The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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near which they seated themselves upon royal carpets, and the
damsel having placed Jemshid in such a manner that they
might face each other, she called for music and wine.


But first the rose-checked handmaids gathered round,
And washed obsequiously the stranger's feet ;
Then on the margin of the sih'ery lake
Attentive sate.

The youth, after this, readily took the wine and rcfrcshmcn'.s
which were ordered by the princess.

Three cups he drank with eager zest,*

Three cups of ruby wine ;
Which banished sorrow from his breast,

For memory left no sign
Of past affliction ; not a trace
Remained upon his heart, or smiling face.

Whilst he was drinking the princess observed his peculiar
action and elegance of manner, and instantly said in her
heart : " This must be a king ! " She then offered him some
more food, as he had come a long journey, and from a distant
laud, but he only asked for more wine. " Is your fondness for
wine so great ? " said she. And he replied : " With wine I
have no enemy ; yet, without it I can be resigned and con-

* It is not unusual for Firdausf to say "they were all intoxicated!"
Homer's heroes are more celebrated for eating than drinking, and the bravest
always had the largest share ! The ancient as well as the modern Persians,
it appears, were passionately devoted to wine. Some lines which I have
paraphrased from the Saki-nameh of Hafiz, will show their adoration of it,
defended by their notions of the uncertainty of life :

Saki ! ere crar life decline,
Bring the ruby-tinted wine ;
Sorrow on my bosom preys,
Wine alone delights my days !
Bring it, let its sweets impart
Rapture to my fainting heart ;
Saki ! fill the bumper high
Why should man unhappy sij;h ?
Mark the glittering bubbles swim,
Round the goblet's smiling brim ;
Now they burst, the chanu is gone I
Fretful life will soon be done ;
Jemshid's regal sway is o'er,
Kai-kobad is now no more.
Fill the goblet, all mast sevrr.
Drink the liquid gem for ever !
Thou shalt still, in bowers divine,
Quad the soul-expanding wine !


Whilst drinking wine I never see
The frowning face of my enemy :
Drink freely of the grape, and nought
Can give the soul one mournful thought ;
Wine is a bride of witching power,
And wisdom is her marriage dower ;
Wine can the purest joy impart,
Wine inspires the saddest heart ;
Wine gives cowards valour's rage,
Wine gives youth to tottering age ;
Wine gives vigour to the weak.
And crimson to the pallid cheek ;
And dries up sorrow, as the sun
Absorbs the dew it shines upon."

From the voice and eloquence of the speaker she now con-
jectured that this certainly must be king Jemshid, and she felt
satisfied that her notions would soon be realized. At this
moment she recollected that there was a picture of Jemshid
in her father's gallery, and thought of sending for it to com-
pare the features ; but again she considered that the person
before her was certainly and truly Jemshid, and that the picture
would be unnecessary on the occasion.

It is said that two ring-doves, a male and female, happened
to alight on the garden wall near the fountain where they were
sitting, and began billing and cooing in amorous play, so that
seeing them together in such soft intercourse, blushes over-
spread the cheeks of the princess, who immediately called for
her bow and arrows. When they were brought she said to
Jemshid, "Point out which of them I shall hit, and I will
bring it to the ground. Jemshid replied : " Where a man is, a
woman's aid is not required give me the bow, and mark my
skill ;

However brave a woman may appear,
Whatever strength of arm she may possess,
She is but half a man ! "

Upon this observation being made, the damsel turned her
head aside ashamed, and gave him the bow. Her heart was
full of love. Jemshid took the bow, and selecting a feathered
arrow out of her hand, said : " Nor for a wager. If I hit



the female, shall the lady whom I most admire in this company
be mine ? " The damsel assented. Jemshid drew the string,
and the arrow struck the female dove so skilfully as to transfix
both the wings, and pin them together. The male ring-dove
flew away, but moved by natural affection it soon returned, and
settled on the same spot as before. The bow was said to be so
strong that there was not a warrior in the whole kingdom who


could even draw the string ; and when the damsel witnessed
the dexterity of the stranger, and the ease with which he used
the weapon, she thought within her heart, " There can be no
necessity for the picture ; I am certain that this can be no
other than the king Jemshid, the son of Tahumers, called the
Binder of Demons." Then she took the bow from the hand of
Jemshid, and observed : " The male bird has returned to its
former place, if my aim be successful shall the man whom I
choose in tin's company be my husband ? " Jemshid instantly
understood her meaning. At that moment the Kabul nurse
appeared, and the young princess communicated to her all that
had occurred. The nurse leisurely examined Jemshid from
head to foot with a slave-purchaser's eye, and knew him, and
said to her mistress, " All that I saw in thy horoscope and
foretold, is now in the course of fulfilment. God has brought
Jemshid hither to be thy spouse. Be not regardless of thy
good fortune, and the Almighty will bless thee with a son, who
will be the conqueror of the world. The signs and tokens oi
thy destiny I have already explained." The damsel had be-
come greatly enamoured of the person of the stranger before
she knew who he was, and now being told by her nurse that
he was Jemshid himself, her affection was augmented two-

The happy tiding, blissful to her heart,
Increased the ardour of her love for him.

And now the picture was brought to the princess, who,
finding the resemblance exact, put it into Jerashid's hand.
Jemshid, in secretly recognising his own likeness, was forcibly


reminded of his past glory and happiness, and lie burst into


Tlic memory of the diadem and throne
No longer his, came o'er him, and his soul
Was rent with anguish.

The princess said to him : " Why at the commencement "of
our friendship dost thou weep ? Art thou discontented dis-
satisfied, unhappy ? and am I the cause ? " Jemshid replied :
" No, it is simply this ; those who have feeling, and pity the
sufferings of others, weep involuntarily. I pity the misfortunes
of Jemshid, driven as he is by adversity from the splendour of
u throne, and reduced to a state of destitution and ruin. But
he must now be dead ; devoured, perhaps, by the wolves and
lions of the forest." The nurse and princess, however, were
convinced, from the sweetness of his voice and discourse, that
he could be no other than Jemshid himself, and taking him
aside, they said : " Speak truly, art thou not Jemshid ? " But
he denied himself. Again, they observed: "What says this
picture ? " To this he replied ; " It is not impossible that I
may be like Jemshid in feature ; for surely there may be in the
world two men like each other ? " And notwithstanding all
the efforts made by the damsel and her nurse to induce Jemshid
to confess, he still resolutely denied himself. Several times she
assured him she would keep his secret, if he had one, but that
she was certain of his being Jemshid. Still he denied himself.
" This nurse of mine, whom thou seest," said she, " has often
repeated to me the good tidings that I should be united to
Jemshid, and bear him a son. My heart instinctively acknow-
ledged thee at first sight : then wherefore this denial of the
truth ? Many kings have solicited my hand in marriage, but
all have been rejected, as I am destined to be thine, and united
to no other." Dismissing now all her attendants, she remained
with the nurse and Jemshid, and then resumed :

" How long hath sleep forsaken me ? how long
Hath my fond heart been kept awake by love /
Hope still upheld me give me one kind look,
And 1 will sacrifice my life for thee ;
Come, take my life, for ifc is thine for ever."

C 2


Saying this, the damsel began to weep, and shedding a flood
of tears, tenderly reproached him for not acknowledging the
truth. Jenishid was at length moved by her affection and
sorrow, and thus addressed her : " There are two considera-
tions which at present prevent the truth being told. One of
them is my having a powerful enemy, and Heaven forbid that
he should obtain information of my place of refuge. The
other is, I never intrust my secrets to a woman !

Fortune I dread, since fortune is my foe,
And womankind are seldom known to keep
Another's secret. To be poor and safe,
Is better far than wealth exposed to peril."
To this the princess : " Is it so decreed,
That every woman has two tongues, two hearts ?
All false alike, their tempers all the same ?
No, no ! could I disloyally betray thee ?
I who still love thee better than my life .' "

Jenishid found it impossible to resist the damsel's incessant
entreaties and persuasive tenderness, mingled as they were with
tears of sorrow. Vanquished thus by the warmth of her affec-
tions, he told her his name, and the history of his misfortunes.
She then ardently seized his hand, overjoyed at the disclosure,
and taking him privately to her own chamber, they were
married according to the customs of her country.

Him to the secret bower with blushing cheek
Lxultingly she led, and mutual bliss,
Springing from mutual tenderness and love.
Entranced their souls.

When Giireng the king found that his daughter's visits to
him became less frequent than usual, he set his spies to work,
and was not long in ascertaining the cause of her continued
absence. She had married without his permission, and he was
in great wrath. It happened, too, at this time that the bride
was pale and in delicate health.

Tie mystery soon was manifest,
And thus the king his child addrest,


Whilst anger darkened o'er his brow :
" What hast thou done, ungrateful, now ?
Why hast thou flung, in evil day,
Thy veil of modesty away 1
That check the bloom of spring displayed,
Now all is withered, all decayed ;
But daughters, as the wise declare,
Are ever false, if they be fair."

Incensed at words so sharp and strong,
The damsel thus repelled the wrong :
' Me, father, canst thou justly blame ?
I never, never, brought thee shame ;
With me can sin and crime accord,
When Jemshid is my wedded lord .' "

After this precipitate avowal, the Kabul nurse, of many
spells, instantly took up her defence, and informed the king
that the prophecy she had formerly communicated to him was
on the point of fulfilment, and that the Almighty having, in
the course of destiny, brought Jemshid into his kingdom, the
princess, according to the same planetary influence, would
shortly become a mother.

And now the damsel grovels on the ground

Before king Gurcng. " Well thou know'st," she cries,

" From me no evil comes. Whether in arms,

Or at the banquet, honour guides me still :

And well thou know'st thy royal will pronounced

That I should be unfettered in my choice,

And free to take the husband I preferred.

This I have done ; and to the greatest king

The world can boast, my fortunes are unite- 1,

To Jemshid, the most perfect of mankind."

With this explanation the king expressed abundant and
unusual satisfaction. His satisfaction, however, did not arise
from the circumstance of the marriage, and the new connection
it established, but from the opportunity it afforded him of
betraying Jemshid, and treacherously sending him bound to
Zohdk, which he intended to do, in the hopes of being mag-
nificently rewarded. Exulting with this anticipation, he said
to her smiling :


Glad tidings thou hast given to me,
My glory owes its birth to thee ;
I bless the day, and bless the hour,
Which placed this Jemshid in my power.
Now to Zohak, a captive bound,
I send the wanderer thou hast found ;
For he who charms the monarch's eyes,
With this long-sought, this noble prize,
On solemn word and oath, obtains
A wealthy kingdom for his pains.''

On hearing these cruel words the damsel groaned, and wept
exceedingly before her father, and said to him : " 0, be not-
accessory to the murder of such a king ! "Wealth and kingdoms
pass away, but a bad name remains till the day of doom.

Turn thee, my father, from this dreadful thought,

And save his sacred blood : let not thy name

Be syllabled with horror through the world,

For such an act as this. When foes are slain,

It is enough, but keep the sword away

From friends and kindred ; shun domestic crime.

Fear him who giveth life, and strength, and power,

For goodness is most blessed. On the day

Of judgment thon wilt then be unappalled.

But if determined to divide us, first

Smite off this head, and let thy daughter die."

So deep and violent was the grief of the princess, and her
lamentations so unceasing, that the father became softened
into compassion, and, on her account, departed from the resolu-
tion he had made. He even promised to furnish Jemshid with
possessions, with treasure, and an army, and requested her to
give him the consolation he required, adding that he would see
him in the morning in his garden.

The heart-altering damsel instant flew
To tell the welcome tidings to her lord.

Xext day king Gfireng proceeded to the garden, and had
an interview with Jemshid, to whom he expressed the warmest
favour and affection ; but notwithstanding all he said, Jemshid
could place no confidence in his professions, and was anxious


to effect his escape. He was, indeed, soon convinced of his
danger, for he had a private intimation that the king's vizirs
were consulting together on the expedience of securing his
person, under the apprehension that Zohak would be invading
the country, and consigning it to devastation and ruin, if his
retreat was discovered. He therefore took to flight.

Jemshid first turned his steps towards Chin, and afterwards
into Ind. He had travelled a great distance in that beautiful
country, and one day came to a tower, under whose shadow he
sought a little repose, for the thoughts of his melancholy and
disastrous condition kept him almost constantly awake.

And am I thus to perish ? Thus forlorn,
To mingle with the dust ? Almighty God !
Was ever mortal born to such a fate,
A fate so sad as mine I that I never
Had drawn the breath of life, to perish thus !

Exhausted by the keenness of his affliction Jemshid at length
fell asleep. Zoliifr, in the meanwhile, had despatched an envoy,
with an escort of troops, to the Khakan of Chin, and at that
moment the cavalcade happened to be passing by the tower
where Jemshid was reposing. The envoy, attracted to the
spot, immediately recognized him, and awakening him to a sense
of this new misfortune, secured the despairing and agonized
wanderer, and sent him to Zohak.

He saw a person sleeping on the ground,
And knew that it was Jemshid. Overjoyed,
He bound his feet with chains, and mounted him
Upon a horse, a prisoner.

What a world !

No place of rest for man ! Fix not thy heart,
Vain mortal ! on this tenement of life,
On earthly pleasures ; think of Jemshid's fate :
His glory readied the Heavens, and now this world
Has bound the valiant monarch's limbs in fetters,
And placed its justice in the hands of slaves.

When Zohak received intelligence of the apprehension of his
enemy, he ordered him to be brought before the throne that he'
might enjoy the triumph.


All fixed their gaze upon the captive king,
Loaded with chains ; his hands behind his back ;
The ponderous fetters passing from his neck
Down to his feet ; oppressed with shame he stood,
Like the narcissus bent with heavy dew.
Zohak received him with a scornful smile,
Saying, " Where is thy diadem, thy throne,
Where is thy kingdom, where thy sovereign rule ;
Thy laws and royal ordinances where,
Where are they now ? What change is this that fate
Has wrought upon thee ? " Jemshid thus rejoined :
" Unjustly am I brought in chains before thce,
Betrayed, insulted thou the cause of all,
And yet thou wouldst appear to feel my wrongs 1 "
Incensed at this defiance, mixed with scorn,
Fiercely Zohak replied, " Then choose thy death ;
Shall I behead thee, stab thce, or impale thee,
Or with an arrow's point transfix thy heart !
What is thy choice ? "

" Since I am in thy power,

Do with me what thou wilt why should I dread
Thy utmost vengeance, why express a wish
To save my body from a moment's pain ! "

As soon as Zohiik heard these words he resolved upon a
horrible deed of vengeance. He ordered two planks to be
brought, and Jemshid being fastened down between them, his
body was divided the whole length with a saw, making two
figures of Jemshid out of one !

Why do mankind upon this fleeting world

Place their affections, wickedness alone

Is nourished into freshness ; sounds of death, too,

Are ever on the gale to wear out life.

My heart is satisfied Heaven 1 no more,

Free me at once from this continual sorrow.

It was not long before tidings of the foul proceedings, which
put an end to the existence of the unfortunate Jemshid. reached
Ziibulishln. The princess, his wife, on hearing of his fate,
wasted away with inconsolable grief, and at last took poison to
unburthen herself of insupportable affliction.

It is related that Jemshid had two sisters, named Shahrniiz
and Arnawiiz. They had been both seized, and conveyed to
Zohiik by his people, and continued in confinement for sonic


time in the King's harem, but they were afterwards released by

The tyrant's cruelty and oppression had become intolerable.
He Avas constantly shedding blood, and committing every species
of crime.

The serpents still on human brains were fed,
And every day two youthful victims bled ;
The sword, still ready thirsting still to strike,
Warrior and slave were sacrificed alike.

The career of Zohak himself, however, was not unvisited by
terrors. One night he dreamt that he was attacked by three
warriors ; two of them of large stature, and one of them small.
The youngest struck him a blow on the head with his mace,
bound his hands, and casting a rope round his neck, dragged
him along in the presence of crowds of people. Zohak screamed,
and sprung up from his sleep in the greatest horror. The
females of his harem were filled with amazement \\L n ^ ti.
beheld the terrified countenance of the king, who, in reply
their inquiries, said, trembling : "This is a dream too div .
to be concealed." He afterwards called together the Miibids. n ;
wise men of his court ; and having communicated to t?, m the
particulars of what had appeared to him in his si" ^, ^'
manded them to give him a faithful interpretation of the
dream. The Mubids foresaw in this vision the approaching
declension of his power and dominion, but were afraid to
explain their opinions, because they were sure that their lives
would be sacrificed if the true interpretation was given to him.
Three days were consumed under the pretence of studying more
scrupulously all the signs and appearances, and still not one of
them had courage to speak out. On the fourth day the king
grew angry, and insisted upon the dream being interpreted. In
this dilemma, the Mubids said, " Then, if the truth must be
told, without evasion, thy life approaches to an end, and Feri-
dun, though yet unborn, will be thy successor." " But who
was it," enquired Zohuk impatiently, " that struck the blow on
my head ? " The Mubids declared, with fear and trembling,


" it was the apparition of Feridun himself, who is destined to
smite thee on the head." "But why," rejoined Zohiik, "does
he wish to injure me?" "Because, his father's blood being
spilt by thee, vengeance falls into his hands." Hearing this
interpretation of his dream, the king sunk senseless on the
ground ; and when he recovered, he could neither sleep nor take
food, but continued overwhelmed with sorrow and misery. The
light of his day was for ever darkened.

Abtin was the name of Feridiin's father, and that of his
mother Faninuk, of the race of Tahumers. Zohak, therefore,
stimulated to further cruelty by the prophecy, issued an order
that every person belonging to the family of the Kais, wherever
found, should be seized and fettered, and brought to him. Abtin
had long avoided discovery, continuing to reside in the most
<1 and solitary places ; but one day his usual circumspcc-
forsook him, and he ventured beyond his limits. This
iii.nruder.u step was dreadfully punished, for the spies of Zohiik
i with him, recognized him, and carrying him to the king,
as immediately put to death. When the mother of
i'm heard of this sanguinary catastrophe, she took up her
infant- and fled. It is said that Feridun was at that time only
Uo months old. In her flight, the mother happened to arrive at
som* 1 pasturage ground. The keeper of the pasture had a cow
named Pur'maieh, which yielded abundance of milk, and he
gave it away in charity. In consequence of the grief and
distress of mind occasioned by the murder of her husband,
Faninuk's milk dried up in her breasts, and she was therefore
under the necessity of feeding the child with the milk from the
cow. She remained there one night, and would have departed
in the morning ; but considering the deficiency of milk, and
the misery in which she was involved, continually afraid of
being discovered and known, she did not know what to do. At
length she thought it best to leave Feridun with the keeper of
the pasture, and resigning him to the protection of God, went
herself to the mountain Alberz.* The keeper readily complied

* Alberz is the chain of mountains which divide Ghilan and Hazinder&n


with the tendi-rcst wishes of the mother, and nourished the
child with the fondness and affection of a parent during the
space of three years. After that period had elapsed, deep
sorrow continuing to afflict the mind of Faranuk, she returned
secretly to the old man of the pasture, for the purpose of re-
claiming and conveying Feridun to a safer place of refuge upon
the mountain Alberz. The keeper said to her : " Why dost
thou take the child to the mountain ? he will perish there ; "
but she replied that God Almighty had inspired a feeling in her
heart that it was necessary to remove him. It was a divine
inspiration, and verified by the event.

Intelligence having at length reached Zohak that the son of
Abtin was nourished and protected by the keeper of the pasture,
he himself proceeded with a large force to the spot, where he
put to death the keeper and all his tribe, and also the cow
which had supplied milk to Feridun, whom he sought for in

He found the dwelling of his infant- foe.
And laid it in the dust ; the very ground
Was punished for the sustenance it gave him.

The ancient records relate that a dirvesh happened to have
taken up his abode in the mountain Alberz, and that Faranuk
committed her infant to his fostering care. The dirvesh gene-
rously divided with the mother and son all the food and
comforts \vhich C4od gave him, and at the same time he took
great pains in storing the mind of Feridun with various kinds
of knowledge. One day he said to the mother : " The person
foretold by wise men and astrologers as the destroyer of Zohak
and his tyranny, is thy son !

This child to whom thou gavest birth,
Will be the monarch of the earth ; "

from Ir&k. Kai-kobad was llie first king of the dynasty railed Kaianidess
anil of the race of Feridun. Alberz is also famous for a number of temple,
of the Magi.


and the mother, from several concurring indications and signs,
held a similar conviction.

When Feridun had attained his sixteenth year, he descended
from the mountain, and remained for a time on the plain
beneath. He inquired of his mother why Zohak had put his
father to death, and Faranuk then told him the melancholy
story ; upon hearing which, he resolved to be revenged on the
tyrant. His mother endeavoured to divert him from his deter-
mination, observing that he was young, friendless, and alone,
whilst his enemy was the master of the world, and surrounded
by armies. " Be not therefore precipitate," said she. " If it
is thy destiny to become a king, wait till the Almighty shall
bless thee with means sufficient for the purpose."

Displeased, the youth his mother's caution heard,

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 4 of 35)