The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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Not one, but all-stood silent and amazed."

" Smooth that indignant brow," the prince replied
" And measure not my courage nor my strength
With that of Ivaiis ; had he nerve like mine ?
Thou mightst have kept the timorous king in awe,
But I am come myself to fetter thee ! "
So saying, he the hand of Rustem grasped,
And wrung it so intensely, that the champion
Felt inwardly surprised, but careless said,
" The time is not yet come for us to try
Our power in battle." Then Isfendiydr
Dropped Rustem's hand, and spoke, " To-day let wine
Inspire our hearts, and on the field to-morrow
Be ours the strife, with battle-axe and sword,
And my first aim shall be to bind thee fast,
And shew thee to my troops, Rustem in fetters I "

At this the champion smiled, and thus exclaimed,
" Where hast thou seen the deeds of warriors brave 1
Where hast thou heard the clash of mace and sword
Wielded by men of valour ? I to-morrow
Will take thee in my arms, and straight convey thee
To Zal. and place thee on the ivory throne,
And on thy head a crown of gold shall glitter.
The treasury I will open, and our troops
Shall fight for thee, and I will gird my loins
As they were girt for thy bold ancestors ;
And when thou art the chosen king, and I
Thy warrior-chief, the world will be thy own ;
No other sovereign need attempt to reign/'

" So much time has been spent in vain-boasting, and ex-


travagant self-praise," rejoined Isfendiyar, " that the day is
nearly done, and I am hungry ; let us therefore take some
refreshment together." Rustem's appetite being equally keen,
the board was spread, and every dish that was brought to him
he emptied at once, as if at one swallow ; then he threw aside
the goblets, and called for the large flagon that he might drink
his fill without stint. When he had finished several dishes and
as many flagons of wine, he paused, and Isfendiyar and the
assembled chiefs were astonished at the quantity he had
devoured. He now prepared to depart, and the prince said
to him, " Go and consult with thy father : if thou art contented
to be bound, well ; if not, thou wilt have cause to repent, for
I will assuredly attend to the commands of Gushtasp."
u Do thou also consult with thy brethren and friends," replied
Rustem, " whether thou wilt be our guest to-morrow, or not ; if
not, come to this place before sunrise, that we may decide our
differences in battle." Isfendiytlr said, "My most anxious
desire, my wish to heaven, is to meet thee, for I shall have no
difficulty in binding thee hand and foot. I would indeed
willingly convey thee without fetters to my father, but if I did
so, he would say that I was unable to put thee in bonds, and
that would disgrace my name." Rustem observed that the
immense number of men and demons he had contended against
was as nothing in the balance of his mind compared with the
painful subject of his present 'thoughts and fears. He was
ready to engage, but afraid of meriting a bad name.

" If in the battle thou art slain by me,
Will not my cheek turn pale among the princes
Of the Kaianian race, having cut off
A lovely branch of that illustrious tree ?
Will not reproaches hang upon my name
When I am dead, and shall I not be cursed
For perpetrating such a horrid deed ?
Thy father, too, is old, and near his end,
And thou upon the eve of being crowned ;
But in thy heart thou knowest that I proffered,
And proffer my allegiance and devotion,
And would avoid the conflict. Sure, thy father
Is practising some trick, some foul deception,


To urge thce on to an untimely death,

To rid himself of some unnatural fear,

He stoops to an unnatural, treacherous act,

For I have ever been the firm support

Of crown and throne, and perfectly he knows

No mortal ever conquered me in battle,

None ever from my sword escaped his life."

Then spoke Isfendiyar : " Thou wouldst be generous
And bear a spotless name, and tarnish mine ;
But I am not to be deceived by thee :
In fetters thou must go I " Eustem replied :
" Banish that idle fancy from thy brain ;
Dream not of things impossible, for death
Is busy with thee ; pause, or thou wilt die."
" No more ! " exclaimed the prince, " no more of this.
Nor seek to frighten me with threatening words ;
Go, and to-morrow bring with thee thy friends,
Thy father and thy brother, to behold
With their own eyes thy downfall, and lament
In sorrow over thy impending fate."
" So let it be," said Eustem, and at once
Mounted his noble horse, and hastened home.

The champion immediately requested his father's permission
to go and fight Isfendiyar the following day, but the old man
recommended reconciliation and peace. " That cannot be,"
said Rustem, " for he has reviled thee so severely, and heaped
upon me so many indignities, that my patience is exhausted,
and the contest unavoidable." In the morning Zal, weeping
bitterly, tied on Rustem's armour himself, and in an agony of
grief, said : " If thou shouldst kill Isfendiyar, thy name will
be rendered infamous throughout the world ; and if thou
shouldst be killed, Sistan will be prostrate in the dust, and ex-
tinguished for ever ! My heart shudders at the thoughts of
this battle, but there is no remedy." Rustem said to him :
" Put thy trust in God, and be not sorrowful, for when I grasp
my sword the head of the enemy is lost ; but my desire is to take
Isfendiyar alive, and not to kill him. I would serve him, and
not sever his head from his body." Zal was pleased with this
determination, and rejoiced that there was a promise of a
happy issue to the engagement.

In the morning Rustem arrayed himself in his war-attire,


helmet and breast-plate, and mounted Rakush, also armed in
his bargustuwan. His troops, too, were all assembled, and Zal
appointed Ziiara to take charge of them, and be careful of his
brother on all occasions where assistance might be necessary.
The old man then prostrated himself in prayer, and said, "
God, turn from us all affliction, and vouchsafe to us a prosperous
day." Rustem being prepared for the struggle, directed Ziiara
to wait with the troops at a distance, whilst he went alone to
meet Isfendiyar. When Bashiitan first saw him, he thought he
was coming to offer terms of peace, and said to Isfendiyar, " He
is coming alone, and it is better that he should go to thy father
of his own accord, than in bonds." " But," replied Isfendiyar,
" he is coming completely equipped in mail quick, bring me
my arms." " Alas ! " rejoined Bashiitan, " thy brain is wild,
and thou art resolved upon fighting. This impetuous spirit
will break my heart." But Isfendiyar took no notice of the
gentle rebuke. Presently he saw Rustem ascend a high place,
and heard his summons to single combat. He then told his
brother to keep at a distance with the army, and not to inter-
fere till aid was positively required. Insisting rigidly on these
instructions, he mounted his night-black charger, and hastened
towards Rustem, who now proposed to him that they should
wait awhile, and that in the mean time the two armies might
be put in motion against each other. " Though," said he, " my
men of Zabul are few, and thou hast a numerous host."

" This is a strange request," replied the prince,
" But thou art all deceit and artifice ;
Mark thy position, lofty and commanding,
And mine, beneath thee in a spreading vale.
Now, Heaven forbid that I, in reckless mood,
Should give my valiant legions to destruction,
And look unpitying on ! No, I advance,
Whoever may oppose me ; and if thou
Requirest aid, select thy friend, and come,
For I need none, save God, in battle none."
And Rustem said the same, for he required
No human refuge, no support but Heaven.

The battle rose, and numerous javelins whizzed
Along the air, and helm and mail were braised ;


Spear fractured spear, and then with shining swords
The strife went on, till, trenched with many a wound,
They, too, snapped short. The battle-axe was next
Wielded, in furious wrath ; each bending forward
Struck brain-bewildering blows ; each tried in vaiu
To hurl the other from his fiery horse.
Wearied, at length, they stood apart to breathe
Their chargers panting from excessive toil,
Covered with foam and blood, and the strong armour,
Of steed and rider rent. The combatants
Thus paused, in mutual consternation lost.

In the meantime Ziiara, impatient at this delay, advanced
towards the Iranians, and reproached them for their cowardice
so severely, that Nushawer, the younger son of Isfendiyar, felt
ashamed, and immediately challenged the bravest of the
enemy to fight. Alwai, one of Rustem's followers, came boldly
forward, but his efforts only .terminated in his discomfiture and
death. After him came Zuara himself :

Who galloped to the charge incensed, and, high
Lifting his iron mace, upon the head
Of bold Nushawer struck a furious blow,
Which drove him from his steed a lifeless corse.
Seeing their gallant leader thus o'erthrown,
The troops in terror fled, and in their flight
Thousands were slain, among them brave Mehrnus,
Another kinsman of Isfendiyar.

Bahman, observing the defeat and confusion of the Iranians,
went immediately to his father, and told him that two of his
own family were killed by the warriors of Zabul, who had also
attacked him and put his troops to the rout with great
slaughter. Isfendiyar was extremely irritated at this in-
telligence, and called aloud to Rustem : " Is treachery like this
becoming in a warrior ? " The champion being deeply con-
cerned, shook like a branch, and swore by the head and life of
the king, by the sun, and his own conquering sword, that he
was ignorant of the event, and innocent of what had been done.
To prove what he said, he offered to bind in fetters his brother
Zuara, who must have authorized the movement ; and also to
secure Feramurz, who slew Mehrnus, and deliver them over to


Gushtiisp, the fire-worshipper. "Nay," said he, "I will
deliver over to thec my whole family, as well as my brother
and son, and thou mayest sacrifice them all as a punishment for
having commenced the fight without permission." Isfendiyar
replied : " Of what use would it be to sacrifice thy brother and"
thy son ? "Would that restore my own to me ? No. Instead
of them, I will put thee to death, therefore come on ! " Ac-
cordingly both simultaneously bent their bows, and shot their
arrows with the utmost rapidity ; but whilst Rustem's made
no impression, those of Isfendiyar produced great effect on the
champion and his horse. So severely was Eakush wounded,
that Rustem, when he perceived how much his favourite horse
was exhausted, dismounted, and continued to impel his arrows
against the enemy from behind his shield. But Rakush brooked
not the dreadful storm, and galloped off unconscious that his
master himself was in as bad a plight. When Ziiara saw the
noble animal, riderless, crossing the plain, he gasped for breath,
and in an agony of grief hurried to the fatal spot, where he
found Rustem desperately hurt, and the blood flowing copiously
from every wound. The champion observed, that though he
was himself bleeding so much, not one drop of blood ap-
peared to have issued from the veins of his antagonist. He
was very weak, but succeeded in dragging himself up to his
former position, when Isfendiyar, smiling to see him thus,
exclaimed :

" Is this the valiant Rustem, the renowned,
Quitting the field of battle ? Where is now
The raging tiger, the victorious chief ?
Was it from thee the Demons shrunk in terror,
And did thy burning sword sear out their hearts 1
What has become of all thy valour now ?
Where is thy matchless mace, and why art thou,
The roaring lion, turned into a fox,
An animal of slyness, not of courage,
Losing thy noble character and name I "

Zuara, when he came to Rustem, alighted and resigned his
horse to his brother ; and placing an arrow on his bow-string,



wished himself to engage Isfendiyar, who was ready to fight
him, but Eustem cried, " No, I have not yet done with thee."
Isfendiyar replied : " I know thee well, and all thy dissimula-
tion, but nothing yet is accomplished. Come and consent to
foe fettered, or I must compel thee." Eustem, however, was
not to be overcome, and he said : " If I were really subdued by
thee, I might agree to be bound like a vanquished slave ; but
the day is now closing, to-morrow we will resume the fight ! "
Isfendiyar acquiesced, and they separated, Eustem going to his
own tent, and the prince remaining on the field. There he
affectionately embraced the severed heads of his kinsmen,
placed them himself on a bier, and sent them to his father, the
king, with a letter in which he said, " Thy commands must be
obeyed, and such is the result of to-day ; Heaven only knows
what may befali to-morrow." Then he spoke privately to
Bashutan : " This Eustem is not human, he is formed of rock
and iron, neither sword nor javelin has done him mortal harm ;
but the arrows went deep into his body, and it will indeed be
wonderful if he lives throughout the night. I know not what
to think of to-morrow, or how I shall be able to overcome

When Eustem arrived at his quarters, Zal soon discovered
that he had received many wounds, which occasioned great
affliction in his family, and he said : " Alas ! that in my old
age such a misfortune should have befallen us, and that with
my own eyes I should see these gaping wounds ! " He then
rubbed Eustem's feet, and applied healing balm to the wounds,
and bound them up with the skill and care of a physician.
Eustem said to his father : " I never met with a foe, warrior or
demon, of such amazing strength and bravery as this ! He
seems to have a brazen body, for my arrows, which I can drive
through an anvil, cannot penetrate his chest. If I had applied
the power which I have exerted to a mountain, the mountain
would have moved from its base, but he sat firmly upon his
saddle and scorned my efforts. I thank God that it is night,
and that I have escaped from his grasp. To-morrow I cannot


fight, and my secret wish is to retire unseen from the struggle,
.that no trace of me may be discovered." " In that case,"
replied Zal, " the victor will come and take me and all my
family into bondage. But let us not despair. Did not the
Simurgh promise that whenever I might be overcome by ad-
versity, if I burned one of her feathers, she would instantly
appear ? Shall we not then solicit assistance in this awful
extremity ? " So saying, Ztil went up to a high place, and
burnt the feather in a censer, and in a short time the Simurgh
stood before him. After due praise and acknowledgment, he
explained his wants. " But," said he, " may the misfortune we
endure be far from him who has brought it upon us. My son
Rustem is wounded almost unto death, and I am so helpless
that I can do him no good." He then brought forward
Rakush, pierced by numerous arrows ; upon which the wonder-
ful Bird said to him, " Be under no alarm on that account, for
I will soon cure him ; " and she immediately plucked out the
rankling weapons with her beak, and the wounds, on passing a
feather over them, were quickly healed.

To Rustein now she turns, and soothes his grief,
And drawing forth the arrows, sucks the blood
From out the wounds, which at her bidding close,
And the illustrious champion is restored
To life and power.

Being thus reinvigorated by the magic influence of the
Simurgh, he solicits further aid in the coming strife with,
Isfendiyar; but the mysterious animal laments that she cannot
assist him. " There never appeared in the world," said she r
" so brave and so perfect a hero as Isfendiydr. The favour of.
Heaven is with him, for in his Heft-khan he, by some artifice,
succeeded in killing a Simurgh, and the further thou art re-
moved from his invincible arm, the greater will be thy safety."
Here Zal interposed and said : " If Rustem retires from the
contest, his family will all be enslaved, and I shall equally share
their bondage and affliction." The Simurgh, hearing these

x 2


words, fell into deep thought, and remained some time silent.
At length she told Kustern to mount Rakush and follow her.
Away she went to a far distance ; and crossing a great river,
arrived at a place covered with reeds, where the Kazu-trec
abounded. The Simurgh then rubbed one of her feathers upon
the eyes of Eustem, and directed him to take a branch of the
Kazu-tree, and make it straight upon the fire, and form that
wand into a forked arrow ; after which he was to advance
against Isfendiyar, and, placing the arrow on his bow-string,
shoot it into the eyes of his enemy. " The arrow will only
make him blind," said the Simurgh, " but he who spills the
blood of Isfendiyar will never be free from calamity during
his whole life. The Kazu-tree has also this peculiar quality :
an arrow made of it is sure to accomplish its intended errand
it never misses the aim of the archer." Rustem expressed his
boundless gratitude for this information and assistance ; and
the Simurgh having transported him back to his tent, and
affectionately kissed his face, returned to her own habitation.
The champion now prepared the arrow according to the in-
structions he had received ; and when morning dawned,
mounted his horse, and hastened to the field. He found
Isfendiyar still sleeping, and exclaimed aloud: "Warrior, art
thou still slumbering ? Rise, and see Rustem before thee ! "
When the prince heard his stern voice, he started up, and in
great anxiety hurried on his armour. He said to Bashutan,
" I had uncharitably thought he would have died of his
wounds in the night, but this clear and bold voice seems to
indicate perfect health go and see whether his wounds are
bound up or not, and whether he is mounted on Rakush or on
some other horse." Rustem perceived Bashutan approach with
an inquisitive look, and conjectured that his object was to
ascertain the condition of himself and Rakush. He therefore
vociferated to him : " I am now Avholly free from wounds, and
so is my horse, for I possess an elixir which heals the most cruel
lacerations of the flesh the moment it is applied ; but no such
wounds were inflicted upon me, the arrows of Isfendiyar being


only like needles sticking in my body." Bashutan now re-
ported to his brother that Rustem Appeared to be more fresh
and vigorous than the day before, and, thinking from the spirit
and gallantry of his demeanour that he would be victorious in
another contest, he strongly recommended a reconciliation.


Isfendiyar, blind to the march of fate, treated the suggestion
of liis brother with scorn, and mounting his horse, was soon in
the presence of Rustern, whom he thus hastily addressed :
" Yesterday thou werfc wounded almost to death by my arrows,
and to-day there is no trace of them. How is this ?

But thy father Zal is a sorcerer,

And he by charm and spell
Has cured all the wounds of the warrior,

And now he is safe and well.
For the wounds I gave could never be
Closed up, excepting by sorcery.
Yes, the wounds I gave thee in every part,
Could never be cured but by magic art."

Rustem replied, " If a thousand arrows were shot at me, they
would all drop harmless to the ground, and in the end thou
wilt fall by my hands. Therefore, if thou seekest thy own
welfare, come at once and be my guest, and I swear by the
Almighty, by Zerdusht, and the Zendavesta, by the sun and
moon, that I will go with thee, but unfettered, to thy father,
who may do with me what he lists." " That is not enough,"
replied Isfendiyar, " thou must be fettered." " Then do not
bind my arms, and take whatever thou wilt from me." " And
what hast thou to give ? "


" A thousand jewels of brilliant hue.

And of unknown price, shall be thine ;
A thousand imperial diadems too,

And a thousand damsels divine,
Who with angel- voices will sing and pbiy,
And delight thy senses both night and day ;
And my family wealth shall be brought thee, all
That was gathered by Nariman, Sam, and Ziil.' 1

" This is all in vain," said Isfendiyar. " I may have wandered
from the way of Heaven, but I will not disobey the commands
of the king. And of what use would thy treasure aud property
be to me ? I must please my father, that he may surrender to
me his crown and throne, and I have solemnly sworn to him
that I will place thee before him in fetters." Rustem replied,
"And in the hopes of a crown aud throne thou wouldst sacrifice
thyself ! " " Thou shalt see ! " said Isfendiyar, and seized his
bow to commence the combat. Rustem did the same, and when
he had placed the forked arrow in the bow-string, he imploringly
turned np his face towards Heaven, and fervently exclaimed,
" God, thou knowest how anxiously I have wished for a re-
conciliation, how I have suffered, and that I would now give
all my treasures and wealth and go with him to Iniu, to avoid
this conflict ; but my otters are disdained, for he is bent upon
consigning me to bondage and disgrace. Thou art the redresser
of grievances direct the flight of this arrow into his eyes, but
do not let me be punished for the involuntary deed." At this
moment Isfendiytir shot an arrow with great force at Rustem,
who dexterously eluded its point, and then, in return, instantly
lodged the charmed weapon in the eyes of his antagonist.

And darkness overspread his sight,
The world to him was hid in night ;
The bow dropped from his slackened hand,
And down he sunk upon the sand.

" Yesterday," said Rustem, " thou discharged at me a hundred
and sixty arrows in vain, and now thou art ovcrthroAvn by one
nrrow of mine." Bahman, the son of Isfendiy;ir, seeing his
father bleeding on the ground, uttered loud lamentations, and


Bashutan, followed by the Iranian troops, also drew nigh with
the deepest sorrow marked on their countenances. The fatal
arrow was immediately drawn from the wounded eyes of the
prince, and some medicine being first applied to them, they
conveyed him mournfully to his own tent.

The conflict having thus terminated, Rustem at the same
time returned with his army to where Zal remained in anxious
suspense about the result. The old man rejoiced at the issue,
but said, " 0, my son, thou hast killed thy enemy, but I have
learnt from the wise men and astrologers that the slayer of
Isfendiyar must soon come to a fatal end. May God protect
thee ! " Rustem replied, " I am guiltless, his blood is upon
his own head." The next day they both proceeded to visit
Isfendiyar, and offer to him their sympathy and condolence,
whfii the wounded prince thus spoke to Rustem : " I do not
ascribe my misfortune to thee, but to an all-ruling power.
Fate would have it so, and thus it is ! I now consign to thy
care and guardianship my son Bahman : instruct him in the
science of government, the customs of kings, and the rules and
stratagems of the warrior, for thou art exceedingly wise and
experienced, and perfect in all things." Rustem readily com
plied, and said :

" That duty shall be mine alone,
To scat him firmly on the throne."

Then Isfendiyar murmured to Bashiitan, that the anguish of
his wound was wearing him away, and that he had but a short
time to live.

" The pace of death is fast and fleet,

And nothing my life can save,
I shall want no robe, but my winding sheet,

No mansion but the grave.

And tell my father the wish of his heart

Has not been breathed in vain.
The doom he desired when he made me depart,

Has been scaled, and his son is slain !


And. ! to my mother, in kindliest tone,

The mournful tidings bear,
And soothe her woes for her warrior gone,

For her lost Isfendiyar."

He now groaned heavily, and his last words were :

" I die, pursued by unrelenting fate,
The hapless victim of a father's hate."

Life having departed, his body was placed upon a bier, and
conveyed to Irin, amidst the tears and lamentations of the

Eustem now took charge of Bahman, according to the dying
request of Isfendiyar, and brought him to Sistan. This was,
however, repugnant to the wishes of Ziiara, who observed to bis
brother : " Thou hast slain the father of this youth ; do not
therefore nurture and instruct the son of thy enemy, for, mark
me, in the end he will be avenged." " But did not Isfendiyiir,
with his last breath, consign him to my guardianship ? how can
I refuse it now ? It must be so written and determined in the
dispensations of Heaven."

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 27 of 35)