The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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A scream of agony burst from his heart,

As wildly in his arms he clasped the face

Of his pocr claughtered son ; then down he sank

Senseless upon the earth. The soldiers round

Bemoaned the sad catastrophe, and rent

Their garments in their grief. The souls of all

Were filled with gloom, their eyes with flowing tears,

For hope had promised a far different scene ;

A day of heart-felt mirth and joyfulness,

When Irij to his father's house returned.

After the extreme agitation of Feridun had subsided, he
directed all his people to wear black apparel, in honour of the
murdered youth, and all his drums and banners to be torn to
pieces. They say that subsequent to this dreadful calamity he
always wore black clothes. The head of Irij was buried in a
favourite garden, where he had been accustomed to hold weekly
a rural entertainment. Feridun, in performing the last cere-
mony, pressed it to his bosom, and with streaming eyes ex-
claimed :

" Heaven, look down upon my murdered boy ;
His severed head before me, but his body
Torn by those hungry wolves ! ) grant my prayer,
That I may sec, before I die, the seed
Of Irij hurl just -vengeance on the heads
' Of his assassins ; hear, hear my prayer."
Thus he in sorrow for his favourite son
Obscured the light which might have sparkled still,
Withering the jasmine flower of happy days ;
So that his pale existence looked like death.



Feridun continued to cherish with the fondest affection the
memory of his murdered son, and still looked forward with
anxiety to the anticipated hour of retribution. He fervently
hoped that a son might be born to take vengeance for his
father's death. But it so happened that Mah-afrid, the wife
of Irij, gave birth to a daughter. "When this daughter grew
up, Feridun gave her in marriage to Pishung, and from that
union an heir was born who in form and feature resembled Irij
and Feridun. He was called Minuchihr, and great rejoicings
took place on the occasion of his birth.

The old man's lips, with smiles apart,
Bespoke the gladness of his heart.
And in his arms he took the boy,
The harbinger of future joy ;
Delighted that indulgent Heaven
To his fond hopes this pledge had given.
It seemed as if, to bless his reign,
Irij had come to life again.

The child was nourished with great tenderness during his
infancy, and when he grew up he was sedulously instructed in
every art necessary to form the character, and acquire the
accomplishments of a warrior. Feridun was accustomed to
place him on the throne, and decorate his brows with the
crown of sovereignty ; and the soldiers enthusiastically acknow-
ledged him as their king, urging him to rouse himself and take
vengeance of his enemies for the murder of his grandfather.
Having opened his treasury, Feridun distributed abundance of
gold among the people, so that Minuchihr was in a short time
enabled to embody an immense army, by whom he was lookc*"
upon with attachment and admiration.

When Silim and Tur were informed of the preparations t 1
were making against them, that Minuchihr, having grow;
manhood, was distinguished for his valour and intrepidity \
that multitudes flocked to his standard with the intent- i <


forwarding his purpose of revenge, they were seized with inex-
pressible terror, and anticipated an immediate invasion of their
kingdoms. Thus alarmed, they counselled together upon the
course it would be wisest to adopt.

"Should he advance, his cause is just,
And blood will mingle with the dust,
But heaven forbid our power should be
O'envhelmed to give him victory ;
Though strong his arm. and wild his ire,
And vengeance keen his heart inspire."

They determined, at length, to pursue pacific measures, and
endeavour by splendid presents and conciliatory language to
regain the good-will of Feridun. The elephants were immedi-
ately loaded with treasure, a crown of gold, and other articles
of value, and a messenger was dispatched, charged with an
acknowledgment of guilt and abundant expressions of repent-
ance. " It was Iblis," they said, " who led us astray, and our
destiny has been such that we are in every way criminal. But
thou art the ocean of mercy ; pardon our offences. Though
manifold, they were involuntary, and forgiveness will cleanse
our hearts and restore us to ourselves. Let our tears wash
away the faults we have committed. To Minuchihr and to
thyself we offer obedience and fealty, and we wait your com-
. aids, being but the dust of your feet."

"When the messenger arrived at the court of Fcridiin he first

delivered the magnificent presents, and the king, having placed

Minuchihr on a golden chair by his side, observed to him,

These presents are to thee a prosperous and blessed omen

y shew that thy enemy is afraid of thee." Then the

ntssenger was permitted to communicate the object- of his


He spoke with studied phrase, intent to hide,

Or mitigate the horror of their crime ;

And with excuses plausible and bland

His speech was dressed. The brothers, he observed,

Desired to see their kinsman Minuchihr,

And with the costliest gems they sought to pay

The price of kindred blood unjustly shed


And they would -willingly to him resign

Their kingdoms for the sake of peace and friendship.

The monarch marked him scornfully, and said,
" Canst thou conceal the sun ? It is in vain
Truth to disguise with words of shallow meaning.
Now hear my answer. Ask thy cruel masters,
Who talk of their affection for the prince,
Where lies the body of the gentle Irij ?
Him they have slain, the fierce, unnatural brothers,
And now they thirst to gain another victim.
They long to sec the face of Minuchihr 1
Yes, and they shall, surrounded by his soldiers,
And clad in steel, and they shall feel the edge
Of life-destroying swords. Yes, they shall see him ! "

After uttering this indignant speech, Feridiin shewed to the
messenger his great warriors, one by one. He shewed him
Kavah and his two sons, Shahpur, and Shiriieh, and Karun,
and Sain,* and Nariman, and other chiefs all of admirable
courage and valour in war, and thus resumed :

" Hence with your presents, hence, away,

Can gold or gems turn night to day ?

Must kingly heads be bought and sold,

And shall I barter blood for gold ?

Shall gold a father's heart entice,

Blood to redeem beyond all price ?

Hence, hence with treachery ; I have heard

Their globing falsehoods, every word ;

But human feelings guide my will,

And keep my honour sacred still.

True is the oracle we read :

' Those who have sown oppression's seed

Reap bitter fruit ; their souls, pcrplcxt,

Joy not in this world or the next.'

The brothers of my murdered boy,

Who could a father's hopes destroy,

An equal punishment will reap,

And lasting vengeance o'er them sweep.

They rooted up my favourite tree,

But yet a branch remains to me.

* Sam, Sam Suwar, was the son of Nariman. He is said to have vaii< : '

or tamed a great number of animals and terrible monsters, amongst which
was one remarkable for its ferocity. This furious animal was called Sohatn,
on account of its being of the colour and nature of fire. Accord
fabulous history, he made it his war-horse, in all his engagements againit
the Demons.


?mv the young lion comes apace,
The glory of his glorious race ;
He comes apace, to punish guilt,
AS' here brother's blood was basely spilt ;
And blood alone for blood must pay ;
Hence with your gold, depart, away ! "

"When the messenger heard these reproaches, mingled with
poison, he immediately took leave, and trembling with fear,
returned to Silim and Tur with the utmost speed. He de-
scribed to them in strong and alarming terms the appearance
and character of Mimichihr, and his warriors ; of that noble
youth who with frowning eyebrows was only anxious for battle.
He then communicated to them in what manner he had been
received, and repeated the denunciations of Feridun, at which
the brothers were exceedingly grieved and disappointed. But
Silim said to Tur :

" Let us be first upon the field, before
He marshals his array. It follows not,
That he should be a hero bold and valiant,
Because he is descended from the brave ;
Hut it becomes us well to try our power,
For speed, in war, is better than delay."

In this spirit the two brothers rapidly collected from both
their kingdoms a large army, and proceeded towards Iran. On
hearing of their progress, Feridun said : " This is well they
come of themselves. The forest game surrenders itself volun-
tarily at the foot of the sportsman." Then he commanded his
army to wait quietly till they arrived ; for skill and patience,
he observed, will draw the lion's head into your toils.

As soon as the enemy had approached within a short distance,
Mimichihr solicited Feridun to commence the engagement,
and the king having summoned his chief warriors before him,
appointed them all, one by one, to their proper places.

The warriors of renown assembled straight
With ponderous clubs ; each like a lion fierce,
Girded his loins impatient. In their front
The sacred banner of the blacksmith waved ;
Bright scimitars were brandished in the air ;


Beneath thorn pranced their steeds, all armed for fight,
And so incased in iron were the chiefs
From top to toe, their eyes were only seen.

When Karun drew his hundred thousand troops
Upon the field, the battle-word was given,
And Minuchihr was, like the cypress tall,
Engaged along the centre of the hosts ;
And like the moon he shone, amid the groups
Of congregated clouds, or as the sun
Glittering upon the mountain of Alberz.
The squadrons in advance Kabad commanded,
Garshasp the left, and Sam upon the right.

The shcdders of a brother's blood had now
Brought their innumerous legions to the strife,
And formed them in magnificent array :
The picquet guards were almost thrown together,
When Tur sprung forward, and with sharp reproach,
And haughty gesture, thus addressed Kabad :
" Ask this new king, this Minuchihr, since Heaven
To Irij gave a daughter, who on him
Bestowed the mail, the battle-axe, and sword ? "
To this insulting speech, Kabad replied :
" The message shall be given, and I will bring
The answer, too. Ye know what ye have done ;
Have ye not murdered him who, trusting, sought
Protection from ye ? All mankind for this
Must curse your memory till the day of doom ;
If savage monsters were to fly your presence,
It would not be surprising. Those who die
In this most righteous cause will go to Heavcii,
With all their sins forgotten ! " Then Kabad
Went to the king, and told the speech of Tur :
A smile played o'er the cheek of Minuchihr
As thus he spoke : " A boaster he must be,
Or a vain fool, for when engaged in battle,
Vigour of arm and the enduring soul,
Will best be proved. I ask but for revenge
Vengeance for Irij slain. Meanwhile, return ;
We shall not fight to-day."

He too retired,

And in his tent upon the sandy plain,
Ordered the festive board to be prepared,
And wine and music whiled the hours away.

"\Vbcn morning dawned the battle commenced, and multi-
tudes were slain on both sides.

The spacious plain became a sea of blood ;
It seemed as if the earth was covered o'er
With crimson tulips ; slippery was the ground,
And all in dire confusion.


The army of Minuchihr was victorious, owing to the
bravery and skill of the commander. But Heaven was in his

In the evening Silim and Tur consulted together, and came
to the resolution of effecting a formidable night attack on the
enemy. The spies of Minuchihr, however, obtained informa-
tion of this intention, and communicated the secret to the king.
Minuchihr immediately placed the army in charge of Karun,
and took himself thirty thousand men to wait in ambuscade
for the enemy, and frustrate his views. Tur advanced with a
hundred thousand men ; but as he advanced, he found every
one on the alert, and aware of his approach. He had gone too
far to retreat in the dark without fighting, and therefore began
a vigorous conflict. Minuchihr sprung up from his ambuscade,
and with his thirty thousand men rushed upon the centre of
the enemy's troops, and in the end encountered Tur. The
struggle was not long. Minuchihr dexterously using his
javelin, hurled him from his saddle precipitately to the ground,
and then with his dagger severed the head from his body. The
body he left to be devoured by the beasts of the field, and the
head he sent as a trophy to Feridun ; after which, he proceeded
in search of Silim.

The army of the confederates, however, having suffered such
a signal defeat, Silim thought it prudent to fall back and take
refuge in a fort. But Miniichihr went in pursuit, and besieged
the castle. One day a warrior named Kaku made a sally out
of the fort, and approaching the centre of the besieging army,
threw a javelin at Minuchihr, which however fell harmless
before it reached its aim. Then Miniichihr seized the enemy
by the girdle, raised him up in air, and flung him from his
saddle to the ground.

lie grasped the foe-man by the girth,
And thundering drove him to the earth ;
By wound of spear, and gory brand,
He died upon the burning sand.

The siege was continued for some time with the view of


weakening the power of Silim ; at last Minuchihr sent a
message to him, saying : " Let the battle be decided between
ns. Quit the fort, and boldly meet me here, that it may be
seen to whom God gives the victory." Silim could not, without
disgrace, refuse this challenge : he descended from the fort,
and met Mimichihr. A desperate conflict ensued, and he was
slain on the spot. Minuchihr's keen sword severed the royal
head from the body, and thus quickly ended the career of Silim.
After that, the whole of the enemy's troops were defeated and
put to flight in every direction.

The leading warriors of the routed army now sought protec-
tion from Minuchihr, who immediately complied with their
solicitation, and by their influence all the forces of Silim and
TUT united under him. To each he gave rank according to
his merits. After the victory, Minuchihr hastened to pay his
respects to Feridun, who received him with praises and thanks-
givings, and the customary honours. Returning from the
battle, Feridun met him on foot ; and the moment Minuchihr
beheld the venerable monarch, he alighted and kissed the
ground. They then, seated in the palace together, congratu-
lated themselves on the success of their arms. In a short time
after, the end of Feridun approached ; when recommending
Minuchihr to the care of Sam and Narimun, he said : " My
hour of departure has arrived, and I place the prince under
your protection." He then directed Minuchihr to be seated on

the throne ;

And put himself the crown upon his head,

And stored his mind with counsel good and wise.

Upon the death of Feridun, Minuchihr accordingly suc-
ceeded to the government of the empire, and continued to
observe strictly all the laws and regulations of his great grand-
father. He commanded his subjects to be constant in the
worship of God.

The army and the people gave him praise,
Prayed for his happiness and length of days ;
Our hearts, they said, arc ever bound to theo ;
Our hearts, inspired by love and loyalty



According to the traditionary histories from which Firdausi
has derived his legends, the warrior Sam had a son born to
him whose hair was perfectly white. On his birth the nurse
went to Sam and told him that God had blessed him with a
wonderful child, without a single blemish, excepting that his
hair was white ; but when Sam saw him he was grieved :

His hair was white as goose's wing,
His check was like the rose of spring
His form was straight as cypress tree
But when the sire was brought to see
That child with hair so silvery white,
His heart revolted at the sight.

His mother gave him the name of Zal, and the people said
to Sam, " This is an ominous event, and will be to thee pro-
ductive of nothing but calamity ; it would be better if thou
couldst remove him out of sight.

No human being of this earth
Could give to such a monster birth ;
He must be of the Demon race,
Though human still in form and face.
If not a Demon, he, at least,
Appears a party-coloured beast."

When Sam was made acquainted with these reproaches and
3ers of the people, he determined, though with a sorrowful
art, to take him up to the mountain Alberz, and abandon
m there to be destroyed by beasts of prey. Alberz was the
>ode of the Simurgh or Griffin,* and, whilst flying about in
lest of food for his hungry young ones, that surprising animal

; The sex of this fabulous animal is not clearly made out ! It tells Zal that
ad nursed him like & father, and therefore I have, in this place, adopted tho
culine gender, though the preserver of young ones might authorise its being
idered a female. The Simurgh is probably neither one nor the other, or
! Some have likened the Simurgh to the Ippogrif or Griffin ; but the
i irgh is plainly a biped ; others again have supposed that the fable simply
t a holy recluse of the mountains, who nourished and educated the poor
which had been abandoned by its father.


discovered the child lying alone upon the hard rock, crying and
sucking its fingers. The Simurgh, however, felt no inclination
to devour him, but compassionately took him up in the air, and
conveyed him to his own habitation.

He who is blest with Heaven's grace
Will never want a dwelling-place
And he who bears the curse of Fate
Can never change his wretched state.
A voice, not earthly, thus addressed
The Simurgh in his mountain nest
" To thee this mortal I resign,
Protected by the power divine ;
Let him thy fostering kindness share,
Nourish him with paternal care ;
For from his loins, in time, will spring
The champion of the world, and bring
Honour on earth, and to thy name ;
The heir of everlasting fame."

The young ones were also kind and affectionate to the infant,
which was thus nourished and protected by the Simurgh for
several years.


It is said that one night, after melancholy musings and re-
flecting on the miseries of this life, Sam was \i-ited by a
dream, and when the particulars of it were con- unicated to
the interpreters of mysterious warnings and omens, they de-
clared that Zal was certainly still alive, although he had been
long exposed on Alberz, and left there to be torn to oieces Iv
animals. Upon this interpretation being givei the natural
feelings of the father returned, and he sent his peop'.o to the
mountain in search of Zal, but without success. On another
night Siim dreamt a second time, when he beheld a young man


of a beautiful countenance at the head of an immense army,
with a banner flying before him, and a Miibid on his left hand.
One of them addressed Sam, and reproached him thus :

Unfeeling mortal, hast thou from thy eyes

Washed out all sense of shame ? Dost thou believe

That to have silvery tresses is a crime ?

If so, thy head is covered with white hair ;

And were not both spontaneous gifts from Heaven 1

Although the boy was hateful to thy sight,

The grace of God has been bestowed upon him ;

And what is human tenderness and love

To Heaven's protection ? Thou to him wert cruel,

But Heaven has blest him, shielding him from harm.

Sam screamed aloud in his sleep, and awoke greatly terrified.
Without delay he went himself to Alberz, and ascended the
mountain, and wept and prayed before the throne of the
Almighty, saying :

" If that forsaken child be truly mine,
And not the progeny of Demon fell,
O pity me ! forgive the wicked deed,
And to my eyes, my injured son restore."

His prayer was accepted. The Simurgh, hearing the lamenta-
tions of Sam among his people, knew that he had come in quest
of his son, and thus said to Zal : " I have fed and protected
thee like a kind nurse, and I have given thee the name of
Dustan, like a father. Sam, the warrior, has just come upon
the mountain in search of his child, and I must restore thee to
him, and we must part." Zal wept when he heard of this un-
expected separation, and in strong terms expressed his grati-
tude to his benefactor ; for the Wonderful Bird had not
omitted to teach him the language of the country, and to culti-
vate his understanding, removed as they were to such a dis-
tance from the haunts of mankind. The Simurgh soothed
him by assuring him that he was not going to abandon him to
nisfortune, but to increase his prosperity ; and, as a striking
proof of affection, gave him a feather from his own wing, with

E 2


these instructions : " Whenever thou art involved in difficulty
or danger, put this feather on the fire, and I will instantly
appear to thec to ensure thy safety. Never cease to remember

I have watched thee with fondness by day and by night,
And supplied all thy wants with a father's delight ;
forget not thy nurse still be faithful to me
And my heart will be ever devoted to thee."

Zal immediately replied in a strain of gratitude and admira-
tion ; and then the Simurgh conveyed him to Sam, and said to
him : " Eeceive thy son he is of wonderful promise, and will
be worthy of the throne and the diadem."

The soul of Sam rejoiced to hear
Applause so sweet to a parent's ear ;
And blessed them both in thought and word,
The lovely boy, and the Wondrous Bird.

He also declared to Zal that he was ashamed of the crime of
which he had been guilty, and that he would endeavour to
obliterate the recollection of the past by treating him in future
with the utmost respect and honour.

When Minuchihr heard from Zabul of these things, and of
Sam's return, he was exceedingly pleased, and ordered his son,
Naiider, with a splendid istakbal,* to meet the father and ROU
on their approach to the city. They were surrounded by * ir-

* This custom is derived from the earliest ages of Persia, and has >>2en
continued down to the present times with no abatement of its por ; or
splendour. Mr. Morier thus speaks of the progress of the Embassy to Per?, i :

" An Istakbal composed of fifty horsemen of our Mehmandar's tribe -met
us about three miles from our encampment ; they were succe;dfd ,- v - c
advanced by an assemblage on foot, who threw a gloss vessel filled with i veet-
meats beneath the Envoy's horse, a ceremony which we had before witi ;ssed
at Kauzeroon, and which we again understood to be an honour shared wji i the
King and his sons alone. Then came two of the principal meroha: ts of
Sliiraz, accompanied by a boy, the son of Mahomed Nebee Khan, th< neir
Governor of Bushere. They, however, incurred the Envoy's displeasi re by
not dismounting from their horses, a form always observed in Persia by
of lower rank, when they meet a superior. We were thus met by three'
Istakbdh during the course of the day."


riors and great men, and Stim embraced the first moment to
introduce Zal to the king.

Z:il humbly kissed the earth before the king,

And from the hands of Minuchihr received

A golden mace and helm. Then those who knew

The stars and planetary signs, were told

To calculate the stripling's destiny ;

And all proclaimed him of exalted fortune,

That he would be prodigious in his might,

Outshining every warrior of the age.

Delighted with this information, Minuchihr, seated upon his
throne, with Karun on one side and Sam on the other, pre-
sented Zal with Arabian horses, and armour, and gold, and
splendid garments, and appointed Sam to the government of
Kabul, Zabul, and Ind. Zal accompanied his father on his
return ; and when they arrived at Zabulistdn, the most re-
nowned instructors in every art and science were collected to-
gether to cultivate and enrich his young mind.

In the meantime Siim was commanded by the king to invade
and subdue the Demon provinces of Karugsar and Mazin-
denin ; * and Z<il was in consequence left by his father in
charge of Zabulistan. The young nursling of the Simurgh is
said to have performed the duties of sovereignty with admir-
able wisdom and discretion, during the absence of his father.
He did not pass his time in idle exercises, but with zealous
delight in the society of accomplished and learned men, for the
purpose of becoming familiar with every species of knowledge
and acquirement. The city of Zilbul, however, as a constant
reside!. -. ad not entirely satisfy him, and he wished to see

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 6 of 35)