The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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" Let sweeping Vengeance lift her flickering brand ;

" Rustem alone may stem the roaring wave,

" And, prompt as bold, his groaning country save.

" Meanwhile in flight we place our only trust,

" Ere the proud ramparts crumble in the dust."

Swift flies the messenger through secret ways,
And to the King the dreadful tale conveys,
Then passed, unseen, in night's concealing shade,
The mournful heroes and the warrior maid.

Soon as the sun with vivifying ray,
Gleams o'er the landscape, and renews the day ;
The flaming troops the lofty walls surround,
With thundering crash the bursting gates resound.
Already are the captives bound, in thought,
And like a herd before the conqueror brought ;
Sohn'tb, terrific o'er the ruin, views
His hopes deceived, but restless still pursues.
An empty fortress mocks his searching eye,
No steel-clad chiefs his burning wrath defy ;
No warrior-maid reviving passion warms,
And soothes his soul with fondly-valued charms.


Deep in his breast he feels the amorous smart,

And hugs her image closer to his heart.

" Alas ! that Fate should thus invidious shroud

" The moon's soft radiance in a gloomy cloud ;

" Should to my eyes such winning grace display,

" Then snatch the enchanter of my soul away !

" A beauteous roe my toils enclosed in vain,

" Now I, her victim, drag the captive's chain ;

" Strange the effects that from her charms proceed,

" I gave the wound, and I afflicted bleed !

" Vanquished by her, I mourn the luckless strife ;

" Dark, dark, and bitter, frowns my morn of life.

" A fair unknown my tortured bosom rends,

" Withers each joy, and every hope suspends."

Impassioned thus Sohrab in secret sighed,
And sought, in vain, o'er-mastering grief to hide.
Can the heart bleed and throb from day to day,
And yet no trace its inmost pangs betray ? *
Love scorns control, and prompts the labouring sigh,
Pales the red lip, and dims the lucid eye ;

* Moore has translated the following thought from La Fosse.

In vain the lover tries to veil

The flame which in his bosom lies ;
His cheeks' confusion tells the tale,

We read it in his languid eyes :
And though his words the heart betray,
llis silence speaks e'en more than they.

Thus Shakspeare :

Fire that is closest kept, bums most of all ;

O ! they love least, that let men know their love.



The grief that does not speak,
Whispers the o'erfraught heart, and bids it break.

MACBETH, iv., 3, 210.

And Dryden ;

Silent he wept, ashamed to show his tears.


His look alarmed the stern Turanian Chief,

Closely he mark'd his heart-corroding grief ; *

And though he knew not that the martial dame,

Had in his bosom lit the tender flame ;

Full well he knew such deep repinings prove,

The hapless thraldom of disastrous love.

Full well he knew some idol's musky hair,

Had to his youthful heart become a snare,

But still unnoted was the gushing tear,

Till haply he had gained his private ear :

" In ancient times, no hero known to fame,

" Not dead to glory e'er indulged the flame ;

" Though beauty's smiles might charm a fleeting hour,

" The heart, unsway'd, repelled their lasting power.

" A warrior Chief to trembling love a prey ?

" What ! weep for woman one inglorious day ?

" Canst thou for love's effeminate control,

" Barter the glory of a warrior's soul ?

" Although a hundred damsels might be gained,

" The hero's heart shall still be free, unchained.

" Thou art our leader, and thy place the field

"Where soldiers love to fight with spear and shield ;

" And what hast thou to do with tears and smiles,

" The silly victim to a woman's wiles ?

" Our progress, mark ! from far Tura"n we came,

" Through seas of blood to gain immortal fame ;

* Literally, Human was not at first aware that Sohrab was wourulcd in tl.e
I.IYER. In this organ, Oriental as well as the Greek and Roman pools, placj
the residence of love. Thus Theocritus, Idyll, xiii. 71, speaking of Hercules
lamenting the loss of Hylas, and Anacreon in the beautiful ode of Cupi.l

Thus Horace :

Cum tibi flagrans Amor

Saeviet circa Jecur ulcerosn I. On. xxv. 13.

And Shakspeare :

Alas their love may be called appetite,
No motion of the hiver, but the'. pal;ito.



" And wilt thou now the tempting conquest shun,
" When our brave arms this Barrier-fort have won ?
" Why linger here, and trickling sorrows shed,
" Till mighty Kaus thunders o'er thy head !
" Till Tiis, and Giw, and Gudarz, and Bahrain,
" And Eustem brave, Feramurz, and Reham,
" Shall aid the war ! A great emprise is thine,
" At once, then, every other thought resign ;
" For know the task which first inspired thy zeal,
" Transcends in glory all that love can feel.
" Rise, lead the Avar, prodigious toils require
" Unyielding strength, and unextinguished fire ;
" Pursue the triumph with tempestuous rage,
" Against the world in glorious strife engage,
" And when an empire sinks beneath thy sway,
" (0 quickly may we hail the prosperous day,)
" The fickle sex will then with blooming charms,
" Adoring throng to bless thy circling arms ! "

Human's warm speech, the spirit-stirring theme,
Awoke Sohrab from his inglorious dream.
No more the tear his faded cheek bedewed,
Again ambition all his hopes renewed :
Swell'd his bold heart with unforgotten zeal,
The noble wrath which heroes only feel ;
Fiercely he vowed at one tremendous stroke,
To bow the world beneath the tyrant's yoke !
" Afrasiyab," he cried, " shall reign alone,
" The mighty lord of Persia's gorgeous throne ! "

Burning, himself, to rule this nether sphere,
These welcome tidings charmed the despot's ear,
Meantime Kaiis, this dire invasion known,
Had called his chiefs around his ivory throne :
There stood Gurgin, and Bahrain, and Gushwad
And Tiis, and Giw, and Gudarz, and Ferhad ;
To them he read the melancholy tale,
Gust'hem had written of the rising bale ;


Besought their aid and prudent choice, to form
Some sure defence against the threatening storm.
"With one consent they urge the strong request,
To summon Kustem from his rural rest.
Instant a warrior-delegate they send,
And thus the King invites his patriot-friend,

" To thee all praise, whose mighty arm alone,
" Preserves the glory of the Persian throne !
" Lo ! Tartar hordes our happy realms invade ;
" The tottering state requires thy powerful aid ;
" A youthful Champion leads the ruthless host,
" His savage country's widely-rumoured boast.
" The Barrier-fortress sinks beneath his sway,
" Hujir is vanquished, ruin tracks his way ;
" Strong as a raging elephant in fight,
" No arm but thine can match his furious might.
" Maziuderan thy conquering prowess knew ;
" The Demon-king thy trenchant falchion slew ,
" The rolling heavens, abash'd with fear, behold
" Thy biting sword, thy mace adorned with gold ! *
" Fly to the succour of a King distress'd,
" Proud of thy love, with thy protection blest.
" When o'er the nation dread misfortunes lower,
" Thou art the refuge, thou the saving power.
" The chiefs assembled claim thy patriot vows,
" Give to thy glory all that life allows ;
" And while no whisper breathes the direful tale,
" 0, let thy Monarch's anxious prayers prevail."

* " Thy mace makes the Sun weep, and thy sword inflames the Stars." (Lit.
the planet Venus.) Although this is a strong hyperbole, there are numberless
parallel passages, containing equally extravagant personification, in our own
Poets. For example : "The Stars are ashamed of thy presence, and turn
aside their sparkling eyes." (OssiAN.)

Swift Severn's flood,

Affrighted with their bloody looks

Ran fearfully among the trembling reeds, '

And hid his crisp head in the hollow bank.

HENRY IV Part i., i. 3'

370 THE SHAH NAMffil.

Closing the fragrant page * o'ercome with dread,
The afflicted King to Giw, the warrior, said :
" Go, bind the saddle on thy fleetest horse,
" Outstrip the tempest in thy rapid course,
" To Rustem swift his country's woes convey,
" Too true art thou to linger on the way ;
" Speed, day and night and not one instant wait,
" Whatever hour may bring thee to his gate."

Followed no pause to Giw enough was said,
N"or rest, nor taste of food, his speed delayed.
And when arrived, where Zabul bowers exhale
Ambrosial sweets and scent the balmy gale,
The sentinel's loud voice in Eustem's ear,
Announced a messenger from Persia, near ;
The Chief himself amidst his warriors stood,
Dispensing honours to the brave and good,
And soon as Giw had joined the martial ring,
(The sacred envoy of the Persian King,)
He, with becoming loyalty inspired,
Asked what the monarch, what the state required ;
But Giw, apart, his secret mission told,
The written page was speedily unrolled.

Struck with amazement, Rustem " Now on earth
" A warrior-knight of Sam's excelling worth ?
" "Whence comes this hero of the prosperous star ?
" I know no Turk renowned, like him, in war ;
" He bears the port of Rustem too, 'tis said,
" Like Sam, like Nariman, a warrior bred !
" He cannot be my son, unknown to me ;
" Reason forbids the thought it cannot be !
" At Samengan, where once affection smiled,
" To me Tahmineh bore her only child,

* The paper upon which the letters of royal and distinguished personages
in the East arc written is usually perfumed, and covered with curious devices
in gold. This was scented with amber. The degree of embellishment is
generally regulated according to the rank of the party.


" That was a daughter ? " Pondering thus he spoke,

And then aloud " Why fear the invader's yoke ?

" Why trembling shrink, by coward thoughts dismayed,

" Must we not all in dust, at length, be laid ?

" But come, to Nirum's palace, haste with me,

" And there partake the feast from sorrow free ;

" Breathe, but awhile ere we our toils renew,

" And moisten the parched lip with needful dew.

" Let plans of war another day decide,

" We soon shall quell this youthful hero's pride.

" The force of fire soon flutters and decays

" When ocean, swelled by storms, its wrath displays.

" What danger threatens ! whence the dastard fear !

" Rest, and at leisure share a warrior's cheer."

In vain the Envoy prest the Monarch's grief ;
The matchless prowess of the stripling chief ;
How brave Hujir had felt his furious hand ;
What thickening woes beset the shuddering land.
But Eustem, still, delayed the parting day,
And mirth and feasting rolled the hours away ;
Morn following morn beheld the banquet bright,
Music and wine prolonged the genial rite ;
Rapt by the witchery of the melting strain,
No thought of Kaiis touch'd his swimming brain.*

The trumpet's clang, on fragrant breezes borne,
Now loud salutes the fifth revolving morn ;
The softer tones which charm'd the jocund feast,
And all the noise of revelry, had ceased,
The generous horse, with rich embroidery deckt,
Whose gilded trappings sparkling light reflect,
Bears with majestic port the Champion brave,
And high in air the victor-banners wave.

* Four days were consumed in uninterrupted feasting. This seems to have
been an ancitnt practice previous to the commencement of any important under-
taking, or at setting out on a journey.



Prompt at the martial call, Zuuira leads
His veteran troops from Ziibul's verdant meads,*
Ere Eustem had approached his journey's end,
Tiis, Giidarz, Gushwtid, met their champion-frienc.
With customary honours ; pleased to bring
The shield of Persia to the anxious King.
But foaming wrath the senseless monarch swayed ;
His friendship scorned, his mandate disobeyed,
Beneath dark brows o'er-shadowing deep, his eye
Red gleaming shone, like lightning through the sky
And when the warriors met his sullen view,
Frowning revenge, still more enraged he grew :
Loud to the Envoy thus he fiercely cried :
" Since Rustem has my royal power defied,
" Had I a sword, this instant should his head
" Roll on the ground ; but let him now be led
" Hence, and impaled alive." f Astounded Giw
Shrunk from such treatment of a knight so true ;
But this resistance added to the flame,
And both were branded with revolt and shame ;
Both were condemned, and Tus, the stern decree
Received, to break them on the felon-tree.
Could daring insult, thus deliberate given,
Escape the rage of one to frenzy driven ?
No, from his side the nerveless Chief was flung,
Bent to the ground. Away the Champion sprung ;
Mounted his foaming horse, and looking round
His boiling wrath thus rapid utterance found :
" Ungrateful King, thy tyrant acts disgrace
" The sacred throne, and more, the human race ;

* Zufira, it will be remembered, was the brother of Rustem, and had the
immediate superintendence of the Zabul troops.

f The original is, "Seize and inflict upon him the punishment of the dar."
According to Burhani-katia, dar is a tree upon which felons are hanged. But
the general acceptation of the term is breaking or tearing the body upon a


" Midst clashing swords thy recreant life I saved,

" And am I now by Tiis contemptuous braved ? *

" On me shall Tiis, shall Kaus dare to frown ?

" On me, the bulwark of the regal crown ?

" Wherefore should fear in Rustem's breast have birth,

" Kaus, to me, a worthless clod of earth !

" Go, and thyself Sohrab's invasion stay,

" Go, seize the plunderers growling o'er their prey !

" Wherefore to others give the base command ?

" Go, break him on the tree with thine own hand.

" Know, thou hast roused a warrior, great and free,

" Who never bends to tyrant Kings like thee !

" Was not this untired arm triumphant seen,

" In Misser, Rum, Mazinderan, and Chin !

" And must I shrink at thy imperious nod !

" Slave to no Prince, I only bow to God.

" Whatever wrath from thee, proud King ! may fall,

" For thee I fought, and I deserve it all.

" The regal sceptre might have graced my hand,

" I kept the laws, and scorned supreme command.

" When Kai-kob;id on Alberz mountain strayed,

" I drew him thence, and gave a warrior's aid ;

" Placed on his brows the long-contested crown,

" Worn by his sires, by sacred right his own ;

" Strong in the cause, my conquering arms prevailed,

" Wouldst thou have rcign'd had Rustem's valour failed

" When the White Demon ragod in battle-fray,

" Wouldst thou have lived had Rustem lost the day ? "

Then to his friends : " Be wise, and shun your fate,

" Fly the wide ruin which o'erwhelms the state ;

* In this speech Eastern recounts the services which he had performed for
Kaus. He speaks of his conquests in Egypt, China, Hamaveran, R&m, Suksar,
and Mazindtran. Thus Achilles boasts of his unrequited achievements in the
cause of Greece.

I sacked twelve ample cities on the main,
And twelve lay smoking on the Trojan plain.

TOPE. niad Iz. 328.


" The conqueror comes the scourge of great and small,
" And vultures, following fast, will gorge on all.
" Persia no more its injured Chief shall view "
He said, and sternly from the court withdrew.

The warriors now, with sad forebodings wrung,
Torn from that hope to which they proudly clung,
On Giidarz rest, to soothe with gentle sway,
The frantic King, and Rustem's wrath allay.
With bitter grief they wail misfortune's shock,
No shepherd now to guard the timorous flock.
Giiddrz at length, with boding cares imprest,
Thus soothed the anger in the royal breast.
" Say, what has Rustem done, that he should be
" Impaled upon the ignominious tree ?
" Degrading thought, unworthy to be bred
" Within a royal heart, a royal head.
" Hast thou forgot when near the Caspian-wave,
" Defeat and ruin had appalled the brave,
" When mighty Rustem struck the dreadful blow,
" And nobly freed thee from the savage foe ?
" Did Demons huge escape his flaming brand ?
" Their reeking limbs bestrew'd the slippery strand.
" Shall he for this resign his vital breath ?
" What ! shall the hero's recompense be death ?
" But who will dare a threatening step advance,
" What earthly power can bear his withering glance ?
" Should he to Zabul fired with wrongs return,
" The plunder'd land will long in sorrow mourn !
" This direful presage all our warriors feel,
" For who can now oppose the invader's steel ;
" Thus is it wise thy champion to offend,
" To urge to this extreme thy warrior-friend ?
" Remember, passion ever scorns control,
" And wisdom's mild decrees should rule a Monarch's soul."*

* Literally, "Kings ought to be endowed with judgment and discretion ;
no advantage can arise from impetuosity and rage." Gudarz was one of the


Kaiis, relenting, heard with anxious ear,
And groundless wrath gave place to shame and fear ;
" Go then," he cried, " his generous aid implore,
" And to your King the mighty Chief restore ! "

"When Giidarz rose, and seized his courser's rein,
A crowd of heroes followed in his train.
To Rustem, now (respectful homage paid),
The royal prayer he anxious thus conveyed.
" The King, repentant, seeks thy aid again,
" Grieved to the heart that he has given thee pain ;
" But though his anger was unjust and strong,
" Thy country still is guiltless of the wrong,
" And, therefore, why abandoned thus by thee ?
" Thy help the King himself implores through me."
Rustem rejoined : " Unworthy the pretence,
" And scorn and insult all my recompense ?
" Must I be galled by his capricious mood ?
" I, who have still his firmest champion stood ?
" But all is past, to heaven alone resigned,
" No human cares shall more disturb my mind ! "
Then Giidarz thus (consummate art inspired
His prudent tongue, with all that zeal required) ;
" When Rustem dreads Sohrab's resistless power,
" "Well may inferiors fly the trying hour !
" The dire suspicion now pervades us all,
" Thus, unavenged, shall beauteous Persia fall !

greatest generals of Persia, he conquered Judea, and took Jerusalem under
the reign of Lohurasp, of the first dynasty of Persia, and sustained many wars
against Afrasiyab under the Kings of the second dynasty. He was the father
of Giw, who is also celebrated for his valour in the following reigns. The
opinion of this venerable and distinguished warrior appears to have had con-
siderable weight and influence with Kaiis. By the persuasion of his friends
he interferes between the King and Rustem, like Nestor,

To calm their passions with the words of age. Iliad.

The language is strong, and breathes more of independence than might be
supposed in an address to a Persian despot. But Kaus was a weak Prince.
He is everywhere called "empty brained"! and treated with very little


" Yet, generous still, avert the lasting shame,
" 0, still preserve thy country's glorious fame ! *
" Or wilt thou, deaf to all our fears excite,
" Forsake thy friends, and shun the pending fight ?
" And worse, grief ! in thy declining days,
" Forfeit the honours of thy country's praise ? "
This artful censure set his soul on fire,
But patriot firmness calm'd his burning ire ;
And thus he said " Inured to war's alarms,
" Did ever Rustem shun the dim of arms ?
" Though frowns from Kaiis I disdain to bear,
" My threateu'd country claims a warrior's care."
He ceased, and prudent joined the circling throng,
And in the public good forgot the private wrong.

From far the King the generous Champion viewed,
And rising mildly thus his speech pursued :
" Since various tempers govern all mankind,
" Me, nature fashioned of a froward mind ; f
" And what the heavens spontaneously bestow,
" Sown by their bounty must for ever grow.
" The fit of wrath which burst within me, soon
" Shrunk up my heart as thin as the new moon ; J
" Else had I deemed thee still my army's boast,
" Source of my regal power, beloved the most,

* Ulysses thus addresses Achilles :

But if all this relentless thou disdain,
If honour and if interest plead in vain ;
Yet some redress to suppliant Greece afford,
And be, amongst her guardian gods, adored.
If no regard thy suffering country claim,
Ik'ur thy own glory, and the voice of fame

POPE. Iliad, ix. 300.

+ Kus, in acknowledging the violence of his disposition, uses a singulai
phrase : "When you departed in anger, Champion ! I repented ; cushesfcll
into my mouth." A similar metaphor is need in Hindustani : If a person
falls under the displeasure of his friend, he says, " Ashes have fallen into my
meat " : meaning, that his happiness is gone.

+ This is one of Firddusf's favourite similes.

" My heart became as slender as the new moon.


" Unequalled. Every day, remembering thee,
" I drain the wine cup, thou art all to me ;
" I wished thee to perform that lofty part,
" Claimed by thy valour, sanctioned by my heart ;
" Hence thy delay my better thoughts supprcst,
" And boisterous passions revelled in my breast ;
" But when I saw thee from my Court retire
" In wrath, repentance quenched my burning ire.
" 0, let me now my keen contrition prove,
" Again enjoy thy fellowship and love :
" And while to thee my gratitude is known,
" Still be the pride and glory of my throne."

Rustein, thus answering said : " Thou art the Ivin^
" Source of command, pure honour's sacred spring ;
" And here I stand to follow thy behest,
" Obedient ever be thy will expressed,
" And services required Old age shall see
" My loins still bound in fealty to thee."

To this the King : " Rejoice we then to-day,
" And on the morrow marshal our array."
The monarch quick commands the feast of joy,
And social cares his buoyant mind employ,
"Within a bower, beside a crystal spring,*
"Where opening flowers, refreshing odours fling,
Cheerful he sits, and forms the banquet scene,
In regal splendour on the crowded green ;
And as around he greets his valiant bands,
Showers golden presents from his bounteous hands ; f

* The beautiful arbours referred to in the text are often included within
the walls of Eastern palaces. They are fancifully fitted up, and supplied with
reservoirs, fountains, and flower-trees. These romantic garden-pavilions are
called Kiosks in Turkey, and are generally situated upon an eminence near a
Tinning stream.
t Milton alludes to the custom in Paradise Lost :

Where the gorgeous cast with richest hand
Showers on her Kings barbaric pearl and gold.

In the note on this passage by Warburton, it is said to have been an eastern


Voluptuous damsels trill the sportive lay,
Whose sparkling glances beam celestial day ;
Fill'd with delight the heroes closer join,
And quaff till midnight cups of generous wine.

Soon as the Sun had pierced the veil of night,
And o'er the prospect shed his earliest light,
Kaiis, impatient, bids the clarions sound,
The sprightly notes from, hills and rocks rebound ;
His treasure gates are opened : and to all
A largess given ; obedient to the call,
His subjects gathering crowd the mountain's brow,
And following thousands shade the vales below ;
With shields, in armour, numerous legends bend ;
And troops of horse the threatening lines extend.
Beneath the tread of heroes fierce and strong,
By war's tumultuous fury borne along,
The firm earth shook : * the dust, in eddies driven,!
Whirled high in air, obscured the face of heaven ;

ceremony, at the coronation of their Kings, to powder them with gold-dust and
seed-pearl. The expression in Firdausi is, "he showered or scattered gems. ''
It was usual at festivals, and the custom still exists, to throw money amongst
the people. In Hafiz, the term used is nisar, which is of the same import.
Clarke, in the second volume of his Travels, speaks of the four principal
Sultanas of the Seraglio at Constantinople being powdered iciik diamonds '
"Long spangled robes, open in front, with pantaloons embroidered in gold
and silver, and covered by a profusion of pearls and precious stones, displayed
their persons to great advantage. Their hair hung in loose and very thick
tresses on each side of their cheeks, falling quite down to the waist, and
covering their shoulders behind. Those tresses were quite powdered with
diamonds, not displayed according to any studied arrangement, but as if
carelessly scattered, by handfuls, among their flowing locks." Vol. ii. p. 14.
* Ommia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu
Horrida contremuere sub altis setheris auris.

Lucretius, De Eer. Nat. III. 816.
t Thus Homer:

So wrapt in gathering dust, the Grecian train,
A moving cloud swept on and hid the plain.

POPE. Iliad, iii. 13.
And Virgil :

Hie subitam nigro glomerari pulvere nubem

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