone
Lovely Manljeh sad and lone.
And now he smiles and looks on Giw,
And cries : " My prophecy was true.
Thy Byzun lives ; no longer grieve,
I see him there, my words believe ;
And though bound fast in fetters, he
Shall soon regain his liberty."

Kai-khosrau, thinking the services of Rustem requisite on
this occasion, dispatched Giw with an invitation to him, ex-
plaining the circumstance of Byzun's capture. Rustem had
made up his mind to continue in peace and tranquillity at his
Zabul principality, and not to be withdrawn again from its
comforts by any emergency ; but the reported situation of his
near relative altered his purpose, and he hesitated not to give
his best aid to restore him to freedom. Giw rejoiced at this,


and both repaired without delay to the royal residence, where
Khosra'u gratified the champion with the most cordial welcome,
placing him on a throne before him. The king asked him what
force he would require, and he replied that he did not require
any army ; he preferred going in disguise as a merchant. Ac-
cordingly the necessary materials were prepared ; a thousand
camels were laden with jewels and brocades, and other mer-
chandise, and a thousand warriors were habited like camel-
drivers. Girgin had prayed to be released from his bonds, and
by the intercession of Rustem was allowed to be of the party ;
but his children were kept in prison as hostages and security
for his honourable conduct. When the champion, with his
kafila, arrived within the territory of the enemy, and approached
the spot where Byzun was imprisoned, a loud clamour arose
that a caravan of merchandise had come from Ira"n, such as was
never seen before. The tidings having reached the ear of
Manijeh, she went immediately to Rustem, and inquired
whether the imprisonment of Byzun was yet known at the
Persian court ? Rustem replied in anger : " I am a merchant
employed in traffic, what can I know of such things ? Go
away, I have no acquaintance with either the king or his
warriors." This answer overwhelmed Manijeh with disap-
pointment and grief, and she wept bitterly. Her tears began
to soften the heart of Rustem, and he said to her in a soothing
voice : " I am not an inhabitant of the city in which the
court is held, and on that account 1 know nothing of these
matters ; but tell me the cause of thy grief." Manijeh sighed
deeply, and endeavoured to avoid giving him any reply, which

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 19 of 35)