The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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Cleft him asunder.

T\vo of the wives, two daughters, and one sister of Arjasp
fell immediately into the hands of the conqueror, who delivered
them into the custody of his son, to be conveyed home. He
then quitted the palace, and turning his steps towards the gates
of the fortress, slew a great number of the enemy.

Ivahram, in the meantime had been fiercely engaged with
Bashutan, and was extremely reduced. At the very moment
too of his discomfiture, he heard the watchmen call out aloud
that Arjasp had been slain by Kherad. Confounded and
alarmed by these tidings, he approached the fort, where he
heard the confirmation of his misfortune from every mouth,
and also that the garrison had been put to the sword. Leading
on the remainder of his troops he now came in contact with
IsAndiyar and his two hundred and sixty warriors, and a sharp
engagement ensued ; but the coming up of Bashiitan's force on
his rear, placed him in such a predicament on every side, that
defeat and destruction were almost inevitable. In short ?
Kahram was left with only a few of his soldiers near him, when
Isfendiyar, observing his situation, challenged him to personal
combat, and the challenge was accepted.

So closely did the eager warriors close,

They seemed together joined, and but one man.

At last Isfendiyar seized Kahram's girth,

And flung him to the ground, and bound his hands ;

And as a leaf is severed from its stalk,

So he the head cleft from its quivering trunk ;

Thus one blow wins, and takes away a throne,

In battle heads are trodden under hoofs,

Crowns under heads.


After the death of Kahram, Isfendiyar issued a proclamation,
offering full pardon to all who would unite under his banners.
They had no king ;

The country had no throne, no crown. Alas !

What is the world without a governor,

What, but a headless trunk ? A thing more worthless

Than the vile dust upon the common road.

What could the people do in their despair ?

They were obedient, and Isfendiyar

Encouraged them with kind and gentle words,

Fitting a generous and a prudent master.

Having first written to his father an account of the great
victory which he had gained, he occupied himself in reducing
all the surrounding provinces and their inhabitants to sub-
jection. Those people who continued hostile to him he deemed
it necessary to put to death. He took all the women of Arjasp
into his own service, and their daughters he presented to his
own sons.

Not a warrior of Chin remained ;

The king of Tib'an was swept away ;
And the realm where in pomp he had reigned,

Where he basked in prosperity's ray,
Was spoiled by the conqueror's brand,

Desolation marked every scene,
And a stranger now governed the mountainous land,

Where the splendour of Poshang had been.
Not a dirhem of treasure was left ;

For nothing eluded the conqueror's grasp ;
Of all was the royal pavilion bereft ;

All followed the fate of Arjasp I

When Gushtasp received information of this mighty conquest,
he sent orders to Isfendiyar to continue in the government of the
new empire ; but the prince replied that he had settled the
country, and was anxious to see his father. This request being
permitted, he was desired to bring away all the immense booty,
and return by the road of the Heft-khan. Arriving at the
Vlace where he was overtaken by the dreadful winter-storm, he


again found all the property lie had lost under the drifts ot
snow ; and when he had accomplished his journey, he was
received with the Avarmest welcome and congratulations, on
account of his extraordinary successes. A royal feast was
prepared, and the king filled his son's goblet with wine so re-
peatedly, and drank himself so frequently, and with such zest,
that both of them at length became intoxicated. Gushtasp then
asked Isfendiyar to describe to him the particulars of his ex-
pedition by the road of the Heft-khan ; for though he had
heard the story from others, he wished to have it from his own
mouth. But Isfendiydr replied : " We have both drank too
much wine, and nothing good can proceed from a drunken
man ; I will recite my adventures to-morrow, when my head is
clear." The next day Gushtasp, seated upon his throne, and
Isfendiyar placed before him on a golden chair, again asked for
the prince's description of his triumphant progress by the Heft-
khan, and according to his wish every incident that merited
notice was faithfully detailed to him. The king expressed great
pleasure at the conclusion ; but envy and suspicion lurked in
his breast, and writhing internally like a serpent, he still de-
layed fulfilling his promise to invest Isfendiyar, upon the
overthrow of Arjasp, with the sovereignty of Ira"n.

The prince could not fail to observe the changed disposition
of his father, and privately went to Kitabun, his mother,
to whom he related the solemn promise and engagement
of Gushtasp, and requested her to go to him, and say : " Thou
hast given thy royal word to Isfendiyar, that when he had
conquered and slain Arjtisp, and restored his own sisters to
liberty, thou wouldst place upon his head the crown of Iran ;
faith and honour are indispensable in princes, they are in-
culcated by religion, and yet thou hast failed to make good
thy word." But the mother had more prudence, and said :
" Let me give thee timely counsel, and breathe not a syllable to
any one on the subject. God forbid that thou shouldst again
be thrown into prison, and confined in chains. Eecollect thine
is the succession ; the army is in thy favour j thy father is old


ind infirm. Have a little patience, and in the end thou wilt
andoubtedly be the King of Persia.

The gold and jewels, the imperial sway,
The crown, the throne, the army, all he owns,
Will presently be thine ; then wait in patience,
And reign, in time, the monarch of the world."

Isfendiyar, however, was not contented with his mother's
counsel, and suspecting that she would communicate to the
king what he had said, he one day, as if under the influence of
wine, thus addressed his father : " In what way have I failed
to accomplish thy wishes ? Have I not performed such actions
as never were heard of, and never will be performed again, in
furtherance of thy glory ? I have overthrown thy greatest
enemy, and supported thy honour with ceaseless toil and
exertion. Is it not then incumbent on thee to fulfil thy
promise ? " Gushtasp replied : " Do not be impatient the
throne is thine ; " but he was deeply irritated at heart on being
thus reproached by his own son. When he retired he consulted
with Jamasp, and was anxious to know what the stars foretold.
The answer was : " He is of exalted fortune, of high destiny ;
he will overcome all his enemies, and finally obtain the sove-
reignty of the heft-aklim, or seven climes." This favourable
prophecy aggravated the spleen of the father against the son,
and he inquired with bitter and unnatural curiosity : " What
will be his death ? Look to that."

" A deadly dart from Kustem's bow,
Will lay the glorious warrior low."

These tidings gladdened the heart of Gushtasp, and he said :
" If this miscreant had been slain in his expedition to the
Brazen Fortress I should not now have been insulted with his
claim to my throne." The king then having resolved upon a
scheme of deep dissimulation, ordered a gorgeous banquet, and
invited to it all his relations and warriors ; and when the
guests were assembled he said to Isfendiyar : " The crown and

u 2


the throne are thine ; indeed, who is there so well qualified for
imperial sway ? " and turning to his warriors, he spoke of him
with praise and admiration, and added : " When I was enter-
ing upon the war against Arjasp, before I quitted Sistiin, I said
to Rustem : ' My father Lohurasp is killed, my wife and
children made prisoners, wilt thou assist me in punishing the
murderer and oppressor ? ' but he excused himself, and re-
mained at home, and although I have since been involved in
numberless perils, he has not once by inquiry shewn himself
interested in my behalf ; in short, he boasts that Kai-khosrau
gave him the principalities of Zabul and Kabul, and Xim-ruz,
and that he owes no allegiance to me ! It behoves me, there-
fore, to depute Isfendiyar to go and put him to death, or
bring him before me in bonds alive. After that I shall have
no enemy to be revenged upon, and I shall retire from the
w r orldj and leave to Isfendiyar the crown and the throne of
Persia, with confidence and satisfaction." All the nobles and
heroes present approved of the measure, and the king, gratified
by their approbation, then turned to Isfendiyar, and said : " I
have sworn on the Zendavesta, to relinquish my power, and
place it in thy hands, as soon as Rustem is subdued. Take what-
ever force the important occasion may require, for the whole
resources of the empire shall be at thy command." But Isfen-
diya"r thus replied : " Remember the first time I defeated
Arjdsp what was my reward ? Through the machinations of
Gurzam I w y as thrown into prison and chained. And what is
my reward now that I have slain both Arjasp and his son in
battle ? Thy solemn promise to me is forgotten, or disregarded.
The prince who forgets one promise will forget another, if it be
convenient for his purpose.

Whenever the Heft-khan is brought to mind,
I -feel a sense of horror. But why should I
Kepeat the story of those great exploits !
God is my witness, how I slew the wolf,
The lion, and the dragon ; how I punished
That fell enchantress with her thousand wiles ;
And how I suffered, midst the storm of snow,
Which almost froze the blood within my veins ;


And how that vast unfathomable deep

We crossed securely. These are deeds which waken

Wonder and praise in others, not in thee !

The treasure which I captured now is thine ;

And what is my reward ? the interest, sorrow.

Thus am I cheated of my recompense.

It is the custom for great kings to keep

Religiously their pledged, affianced word ;

But thou hast broken thine, despite of honour.

I do remember in thy early youth,
It was in Bum, thou didst perform a feat
Of gallant daring ; for thou didst destroy
A dragon and a wolf, but thou didst bear
Thyself most proudly, thinking human arm
Never before had done a deed so mighty ;
Yes, thou wert proud and vain, and seemed exalted
Up to the Heavens ; and for that noble act
What did thy father do ? The king for that
Gave thee with joyous heart his crown and throne.
Now mark the difference ; think what I have done,
What perils I sustained, and for thy sake !
Thy foes I vanquished, clearing from thy mind
The gnawing rust of trouble and affliction.
Monsters I slew, reduced the Brazen Fortress.
And laid Arjasp's whole empire at thy feet.
And what was my reward ? Neglect and scorn.
Did I deserve this at a father's hands ? "

Gushtasp remained unmoved by this sharp rebuke, though
he readily acknowledged its justice. "The crown shall be
thine," said he, " but consider my position. Think, too, what
services and Rustem performed for Kai-khosrau, and
shall I expect less from my own son, gifted as he is with a form
of brass, and the most prodigious valour ? Forbid it, Heaven !
that any rumour of our difference should get abroad in the
world, which would redound to the dishonour of both ! Nearly
half of Iran is in the possession of Rustem." " Give me the
crown," said Isfendiyar, "and I will immediately proceed
against the Zabul champion." " I have given thee both the
trown and the throne, take with thee my whole army, and all
my treasure. What wouldst thou have more ? He who has
conquered the terrific obstacles of the Heft-khan, and has slain
Arjasp and subdued his entire kingdom, can have no cause to


fear the prowess of Rustem, or any other chief." Isfendiyiir
replied that he had no fear of Rustem's prowess ; he was now
old, and therefore not equal to himself in strength ; still he
had no wish to oppose him :

For he has been the monitor and friend

Of our Kaianian ancestors ; his care

Enriched their minds, and taught them to be brave ;

And he was ever faithful to their cause.

Besides," said he, " thou wert the honoured guest

Of Eastern two long years ; and at Sistan

Enjoyed his hospitality and friendship,

His festive, social board ; and canst thou now,

Forgetting that delightful intercourse,

Become his bitterest foe ? "

Gushttisp replied :

" 'Tis true he may have served my ancestors ;
But what is that to me 1 His spirit is proud,
And he refused to yield me needful aid
When danger pressed ; that is enough, and thou
Canst not divert me from my settled purpose.

Therefore, if thy aim be still
To rule, thy father's wish fulfil ;
Quickly trace the distant road ;
Quick invade the chief's abode ;
Bind his feet, and bind his hands
In a captive's galling bands ;
Bring him here, that all may know
Thou hast quelled the mighty foe."

But Isfendiyar was still reluctant, and implored him to
relinquish his design.

" For if resolved, a gloomy cloud
Will quickly all thy glories shroud,

And dim thy brilliant throne ;
I would not thus aspire to reign,
But rather, free from crime, remain

Sequestered and alone."

Again Gushtasp spoke, and said : " There is no necessity
for any further delay. Thou art appointed my successor, and


the crown and the throne are thine ; thou hast therefore only to
march to the scene of action, and accomplish the object of the
war." Hearing this, Isfendiyar sullenly retired to his own
house, and Gushtasp, perceiving that he was in an angry mood,
requested Jamasp (his minister) to ascertain the state of his
mind, and whether he intended to proceed to Sistan or not.
Jamjisp immediately went, and Isfendiydr asked him, as his
friend, what he would advise. " The commands of a father,"
he replied, " must be obeyed." There was now no remedy, and
the king being informed that the prince consented to under-
take the expedition, no further discussion took place.

But Kitabiin was deeply affected when she heard of these
proceedings, and repaired instantly to her son, to represent to
him the hopelessness of the enterprise he had engaged to

" A mother's counsel is a golden treasure ;
Consider well, and listen not to folly.
Rustem, the champion of the world, will never
Suffer himself to be confined in bonds.
Did he not conquer the White Demon, fill
The world with blood, in terrible revenge,
When Saiawush was by Afrasiyab
Cruelly slain ? 0, curses on the throne,
And ruin seize the country, which returns
Evil for good, and spurns its benefactor.
Restrain thy steps, engage not in this war ;
It cannot do thee honour. Hear my voice !
Hear the safe counsel of thy anxious mother !
For Rustem still can conquer all the world."
Thus spoke Kitabun, shedding ceaseless tears ;
And thus Isfendiyar : " I fear not Rustem ;
I fear not his prodigious power and skill ;
But never can I on so great a hero
Place ignominious bonds ; it must not be.
Yet, mother dear, my faithful word is pledged ;
My word Jamasp has taken to the king,
And I must follow where my fortune leads."

The next morning Isfendiyar took leave of the king, and
with a vast army, and immense treasure, commenced his march
towards Sisttln. It happened that one of the camels in advance
laid down, and though beaten severely, could not be made to


get up on its legs. Isfendiyar, seeing the obstinacy of th
animal, ordered it to be killed, and passed on. The people,
however, interpreted the accident as a bad omen, and wished
him not to proceed ; but he could not attend to their sugges-
tions, as he thought the king would look upon it as a mere
pretence, and therefore continued his journey.

When he approached Sistan, he sent Bahman, his eldest
son, to Rustem, with a flattering message, to induce the
champion to honour him with an istakbal, or deputation to
receive him. Upon Bahman's arrival, however, he hesitated
and delayed, being reluctant to give a direct answer ; but Zal
interposed, saying : " Why not immediately wait upon the
prince ? have we not always been devoted to the Kaianian
dynasty ? Go and bring him hither, that we may tender him
our allegiance, and entertain him at our mansion as becomes
his illustrious birth." Accordingly Rustem went out to welcome
Isfendiyar, and alighting from Rakush, proceeded respectfully
on foot to embrace him. He then invited him to his house,
but Isfendiyar said : " So strict are my father's commands,
that after having seen thee, I am not permitted to delay my
departure." Rustem, however, pressed him to remain with
him, but all in vain. On the contrary the prince artfully
conducted him to his own quarters, where he addressed him
thus : " If thou wilt allow me to bind thee, hand and foot,
in chains, I will convey thee to the king my father, whose
humour it is to see thee once in fetters, and then to release
thee ! " Rustem was silent. Again Isfendiyar said : " If thou
art not disposed to comply with this demand, go thy ways."
Rustem replied : " First be my guest, as thy father once was,
and after that I will conform to thy will." Again the prince
said : " My father visited thee under other circumstances ;
I have come for a different purpose. If I eat thy bread and
salt, and after that thou shouldst refuse thy acquiescence, I
must have recourse to force. But if I become thy guest, how
can I in honour fight with thee ? and if I do not take thee
bound into my father's presence, according to his command,


what answer shall I give to him ? " " For the same reason,"
said Rustem : " how can I eat thy bread and salt ? " Isfen-
diyar then replied : " Thou needest not eat niy bread and salt,
but only drink wine. Bring thy own pure ruby." To this
Rustem agreed, and they drank, each his OAvn wine, together.

In a short space Rustem observed that he wished to consult
his father Zal ; and being allowed to depart, he, on his return
home, described in strong terms of admiration the personal
appearance and mental qualities of Isfendiyar.

" In wisdom ripe, and with a form
Of brass to meet the battle-storm,
Thou wouldst confess his every boon,
Had been derived from Feridun." -

Bashutan in the meanwhile observed to his brother, with some
degree of dissatisfaction, that his enemy had come into his
power, on his own feet too, but had been strangely permitted
to go away again. To this gentle reproof Isfendiyar con-
fidently replied, " If he does fail to return, I will go and secure
him in bonds, even in his own house." "Ah ! " said Bashutan,
" that might be clone by gentleness, but not by force, for the
descendant of Sam, the champion of the world, is not to be
subdued so easily." These words had a powerful effect upon
the mind of Isfendiy;lr, and he became apprehensive that
Rustem would not return ; but whilst he was still murmuring
at his own want of vigilance, the champion appeared, and at
this second interview repeated his desire that the prince would
become his guest. " I am sent here by my father, who relies
upon thy accepting his proffered hospitality." " That may
be," said Isfendiyar, " but I am at my utmost limit, I cannot
go farther. From this place, therefore, thou hadst better
prepare to accompany me to Iran." Here Rustem paused, and
at length artfully began to enumerate his various achievements,
and to blazon his own name.

" I fettered fast the emperor of Chin,

Aiid broke the enchantment of the Seven Khans ;


I stood the guardian of the Persian kings,
Their shield in danger. I have cleared the world
Of all their foes, enduring pain and toil
Incalculable. Such exploits for thee
Will I achieve, such sufferings will I bear,
And hence we offer thee a social welcome.
But let not dark suspicion cloud thy mind,
Nor think thyself exalted as the heavens,
Because I thus invite thee to our home."

Isfendiyar felt so indignant and irritated by this apparent
boasting and self-sufficiency of Rustem, that his first impulse
was to cast a dagger at him ; but he kept down his wrath, and
satisfied himself with giving him a scornful glance, and telling
him to take a seat on his left hand. But Rustem resented
this affront, saying that he never yet had sat down on the left
of any king, and placed himself, without permission, on the
right hand of Isfendiyar. The unfavourable impression on
the prince's mind was increased by this independent conduct,
and he was provoked to say to him, " Rustem ! I have heard
that Ztil, thy father, was of demon extraction, and that Sam cast
him into the desert because of his disgusting and abominable
appearance ; that even the hungry Simurgh, on the same
account, forebore to feed upon him, but conveyed him to her
nest among her own young ones, who pitying his wretched
condition, supplied him with part of the carrion they were
accustomed to devour. Naked and filthy, he is thus said to
have subsisted on garbage, till Sam was induced to commiserate
his wretchedness, and take him to Sistan, where, by the indul-
gence of his family and royal bounty, he was instructed in
human manners and human science." This was a reproach and
an insult too biting for Rustem to bear with any degree of
patience, and frowning with strong indignation, he said, " Thy
father knows, and thy grandfather well knew that Zal was the
son of Sam, and Sam of Narim&n, and that Nariman was
descended from Husheng. Thou and I, therefore, have the
same origin. Besides, on my mother's side, I am descended
from Zohak, so that by both parents I am of a race of princes.
Knowest thou not that the Iranian empire was for some


ill my hands, and that I refused to retain it, though urged
by the nobles and the army to exercise the functions of
royalty ? It was my sense of justice, and attachment to the
Kiiis and to thy family, which have enabled thee to possess thy
present dignity and command. It is through my fidelity
and zeal that thou art now in a situation to reproach me.
Thou hast slain one king, Arjasp, how many kings have I
slain ? Did I not conquer Afrasiytib, the greatest and bravest
king that ever ruled over Turiin ? And did I not also subduo
the king of Hamaveran, and the Khakiin of Chin ? Kalis, thy
own ancestor, I released from the demons of Mazinderan. I
slew the White Demon, and the tremendous giant, Akwaii
Diw. Can thy insignificant exploits be compared with mine ?
Never ! " Eustem's vehemence, and the disdainful tone of his
voice, exasperated still more the feelings of Isfendiyar, who
however recollected that he was under his roof, otherwise he
would have avenged himself instantly on the spot. Restraining
his anger, he then said softly to him, " "Wherefore dost thou
raise thy voice so high ? For though thy head be exalted to
the skies, thou wert, and still art, but a dependent on the Kais.
And was thy Heft-khan equal in terrible danger to mine ? Was
the capture of Mazinderan equal in valorous exertion to the
capture of the Brazen Fortress ? And did I not, by the power
of my sword, diffuse throughout the world the blessings of my
own religion, the faith of the fire- worshipper, which was derived
from Heaven itself ? Thou hast performed the duties of a
warrior and a servant, whilst I have performed the holy
functions of a sovereign and a prophet ! " Rustem, in reply,

" In thy Heft-khan thou hadst twelve thousand men
Completely armed, with ample stores and treasure,
Whilst Rakush and my sword, my conquering sword,
Where all the aid I had, and all I sought,
In that prodigious enterprize of mine.
Two sisters thou released no arduous task,
Whilst I recovered from the demon's grasp
The mighty Kaiis, and the monsters slew,
Soaring like thunder in their dismal caves.


This great exploit my single arm achieved ;

And when Kai-khosrau gave the regal crown

To Lohurdsp, the warriors were incensed,

And deemed Friburz, Kaus's valiant son,

Fittest by birth to rule. My sire and I

Espoused the cause of Lohurasp ; else ho

Had never sat upon the throne, nor thou

Been here to treat with scorn thy benefactor.

And now Gushtasp, with foul ingratitude,

Would bind me hand and foot ! But who on earth

Can do that office ? I am not accustomed

To hear harsh terms, and cannot brook their sting,

Therefore desist. Once in Kaus's court.

When I was moved to anger, I poured out

Upon him words of bitterest scorn and rage,

And though surrounded by a thousand chiefs,

Not one attempted to repress my fury,

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 26 of 35)