The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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And meditating vengeance on the head
Of him who robbed him of a father, thus
Impatiently replied : " 'Tis Heaven inspires me ;
Led on by Heaven, this arm will quickly bring
The tyrant from his palace, to the dust/'
" Imprudent boy ! " the anxious mother said ;
" Canst thou contend against imperial power ?
Must I behold thy ruin ? Pause awhile,
And perish not in this wild enterprize."

It is recorded that Zohak's dread of Feridun was so great,
that day by day he became more irritable, wasting away in
bitterness of spirit, for people of all ranks kept continually
talking of the young invader, and were daily expecting his
approach. At last he came, and Zohak was subdued, and his
power extinguished.



Zohak having one day summoned together all the nobles and
philosophers of the kingdom, he said to them : " I find that a
young enemy has risen up against me ; but notwithstanding
his tender years, there is no safety even with an apparently
insignificant foe. I hear, too, that though young, he is distin-
guished for his prowess and wisdom ; yet I fear not him, but
the change of fortune. I wish therefore to assemble a large
army, consisting of Men, Demons, and Peris, that this enemy
may be surrounded, and conquered. And, further, since a great
cnterprizc is on the eve of being undertaken, it will be proper
in future to keep a register or muster-roll of all the people of
every age in my dominions, and have it revised annually."
The register, including both old and young, was accordingly

At that period there lived a man named Kavah, a black-
smith, remarkably strong and brave, and who had a large
family. Upon the day on which it fell to the lot of two of his
children to be killed to feed the serpents, he rose up with
indignation in presence of the king, and said :

'Thou art the king, but wherefore on my head
Cast fire and ashes ? If thou hast the form
Of hissing dragon, why to me be cruel '/
Why give the brains of my beloved children
As serpent-food, and talk of doing justice ? "

At this bold speech the monarch was dismayed,
And scarcely knowing what he did, released "
The blacksmith's sons. How leapt the father's heart,
How warmly he embraced his darling boys !
But now Zohak directs that Kavah's name
Shall be inscribed upon the register.
Soon as the blacksmith sees it written there,
Wrathful he turns towards the chiefs assembled,
Exclaiming loud : " Are ye then men, or what,
Leagued with a Demon ! " All astonished heard,
And saw him tear the hated register,
And cast it under foot with rage and scorn


Kavah having thus reviled the king bitterly, and destroyed
the register of blood, departed from the court, and took his
children along with him. After he had gone away, the nobles
said to the king :

"Why should reproaches, sovereign of the world,
Be thus permitted ? Why the royal scroll
Torn in thy presence, with a look and voice
Of proud defiance, by the rebel blacksmith I
So tierce his bearing, that he seems to be
A bold confederate of this Feridun."
Zobak replied : " I know not what o'ercame me,
But when I saw him with such vehemence
Of grief and wild distraction, strike his forehead,
Lamenting o'er his children, doomed to de.U Ii.
Amazement seized my heart, and chained my will.
What may become of this, Heaven only knows,
For none can pierce the veil of destiny."

Kavah, meanwhile, with warning voice set forth
What wrongs the nation suffered, and there came
Multitudes round him, who called out aloud
For justice ! justice ! On his javelin's point
He fixed his leathern apron for a banner,
And lifting it on high, he went abroad
To call the people to a task of vengeance.
Wherever it was seen crowds followed fast,
Tired of the cruel tyranny they suffered.
" Let us unite with Feridun," he cried,
" And from Zohak's oppression we are free ! "
And still he called aloud, and all obeyed
Who heard him, high and low. Anxious he wmght
For Feridun, not knowing his retreat;
But still he hoped success would crown his snuvli.

The hour arrived, and when he saw the yoitih.
Instinctively he knew him, and thanked Heaven
For that good fortune. Then the leathern banner
Was splendidly adorned with gold and jewels.
And called the flag of Kavah. From that time
It was a sacred symbol ; every king
In future, on succeeding to the throne.
Did honour to that banner, the true sign
Of royalty, in veneration held.

Feridun, aided by the directions and advice of the black-
smith, now proceeded against Zoluik. His mother wept to see
him depart, and continually implored the blessing of God upon
him. He had two elder brothers, whom he took along with


him. Desirous of having a mace formed like the head of a
cow, he requested Kavah to make one of iron, and it was
accordingly made in the shape he described. In his progress,
he visited a shrine or place of pilgrimage frequented by the
worshippers of God, where he besought inspiration and aid,
and where he was taught by a radiant personage the mysteries
of the magic art, receiving from him a key to every secret.

Bright beamed his eye, with firmer step he strode,
His smiling cheek with warmer crimson glowed.

When his two brothers saw his altered mien, the pomp and
splendour of his appearance, they grew envious of his good
fortune, and privately meditated his fall. One day they found
him asleep at the foot of a mountain, and they immediately
went to the top and rolled down a heavy fragment of rock
upon him with the intention of crushing him to death ; but
the clattering noise of the stone ajvokc him, and, instantly
employing the knowledge of sorcery which had been commu-
nicated to him, the stone was suddenly arrested by him in
its course. The brothers beheld this with astonishment, and
hastening down the mountain, cried aloud : " We know not
how the stone was loosened from its place : God forbid that
it should have done any injury to Feridun." Feridun, how-
ever, was well aware of this being the evil work of his
brothers, but he took no notice of the conspiracy, and
instead of punishing them, raised them to higher dignity and

They say that Kavah directed the route of Feridun over

the mountainous tracts and plains which lie contiguous to

the banks of the Dijleh, or Tigris, close to the city of Bagdad.

reaching that river, they called for boats, but got no

from the ferryman ; at which Feridun was enraged, and

immediately plunged, on horseback, into the foaming stream.

All his army followed without delay, and with the blessing of

God arrived on the other side in safety. He then turned

towards the Bait-cl-Mukaddus, built by Zoluik. In the Pahlavi


language it was called Kunuk-duz-mokt. The tower of this
edifice was so lofty that it might be seen at the distance of
many leagues, and within that tower Zohak had formed a talis-
man of miraculous virtues. Feridiin soon overthrew this
talisman, and destroyed or vanquished successively with his
mace all the enchanted monsters and hideous shapes which
appeared before him. He captured the whole of the building,
and released all the black-eyed damsels who were secluded
there, and among them Shahrnaz and Arnawaz, the two sisters
of Jemshid before alluded to. He then ascended the empty
throne of Zohak, which had been guarded by the talisman, and
the Demons tinder his command ; and when he heard that the
tyrant had gone with an immense army towards Ind, in quest
of his new enemy, and had left his treasury with only a small
force at the seat of his government, he rejoiced, and appro-
priated the throne and the treasure to himself.

From their dark solitudes the Youth brought forth
The black-haired damsels, lovely as the sun,
And Jemshid's sisters, long imprisoned there ;
And gladly did the inmates of that harem
Pour out their gratitude on being freed
From that terrific monster ; thanks to Heaven
Devoutly they expressed, and ardent joy.

Feridiin inquired of Arnawaz why Zohak had chosen the
route towards Ind ; and she replied, " For two reasons : the
f rst is, he expects to encounter thee in that quarter ; and if he
fails, he will subdue the whole country, which is the seat of
sorcery, and thus obtain possession of a renowned magician
who can charm thee into his power.

He wishes to secure within his grasp
That region of enchantment, Hindustan,
And then obtain relief from what he feels ;
For night and day the terror of thy name
Oppresses him, his heart is all on fire,
And life is torture to him."



Kandrii, the keeper of the talisman, having effected his
escape, fled to Zohak, to whom he gave intelligence of the
release of his women, the destruction of the talisman, and the
conquest of his empire.

" The sign of retribution has appeared,

For sorrow is the fruit of evil deeds."

Thus Kandru spoke : " Three warriors have advanced

Upon thy kingdom from a distant land,

One of them young, and from his air and mien

He seems to me of the Kaianian race.

He came, and boldly seized the splendid throne,

And all thy spells, and sorceries, and magic,

Were instantly dissolved by higher power,

And all who dwelt within thy palace walls,

Demon or man, all utterly destroyed,

Their severed heads cast weltering on the ground."

Then was Zohak confounded, and he shrunk

Within himself with terror, thinking now

His doom was sealed ; but anxious to appear

In presence of his army, gay and cheerful,

Lest they too should despair, he dressed himself

In rich attire, and with a pleasant look,

Said carelessly : " Perhaps some gamesome guest

Hath in his sport committed this strange act."

" A guest, indeed 1 " Kandru replied, " a guest,

In playful mood to batter down thy palace !

If he had been thy guest, why with his mace,

Cow-headed, has he done such violence ?

Why did he penetrate thy secret chambers,

And bring to light the beautiful Shahrnaz,

And red-lipped Arnawaz ? " At this, Zohak

Trembled with wrath the words were death to him ,

And sternly thus he spoke : " What hast thou fled

T'i rough fear, betraying thy important trust?

1 longer shalt thou share my confidence,

longer share my bounty and regard."
'j . this the keeper tauntingly replied :
" Thy kingdom is overthrown, and nothing now
Remains for thee to give me ; thou art lost."

ie tyrant immediately turned towards his army, with the

"ion of making a strong effort to regain his throne, but he

that as soon as the soldiers and the people were made


acquainted with the proceedings and success of Fcridiin, re-
bellion arose among them, and shuddering with horror at the
cruelty exercised by him in providing food for the accursed
serpents, they preferred embracing the cause of the new king.
Zohdk, seeing that he had lost the affections of the army, and
that universal revolt was the consequence, adopted another
course, and endeavoured alone to be revenged upon his enemy.
He proceeded on his journey, and arriving by night at the
camp of Feridun, hoped to find him off his guard and put him
to death. He ascended a high place, himself unobserved, from
which he saw Feridun sitting engaged in soft dalliance with the
lovely Shahrnaz. The fire of jealousy and revenge now consumed
him more fiercely, and he was attempting to effect his purpose,
when Feridun was roused by the noise, and starting up struck
a furious blow with his cow -headed mace upon the temples of
Zohdk, which crashed the bone, and he was on the point of
giving him another ; but a supernatural voice whispered in his

" Slay him not now, his time is not yet come,

His punishment must be prolonged awhile ;

And as he cannot now survive the wound,

Bind him with heavy chains convey him straight

Upon the mountain, there within a cave,

Deep, dark, and horrible with none to soothe

His sufferings, let the murderer lingering die."
The work of heaven performing, Feridun

First purified the world from sin and crime.
Yet Feridun was not an angel, nor

Composed of musk or ambergris. By justice

AnJ generosity he gained his fame.

Do thou but exercise these princely virtues,

Aud thou wilt be renowned as Feridun.

THE snin NAMEII. 35


Feridiin had three sons. One of them was named Silim, the
other Tur, and the third Irij. When they had grown up, he
called before him a learned person named Chundel, and said to
him : " Go thou in quest of three daughters, born of the same
father and mother, and adorned with every grace and accomplish-
ment, that I may have my three sons married into one family.
Chundel departed accordingly, and travelled through many
countries in fruitless search, till he came to the King of Yemen,
whose name was Sarii, and found that he had three daughters
of the character and qualifications required. He therefore
delivered Feridiin's proposition to him, to which the King of
Yemen agreed. Then Feridiin sent his three sons to Yemen,
and they married the three daughters of the king, who
gave them splendid dowries in treasure and jewels. It is
related that Feridun afterwards divided his empire among his
sous. To Silim he gave Rum and Khawer ; to Tur, Tiirau ; *
and to Irij, Irdn or Persia. The sons then repaired to their
respective kingdoms. Persia was a beautiful country, and the
1 i of spring, full of freshness and perfume ; Tiiran, on the
'ontr:uy, was less cultivated, and the scene of perpetual broils
... d insurrections. The elder brother, Silim, was therefore
.ented with the unfair partition of the empire, and dis-
1 with his father. He sent to Tur, saying : " Our father

* Ancient Scythia embraced the whole of Turan and the northern part of
r rsia. Tho Turanians are the Scythians of the Greek Historians, who are
u.'.', about the year B.C. 639, to have invaded the kingdom of the Medes.

, which is the ancient name of the country of Turkistan, appears

cs Guignes, to be the source and fountain of all the celebrated

' >thian nations, which, under the name of Goths and Vandals, subsequently

the Roman empire. Iran and Turan, according to the Oriental

h ended all that is comprised in upper Asia, with the

a of India and China. Every country beyond the pale of the

empire was considered barbarous. The great river called by the

^d Persians, Jihun or Amu, and by the Greeks and Romans, Oxus,

Uled these two great countries from each other.

D 2


has given to Irij the most delightful and productive kingdom,
and to us, two wild uncultivated regions. I am the eldest son,
and I am not satisfied with this distribution, what sayest
thou ? " When this message was communicated to Tiir, he
fully concurred in the sentiments expressed by his brother, and
determined to unite with him in any undertaking that might
promise the accomplishment of their purpose, which was to
deprive Irij of his dominions. But he thought it would be
most expedient, in the first instance, to make their father
acquainted with the dissatisfaction he had produced ; " for,"
he thought to himself, "in a new distribution, he may assign
Persia to me." Then he wrote to Siliin, advising that a
messenger should be sent at once to Feridiin to inform him of
their dissatisfaction, and bring back a reply. The same mes-
senger was dispatched by Silirn accordingly on that mission,

Charged with unfilial language. ' ; Give," he said,
" This stripling Irij a more humble portion,
Or we will, from the mountains of Tiiran,
From Rum, and Chin, bring overwhelming troops,
Inured to wa'r, and sho\ver disgrace and ruin
On him and Persia.''

When the messenger arrived at the court of Feridiin, and had
obtained permission to appear in the presence of the king, he
kissed the ground respectfully, and by command related the
purpose of his journey. Feridun was surprised and displeased,
and said, in reply :

" Have I done wrong, done evil ? None, but good.

I gave ye kingdoms, that was not a crime ;

But if ye fear not me, at least fear God.

My ebbing life approaches to an end.

And the possessions of this fleeting world

Will soon pass from me. I am grown too old

To have my passions roused by this rebellion ;

All I can do is, with paternal love,

To counsel peace. Be with your lot contented ;

Seek not unnatural strife, but cherish peace."

After the departure of the messenger Feridun callul Hj
before him, and said : " Thy two brothers, who are older tban


thou art, have confederated together, and threaten to bring a
large army against thcc for the purpose of seizing thy kingdom,
and putting thee to death. I have received this information
from a messenger, who further says, that if I take thy part
they will also wage war upon me." And after Irij had declared
that in this extremity he was anxious to do whatever his father
might advise, Feridun continued : " My son, thou art unable
to resist the invasion of even one brother ; it will, therefore,
be impossible for thee to oppose both. I am now aged and
infirm, and my only wish is to pass the remainder of my days
in retirement and repose. Better, then, will it be for thee to
pursue the path of peace and friendship, and like me throw
away all desire for dominion.

For if the sword of anger is unsheathed,
And war comes on, thy head will soon be free t
From all the cares of government and life.
There is no cause for thee to quit the world,
The path of peace and amity is thine."

Irij agreed with his father, and declared that he would
willingly sacrifice his throne and diadem rather than go to war
with his brothers.

" Look at the Heavens, how they roll on ;
And look at man. how soon he's gone.
A breath of wind, and then no more ;
A world like this, should man deplore f "

With these sentiments Irij determined to repair immediately
to his brothers, and place his kingdom at their disposal, hoping
by this means to merit their favour and affection, and he said :

" I feel no resentment, I seek not for strife,
I wish not for thrones and the glories of life ;
What is glory to man ? an illusion, a cheat ;
What did it for Jemshid, the world at his feet ?
When I go to my brothers their anger may cease,
Though vengeance were fitter than offers of peace."

Feridun observed to him : " It is well that thy desire is for


reconciliation, as thy brothers are preparing for war." He then
wrote a letter to his sons, in which he said : " Your younger
brother considers your friendship and esteem of more con-
sequence to him than his crown and throne. He has banished
from his heart every feeling of resentment against you ; do
you, in the like manner, cast away hostility from your hearts
against him. Be kind to him, for it is incumbent upon the
eldest born to be indulgent and affectionate to their younger
brothers. Although your consideration for my happiness has
passed away, I still wish to please you." As soon as the letter
was finished, Irij mounted his horse, and set off on his journey,
accompanied by several of his friends, but not in such a manner,
and with such an equipment, as might betray his rank or
character. "When he arrived with his attendants in Turkistan,
he found that the armies of his two brothers were ready to
march against him. Silim and Tiir, being apprized of the
approach of Irij, went out of the city, according to ancient
usage, to meet the deputation which was conveying to them
their father's letter. Irij was kindly received by them, and
accommodated in the royal residence.

It is said that Irij was in person extremely prepossessing,
and that when the troops first beheld him, they exclaimed :
" He is indeed fit to be a king ! " In every place all eyes were
fixed upon him, and wherever he moved he was followed and
surrounded by the admiring army and crowds of people.

In numerous groups the soldiers met, and blessed
The name of Irij, saying in their hearts,
This is the man to lead an armed host,
And worthy of the diadem and throne.

The courtiers of the two brothers, alarmed by these demon-
strations of attachment to Irij continually before their eyes,
represented to Silim and Tur that the army was disaffected
towards them, and that Irij alone was considered deserving of
the supreme authority. This intimation exasperated the
malignant spirit of the two brothers : for although at


determined to put Irij to death, his youth and prepossessing
appearance had in some degree subdued their animosity.
They were therefore pleased with the intelligence, because it
afforded a new and powerful reason for getting rid of him.
" Look at our troops," said Silim to Tiir, "how they assemble
in circles together, and betray their admiration of him. I fear
they will never march against Persia. Indeed it is not im-
probable that even the kingdom of Tiiran may fall into his
hands, since the hearts of our soldiers have become so attached
to him.

No time is this to deviate from our course.
"U'c must rush on ; our armies plainly show
Their love for Irij, and if we should fail
To root up from its place this flourishing tree,
Our cause is lost for ever."

Again, Silim said to Tiir : " Thou must put Irij to death,
and then his kingdom will bo thine." Tiir readily undertook
to commie that crime, and, on the following day, at an inter-
view with Irij, he said to him : " Why didst thou consent to be
the ruler of Persia, and fail in showing a proper regard for the
interests of thy elder brothers ? "Whilst our ban-en kingdoms
are constantly in a state of warfare with the Turks, thou art
enjoying peace and tranquillity upon the throne of a fruitful
country ? Must we, thy elder brothers, remain thus under thy
commands, and in subordinate stations ?

Must thou have gold and treasure,
And thy heart be wrapt in pleasure,
Whilst we, thy elder born,
Of our heritage are shorn ?
Must the youngest still be nursed,
And the elder branches cursed ?
And condemned, by stern command,
To a wild and sterile land ? "

"When Irij heard these words from Tiir, he immediately
re olicd, saying :

' I only seek tranquillity and peace ;
I look not on the crown of sovereignty.


Nor seek a name among the Persian host ;

And though the throne and diadem are mine,

I here renounce them, satisfied to lead

A private life. For what hath ever been

The end of earthly power and pomp, but darkness ?

I seek not to contend against my brothers :

Why should I grieve their hearts, or give distress

To any human being ? I am young,

And Heaven forbid that I should prove unkind ! "

Notwithstanding, however, these declarations of submission,
and repeated assurances of his resolution to resign the monarchy
of Persia, Tiir would not believe one word. In a moment he
sprung up, and furiously seizing the golden chair from which
he had just risen, struck a violent blow Avith it on the head of
Irij, calling aloud, " Bind him, bind him ! " The youth,
struggling on the ground, exclaimed : " 0, think of thy father,
and pity me ! Have compassion on thy own soul ! I came for
thy protection, therefore do not take my life : if thou dost, my
blood will call out for vengeance to the Almighty. I ask only
for peace and retirement. Think of my father, and pity me !

Wouldst thou, with life endowed, take life away ?

Torture not the poor ant, which drags the grain

Along the dust ; it has a life, and life

Is sweet and precious. Did the innocent ant

Offend thee ever 1 Cruel must he be

Who would destroy a living thing so harmless !

And wilt thou, reckless, shed thy brother's blood,

And agonize the feelings of a father ?

Pause, and avoid the wrath of righteous Heaven I "

But Tiir was not to be softened by the supplications of his
brother. Without giving any reply, he drew his dagger, and
instantly dissevered the head of the youth from his body.

With musk and ambergris he first embalmed
The head of Irij, then to his old father
Dispatched the present with these cruel words :
" Here. is the head of thy beloved son,
Thy darling favourite, dress it with a crown
As thou wert wont ; and mark the goodly fruit
Thou hast produced. Adorn thy ivory throne,
In all its splendour, for this worthy head,
And place it in full majesty before thee 1 "


In the mean time, Feridiin had prepared a magnificent re-
ception for his son. The period of his return had arrived, and
he was in anxious expectation of seeing him, when suddenly he
received intelligence that Irij had been put to death by his
brothers. The mournful spectacle soon reached his father's

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 5 of 35)