The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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and a sharp contest ensued. Both parties becoming fatigued,
they rested awhile, when Rustem asked Barzii how he had ob-
tained his liberty. "The Almighty freed me from the bondage
I endured." " And who are these two women ? " " One of
them," replied Barzii, " is my mother, and that is a singing-
girl of thy own house." Rustem went aside, and called for
breakfast, and thinking in his own mind that it would be
expedient to poison Barzii, mixed up a deleterious substance in
some food, and sent it to him to eat. He was just going to take
it, when his mother cried, " My sou, beware ! " and he drew
his hand from the dish. But the singing-girl did eat part of
it, and died on the spot. Upon witnessing this appalling
scene, Barzii sprung forward with indignation, and reproached
Rustem for his treachery in the severest terms.

" Old man 1 hast thou mid warrior-chiefs a place,
And dost thou practice that which brings disgrace ?
Hast thou no fear of a degraded name,
No fear of lasting obloquy and shame ?
O, thou canst have no hope in God, when thou
Stand'st thus defiled, dishonoured, false, as now ;
Unfair, perfidious, art thou too, in strife,
By any pretext thou would'st take my life ! "

He then in a menacing attitude exclaimed : " If thou art a
man, rise and fight ! " Rustem felt ashamed on being thus
detected, and rose up frowning in scorn. They met, brandish-
ing their battle-axes, and looking as black as the clouds of
night. They then dismounted to wrestle, and fastening the
bridles, each to his own girdle, furiously grasped each others'
loins and limbs, straining and struggling for the mastery.
Whilst they were thus engaged, their horses betrayed equal
animosity, and attacked each other with great violence.
Rakush bit and kicked Barzii's steed so severely that he strove
to gallop away, dragging his master, who was at the same time
under the excruciating gripe of Rustem. " 0, release me for
a moment till I am disentangled from my horse," exclaimed
Barzii ; but Rustem heeding him not, now pressed him down


beneath him, and was preparing to give him the finishing blow
by cutting off his head, when the mother seeing the fatal
moment approach, shrieked, and cried out, " Forbear, Rustem !
this youth is the son of Sohrab, and thy own grandchild !
Forbear, and bring not on thyself the devouring anguish which
followed the death of his unhappy father.

" Think of Sohrab 1 take not the precious life
Of sire and son unnatural is the strife ;
Restrain, for mercy's sake, that furious mood,
And pause before thou shedd'st a kinsman's blood."

" Ah ! " rejoined Rustem, " can that be true ? " upon which
Shah-ni showed him Sohrab 's brilliant finger-ring and he was
satisfied. He then pressed Barzii warmly and affectionately to
his breast, and kissed his head and eyes, and took him along
with him to Sistdn, where he placed him in a station of honour,
and introduced him to his great grandfather Zdl, who received
and caressed him with becoming tenderness and regard.


Soon after Afrasiyab had returned defeated into Turun,
grievously lamenting the misfortune which had deprived him
of the assistance of Barzii, a woman named Siisen, deeply
versed in magic and sorcery, came to him, and promised by
her potent art to put him in the way of destroying Rustem and
his whole family.

" Fighting disappointment brings,
Sword and mace are useless things ;
If thou would'st a conqueror be,
Monarch ! put thy trust in me ;
Soon the mighty chief shall bleed,
Spells and charms will do the deed 1 "



Afrasiyiib at first refused to avail himself of her power, but
was presently induced, by a manifestation of her skill, to consent
to what she proposed. She required that a distinguished
warrior should be sent along with her, furnished with abund-
ance of treasure, honorary tokens and presents, so that none
might be aware that she was employed on the occasion.
Afrdsiyiib appointed Pilsam, duly supplied with the requisites,
and the warrior and the sorceress set off on their journey,
people being stationed conveniently on the road to hasten the
first tidings of their success to the king. Their course was
towards Sistan, and arriving at a fort, they took possession of a
commodious residence, in which they placed the wealth and
property they had brought, and, establishing a house of enter-
tainment, all travellers who passed that way were hospitably
and sumptuously regaled by them.

For sparkling wine, and viands rare,
And mellow fruit, abounded there.

It is recorded that Eustem had invited to a magnificent feast
at his palace in Sista"n a large company of the most celebrated
heroes of the kingdom, and amongst them happened to be Tiis,
whom the king had deputed to the champion on some important
state affairs. Giidarz was also present ; and between him and
Tiis, ever hostile to each other, a dispute as usual took place.
The latter, always boasting of his ancestry, reviled the old
warrior and said, " I am the son of Nauder, and the grandson
of Feridun, whilst thou art but the son of Kavah, the black-
smith ; why then dost thou put thyself on a footing with
me ? " Giidarz, in reply, poured upon him reproaches equally
irritating, accused him of ignorance and folly, and roused the
anger of the prince to such a degree that he drew his dagger
to punish the offender, when Rehtlm started up and prevented
the intended bloodshed. This interposition increased his rage,
and in serious dudgeon he retired from the banquet, and set off
on his return to Iran.

Rustem was not present at the time, but when he heard of


the altercation and the result of it, he was very angry, saying
that Giidarz was a relation of the family, and Tus his gnest,
and therefore wrong had been done, since a guest ought always
co be protected. " A guest," he said, " ought to be held as
sacred as the king, and it is the custom of heroes to treat a
guest with the most scrupulous respect and consideration.

For a guest is the king of the feast."

He then requested Gudarz to go after Tus, and by fair words
and proper excuses bring him back to his festive board. Ac-
cordingly Gudarz departed. No sooner had he gone than Giw
rose up, and said, " Tus is little better than a madman, and my
father of a hasty temper ; I should therefore wish to follow, to
prevent the possibility of further disagreement." To this
Rustem consented. Byzun was now also anxious to go, and he
too got permission. "When all the three had departed, Rustem
began to be apprehensive that something unpleasant would
occur, and thought it prudent to send Feramurz to preserve
the peace. Zal then came forward, and thinking that Tus, the
descendant of the Kais and his revered guest, might not be
easily prevailed upon to return either by Gudarz, Giw, Byzun,
or Feramurz, resolved to go himself and soothe the temper
which had been so injudiciously and rudely ruffled at the

When Tus, on his journey from Rustem's palace, approached
the residence of Siisen the sorceress, he beheld numerous cooks
and confectioners on every side, preparing all kinds of rich and
rare dishes of food, and every species of sweetmeat ; and enquir-
ing to whom they belonged, he was told that the place was
occupied by the wife of a merchant from Tiiran, who was
extremely wealthy, and who entertained in the most sumptuous
manner every traveller who passed that way. Hungiy, and
curious to see what was going on, Tus dismounted, and leaving
his horse with the attendants, entered the principal apartment,
where he saw a fascinating female, and was transported with
joy. She was


Tall as the graceful cypress, and as bright,
As ever struck a lover's ravished bight ;
Why of her musky locks or ringlets tell ?
Each silky hair itself contained a spell.
Why of her face so beautifully fair ?
Wondering he saw the moon's refulgence there.

As soon as his transports had subsided lie sat down before
her, and asked her who she was, and upon what adventure she
was engaged ; and she answered that she was a singing-girl,
that a wealthy merchant some time ago had fallen in love with
and married her, and soon afterwards died ; that Afrisiyjib, the
king, had since wished to take her into his harem, which
alarmed her, and she had in consequence fled from his country ;
she was willing, however, she said, to become the hand-maid of
Kai-khosrau, he being a true king, and of a sweet and gentle

A persecuted damsel I,

Thus the detested tyrant fly,

And hastening from impending woes,

In happy Persia seek repose ;

For long as cherished life remains,

Pleasure must smile where Khosrau reigns.

Thence did I from my home depart.

To please and bless a Persian heart."

The deception worked effectually on the mind of Tiis, and he
at once entered into the notion of escorting her to Kai-khosrati.
But he was immediately supplied with charmed viands and
goblets of rich wine, which he had not the power to resist, till
his senses forsook him, and then Pilsam appeared, and, binding
him with cords, conveyed him safely and secretly into the in-
terior of the fort. In a short time Gudarz arrived, and he too
was received and treated in the same manner. Then Giw and
Byzun were seized and secured ; and after them came Zal : but
notwithstanding the enticements that were used, and the attrac-
tions that presented themselves, he would neither enter the en-
chanted apartment, nor taste the enchanted food or wine.

The witching cup was filled to the brim,

But the magic draught had no charms for him.


A person whispered in his ear that the woman had already
wickedly got into her power several warriors, and he felt
assured that they were his own friends. To be revenged for
this treachery ho rushed forward, and would have seized hold
of the sorceress, but she* fled into the fort and fastened the
gate. He instantly sent a messenger to Rustem, explaining
the perplexity in which he was involved, and exerting all his
strength, broke down the gate that had just been closed against
him. As soon as the passage was opened, out rushed Pilsam,
who with his mace commenced a furious battle with Zal, in
which he nearly overpowered him, when Feramurz reached the
spot, and telling the venerable old warrior to stand aside, took
his place, and fought with Pilsam without intermission all day,
and till they were parted by the darkness of night.

Early in the morning Rustem, accompanied by Barzii, arrived
from Sistiin, and entering the fort, called aloud for Pilsam. He
also sent Feramurz to Kai-khcsrau to inform him of what had
occurred. Pilsam at length issued forth, and attacked the
champion. They first fought with bows and arrows, with
javelins next, and then successively with maces, and swords,
and daggers. The contest lasted the whole day ; and when at
night they parted, neither had gained the victoiy. The next
morning immense clouds of dust were seen, and they were
found to be occasioned by Afrasiyab and his army marching to
the spot. Rustem appointed Barzii to proceed with his Zabul
troops against him, whilst he himself encountered Pilsam. The
strife between the two was dreadful. Rustem struck him several
times furiously upon the head, and at length stretched him life-
less on the sand. He then impelled Rakush towards the Tura-
nian army, and aided by Zal and Barzii, committed tremendous
havoc among them.

So thick the arrows fell, helmet, and mail,

And shield, pierced through, looked like a field of reeds.

Iii the meantime Suscn, the sorceress, escaped from the fort, and
fled to Afrasiyab.


Another cloud of dust spreading from earth to heaven, was
observed in the direction of Persia, and the waving banners
becoming more distinct, presently showed the approach of the

king, Kai-khosrau.

The steely javelins sparkled in the sun,
Helmet aud shield, and joyous seemed the sight.
Banners, all gorgeous, floating on the breeze,
And horns shrill echoing, and the tramp of steeds,
Proclaimed to dazzled eye and hal -stunned ear,
The mighty preparation.

The hostile armies soon met, and there was a sanguinary
conflict, but the Turanians were obliged to give way. Upon
this common result, Piran Wisah declared to Afrasiyab that
perseverance was as ridiculous as unprofitable. " Our army has
no heart, nor confidence, when opposed to Eustem ; how often
have we been defeated by him how often have we been scat-
tered like sheep before that lion in battle ! We have just lost
the aid of Barzu, and now is it not deplorable to put any trust
in the "dreams of a singing-girl, to accelerate on her account
the ruin of the country, and to hazard thy own personal

"What 1 risk an empire on a woman's word ! "

Afrasiyab replied, " So it is ; " and instantly urged his horse
into the middle of the plain, where he loudly challenged Kai-
khosrau to single combat, saying, " Why should we uselessly
shed the blood of our warriors and people. Let us ourselves
decide the day. God will give the triumph to him who merits
it." Kai-khosrau was ashamed to refuse this challenge, and
descending from his elephant, mounted his horse aud prepared
for the onset. But his warriors seized the bridle, and would
not allow him to fight. He declared, however, that he would
himself take revenge for the blood of Saiawush, and struggled
to overcome the friends who were opposing his progress. " For-
bear awhile," said Rustem, " Afrasiyab is expert in all the arts
of the warrior, fighting with the sword, the dagger, in archery,


and wrestling. When I wrestled with him, and held him down,
he could not have escaped, excepting by the exercise of the most
consummate dexterity. Allow thy warriors to fight for thee."
But the king was angry, and said, " The monarch who does not
fight for himself, is unworthy of the crown." Upon hearing
this, Rustem wept tears of blood. Barzii now took hold of the
king's stirrup, and knocked his forehead against it, and draw-
ing his dagger, threatened to put an end to himself, saying,
*' My blood will be upon thy neck, if thou goest ; " and he con-
tinued in a strain so eloquent and persuasive that Khosrau re-
laxed in his determination^ and observed to Rustem : " There
can be no doubt that Barzii is descended from thee." Barzii
now respectfully kissed the ground before the king, and vault-
ing on his saddle with admirable agility, rushed onwards to the
middle space where Afrasiyab was waiting, and roared aloud.
Afnisiyab burned with indignation at the sight, and said in his
heart : " It seems that I have nurtured and instructed this
ingrate, to shed my own blood. Thou wretch of demon-birth,
thou knowest not thy father's name ! and yet thou comest to
wage war against me ! Art thou not ashamed to look upon
the king of Turin after what he has done for thee ? " Barzii
replied : " Although thou didst protect me, thou spilt the blood
of Saiawush and Aghriras unjustly. When I ate thy salt, I
served thee faithfully, and fought for thee. I now eat the salt
of Kai-khosrau, and my allegiance is due to him."

He spoke, and raised his bat.tlc-axc, and rushed,
Swift as a demon of Mazinderan,
Against Af rasiyab, who, frowning, cried :
"Approach not like a furious elephant,
Heedless what may befall thee nor provoke
The wrath of him whose certain aim is death."
Then placed he on the string a pointed dart,
And shot it from the bow ; whizzing it flew,
And pierced the armour of the wondering youth,
Inflicting on his side a painful wound.
Which made his heart with trepidation throb ;
High exultation marked the despot's brow,
Seeing the gusli of blood his loins distain.

Barzii was now anxious to assail Afnisiyab with his mace,


instead of arrows ; but whenever he tried to get near enough,
he was disappointed by the adroitness of his adversary, whom
he could not reach. He was at last compelled to lay aside the
battle-axe, and have recourse to his bow, but every arrow was
dexterously received by Afrasiyab on his shield ; and Barzii, on
his part, became equally active and successful. Afrtlsiydb soon
emptied his quiver, and then he grasped his mace with the
intention of extinguishing his antagonist at once, but at the
moment Hiimtln came up, and said : " 0, king ! do not bring
thyself into jeopardy by contending against a person of no
account ; thy proper adversary is Kai-khosniu, and not him,
for if thou gainest the victory, it can only be a victory over a
fatherless soldier, and if thou art killed, the whole of Tunin
will be at the feet of Persia." Both Piriln and Hiimtin dis-
suaded the king from continuing the engagement singly, and
directed the Turanians to commence a general attack. Afra-
siyab told them that if Barzti was not slain, it would be a great
misfortune to their country ; in consequence, they surrounded
him, and inflicted on him many severe wounds. But Eustem
and Fenimurz, beholding the dilemma into which Barzii was
thrown, hastened to his support, and many of the enemy were
killed by them, and great carnage followed by the advance of
the Persian army.

The noise of clashing swords, and ponderous maces
Ringing upon the iron mail, seemed like
The busy work-shop of an armourer ;
Tumultuous as the sea the field appeared,
All crimsoned with the blood of heroes slain.

Kai-khosrau himself hurried to the assistance of Barzii, and
the powerful force which he brought along with him soon put
the Turanians to flight. Afrasiyab too made his escape in the
confusion that prevailed. The king wished to pursue the enemy,
but Rustem observed that their defeat and dispersion was
enough. The battle having ceased, and the army being in the
neighbourhood of Sisttln, the champion solicited permission to


return to his home ; " for I am now," said he, " four hundred
years old, and require a little rest. In the meantime Feramurz
and Barzu may take my place." The king consented, and dis-
tributing his favours to each of his distinguished warriors for
their prodigious exertions, left Zal and Kustern to proceed to
Sistiin, and returned to the capital of his kingdom.


The overthrow of the sovereign of Turan had only a
temporary effect, as it was not long before he was enabled to
collect further supplies, and another army for the defence of
his kingdom ; and Kai-khosrau's ambition to reduce the
power of his rival being animated by new hopes of success,
another expedition was entrusted to the command of Giidarz.
Rustem, he said, had done his duty in repeated campaigns
against Afrasiyab, and the extraordinary gallantry and wisdom
with which they were conducted, entitled him to the highest
applause. " It is now, Gudarz, thy turn to vanquish the
enemy." Accordingly Gndarz, accompanied by Giw, and Tiis
and Byzun, and an immense army, proceeded towards Tiiran.
Feramurz was directed previously to invade and conquer Hindus-
tan, and from thence to march to the borders of Chin and Ma-
chin, for the purpose of uniting and co-operating with the army
under Gudarz, and, finally, to capture Afnisiyab.

As soon as it was known in Tiiran that Gudarz was in
motion to resume hostilities against the king, Human was
appointed with a large force to resist his progrcs?, and a second
army of reserve was gathered together under the command of
Piran. The first conflict which occurred was between the


troops of Gudarz and Human. Giidarz directed Byzun to
attack Human. The two chiefs joined in battle, when Htimdn
fell under the sword of his adversary, and his army, being
defeated, retired, and united in the rear with the legions of
Piran. The enemy thus became of formidable strength, and
in consequence it was thought proper to communicate the
inequality to Kai-khosniu, that reinforcements might be sent
without loss of time. The king immediately complied, and
also wrote to Sistan to request the aid of Rustem. The war
lasted two years, the army on each side being continually
recruited as necessity required, so that the numbers were
regularly kept up, till a great battle took place, in which
the venerable Piran was killed, and nearly the whole of his
army destroyed. This victory was obtained without the assist-
ance of Rustem, who, notwithstanding the message of the
king, had still remained in Sistan. The loss of Pit-tin, the
counsellor and warrior, proved to be a great affliction to Afra-
siyab : he felt as if his whole support was taken away, and
deemed it the signal of approaching ruin to his cause.

" Zhou wert my refuge, tbou my friend and brother ;

Wise in thy counsel, gallant in the field,

My monitor and guide and thou art gone !

The glory of my kingdom is eclipsed,

Since thou hast vanished from this world, and left, me

All wretched to myself. But food, nor sleep

Nor rest will I indulge in, till just vengeance

Has been inflicted on the cruel foe."

When the news of Piran's death reached Kai-khosrau, he
rapidly marched forward, crossed the Jihun without delay, and
passed through Samerkand and Bokhara, to encounter the
Turanians. Afrasiyab, in the meantime, had not been neglect-
ful. He had all his hidden treasure dug up, with which he
assembled a prodigious army, and appointed his son Shydah-
Poshang to the command of a hundred thousand horsemen.
To oppose this force, Khosrau appointed his young relative,
Lohurasp, with eight thousand horsemen, and passing through


Siskin, desired Rustem, on account of Lohurasp's tender age
and inexperience, to afford him such good counsel as he
required. When Afrasiyab heard this, he added to the force of
Shydah another hundred thousand men, but first sent his son
to Kai-khosrau in the character of an ambassador to offer terms
of peace. " Tell him," said he, " that to secure this object, I
will deliver to him one of my sons as a hostage, and a number
of troops for his service, with the sacred promise never to
depart from my engagements again. But, a word in thy ear,
Shydah ; if Khosrau is not disposed to accept these terms, say,
to prevent unnecessary bloodshed, he and I must personally
decide the day by single combat. If he refuses to fight with
me, say that thou wilt meet him ; and shouldst thou be slain in
the strife, I will surrender to him the kingdom of Turan,
and retire myself from the world." He. further commanded
him to propound these terms with a gallant and fearless
bearing, and not to betray the least apprehension. Shydah
entered fully into the spirit of his father's instructions, and
declared that he would devote his life to the cause, that he
would boldly before the whole assembly dare Kai-khosr<iu to
battle ; so that Afrasiyab was delighted with the valorous
disposition he displayed.

Kai-khosniu smiled when he heard of what Afrasiyab in-
tended, and viewed the proposal as a proof of his weakness.
" But never," said he, " will I consent to a peace till I have
inflicted on him the death which Saiawush was made to suffer.
When Shydah arrived, and with proper ceremony and respect
had delivered his message, Kai-khosrau invited him to retire
to his chamber and go to rest, and he would send an answer by
one of his people. Shydah accordingly retired, and the king
proceeded to consult his warrior-friends on the offers that had
been made. " Afrasiyab tells me," said he, " that if I do not
wish for peace, I must fight either him or his son. I have
seen Shydah his eyes are red and blood-shot, and he has a
fierce expression of feature ; if I do not accept his terms, I
shall probably soon have a dagger lodged in my breast."


Saying tin's, he ordered his mail to be got ready ; but Rustem
and all the great men about him exclaimed, unanimously
" This must not be allowed ; Afrasiydb is full of fraud, artifice,
and sorcery, and notoriously faithless to his engagements. The
sending of Shydah is all a trick, and his letter of proposal
all deceit : his object is simply to induce thee to fight him

If thou shouldst kill this Shydah what of that 1
There would be one Turanian warrior less,
To vex the world withal ; would that be triumph 1
And to a Persian king 1 But if it chanced,
That thou should'st meet with an untimely death,
By dart or javelin, at the stripling's hands,
What scathe and ruin would this realm befall ! "

By the advice of Rustem, Kai-khosrau gave Shydah per-
mission to depart, and said that he would send his answer to

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 21 of 35)