The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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of valour. The battle lasted all day, and in the evening
Rishnawdd bestowed upon him the praise which he merited.
Xext day the army was again prepared for battle, when Da"rab
proposed that the leader should remain quiet, whilst he with a
chosen band of soldiers attacked the whole force of the enemy.
The proposal being agreed to, he advanced with fearless
impetuosity to the contest.

With loosened rein he rushed along the field,

And through opposing numbers hewed his path,

Then pierced the Kulub-gali, the centre-host,

Where many a warrior brave, renowned in arms,

Fell by his sword. Like sheep before a wolf

The harassed Eumis fled ; for none had power

To cope with his strong arm. His wondrous might

Alone, subdued the legions right and left ;

And when, unwearied, he had fought his way

To where great Kaisar stood, night came, and darkness,

Shielding the trembling emperor of Bum,

Snatched the expected triumph from his hands.

Rishnawad was so filled with admiration at his splendid
prowess, that he now offered him the most magnificent presents ;
but when they were exposed to his view, a suit of armour was
the only thing he would accept.

The Rumis were entirely disheartened by his valour, and
they said : " We understood that the sovereign of Persia was
only a woman, and that the conquest of the empire would be
no difficult task ; but this woman seems to be more fortunate
than a warrior-king. Even her general remains inactive with
the great body of his army ; and a youth, with a small force, is
sufficient to subdue the legions of Rum ; we had, therefore,
better return to our own country." The principal warriors
entertained the same sentiments, and suggested to Kaisar the


necessity of retiring from the field ; but the king opposed this
measure, thinking it cowardly and disgraceful, and said :

" To-morrow we renew the fight,
To-morrow we shall try our might ;
To-morrow, with the smiles of Heaven,
To us the victory will be given."

Accordingly on the following day the armies met again, and
after a sanguinary struggle, the Persians were again trium-
phant. Kaisar now despaired of success, sent a messenger to
Rishnawad, in which he acknowledged the aggressions he had
committed, and offered to pay him whatever tribute he might
require. Kishnawad readily settled the terms of the peace ;
and the emperor was permitted to return to his own dominions.

After this event Eishnawa'd sent to Humai intelligence of
the victories he had gained, and of the surprising valour of
Darab, transmitting to her the ruby as an evidence of his birth.
Humai was at once convinced that he was her son, for she
well remembered the day on which he was enrolled as one of
her soldiers, when her heart throbbed with instinctive affection
at the sight of him ; and though she had unfortunately failed
to question him then, she now rejoiced that he was so near
being restored to her. She immediately proceeded to the
Atish-gadeh, or the Fire-altar, and made an offering on the
occasion ; and ordering a great fire to be lighted, gave immense
sums away in charity to the poor. Having called Dardb to
her presence, she went with a splendid retinue to meet him at
the distance of one journey from the city ; and as soon as he
approached, she pressed him to her bosom, and kissed his
head and eyes with the fondest affection of a mother. Upon
the first day of happy omen, she relinquished in his favour the
crown and the throne, after having herself reigned thirty- two



When Darab had ascended the throne, he conducted the
affairs of the kingdom with humanity, justice, and benevolence ;
and by these means secured the happiness of his people. He
had no sooner commenced his reign, than he sent for the
washerman and his wife, and enriched them by his gifts.
" But," said he, " I present to you this property on these
conditions you must not give up your occupation you must
go every day, as usual, to the river-side, and wash clothes ; for
perhaps in process of time you may discover another box
floating down the stream, containing another infant ! " "With
these conditions the washerman complied.

(Some time afterwards the kingdom was invaded by an
Arabian army, consisting of one hundred thousand men, and
commanded by Shaib, a distinguished warrior. Darab was
engaged with this army three days and three nights, and on the
fourth morning the battle terminated, in consequence of Shaib
being slain. The booty was immense, and a vast number of
Arabian horses fell into the hands of the victor ; which,
together with the quantity of treasure captured, strengthened
greatly the resources of the state. The success of this cam-
paign enabled Darab to extend his military operations ; and
having put his army in order, he proceeded against Failakiis
(Philip of Macedon), then king of Eiim, whom he defeated
with great loss. Many were put to the sword, and the women
and children carried into captivity. Failakiis himself took
refuge in the fortress of Amur, from whence he sent an
ambassador to Darab, saying, that if peace was only granted
to him, he would willingly consent to any terms that might be
demanded. When the ambassador arrived, Darab said to him :
" If Failakiis will bestow upon me his daughter, Nahid, peace
shall be instantly re-established between us I require no
other terms." Failakus readily agreed, and sent Nahid with
numerous splendid presents to the king of Persia, who espoused


her, and took her with him to his own country. It so happened
that Nahid had an offensive breath, which was extremely dis-
agreeable to her husband, and in consequence he directed
enquiries to be made everywhere for a remedy. No place was
left unexplored ; at length an herb of peculiar efficacy and
fragrance was discovered, which never failed to remove the
imperfection complained of; and it was accordingly administered
with confident hopes of success. Nahid was desired to wash
her mouth with the infused herb, and in a few days her breath
became balmy and pure. When she found she was likely to
become a mother she did not communicate the circumstance,
but requested permission to pay a visit to her father. The
request was granted ; and on her arrival in Rum she was
delivered of a son. Failakiis had no male offspring, and was
overjoyed at this event, which he at once determined to keep
unknown to Darab, publishing abroad that a son had been born
in his house, and causing it to be understood that the child
was his own. When the boy grew up, he was called Sikander :
and, like Rustem, became highly accomplished in all the arts of
diplomacy and war. Failakiis placed him under Aristatalis, a
sage of great renown, and he soon equalled his master in
learning and science.

Darab manned another wife, by whom he had another son,
named Dara ; and when the youth was twenty years of age,
the father died. The period of Dardb's reign was thirty-four


continued the government of the empire in the same
spirit as his father ; claiming custom and tribute from the
inferior rulers, with similar strictness and decision. After the
death of Failakus, Sikander became the king of Rum ; and


refusing to pay the demanded tribute to Persia, went to war
with Bard, whom he killed in battle ; the particulars of these
events will be presently shown. Failakus reigned twenty-four


Failakiis, before his death, placed the crown of sovereignty
upon the head of Sikander, and appointed Aristii, who was one
of the disciples of the great Aflatun, his vizir. He cautioned
him to pursue the path of virtue and rectitude, and to cast
from his heart every feeling of vanity and pride ; above all he
implored him to be just and merciful, and said :

" Think not that thou art wise, but ignorant,
And ever listen to advice and counsel ;
We are but dust, and from the dust created ;
And what our lives but helplessness and sorrow 1 "

Sikander for a time attended faithfully to the instructions of
his father, and to the counsel of Aristii, both in public and
private affairs.

Upon Sikander's elevation to the throne, Ddrd sent an envoy
to him to claim the customary tribute, but he received for
answer : " The time is past when Rum acknowledged the supe-
riority of Persia. It is now thy turn to pay tribute to Rum.
If my demand be refused, I will immediately invade thy domi-
nions ; and think not that I shall be satisfied with the conquest
of Persia alone, the whole world shall be mine ; therefore pre-
pare for war." Dara" had no alternative, not even submission,
and accordingly assembled his army, for Sikander was already
in full march against him. Upon the confines of Persia both
armies came in sight of each other, when Sikander, in the
assumed character of an envoy, was resolved to ascertain the
exact condition of the enemy. With this view he entered the


Persian camp, and Dara allowing the person whom he supposed
an ambassador, to approach, enquired what message the king of
Rum had sent to him. " Hear me ! " said the pretended envoy :
" Sikander has not invaded thy empire for the exclusive purpose
of fighting, but to know its history, its laws, and customs, from
personal inspection. His object is to travel through the whole
world. "Why then should he make war upon thee ? Give him
but a free passage through thy kingdom, and nothing more is
required. However if it be thy wish to proceed to hostilities,
he apprehends nothing from the greatness of thy power." Dara
feas astonished at the majestic air and dignity of the envoy,
never having witnessed his equal, and he anxiously said :

" What is thy name, from whom art thou descended 1

For that commanding front, that fearless eye,

Bespeaks illustrious birth. Art thou indeed

Sikander, whom my fancy would believe thec,

So eloquent in speech, in mien so noble ? "

" No ! " said the envoy, " no such rank is mine,

Sikander holds among his numerous host

Thousands superior to the humble slave

Who stands before thee. It is not for me

To put upon myself the air of kings,

To ape their manners and their lofty state."

Dara could not help smiling, and ordered refreshments and
wine to be brought. He filled a cup and gave it to the envoy,
who drank it off, but did not, according to custom, return the
empty goblet to the cup-bearer. The cup-bearer demanded the
cap, and Dara asked the envoy why he did not give it back.
" It is the custom in my country," said the envoy, " when a
cup is once given into an ambassador's hands, never to receive
it back again." Darii was still more amused by this explana-
tion, and presented to him another cup, and successively four,
which the envoy did not fail to appropriate severally in the
same way. In the evening a feast was held, and Sikander
partook of the delicious refreshments that had been prepared
for him ; but in the midst of the entertainment one of the
persons present recognized him, and immediately whispered to
Dara that his enemy was in his power.


Sikander's sharp and cautious eye now marked
The changing scene, and up he sprang, but first
Snatched the four cups, and rushing from the tent,
Vaulted upon his horse, and rode away.
So instantaneous was the act, amazed
The assembly rose, and presently a troop
Was ordered in pursuit but night, dark night,
Baffled their search, and checked their eager speed.

As soon as he reached his own army, he sent for Aristatalis
and his courtiers, and exultingly displayed to them the four
golden cups. " These," said he, " have I taken from my enemy,
I have taken them from his own table, and before his own eyes.
His strength and numbers too I have ascertained, and my suc-
cess is certain." No time was now lost in arrangements for the
battle. The armies engaged, and they fought seven days with-
out a decisive blow being struck. On the eighth, Dari was
compelled to fly, and his legions, defeated and harassed, were
pursued by the Kumis with great slaughter to the banks of the
Euphrates. Sikander now returned to take possession of the
capital. In the meantime Dara" collected his scattered forces
together, and again tried his fortune, but he was again defeated.
After his second success, the conqueror devoted himself so
zealously to conciliate and win the affections of the people, that
they soon ceased to remember their former king with any degree
of attachment to Ms interests. Sikauder said to them : " Persia
indeed is my inheritance : I am no stranger to you, for I am
myself descended from Darab ; you may therefore safely trust
to my justice and paternal care, in everything that concerns
your welfare." The result was, that legion after legion united
in his cause, and consolidated his power.

When Dar was informed of the universal disaffection of his
army, he said to the remaining friends who were personally
devoted to him : " Alas ! my subjects have been deluded by
the artful dissimulation and skill of Sikander ; your next mis-
fortune will be, the captivity of your wives and children. Yes,
your wives and children will be made the slaves of the con-
querors." A few troops, still faithful to their unfortunate


king, offered to make another effort against the enemy, and
Dard, -was too grateful and too brave to discountenance their
enthusiastic fidelity, though with such little chance of success
A fragment of an army was consequently brought into action,
and the result was what had been anticipated. Dara" was again
a fugitive ; and after the defeat, escaped with three hundred
men into the neighbouring desert. Sikander captured his wife
and family, but magnanimously restored them to the unfortu-
nate monarch, who, destitute of all further hope, now asked for
a place of refuge in his own dominions, and for that he offered
him all the buried treasure of his ancestors. Sikander, in reply,
invited him to his presence ; and promised to restore him to
his throne, that he might himself be enabled to pursue other
conquests ; but Dara" refused to go, although advised by his
nobles to accept the invitation. " I am willing to put myself
to death," said he with emotion, " but I cannot submit to this
degradation. I cannot go before him, and thus personally ac-
knowledge his authority over me." Resolved upon this point,
he wrote to Faur,* one of the sovereigns of Ind, to request his
assistance, and Faur recommended that he should pay him a
visit for the purpose of concerting what measures should be
adopted. This correspondence having come to the knowledge
of Sikander, he took care that his enemy should be intercepted
in whatever direction he might proceed.

Dara had two ministers, named Mahiydr and Jamusipar,
who, finding that according to the predictions of the astrologers
their master would in a few days fall into the hands of Sikander,
consulted together, and thought they had better put him to
death themselves, in order that they might get into favour with
Sikander. It was night, and the soldiers of the escort were dis-
persed at various distances, and the vizirs were stationed on
each side of the king. As they travelled on, Jamusipar took

* Faur is probably Porus. The demand of Sikander and the answer of
Faur correspond exactly with what is said of Alexander and Porus in European
history. Firdausi, however, kills him ; but the Greeks make him become a
friend of Alexander.


an opportunity of plunging his dagger into Dara's side, and
Mahiyar gave another blow, which felled the monarch to the
ground. They immediately sent the tidings of this event to
Sikander, who hastened to the spot, and the opening daylight
presented to his view the wounded king.

Dismounting quickly, he in sorrow placed
The head of Dara on his lap, and wept
In bitterness of soul, to see that form
Mangled with ghastly wounds.

Dara still breathed ; and when he lifted up his eyes and
beheld Sikander, he groaned deeply. Sikander said, " Eise up,
that we may convey thee to a place of safety, and apply the
proper remedies to thy wounds." " Alas ! " replied Diira, " the
time for remedies is past. I leave thee to Heaven, and may thy
reign give peace and happiness to the empire." " Never," said
Sikander, " never did I desire to see thee thus mangled and
fallen never to witness this sight ! If the Almighty should
spare thy life, thou shalt again be the monarch of Persia, and
I will go from hence. On my mother's word, thou and I are
sons of the same father. It is this brotherly affection which
now wrings my heart ! " Saying this, the tears chased each
other down his cheeks in such abundance that they fell upon
the face of Dara. Again, he said, " Thy murderers shall meet
with merited vengeance, they shall be punished to the utter-
most." Dara blessed him, and said, " My end is approaching,
but thy sweet discourse and consoling kindness have banished
all my grief. I shall now die with a mind at rest. Weep no

My course is finished, thine is scarce begun ;

But hear my dying wish, my last request :

Preserve the honour of my family,

Preserve it from disgrace. I have a daughter

Dearer to me than life, her name is Roshung ;

Espouse her, I beseech thee and if Heaven

Should bless thee with a boy, I let his name be

Isfendiyar, that he may propagate

With zeal the sacred doctrines of Zerdusht,


The Zendavesta, then my soul will be
Happy in Heaven ; and he, at Nau-ruz tide,
Will also hold the festival I love,
And at the altar light the Holy Fire ;
Nor will he cease his labour, till the faith
Of Lohurasp be everywhere accepted,
And everywhere believed the true religion."

Sikander promised that he would assuredly fulfil the wishes
he had expressed, and then Dar& placed the palm of his
brother's hand on his mouth, and shortly afterwards expired.
Sikander again wept bitterly, and then the body was placed on
a golden couch, and he attended it in sorrow to the grave.

After the burial of Dara, the two ministers, Jamiisipa'r and
Mahiyar, were brought near the tomb, and executed upon the

Just vengeance falls upon the guilty head,

For they their generous monarch's blood had shed.

Sikander had now no rival to the throne of Persia, and he
commenced his government under the most favourable auspices.
He continued the same customs and ordinances which were
handed down to him, and retained every one in his established
rank and occupation. He gladdened the heart by his justice
and liberality. Keeping in mind his promise to Dara, he now
wrote to the mother of Koshung, and communicating to her the
dying solicitations of the king, requested her to send Roshung
to him, that he might fulfil the last wish of his brother. The
wife of Dara immediately complied with the command, and sent
her daughter with various presents to Sikander, and she was on
her arrival married to the conqueror, according to the customs
and laws of the empire. Sikander loved her exceedingly, and
on her account remained some time in Persia, but he at length
determined to proceed into Ind to conquer that country of
enchanters and enchantment.

On approaching Ind he wrote to Kaid, summoning him to
surrender his kingdom, and received from him the following
answer : " I will certainly submit to thy authority, but I have


four things which no other person in the world possesses, and
which I cannot relinquish. I have a daughter, beautiful as an
angel of Paradise, a wise minister, a skilful physician, and a
goblet of inestimable value ! " Upon receiving this extra-
ordinary reply, Sikander again addressed a letter to him, in
which he peremptorily required all these things immediately.
Kaid not daring to refuse, or make any attempt at evasion,
reluctantly complied with the requisition. Sikander received
the minister and the physician with great politeness and
attention, and in the evening held a splendid feast, at which he
espoused the beautiful daughter of Kaid, and taking the goblet
from her hands, drank off the wine with which it was filled.
After that, Kaid himself waited upon Sikander, and personally
acknowledged his authority and dominion.

Sikander then proceeded to claim the allegiance and homage
of Faiir, the king of Kanuj, and wrote to him to submit to his
power ; but Faiir returned a haughty answer, saying :

" Kaid Indi is a coward to obey thee,
But I am Faur, descended from a race
Of matchless warriors j and shall I submit,
And to a Greek ! "

Sikander was highly incensed at this bold reply. The force
he had now with him amounted to eighty thousand men ; that
is, thirty thousand Iranians, forty thousand Rurnis, and ten
thousand Indis. Faur had sixty thousand horsemen, and two
thousand elephants. The troops of Sikander were greatly
terrified at the sight of so many elephants, which gave the
enemy such a tremendous superiority. Arista" talis, and some
other ingenious counsellors, were requested to consult together
to contrive some means of counteracting the power of the war-
elephants, and they suggested the construction of an iron
horse, and the figure of a rider also of iron, to be placed upon
tvheels like a carriage, and drawn by a number of horses. A
soldier, clothed in iron armour, was to follow the vehicle his
hands and face besmeared with combustible matter, and this


soldier, armed with a long staff, was at an appointed signal, to
pierce the belly of the horse and also of the rider, previously
filled with combustibles, so that when the ignited point came in
contact with them, the whole engine would make a tremendous
explosion and blaze in the air. Sikander approved of this
invention, and collected all the blacksmiths and artizans in the
country to construct a thousand machines of this description
with the utmost expedition, and as soon as they were completed,
he prepared for action. Faiir too pushed forward with his two
thousand elephants in advance ; but when the Kamijians
beheld such a formidable array they were surprised, and Faiir
nnxiously inquired from his spies what it could be. Upon
being told that it was Sikander's artillery, his troops pushed
the elephants against the enemy with vigour, at which moment
the combustibles were fired by the Rumis, and the machinery
exploding, many elephants were burnt and destroyed, and the
remainder, with the troops, fled in confusion. Sikander then
encountered Faiir, and after a severe contest, slew him, and
became ruler of the kingdom of Kanuj.

After the conquest of Kami], Sikander went to Mekka, carry-
ing thither rich presents and offerings. From thence he pro-
ceeded to another city, where he was received with great
homage by the most illustrious of the nation. He inquired of
them if there was anything wonderful or extraordinary in their
country, that he might go to see it, and they replied that there
were two trees in the kingdom, one a male, the other a female,
from which a voice proceeded. The male-tree spoke in the
day, and the female-tree in the night, and whoever had a wish,
went thither to have his desires accomplished. Sikander im-
mediately repaired to the spot, and approaching it, he hoped in
his heart that a considerable part of his life still remained to be
enjoyed. When he came under the tree, a terrible sound arose
and rung in his ears, and he asked the people present what it
meant. The attendant priest said it implied that fourteen
years of his life still remained. Sikander, at this interpretation
of the prophetic sound, wept, and the burning tears ran down


his cheeks. Again he asked, " Shall I return to Rum, and see
my mother and children before I die ?" and the answer was,
" Thou wilt die at Kashsiii,*

Nor mother, nor thy family at home
Wilt thou behold again, for thou wilt die,
Closing thy course of glory at Kashan.''

Sikauder left the place in sorrow, and pursued his way
towards Rum. In his progress he arrived at another city, and
the inhabitants gave him the most honourable welcome, repre-
senting to him, however, that they were dreadfully afflicted by
the presence of two demons or giants, who constantly assailed
them in the night, devouring men and goats and whatever
came in their way. Sikander asked their names ; and they
replied, Yajuj and Majuj (Gog and Magog). He immediately
ordered a barrier to be erected five hundred yards high, and
three hundred yards wide, and when it was finished he went
away. The giants, notwithstanding all their efforts, were un-
able to scale this barrier, and in consequence the inhabitants

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 29 of 35)