The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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That I had passed.

I ran it through even from my boyish days,

Wherein I spoke of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood and field.

She wished she had not heard it ; yet she wished,

That heaven had made her such a man ; she thanked me :

She loved me for the dangers I had passed ;

And I loved her that she did pity them. OTHELLO, act i. sc. 3.

* The marriage ceremony was performed conformably to the laws of tho
country. There was nothing of,

Conjugium vocat: hoc prsetexit nomine culpam.

VIROIL, .2En. iv. 172.


When the delighted father, doubly blest,

Resigned his daughter to his glorious guest.

The people shared the gladness which it gave,

The union of the beauteous and the brave.

To grace their nuptial day both old and young,

The hymeneal gratulations sung :

" May this young moon bring happiness and joy,

" And every source of enmity destroy."

The marriage-bower received the happy pair,

And love and transport shower'd their blessings there.

Ere from his lofty sphere the morn had thrown
His glittering radiance, and in splendour shone,
The mindful ChampioD, from his sinewy arm,
His bracelet drew, the soul-ennobling charm ;
And, as he held the wondrous gift with pride,
He thus address'd his love-devoted bride !
" Take this," he said, "and if, by gracious heaven,
" A daughter for thy solace should be given,
" Let it among her ringlets be displayed,
" And joy and honour will await the maid ;
" But should kind fate increase the nuptial-joy,
" And make thee mother of a blooming boy,
" Around his arm this magic bracelet bind,
" To fire with virtuous deeds his ripening mind ;
" The strength of Sam will nerve his manly form,
" In temper mild, in valour like the storm ;
" His not the dastard fate to shrink, or turn
" From where the lions of the battle burn ;
" To him the soaring eagle from the sky
" Will stoop, the bravest yield to him, or fly ;
" Thus shall his bright career imperious claim
" The well-won honours of immortal fame ! "
Ardent he said, and kissed her eyes and face,
And lingering held her in a fond embrace.

When the bright sun his radiant brow displayed,
And earth in all its loveliest hues arrayed,


The Champion rose to leave his spouse's side,
The warm affections of his weeping bride.
For her, too soon the winged moments flew,
Too soon, alas ! the parting hour she knew; ;
Clasped in his arms, with many a streaming tear,
She tried, in vain, to win his deafen'd ear ;
Still tried, ah fruitless struggle ! to impart,
The swelling anguish of her bursting heart.

The father now with gratulations due
Rustem approaches, and displays to view
The fiery war-horse, welcome as the light
Of heaven, to one immersed in deepest night ;
The Champion, wild with joy, fits on the rein,
And girds the saddle on his back again ;
Then mounts, and leaving sire and wife behind,
Onward to Sistan rushes like the wind.

But when returned to Zabul's friendly shade,
None knew what joys the Warrior had delayed ;
Still, fond remembrance, with endearing thought,
Oft to his mind the scene of rapture brought.*

When nine slow-circling months had roll'd away,
Sweet-smiling pleasure hailed the brightening day
A wondrous boy Tahmlneh's tears supprest,
And lull'd the sorrows of her heart to rest ; x .

To him, predestined to be great and brave,
The name Sohriib his tender mother gave ;
And as he grew, amazed, the gathering throng,
View'd his large limbs, his sinews firm and strong ;
His infant years no soft endearment claimed :
Athletic sports his eager soul inflamed ;
Broad at the chest and taper round the loins,
Where to the rising hip the body joins ;
Hunter and wrestler ; and so great his speed,
He could o'ertake, and hold the swiftest steed.

* In the Argonautics of Appollonius Rhodius, the tender parting of Jason
and Hypsipyle, is very similar to that of Rustem and Tahmineh.


His noble aspect, and majestic grace,

Betrayed the offspring of a glorious race.

How, with a mother's ever anxious love,

Still to retain him near her heart she strove !

For when the father's fond inquiry came,

Cautious, she still concealed his birth and name,

And feigii'd a daughter born, the evil fraught

With misery to avert but vain the thought ;

Not many years had passed, with downy flight,

Ere he, Tahmineh's wonder and delight,

With glistening eye, and youthful ardour warm,

Filled her foreboding bosom with alarm.

" now relieve my heart ! " he said, " declare,

" From whom I sprang and breathe the vital air.

" Since, from my childhood I have ever been,

" Amidst my play-mates of superior mien ;

" Should friend or foe demand my father's name,

" Let not my silence testify my shame !

" If still concealed, you falter, still delay,

" A mother's blood shall wash the crime away."

" This wrath forego," the mother answering cried,
" And joyful hear to whom thou art allied.
" A glorious line precedes thy destined birth,
" The mightiest heroes of the sons of earth.
" The deeds of Sam remotest realms admire,
" And Zal, and Rustem thy illustrious sire ! "
In private, then, she Rustem's letter placed
Before his view, and brought with eager haste
Three sparkling rubies, wedges three of gold,
From Persia sent " Behold," she said, " behold
" Thy father's gifts, will these thy doubts remove
' The costly pledges of paternal love !
' Behold this bracelet charm, of sovereign power
' To baffle fate in danger's awful hour ;
' But thou must still the perilous secret keep,
' Nor ask the harvest of renown to reap ;


" For \\hen, by this peculiar signet known,

" Thy glorious father shall demand his son,

" Doomed from her only joy in life to part,

" think what pangs will rend thy mother's heart !

" Seek not the fame which only teems with woo ;

" Af rasiyab is Rustem's deadliest foe !

' And if by him discovered, him I dread,

" Revenge will fall upon thy guiltless head."

The youth replied : " In vain thy sighs and tears,
" The secret breathes and mocks thy idle fears.
" Xo human power can fate's decrees control,
" Or check the kindled ardour of my soul.
" Then why from me the bursting truth conceal ?
" My father's foes even now my vengeance feel ;
" Even now in wrath my native legions rise,
" And sounds of desolation strike the skies ;
" Kaiis himself, hurled from his ivory throne,
" Shall yield to Rustem the imperial crown,
" And thou, my mother, still in tfiumph seen,
" Of lovely Persia hailed the honoured queen !
" Then shall Tiinin unite beneath my band,
'' And drive this proud oppressor from the land !
" Father and Son, in virtuous league combined,
" No savage despot shall enslave mankind ;
" When Sun and Moon o'er heaven refulgent blaze,
" Shall little Stars obtrude their feeble rays ? *

* In Percy's Collection, lliere is an old song which contains a similar idea.

You meaner beauties of the night,
That poorly satisfle our eies,

More by your number, than your light ;
You common people of the skies,
What are you ^Yhen the Moon shall rise ?


Tltf .? lucretias, speaking of Epicurus.

Qui genus hiimanum ingenio superavit, et omneis
tnestiuxit, stellas exortus uti tutherius Sol.

DE HER. NAT. III. 1056.

A A 2


He paused, and then ; " mother, I must now
" My father seek, and see his lofty brow ;
" Be mine a horse, such as a prince demands,
" Fit for the dusty field, a warrior's hands ;
" Strong as an elephant his form should be,
" And chested like the stag, in motion free,
" And swift as bird, or fish ; it would disgrace
" A warrior bold on foot to show his face."

The mother, seeing how his heart was bent,
His day-star rising in the firmament,
Commands the stables to be searched to find
Among the steeds one suited to his mind ;
Pressing their backs he tries their stre'ngth and nerve,
Bent double to the ground their bellies curve ;
Not one, from neighbouring plain and mountain brought,
Equals the wish with which his soul is fraught ;
Fruitless on every side he anxious turns,
Fruitless, his brain with wild impatience burns,
But when at length they bring the destined steed,
From Rakush bred, of lightning's winged speed,
Fleet, as the arrow from the bow-string flies,
Fleet, as the eagle darting through the skies,
Rejoiced he springs, and, with a nimble bound,
Vaults in his seat, and wheels the courser round ;
" "With such a horse thus mounted, what remains ?
" Kaiis, the Persian King, no longer reigns ! "
High flushed he speaks with youthful pride elate,
Eager to crush the Monarch's glittering state ;
He grasps his javelin with a hero's might,
And pants with ardour for the field of fight.

Soon o'er the realm his fame expanding spread,
And gathering thousands hasten'd to his aid.
His Grand-sire, pleased, beheld the warrior-train
Successive throng and darken all the plain ;
And bounteously his treasures he supplied,
Camels, and steeds, and gold. In martial pride,


Sohrab was seen a Grecian helmet graced

His brow and costliest mail his limbs embraced.

Afrasiydb now hears with ardent joy,
The bold ambition of the warrior-boy,
Of him who, perfumed with the milky breath
Of infancy, was threatening war and death,
And bursting sudden from his mother's side,
Had launched his bark upon the perilous tide.

The insidious King sees well the tempting hour,
Favouring his arms against the Persian power,
And thence, in haste, the enterprise to share,
Twelve thousand veterans selects with care ;
To Human and Barman the charge consigns,
And thus his force with Samengan combines ;
But treacherous first his martial chiefs he prest,
To keep the secret fast within their breast :
" For this bold youth must not his father know,
" Each must confront the other as his foe,
" Such is my vengeance ! With unhallowed rage,
" Father and Son shall dreadful battle wage !
" Unknown the youth shall Rustem's force withstand,
" And soon o'erwhelm the bulwark of the laud.
" Rustem removed, the Persian throne is ours,
" An easy conquest to confederate powers ;
" And then, secured by some propitious snare,
" Sohnib himself our galling bonds shall wear.
" Or should the Son by Rustem's falchion bleed,
" The father's horror at that fatal deed,
" Will rend his soul, and 'midst his sacred grief,
" Kalis in vain will supplicate relief."

The tutored chiefs advance with speed, and bring
Imperial presents to the future king;*

* Amongst the nations of the East, nothing can be done without presents
between the parties, whether the negotiation be of a political, commercial, or
of a domestic nature. Homer epeaks of presents, but they are only proffered


In stately pomp the embassy proceeds ;

Ten loaded camels, ten unrivalled steeds,

A golden crown, and throne, whose jewels bright

Gleam in the sun, and shed a sparkling light.

A letter too the crafty tyrant sends,

And fraudful thus the glorious aim commends.

" If Persia's spoils invite thee to the field,

" Accept the aid my conquering legions yield ;

" Led by two Chiefs of valour and renown,

" Upon thy head to place the kingly crown."

Elate with promised fame, the youth surveys
The regal vest, the throne's irradiant blaze,
The golden crown, the steeds, the sumptuous load
Of ten strong camels, craftily bestowed ;
Salutes the Chiefs, and views on every side,
The lengthening ranks with various arms supplied.
The march begins the brazen drums resound,*
His moving thousands hide the trembling ground ;
For Persia's verdant land he wields the spear,
And blood and havoc mark his groaning rear.f

To check the Invader's horror-spreading course,
The barrier-fort opposed unequal force ;
That fort whose walls, extending wide, contained
The stay of Persia, men to battle trained.

conditionally, as in the Iliad, where Ulysses and Ajax endeavour to conciliate

Ten weighty talents of the purest gold,

And twice ten vases of refulgent mould ;

Twelve steeds unmatched in fleetness and in force,

And still victorious in the dusty course,

All these, to buy his friendship, shall be paid.

TOPE, Iliad, ix. 122.

But in the East, the presents precede the negotiation.

* Kus is a tymbal, or large brass drum, which is beat in the palaces or
camps of Eastern Princes.

t It appears throughout the Shah Nameh that whenever any army was put
in motion, the inhabitants and the country, whether hostile or friendly, were
equally given up to plunder and devastation.

" Every thing in their progress was burnt and destroyed.'


Soon as Hujir the dusky crowd descried,

He on his own presumptuous arm relied,

And left the fort ; in mail with shield and spear,

Vaunting he spoke, " What hostile force is here ?

" What Chieftain dares our war-like realms invade ? "

" And who art thou ? " Sohrab indignant said,

Rushing towards him with undaunted look

" Hast thou, audacious ! nerve and soul to brook

" The crocodile in fight, that to the strife

" Singly thou comest, reckless of thy life ? "

To this this foe replied" A Turk and I
" Have never yet been bound in friendly tie ;
" And soon thy head shall, severed by my sword,
" Gladden the sight of Persia's mighty lord,
" While thy torn limbs to vultures shall be given,
" Or bleach beneath the parching blast of heaven."

The youthful hero laughing hears the boast,*
And now by each continual spears are tost,
Mingling together ; like a flood of fire
The boaster meets his adversary's ire ;
The horse on which he rides, with thundering pace,
Seems like a mountain moving from its base ; f
Sternly he seeks the stripling's loins to wound,
Bub the lance hurtless drops upon the ground ;
Sohrab, advancing, hurls his steady spear
Full on the middle of the vain Hujir,
Who staggers in his seat. With proud disdain
The youth now flings him headlong on the plain,

* The circumstances in Sohrab's first encounter somewhat resemble the
first engagement of young Ascanius with the boa&ter Numanus. Virgil, .ZEn. ix.

+ The simile of a moving mountain occurs in the Iliad. Hector with his
white plumes, is compared to a moving mountain topt with snow. Book xiii.
754. But Virgil has added considerably to this image. The Trojan hero
moves towards Turnus.

Quantus Athos, nut quantus Eryx, ant ipse coniscis

Quum freinit ilioilms, quantus, i, r auiletque nivali

Yertice se adtollens pater Apiieiiniuus ad auras. ./En. xii. 701.


And quick dismounting, on his heaving breast
Triumphant stands, his Khunjer firmly prest,
To strike the head off, but the blow was stayed
Trembling, for life, the craven boaster prayed.
That mercy granted eased his coward mind,
Though, dire disgrace, in captive bonds confined,
And sent to Human, who amazed beheld
How soon Sohrab his daring soul had quelled.

When Griird-afrid, a peerless warrior-dame,
Heard of the conflict, and the hero's shame,
Groans heaved her breast, and tears of anger flowed,
Her tulip cheek with deeper crimson glowed ;
Speedful, in arms magnificent arrayed,
A foaming palfrey bore the martial maid ;
The burnished mail her tender limbs embraced,
Beneath her helm her clustering locks she placed ; *
Poised in her hand an iron javelin gleamed,
And o'er the ground its sparkling lustre streamed ;
Accoutred thus in manly guise, no eye
However piercing could her sex descry ;
Now, like a lion, from the fort she bends,
And 'midst the foe impetuously descends ;
Fearless of soul, demands with haughty tone,
The bravest chief, for war-like valour known,
To try the chance of fight. In shining arms,
Again Sohrab the glow of battle warms ;
With scornful smiles, " Another deer ! " he cries,
" Come to my victor-toils, another prize ! "

Thus liid in arms, she seemed a goodly knight,

And fit for any warlike exercise ;
But when she list lay down her armour bright,

And back resume her peaceful maiden's guise ;
The fairest maid she was that ever yet,
Prison'd her locks within a golden net,
Or let them waving hang, with roses fair beset.

Fletcher's Purple Island, Cant. x.


The damsel saw his noose insidious spread,
And soon her arrows whizzed around his head ;
With steady skill the twanging bow she drew,
And still her pointed darts unerring flew ;
For when in forest sports she touched the string,
Never escaped even bird upon the wing ;
Furious he burned, and high his buckler held,
To ward the storm, by growing force impell'd ;
And tilted forward with augmented wrath,
But Giird-afrid aspires to cross his path ;
Now o'er her back the slacken'd bow resounds ;
She grasps her lance, her goaded courser bounds,
Driven on the youth with persevering might
Unconquer'd courage still prolongs the fight ;
The stripling Chief shields off the threaten'd blow,
Reins in his steed, then rushes on the foe ; .
With outstretch'd arm, he bending backwards hung,
And, gathering strength, his pointed javelin flung ;
Firm through her girdle belt the weapon went,
And glancing down the polish'd armour rent.
Staggering, and stunned by his superior force,
She almost tumbled from her foaming horse,
Yet unsubdued, she cut the spear in two,
And from her side the quivering fragment drew,
Then gain'd her seat, and onward urged her steed,
But strong and fleet Sohrab arrests her speed :
Strikes off her helm, and sees a woman's face,
Radiant with blushes and commanding grace !
Thus undeceived, in admiration lost,
He cries, " A woman, from the Persian hcr.t !
" If Persian damsels thus in arms engage,
" Who shall repel their warrior's fiercer rage ?
Then from his saddle thong his noose he drew,
And round her waist the twisted loop he threw,
" Now seek not to escape," he sharply said,
" Such is the fate of war, unthinking maid !


" And, as such beauty seldom swells our pride,
" Vain thy attempt to cast my toils aside."

In this extreme, but one resource remained,
Only one remedy her hope sustained,
Expert in wiles each siren-art she knew,
And thence exposed her blooming face to view ;
Raising her full black orbs, serenely bright,
In all her charms she blazed before his sight ; *

* Gurd-afrid, engaging Sohrab, is exactly the Clorinda of Tiisso engxging
Tancrcd, in the third Canto of Gerusalemme Liberata.

Clorinda intanto ad incontrar 1'assalto
Va di Tancredi, e pon la lancia in resta.
Ferirsi alle visiere, e i tronchi in alto
Volaro, e parte nuda ella ne resta :
Che, rotii i lacci all'elmo suo, d'un salto,
(Mirabil colpo) ei le balzo di testa :
E le chiome derate al vento sparse,
Giovane donna in mezzo al campo apparse,

Lampeggiar gli occhi

Percosso il Cavalier non ripercote ;

Ne si dal fcrro a riguardarsi attende,

Come a guardar i begli occhi, e le gote,

Ond' Amor 1'arco inevitabil tende. Stanzas xxi. and xxiv.

Meanwhile, her lance in rest, the warrior-dame,
With eager haste to encounter Tancred came.
Their vizors struck, the spears in shivers flew ;
The virgin's face was left exposed to view.
The thongs that held her helmet burst in twain,
Hurled from her head, it bounded on the plain ;
Loose in the wind, her golden tresses flowed,
And now a maid confessed to all she stood ;

Keen flash her eyes

Th' enamoured warrior ne'er returns a blow,

But views with eager gaze her charming eyes,

From which the shaft of love unerring flies. HOOLE.

Warrior dames have afforded numerous episodes to the Poets from the
earliest times. Penthesilea aided the cause of Priam in the Trojan war.
She was killed in battle by Achilles, who was so affected by her beauty, -when
she was stripped of her armour, that he shed tears. Artemisia, according to
Herodotus, assisted Xerxes in his expedition against Greece. Every body is
acquainted with the noble description of Camilla in the eleventh 2Eneid.
The Italian Poets, and our own Spenser, have not failed to take advantage of
these examples, and hence the beautiful and interesting descriptions of female
heroism with which their works abound.

Where is the antique glory now become,
That whylome wont in wemen to appeare?
Where be the brave achievements doen by some?
Where be the batteilles, where the shield ,ind sprare



And thus addressed Sohrdb. " warrior brave,

" Hear me, and thy imperiled honour save,

" These curling tresses seen by either host,

" A woman conquered, whence the glorious boast ?*

" Thy startled troops will know, with inward grief,

" A woman's arm resists their towering chief,

" Better preserve a warrior's fair renown,

" And let our struggle still remain unknown,

" For who with wanton folly would expose

" A helpless maid, to aggravate her woes ;

" The fort, the treasure, shall thy toils repay,

" The chief, and garrison, thy will obey,

" And thine the honours of this dreadful day."

Eaptured he gazed, her smiles resistless move
The wildest transports of ungoverned love.
Her face disclosed a paradise to view,
Eyes like the fawn, and cheeks of rosy hue
Thus vanquished, lost, unconscious of her aim,
And only struggling with his amorous flame,
He rode behind, as if compelled by fate,
And heedless saw her gain the castle-gate.

Safe with her friends, escaped from brand and spear,
Smiling she stands, as if unknown to fear.
The father now, with tearful pleasure wild,
Clasps to his heart his fondly-foster'd child ;
The crowding warriors round her eager bend,
And grateful prayers to favouring heaven ascend.

The Warrior-maids, Marpesia, Hippolyte, Lampedo, and Pentlicsilca, arc
amongst the first described by the Historians and Poets of the West, and
they are all of Asiatic origin. The Amazons are said to have inhabited the
country now called Armenia. Marpesia conquered the inhabitants of Cau-
casus, in consequence, of which the mountain was called Marpcsius Mons.
Gurd-afrid may therefore be considered an indigenous character, and not
derived from Western Poetry, although from the circumstance of Longinus
having been minister and preceptor to Zenobia, it may be suspected that the
works of Homer and Virgil were known in the East.

* Namque, etsi nullum memorabilc nomen
Feminea in pcena est, nee habet victoria laudem. JEneid, ii. 583.


Now from the walls, she, with majestic air,
Exclaims : " Thou warrior of Tiiran ! forbear,
" "Why vex thy soul, and useless strife demand !
" Go, and in peace enjoy thy native land."

Stern he rejoins : " Thou beauteous tyrant ! say,
' Though crown'd with charms, devoted to betray,
" When these proud walls, in dust and ruins laid,
" Yield no defence, and thou a captive maid,
" "Will not repentance through thy bosom dart,
" And sorrow soften that disdainful heart ? "

Quick she replied : " O'er Persia's fertile fields
" The savage Turk in vain his falchion wields ;
" When King Kaiis this bold invasion hears,
" And mighty Rustem clad in arms appears !
" Destruction wide will glut the slippery plain,
" And not one man of all thy host remain.
" Alas ! that bravery, high as thine, should meet
" Amidst such promise, with a sure defeat,
" But not a gleam of hope remains for thec,
" Thy wondrous valour cannot keep thee free.'
" Avert the fate which o'er thy head impends,
" Return, return, and save thy martial friends ! "

Thus to be scorned, defrauded of his prey,
With victory in his grasp to lose the day !
Shame and revenge alternate filled his mind ;
The suburb-town to pillage he consigned,
And devastation not a dwelling spared ;
The very owl was from her covert scared ;
Then thus : " Though luckless in my aim to-day,
" To-morrow shall behold a sterner fray ;
" This fort, in ashes, scattered o'er the plain."
He ceased and turned towards his troops again ;
There, at a distance from the hostile power,
He brooding waits the slaughter-breathing hour.

Meanwhile the sire of Gurd-afrid, who now
Governed the fort, and feared the warrior's vow ;


Mournful and pale, with gathering woes opprest,

His distant Monarch trembling thus addrest.

But first invoked the heavenly power to shed

Its choicest blessings o'er his royal head!

" Against our realm with numerous foot and horse,

" A stripling warrior holds his ruthless course.

" His lion-breast unequalled strength betrays,

" And o'er his mien the sun's effulgence plays :

" Sohnib his name ; like Sam Suwar he shows,

" Or Rustern terrible amidst his foes.

" The bold Hujir lies vanquished on the plain,

" And drags a captive's ignominious chain ;

" Myriads of troops besiege our tottering wall,

" And vain the effort to suspend its fall.

" Haste, arm for fight, this Tartar-power withstand,

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