Copyright
Firdawsi.

The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

. (page 22 of 35)
Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 22 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Afnisiyilb by Karun. " But," observed the youth, " I have
come to fight thee ! " which touched the honour of the king,
and he replied : " Be it so, let us then meet to-morrow."

In the mean time Khosrtlu prepared his letter to Afrasiyilb, in
which he said :

" Our quarrel now is dark to view,

It bears the fiercest, gloomiest hue ;

And vain have speech and promise been

To change for peace the battle scene ;

For thou art still to treachery prone,

Though gentle now in word and tone ;

But that imperial crown thou wearest,

That mace which thou in battle bcarest,

Thy kingdom, all, thou must resign ;

Thy army too for all are mine !

Thou talk'st of strength, and might, and power,

When revelling in a prosperous hour ;

But know, that strength of nerve and limb

We owe to God it comes from Him !

And victory's palm, and regal sway,

Alike the will of Heaven obey.

Hence thy lost throne, no longer thine,

Will soon, perfidious king ! be mine 1 "

In giving this letter to Karun, Kai-khosnlii directed him, in



THE SIIAII XAMEH. 239

the first place, to deliver a message from him to Shydah, to the
following effect :

" Driven art thou out from home and life.
Doomed to engage in mortal strife,
For deeply lours misfortune's cloud ;
That gay attire will be thy shroud ;
Blood from thy father's eyes will gush,
As Kaus wept for Saiawush."

In the morning Khosniu went to the appointed place, and
when he approached Shydah, the latter said, " Thou hast come
on foot, let our trial be in wrestling ; " and the proposal being
agreed to, both applied themselves fiercely to the encounter, at
a distance from the troops.

The youth appeared with joyous mien,
And bounding heart, for life was new ;

By either host the strife was seen,
And strong and fierce the combat grew.

Shydah exerted his utmost might, but was unable to move
his antagonist from the ground ; whilst Khosrdu lifted him up
without difficulty, and, dashing him on the plain,

He sprang upon him as the lion fierce

Springs on the nimble gor, then quickly drew

His deadly dagger, and with cruel aim,

Thrust the keen weapon through the stripling's heart.

Khosniu, immediately after slaying him, ordered the body to
be washed with musk and rose-water, and, after burial, a tomb
to be raised to his memory.

"When Karun reached the court of Afrasiyab with the answer
to the offer of peace, intelligence had previously arrived that
Shydah had fallen in the combat, which produced in the mind
of the father the greatest anguish. He gave no reply to
Karun, but ordered the drums and trumpets to be sounded,
and instantly marched with a large army against the enemy.
The two hosts were soon engaged, the auger of the Turanians
being so much roused and sharpened by the death of the



240 THE SHAH NAMEH.

prince, that they were utterly regardless of their lives. The
battle, therefore, was fought with unusual fury.

Two sovereigns in the field, in desperate strife,
Each by a grievous cause of wrath, urged on
To glut revenge ; this, for a father's life
Wantonly sacrificed ; that for a son
Slain in his prime. The carnage has begun,
And blood is seen to flow on every side ;
Thousands are slaughtered ere the day is done,
And weltering swell the sanguinary tide ;
And why 1 To soothe man's hate, his cruelty, and pride.

The battle terminated in the discomfiture and defeat of the
Tiiriinians, who fled from the conquerors in the utmost con
fusion. The people seized hold of the bridle of Afnisiyab's
horse, and obliged him to follow his scattered army.

Kai-khosrau having dispatched an account of his victory to
Kaiis, went in pursuit of Afrasiyab, traversing various countries
and provinces, till he arrived on the borders of Chin. The
Khakan, or sovereign of that state, became in consequence
greatly alarmed, and presented to him large presents to gain
his favour, but the only object of Khosrau was to secure
Afrasiyab, and he told the ambassador that if his master dared
to afford him protection, he would lay waste the whole kingdom.
The Khakdn therefore withdrew his hospitable services, and
the abandoned king was compelled to seek another place of
refuge.



THE DEATH OF AFKASIYlB.

Melancholy and afflicted, Afrasiyab penetrated through wood
and desert, and entered the province of Mikriln, whither he
was followed by Kai-khosrdu and his army. He then quitted
Mikrdn, but his followers had fallen off to a small number



THE SHAH NiMEH. 241

and to whatever country or region he repaired for rest and
protection, none was given, lest the vengeance of Kai-khosrau
should be hurled upon the offender. StiU pursued and hunted
like a wild beast, and still flying from his enemies, the small
retinue which remained with him at last left him, and he was
left alone, dejected, destitute, and truly forlorn. In this state
of desertion he retired into a cave, where he hoped to continue
undiscovered and unseen.

It chanced, however, that a man named Hum, of the race of
Feridiin, dwelt hard by. He was remarkable for his strength
and bravery, out had peacefully taken up his abode upon the
neighbouring mountain, and was passing a religious life with-
out any communication with the busy world. His dwelling
was a little way above the cave of Afrasiyab. One night he
heard a voice of lamentation below, and anxious to ascertain
from whom and whence it proceeded, he stole down to the spot
and listened. The mourner spoke in the Turkish language, and
said : " king of Turan and Chin, where is now thy pomp
and power ! How has Fortune cast away thy throne and thy
treasure to the winds ? " Hearing these words Hum con-
jectured that this must be Afrasiyab ; and as he had suffered
severely from the tyranny of that monarch, his feelings of
vengeance were awakened, and he approached nearer to be
certain that it was he. The same lamentations were repeated,
and he felt assured that it was Afrasiyab himself. He waited
patiently, however, till morning dawned, and then he called
out at the mouth of the cave : " 0, king of the world !
come out of thy cave, and obtain thy desires ! I have left the
invisible sphere to accomplish thy wishes. Appear ! " Afra-
siyab thinking this a spiritual call, went out of the cave and
was instantly recognized by Hum, who at the same moment
struck him a severe blow on the forehead, which felled him
to the earth, and then secured his hands behind his back.
When the monarch found himself in fetters and powerless,
he complained of the cruelty inflicted upon him, and asked
Hum why he had treated a stranger in that manner. Hum

B



242 THE SHAH XAMEU

replied : " How many a prince of the race of Feridun hast
thou sacrificed to thy ambition ? How many a heart hast thou
broken ? I, too, am one who was compelled to fly from thy
persecutions, and take refuge here on this desert mountain, and
constantly have I prayed for thy ruin that I might be released
from this miserable mode of existence, and be permitted to
return to my paternal home. My prayer has been heard at
last, and God has delivered thee into my hands. But how
earnest thou hither, and by what strange vicissitudes art thou
thus placed before me ? " Afrasiyab communicated to him the
story of his misfortunes, and begged of him rather to put him
to death on the spot than convey him to Kai-khosniu. But
Hum was too much delighted with having the tyrant under
his feet to consider either his safety or his feelings, and was
not long in bringing him to the Persian king. Kai-khosniu
received the prisoner with exultation, and made Hiim a
magnificent present. He well recollected the basin and the
dagger used in the murder of Saiawush, and commanded the
presence of the treacherous Gersiwaz, that he and Afrasiyab
might suffer, in every respect, the same fate together. The
basin was brought, and the two victims were put to death, like
two goats, their heads being chopped off from their bodies.

After this sanguinary catastrophe, Kai-khosriiu returned to
Iran, leaving Rustem to proceed to his own principality. Kai-
kaus quitted his palace, according to his established custom, to
welcome back the conqueror. He kissed his head and face,
and showered upon him praises and blessings for the valour he
had displayed, and the deeds he had done, and especially for
having so signally revenged the cruel murder of his father
Saiiiwush



THE SHAH NAMEH. 248



THE DEATH OF KAI-KHOSRAU.

Kai-khosrtiu at last became inspired by an insurmountable
attachment to a religious life, and thought only of devotion to
God. Thus influenced by a disposition peculiar to ascetics, he
abandoned the duties of sovereignty, and committed all state
affairs to the care of his ministers. The chiefs and warriors
remonstrated respectfully against this mode of government,
and trusted that he would devote only a few hours in the day
to the transactions ot the kingdom, and the remainder to
prayer and religious exercises ; but this he refused, saying :
" One heart is not equal to both duties ; my affections indeed
are not for this transitory world, and I trust to be an inhabitant
of the world to come." The nobles were in great sorrow at
this declaration, and anxiously applied to Zal and Kustem, in
the hopes of working some change in the king's disposition.
On their arrival the people cried to them :

" Some evil eye has smote the king ; Iblis

By wicked wiles has led his soul astray,

And withered all life's pleasures. release

Our country from the sorrow, the dismay

Which darkens every heart : hia ruin stay.

Is it not mournful thus to see him cold

And gloomy, casting pomp and joy away 1

Restore him to himself ; let us behold

Again the victor-king, the generous, just and bold."

Zal and Rustcm went to the palace of the king in a melan-
choly mood, and Khosrau having heard of their approach,
enquired of them why they had left Sistan. They replied that
the news of his having relinquished all concern in the affairs of
the kingdom had induced them to wait upon him. " I am
weary of the troubles of this life," said he composedly, " and
anxious to prepare for a future state." " But death," observed
Zal, " is a great evil. It is dreadful to die ! " Upon this the
king said : " I cannot endure any longer the deceptions and
the perfidy of mankind. My love of heaven is so great that I

it 2



244 THE SHAH NAMEH.

cannot exist one moment without devotion and prayer. Last
night a mysterious voice whispered in my ear : The time of
thy departure is nigh, prepare the load for thy journey, and
neglect not thy warning angel, or the opportunity will be lost."
When Zal and Rustem saw that Khosrau was resolved, and
solemnly occupied in his devotions, they were for some time
silent. But Ztil was at length moved, and said : " I will go
into retirement and solitude with the king, and by continual
prayer, and through his blessing, I too may be forgiven."
" This, indeed," said the king, " is not the place for me. I
must seek out a solitary cell, and there resign my soul to
heaven." Zal and Rustem wept, and quitted the palace, and
all the warriors were in the deepest affliction.

The next day Kai-khosrau left his apartment, and called to-
gether his great men and warriors, and said to them :

" That which I sought for, I have now obtained.
Nothing remains of worldly wish, or hope,
To disappoint or vex me. I resign
The pageantry of kings, and turn away
From all the pomp of the Kaianian throne.
Sated with human grandeur. Now, farewell !
Such is my destiny. To those brave friends,
Who, ever faithful, have my power upheld,
I will discharge the duty of a king,
Paying the pleasing debt of gratitude."

He thvin ordered his tents to be pitched in the desert, and
opened his treasury, and for seven days made a sumptuous
feast, and distributed food and money among the indigent, the
widows, and orphans, and every destitute person was abun-
dantly supplied with the necessaries of life, so that there was
no one left in a state of want throughout the empire. He also
attended to the claims of his warriors. To Rustem he gave
Zabul, and Kabul, and Nim-ruz. He appointed Lohurasp, the
son-in-law of Kai-Kiius, successor to his throne, and directed
all his people to pay the same allegiance to him as they had
done to himself; and they unanimously consented, declaring
their firm attachment to his person and government. He ap-



THE SHAH NAMEH. 245

pointed Giidarz the chief minister, and Giw to the chief com-
mand of the armies. To Tiis he gave Khorassan ; and he said
to Friburz, the son of Kiius : " Be thou obedient, I beseech
thee, to the commands of Lohurasp, whom I have instructed,
'and brought up with paternal care ; for I know of no one so
well qualified in the art of governing a kingdom." The warriors
of Iran were surprised, and murmured together, that the son of
Kai-kaus should be thus placed under the authority of Lohu-
rasp. But Zal observed to them : " If it be the king's will, it
is enough ! " The murmurs of the warriors having reached
Kai-khosrau, he sent for them, and addressed them thus :
" Friburz is well known to be unequal to the functions of
sovereignty ; but Lohurasp is enlightened, and fully compre-
hends all the duties of regal sway. He is a descendant of
Hiisheng, wise and merciful, and God is my witness, I think
him pefectly calculated to make a nation happy." Hearing
this eulogium on the character of the new king from Kai-
khosniu, all the warriors expressed their satisfaction, and
anticipated a glorious reign. Khosrdu further said : " I must
now address you on another subject. In my dreams a fountain
has been pointed out to me ; and when I visit that fountain,
my life will be resigned to its Creator." He then bid farewell
to all the people around him, and commenced his journey ; and
when he had accomplished one stage he pitched his tent. Next
day he resumed his task, and took leave of Zal and Rustein j
who wept bitterly as they parted from him.

" Alas ! " they said, " that one on whom

Heaven has bestowed a mind so gre it,
A heart so brave, should seek the tomb,

And not his hour in patience wait.
The wise in wonder gaze, and say,

No mortal being ever trod
Before, the dim supernal way,

And living, saw the face of God 1 "

After Zal and Rustem, then Khosniu to >k leave of G-udarz
and Giw and Tus, and Gustahem, but unwilling to go bad*,



246 THE SHAH NAMEH.

they continued with him. He soon arrived at the promised
fountain, in which he bathed. .He then said to his followers:
" Now is the time for our separation ; you must go ; " but,
they still remained. Again he said : " You must go quickly.;
for presently heavy showers of snow will fall, and a tempestuous
wind will arise, and you will perish in the storm." Saying
this, he went into the fountain, and vanished !

And not a trace was left behind,

And not a dimple on the wave ;
All sought, but sought in vain, to find

The spot which proved Kai-khosrau's grave 1

The king having disappeared in this extraordinary manner,
a loud lamentation ascended from his followers ; and when the
paroxysm of amazement and sorrow had ceased, Friburz said :
" Let us now refresh ourselves with food, and rest awhile."
Accordingly those that remained ate a little, and were soon
afterwards overcome with sleep. Suddenly a great wind arose,
and the snow fell and clothed the earth in white, and all the
warriors and soldiers who accompanied Kai-khosrau to the
mysterious fountain, and amongst them Tus and Friburz, and
Giw, were while asleep overwhelmed in the drifts of snow. Not
a man survived. Giidarz had returned when about half-way on
the road ; and not hearing for a long time any tidings of his
companions, sent a person to ascertain the cause of their delay.
Upon proceeding to the fatal place, the messenger, to his
amazement and horror, found them all stiff and lifeless under
the snow !



LOHUElSP.

The reputation of Lohurasp was of the highest order, and it
is said that his administration of the affairs of his kingdom was



THE SHlH NAMEH. 247

more just and paternal than even that of Kai-khosniu. " The
counsel which Khosrau gave me," said he, "was wise and
admirable ; but I find that I must go beyond him in moderation
and clemency to the pocr." Lohurasp had four sous, two by
the daughter of Kai-kaus, one named Ardshlr, and the other
Shydasp ; and two by another woman, and they were named
Gushttisp and Zarir. Bat Gushtasp was intrepid, acute, and
apparently marked out for sovereignty, and on account of his
independent conduct, no favourite with his father ; in defiance
of whom, with a rebellious spirit, he collected together a hundred
thousand horsemen, and proceeded with them towards Hindu-
stan of his own accord. Lohurasp sent after him his brother
Zanr, with a thousand horsemen, in the hopes of influencing
him to return ; but when Zarir overtook him and endeavoured
to persuade him not to proceed any further, he said to him,
with an animated look :

" Proceed no farther 1 Well thou know'st

We've no Kaianian blood to boast,

And, therefore, but a minor part

In Lohurasp's paternal heart.

Nor thou, nor I, can ever own

From him the diadem or throne.

The brothers of Kaiis's race

By birth command the brightest place,

Then what remains for us ? We must

To other means our fortunes trust.

We cannot linger here, and bear

A life of discontent despair."

Zarir, however, reasoned with him so winningly and effectually,
that at last he consented to return ; but only upon the condi-
tion that he should be nominated heir to the throne, and treated
with becoming respect and ceremony. Zarir agreed to interpose
his efforts to this end, and brought him back to his father ; but
it was soon apparent that Lohurasp had no inclination to pro-
mote the elevation of Gushtasp in preference to the claims of
his other sons ; and indeed shortly afterwards manifested to
what quarter his determination on this subject was directed. It
was indeed enough that his determination was unfavourable to
the views of Gushtasp, who now, in disgust, fled from his fathers'



248 THE SHAH NAMEH.

house, but without any attendants, and shaped his course towards
Rum. Lohurasp again sent Zarir in quest of him ; but the
youth, after a tedious search, returned without success. Upon
his arrival in Rum, Gushtasp chose a solitary retirement, where
he remained some time, and was at length compelled by poverty
and want, to ask for employment in the establishment of the
sovereign of that country, stating that he was an accomplished
scribe, and wrote a beautiful hand. He was told to wait a few
days, as at that time there was no vacancy. But hunger was
pressing, and he could not suffer delay ; he therefore went to
the master of the camel-drivers and asked for service, but he
too had no vacancy. However, commiserating the distressed
condition of the applicant, he generously supplied him with a
hearty meal. After that, Gushtasp went into a blacksmith's
shop, and asked for work, and his services were accepted. The
blacksmith put the hammer into his hands, and the first blow
he struck was given with such force, that he broke the anvil
to pieces. The blacksmith was amazed and angry, and indig-
nantly turned him out of his shop, uttering upon him a thousand
violent reproaches.

Wounded in spirit, broken-hearted,
Misfortune darkening o'er his heatl.

To other lands he then departed,
To seek another home for bread.

Disconsolate and wretched, he proceeded on his journey, and
observing a husbandman standing in a field of corn, he ap-
proached the spot and sat down. The husbandman seeing a
strong muscular youth, apparently a Turanian, sitting in
sorrow and tears, went up to him and asked him the cause of
his grief, and he soon became acquainted with all the circum-
stances of the stranger's life. Pitying his distress, he took him
home and gave him some food.

After having partaken sufficiently of the refreshments placed
before him, Gushtasp inquired of his host to what tribe he
belonged, and from whom he was descended. u I am descended
from Feridun," rejoined he, "and I belong to the Kaianian



THE SHAH NAMEH. 249

tribe. My occupation in this retired spot is, as thou seest, the
cultivation of the ground, and the customs and duties of
husbandry." Gushttisp said, "I am myself descended from
Hrisheng, who was the ancestor of Feridun ; we are, therefore,
of the same origin." In consequence of this connection, Gush-
ttisp and the husbandman lived together on the most friendly
footing for a considerable time. At length the star of his
fortune began to illumine his path, and the favour of Heaven
became manifest.

It was the custom of the king of Rum, when his daughters
came of age, to give a splendid banquet, and to invite to it all the
youths of illustrious birth in the kingdom, in order that each
might select one of them most suited to her taste, for her
future husband. His daughter Kitabiin was now of age, and
in conformity with the established practice, the feast was
prepared, and the youths of royal descent invited ; but it so
happened that not one of them was sufficiently attractive for
her choice, and the day passed over uuprofitably. She had
been told in a dream that a youth of a certain figure and aspect
had arrived in the kingdom from Iran, and that to him she
was destined to be married. But there was not one at her
father's banquet who answered to the description of the man
she had seen in her dream, and in consequence she was dis-
appointed. On the following day the feast was resumed. She
had again dreamt of the youth to whom she was to be united.
She had presented to him a bunch of roses, and he had given
her a rose-branch, and each regarded the other with smiles of
mutual satisfaction. In the morning Kitabun issued a pro-
clamation, inviting all the young men of royal extraction,
whether natives of the kingdom or strangers, to her father's
feast. On that day Gushtasp and the husbandman had come
into the city from the country, and hearing the proclamation
the latter said : " Let us go, for in this lottery the prize may be
drawn in thy name." They accordingly went. Kitabtin's
handmaid was in waiting at the door, and kept every young
man standing awhile, that her mistress might mark him wcU



2$0 THE SHAH XAMEH.

before she allowed him to pass into the banquet. The keen
eyes of Kitabun soon saw Gushtasp, and her heart instantly
acknowledged him as her promised lord, for he was the same
person she had seen in her dream.

As near the graceful stripling drew,

She cried : " My dream, my dream is true I

Fortune from visions of the night

Has brought him to my longing sight.

Truth has pourtrayed his form divine ;

He lives he lives and he is mine ! "

She presently descended from her balcony, and gave him a
bunch of roses, the token by which her choice was made known,
and then retired. The king, when he heard of what she had
done, was exceedingly irritated, thinking that her affections
were placed on a beggar, or some nameless stranger of no birth
or fortune, and his first impulse was to have her put to death.
But his people assembled around him, and said : " What can
be the use of killing her ? It is in vain to resist the flood of
destiny, for what will be, will be.

The world itself is governed still by Fate,
Fate rules the warrior's and the monarch's state ;
And woman's heart, the passions of her soul,
Own the same power, obey the same control ;
For what can love's impetuous force restrain ?
Blood may be shed, but what will be thy gain?

After this remonstrance he desired enquiries to be made into
the character and parentage of his proposed son-in-law, and
was told his name, the name of his father, and of his ancestors,
and the causes which led to his present condition. But he
would not believe a word of the narration. He was then in-
formed of his daughter's dream, and other particulars : and he
so far relented as to sanction the marriage ; but indignantly
drove her from his house, with her husband, without a dowry,
or any money to supply themselves with food.

Gushtasp and his wife took refuge in a miserable cell, which
they inhabited, and when necessity pressed, he used to cross the



THE SHAH NAMEH. 251

river, and bring in an elk or wild ass from the forest, gave
half of it to the ferryman for his trouble, and kept the re-
mainder for his own board, so that he and the ferryman
became great friends by these mutual obligations. It is re-
lated that a person of distinction, named Mabrin, solicited the
king's second daughter in marriage ; and Ahrun, another man
of rank, was anxious to be espoused to the third, or youngest ;



Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 22 of 35)