The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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but the king was unwilling to part with either of them, and
openly declared his sentiments to that effect. Mabrin, however,
was most assiduous and persevering in his attentions, and at
last made some impression on the father, who consented to
permit the marriage of the second daughter, but only on the
following conditions : " There is," said he, " a monstrous wolf
in the neighbouring forest, extremely ferocious, and destructive
to my property. I have frequently endeavoured to hunt him
down, but without success. If Mabrin . can destroy the
animal, I will give him my daughter." When these conditions
were communicated to Mabrin, he considered it impossible that
they could be fulfilled, and looked upon the proposal as an
evasion of the question. One day, however, the ferryman
having heard of Mabrin's disappointment, told him that there
was no reason to despair, for he knew a young man, married to
one of the king's daughters, who crossed the river every day,
and though only a pedestrian, brought home regularly an elk-
deer on his back. " He is truly," added he, " a wonderful
youth, and if you can by any means secure his assistance, I
have no doubt but that his activity and strength will soon put
an end to the wolf's depredations, by depriving him of life."

This intelligence was received with great pleasure by Mabrin,
who hastened to Gushtdsp, and described to him his situation,
and the conditions required. Gushtclsp in reply said, that he
would be glad to accomplish for him the object of his desires, and
afc an appointed time proceeded towards the forest, accompanied
by Mabriu and the ferryman. When the party arrived at the
borders of the wilderness which the wolf frequented, Gushtasp
left his companions behind, and advanced alone into the in-


terior, where he soon fouud the dreadful monster, in size larger
than an elephant, and howling terribly, ready to spring upon
him. But the hand and eye of Gushtasp were too active to
allow of his being surprised, and in an instant he shot two
arrows at once into the foaming beast, which, irritated by the
deep wound, now rushed furiously upon him, without, however,
doing him any serious injury ; then with the rapidity of
lightning, Gushtasp drew his sharp sword, with one tremendous
stroke cut the wolf in two, deluging the ground with bubbling
blood. Having performed this prodigious exploit, he called
Mabrin and the ferryman to see what he had done, and they
were amazed at his extraordinary intrepidity and muscular
power, but requested, in order that the special object of the
lover might be obtained, that he would conceal his name, for a
time at least. Mabrin, satisfied on this point, then repaired to
the emperor, and claimed his promised bride, as the reward for
his labour. The king of Riim little expected this result, and
to assure himself of the truth of what he had heard, bent his
way to the forest, where he was convinced, seeing with as-
tonishment and delight that the wolf was really killed. He
had now no further pretext, and therefore fulfilled his engage-
ment, by giving his daughter to Mabrin.

It was now Ahrun's turn to repeat his solicitations for the
youngest daughter. The king of Rum had another evil to
root out, so that he was prepared to propose another condition.
This was to destroy a hideous dragon that had taken possession
of a neighbouring mountain. Ahrun, on hearing the con-
dition was in as deep distress as Mabrin had been, until he
accidentally became acquainted with the ferryman, who de-
scribed to him the generosity and fearless bravery of Gushtasp.
He immediately applied to him, and the youth readily under-
took the enterprise, saying : " No doubt the monster's teeth
are long and sharp, bring me therefore a dagger, and fasten
round it a number of knives." Ahrun did so accordingly, and
Gushtasp proceeded to the mountain. As soon as the drag-on
smelt the approach of a human being, flame-s issued from his


nostrils, and he darted forward to devour the intruder, but was
driven back by a number of arrows, rapidly discharged into
his head and mouth. Again he advanced, but Gushtasp
dodged round him, and continued driving arrows into him to
the extent of forty, which subdued his strength, and made him
writhe in agony. He then fixed the dagger, which was armed
at right angles with knives, upon his spear, and going nearer,
thrust ifc down his gasping throat

Dreadful the weapon, each two-edged blade
Cut deep into the jaws on either side,
And the fierce monster, thinking to dislodge it,
Crushed it between his teeth with all his strength,
Which pressed it deeper in the flesh, when blood
And poison issued from the gaping wounds ;
Then, as he floundered on the earth exhausted,
Seizing the fragment of a flinty rock,
Gushtasp beat out the brains, and soon the beast
In terrible struggles died. Two deadly f sings
Then wrenched he from the jaws, to testify
The wonderful exploit he had performed.

When he descended from the mountain, these two teeth were
delivered to Ahrun, and they were afterwards conveyed to the
king, who could not believe his own eyes, but ascended the
mountain himself to ascertain the fact, and there he beheld
with amazement the dragon lifeless, and covered with blood.
"And didst thou thyself kill this terrific dragon?" said he.
"Yes," replied Ahrun. "And wilt thou swear to God that
this is thy own achievement ? It must be either the exploit of
a demon, or of a certain Kaiiinian, who resides in this neigh-
bourhood." But there was no one to disprove his assertion,
and therefore the king could no longer refuse to surrender to
him his youngest daughter.

And now between Gushtasp, and Mabrin, and Ahrun, the
warmest friendship subsisted. Indeed they were seldom parted ;
and the three sisters remained together with equal affection.
One day Kitabtin, the wife of Gushtiisp, in conversation with
some of her female acquaintance, let out the secret that her
husband was the person who killed the wolf and the dragon.


No sooner was this story told, than it spread, and in the end
reached the ears of the queen, who immediately communicated
it to the king, saying : " This is the work of Gushtasp, thy
son-in-law, of him thou hast banished from thy presence of
him who nobly would not disclose his name, before Mabrin and
Ahrun had attained the object of their wishes." The king said
in reply that it was just as he had suspected ; and sending for
Gushtasp, conferred upon him great honour, and appointed him
to the chief command of his army.

Having thus possessed himself of a leader of such skill and
intrepidity, he thought it necessary to turn his attention to
external conquest, and accordingly addressed a letter to Alias,
the ruler of Khuz, in which he said : " Thou hast hitherto
enjoyed thy kingdom in peace and tranquillity ; but thou must
now resign it to me, or prepare for war." Alias on receiving
this imperious and haughty menace collected his forces together,
and advanced to the contest, and the king of Rum assembled
his own troops with equal expedition, under the direction of
Gushtasp. The battle was fought with great valour on both
sides, and blood flowed in torrents. Gushtasp challenged Alias
to single combat, and the warriors met ; but in a short time
the enemy was thrown from his horse, and dragged by the
young conqueror, in fetters, before the king. The troops wit-
nessing the pro\vess of Gushtasp, quickly fled ; and the king
commencing a hot pursuit, soon entered their city victoriously,
subdued the whole kingdom, and plundered it of all its property
and wealth. He also gained over the army, and with this
powerful addition to his own forces, and with the booty he had
secured, returned triumphantly to Rum.

In consequence of this brilliant success, the king conferred
additional honours on Gushtasp, who now began to display the
ambition which he had long cherished. Aspiring to the sove-
reignty of Iran, he spoke to the Rumi warriors on the subject
of an invasion of that country, but they refused to enter into
his schemes, conceiving that there was no chance of success.
At this Gushtasp took fire, and declared that he knew the


power and resources of his father perfectly, and that the con-
quest would be attended with no difficulty. He then went to
the king, and said : " Thy chiefs are afraid to fight against
Lohurasp ; I will myself undertake the task with even an in-
considerable army." The king was overjoyed, and kissed his
head and face, and loaded him with presents, and ordered his
secretary to write to Lohurasp in the following terms : " I am
anxious to meet thee in battle, but if thou art not disposed to
fight, I will permit thee to remain at peace, on condition of
surrendering to me half thy kingdom. Should this be refused,
I will myself deprive thee of the whole sovereignty." When
this letter was conveyed by the hands of Kabiis to Iran, Lohu-
nisp, upon reading it, was moved to laughter, and exclaimed,
" What is all this ? The king of Rum has happened to obtain
possession of the little kingdom of Khuz, and he has become
insane with pride ! " He then asked Kabiis by what means he
accomplished the capture of Khuz, and how he managed to kill
Alias. The messenger replied, that his success was owing to a
youth of noble aspect and invincible courage, who had first
destroyed a ferocious wolf, then a dragon, and had afterwards
dragged Alias from his horse, with as much ease as if he had
been a chicken, and laid him prostrate at the feet of the king
of Rum. Lohurasp enquired his name, and he answered,
Gushtasp. " Does he resemble in feature any person in this
assembly ? " Kabiis looked round about him, and pointed to
Zarir, from which Lohurasp concluded that it must be his own
son, and sat silent. But he soon determined on what answer
to send, and it was contained in the following words : " Do not
take me for an Alias, nor think that one hero of thine is com-
petent to oppose me. I have a hundred equal to him. Con-
tinue, therefore, to pay me tribute, or I will lay waste thy whole
country." With this letter he dismissed Kabiis ; and as soon
as the messenger had departed, addressed himself to Zarir, say-
ing : " Thou must go in the character of an ambassador from
me to the king of Ruin, and represent to him the justice and
propriety of preserving peace. After thy conference with him


repair to the house of Gushtasp, and in my name ask his for-
giveness for what I have done. I was not before aware of his
merit, and day and night I think of him with repentance and
sorrow. Tell him to pardon his old father's infirmities, and
come back to Iran, to his own country and home, that I may
resign to him my crown and throne, and like Kai-khosrati, take
leave of the world. It is my desire to deliver myself up to
prayer and devotion, and to appoint Gushtasp my successor, for
he appears to be eminently worthy of that honour." Zarir
acted scrupulously, in conformity with his instructions ; and
having first had an interview with the king, hastened to the
house of his brother, by whom he was received with affection
and gladness. After the usual interchange of congratulations
and enquiry, he stated to him the views and the resolutions of
his father, who on the faith of his royal word promised to
appoint him his successor, and thought of him with the most
cordial attachment. Gushtasp was as much astonished as de-
lighted with this information, and his anxiety being great to
return to his own country, he that very night, accompanied by
his wife Kitabiin, and Zarir, set out for Iran. Approaching the
city, he was met by an istakbal, or honorary deputation of
warriors, sent by the king ; and when he arrived at court,
Lohurasp descended from his throne and embraced him with
paternal affection, shedding tears of contrition for having pre-
viously treated him not only with neglect but severity. How-
ever he now made him ample atonement, and ordering a golden
chair of royalty to be constructed and placed close to his own,
they both sat together, and the people by command tendered to
him unanimously their respect and allegiance. Lohurasp re-
peatedly said to him :

" What has been done was Fate's decree,
Man cannot strive with destiny.
To be unfeeling once was mine,
At length to be a sovereign thine."

Thus spoke the king, and kissed the crown,
And gave it to his valiant son.


Soon afterwards he relinquished all authority in the empire,
assumed the coarse habit of a recluse, and retired to a celebrated ;
place of pilgrimage in those days near Balkh. There, in a-
solitary cell, he devoted the remainder of his life to prayer and
the worship of God. The period of Lohurasp's government
lasted one hundred and twenty years.


I've said preceding sovereigns worshipped God,

By whom their crowns were given to protect

The people from oppressors ; Him they served,

Acknowledging His goodness for to Him,

The pure, unchangeable, the Holy One t

They owed their greatness and their earthly power,

But after times produced idolatry,

And Pagan faith, and then His name was lost

In adoration of created things.

Gushtiisp had by his wife Kitabun, the daughter of the king
of Rtiin, two sons named Isfendiyar and Bashutan, who were
remarkable for their piety and devotion to the Almighty.
Being the great king, all the minor sovereigns paid him
tribute, excepting Arjasp, the ruler of Chin and Ma-chin,
whose army consisted of Diws, and Peris, and men ; for con-
sidering him of superior importance, he sent him yearly the
usual tributary present. In those days lived Zerdusht, the
Guber, who was highly accomplished in the knowledge of
divine things ; and having waited upon GushMsp, the king,
became greatly pleased with his learning and piety, and took
him into his confidence. The philosopher explained to him the
doctrines of the fire-worshippers, and by his art he reared a
tree before the house of Gushtasp, beautiful in its foliage and
branches, and whoever ate of the leaves of that tree became


learned and accomplished in the mysteries of the future world,
and those who ate of the fruit thereof became perfect in wisdom
and holiness.

Jn consequence of the illness of Lohurasp, who was nearly at
the point of death, Zerdusht went to Balkh for the purpose of
administering relief to him, and he happily succeeded in restor-
ing him to health. On his return he was received with addi-
tional favour by Gushtasp, who immediately afterwards became
his disciple. Zerdusht then told him that he was the prophet
of God, and promised to show him miracles. He said he had
been to heaven and to hell. He could send any one, by prayer,
to heaven ; and whomsoever he was angry with he could send
to hell. He had seen the seven mansions of the celestial
regions, and the thrones of sapphires, and all the secrets of
heaven were made known to him by his attendant angel. He
said that the sacred book, called Zendavesta, descended from
above expressly for him, and that if Gushtasp followed the
precepts in that blessed volume, he would attain celestial
felicity. Gushtasp readily became a convert to his principles,
forsaking the pure adoration of God for the religion of the fire-
worshippers. The philosopher further said that he had pre-
pared a ladder, by which he had ascended into heaven and had
seen the Almighty. This made the disciple still more obedient
to Zerdusht. One day he asked Gushtasp why he condescended
to pay tribute to Arjasp ; " God is on thy side," said he, " and
if thou desirest an extension of territory, the whole country of
Chin may be easily conquered." Gushtasp felt ashamed at this
reproof, and to restore his character, sent a dispatch to Arjasp,
in which he said, " Former kings who paid thee tribute did sc
from terror only, but now the - empire is mine ; and it is my
will, and I have the power, to resist the payment of it in
future." This letter gave great offence to Arjasp ; who at once
suspected that the fire-worshipper, Zerdusht, had poisoned his
mind, and seduced him from his pure and ancient religion, and
was attempting to circumvent and lead him to his ruin. He
answered him ihus ; " It is well known that thou hast now


forsaken the right path, and involved thyself in darkness.
Thou hast chosen a guide possessed of the attributes of Iblis,
who with the art of a magician has seduced thee from tho
worship of the true God, from that God who gave thce thy
kingdom and thy grandeur. Thy father feared God, and
became a holy Dirvesh, whilst thou hast lost thy way in
wickedness and impiety. It will therefore be a meritorious
action in me to vindicate the true worship and oppose thy
blasphemous career with all my demons. In a month or two
I will enter thy kingdom with fire and sword, and destroy thy
authority and thee. I would give thee good advice ; do not be
influenced by a wicked counsellor, but return to thy former
religious practices. Weigh well, therefore, what I say." Arjasp
sent this letter by two of his demons, familiar with sorcery ;
and when it was delivered into the hands of Gushtasp, a council
was held to consider its contents, to which Zerdusht was im-
mediately summoned. Jamiisp, the minister, said that the sub-
ject required deep thought, and great prudence was necessary
in framing a reply ; but Zerdusht observed, that the only reply
was obvious nothing but war could be thought of. At this
moment Isfendiyar gallantly offered to lead the army, but Zarir,
his uncle, objected to him on account of his extreme youth, and
proposed to take the command himself, which Gushtasp agreed
to, and the two demon-envoys were dismissed. The answer was
briefly as follows :

" Thy boast is that thou wilt in two short months

Ravage my country, scathe with fire and sword

The empire of Iran ; but on thyself

Heap not destruction ; pause before thy pride

Hurries thee to thy ruin. I will open

The countless treasures of the realm ; my warriors,

A thousand thousand, armed with shining steel,

Shall over-run thy kingdom ; I myself

Will crush that head of thine beneath my feet."

The result of these menaces was the immediate prosecution
of the war, and no time was lost by Arjasp in hastening into
T van.

a 2


Plunder and devastation marked his course,

The villages were all involved in flames.

Palace of pride, low cot, and lofty tower ;

The trees dug up, and root and branch destroyed.

Gushtasp then hastened to repel his foes;

But to his legions they seemed wild and strange,

And terrible in aspect, and no light

Could struggle through the gloom they had diffused,

To hide their progress.

Zerdusht said to Gushtasp, "Ask thy vizir, Jarmlsp, what is
written in thy horoscope, that he may relate to thce the dis-
pensations of heaven." Jamasp, in reply to the inquiry, took
the king aside and whispered softly to him: "A great
number of thy brethren, thy relations, and warriors will be slain
in the conflict, but in the end thou wilt be victorious." G-ush-
tiisp deeply lamented the coming event, which involved the
destruction of his kinsmen, but did not shrink from the battle,
for he exulted in the anticipation of obtaining the victory.
The contest was begun with indescribable eagerness and

Approaching, each a prayer addrcst
To Heaven, and thundering forward prcst ;
Thick showers of arrows gloomed the sky,
The battle-storm raged long and high ;
Above, black clouds their darkness spread,
Below, the earth Avith blood was red.

Ardshir, the son of Lohurasp, and descended from Kai-kuus,
was one of the first to engage ; he killed many, and was at lasi
killed himself. After him, his brother Shydasp was killed.
Then Bishu, the son of Jamasp, urged on his steed, and with
consummate bravery destroyed "a great number of warriors.
Zarir, equally bold and in trepid, also rushed amidst the host,
and whether demons or men opposed him, they were all laid
lifeless on the field. He then rode up towards Arjasp,
scattered the ranks, and penetrated the head-quarters, which
put the king into great alarm : for he exclaimed : " What,
have ye no courage, no shame ! whoever kills Zarir shall have
a magnificent reward." Bai-derafsh, one of the demons,


animated by this offer, came forward, and with remorseless fury
attacked Zarir. The onset was irresistible, and the young
prince was soon overthrown and bathed in his own blood. The
news of the unfortunate catastrophe deeply affected Gushtasp,
who cried, in great grief : " Is there no one to take vengeance for
this ? " when Isfendiyiir presented himself, kissed the ground
before his father, and anxiously asked permission to engage the
demon. Gushtasp assented, and told him that if he killed the
demon and defeated the enemy, he would surrender to him his
crown and throne.

" When we from this destructive field return,
Jsfcndiyar, my son, shall wear the crown.
And be the glorious leader of my armies.''

Saying this, he dismounted from his famous black horse,
called Behzad, the gift of Kai-khosrau, and presented it to
Isfendiyiir. The greatest clamour and lamentation had
arisen among the Persian army, for they thought that Bai-
derafsh had committed such dreadful slaughter, the moment of
utter defeat was at hand, when Isfendiyiir galloped forward,
mounted on Behzad, and turned the fortunes of the day. He
saw the demon with the mail of Zarir on his breast, foaming
at the mouth with rage, and called aloud to him, "Stand,
thou murderer ! " The stern voice, the valour, and majesty of
Isfendiyiir, made the demon tremble, but he immediately dis-
charged a blow with his dagger at his new opponent, who however
seized the weapon with his left hand, and with his right
plunged a spear into the monster's breast, and drove it through
his body, Isfendiyiir then cut off his head, remounted his
horse, and that instant was by the side of Bishu, the son of the
vizir, into whose charge he gave the severed head of Bai-
derafsh, and the armour of Zarir. Bishu now attired himself in
his father's mail, and fastening the head on his horse, declared
that he would take his post close by Isfendiyiir, whatever might
betide. Firshaid, another Iranian warrior, came to the spot at
the same moment, and expressed tbc same resolution, so that alJ


three, thus accidentally met, determined to encounter Arjasp
and capture him. Isfcndiyilr led the way, and the other two
followed. Arjtisp, seeing that he was singled out by three
warriors, and that the enemy's force was also advancing to the
attack in great numbers, gave up the struggle, and was the first
to retreat. His troops soon threw away their arms and begged
for quarter, and many of them were taken prisoners by tho
Iranians. Gushtasp now approached the dead body of Zarir,
his son, and lamenting deeply over his unhappy fate, placed
him in a coffin, and built over him a lofty monument, around
frhich lights were ever afterwards kept burning, night and day ;
and he also taught the people the worship of fire, and was anxious
to establish everywhere the religion of Zerdusht.

Jamasp appointed officers to ascertain the number of killed
in the battle. Of Iranians there were thirty thousand, among
whom were eight hundred chiefs ; and the enemy's loss
amounted to nine hundred thousand, and also eleven hundred
and sixty-three chiefs. Gushtasp rejoiced at the glorious
result, and ordered the drums to be sounded to celebrate the
victory, and he increased his favour upon Zerdusht, who
originated the war, and told him to call his triumphant son,
Isfendiyar, near him.

The gallant youth the summons hears,
And midst the royal court appears,

Close by his father's side,
The mace, cow-beaded, in his hand ;
His air and glance express command,

And military pride.

Gushtasp beholds with heart elate,
The conqueror so young, so great,

And places round his brows the crown,
The promised crown, the high reward,
1'roud token of a mighty king's regard,

Conferred upon his own.

After Gushtasp had crowned his son as his successor, he told
hi:u that he must not now waste his time in peace and private


gratification, but proceed to the conquest of other countries.
Zcrdusht was also deeply interested in his further operations,
and recommended him. to subdue kingdoms for the purpose of
diffusing everywhere the new religion, that the whole world
might be enlightened and edified. Isfendiyar instantly com-

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 23 of 35)