The Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi online

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he was unequalled. Firdausi has thus, with a view of making him great,
made him a prodigy. But Homer is not guiltless of similar extravagance, for
be says of the giants Otus and Ephialtes :

The wondrous youths had scarce nine winters told
When high in air, tremendous to behold,
Nine ells aloft they reared their towering head,
And full nine cubits broad their shoulders spread ;
Proud of their strength, and more than mortal size,
1'he gods they challenge, and affect the skies.

ODYSSBY, si. 310. Porit


Both Stira and Milmib, though far distant from the scene of
felicity, were equally anxious to proceed to Zabulistiin to behold
their wonderful grandson. Both set off, but Mihrab arrived
first with great pomp, and a whole army for his suite, and went
forth with Zal to meet Sam, and give him an honourable
welcome. The boy Eustem was mounted on an elephant,
wearing a splendid crown, and wanted to join them, but his
father kindly prevented him undergoing the inconvenience
of alighting. Ziil and Mihrab dismounted as soon as Sam
was seen at a distance, and performed the ceremonies of an
affectionate reception. Sam was indeed amazed when he did
see the boy, and showered blessings on his head.

Afterwards Sam placed Mihrab on his right hand, and Zal on
his left, and Rustem before him, and began to converse with
his grandson, who thus manifested to him his martial dis-

" Thou art the champion of the world, and I
The branch of that fair tree of which thou art
The glorious root : to thee I am devoted,
But ease and leisure have no charms for me ;
Xor music, nor the songs of festive joy.
Mounted and armed, a helmet on my brow,
A javelin in my grasp, I long to meet
The foe, and cast his severed head before thec."

Then Sam made a royal feast, and every apartment in his
palace was richly decorated, and resounded with mirth and
rejoicing. Mihrab was the merriest, and drank the most, and
in his cups saw nothing but himself, so vain had he become
from the countenance he had received. He kept saying :

" Now I feel no alarm about Sam or Zal-zer,

Nor the splendour and power of the great Minuchihr ;

Whilst aided by Eustem, his sword, and his mace,

Not a cloud of misfortune can shadow my face.

All the laws of Zohak I will quickly restore,

And the world shall be fragrant and blest as before."

This exultation plainly betrayed the disposition of his race ;


and though Sdin smiled at the extravagance of Mihrdb, he
looked up towards Heaven, and prayed that Rustem might net
prove a tyrant, but be continually active in doing good, and
humble before God.

Upon Sam departing, on his return to Karugsar and Mazin-
derdn, Zal went with Rustem to Sistan, a province dependent
on his government, and settled him there. The white elephant,
belonging to Miniichihr, was kept at Sistan. One night
Rustem was awakened out of his sleep by a great noise, and
cries of distress, when starting up and inquiring the cause, he
was told that the white elephant had got loose, and was tramp-
ling and crushing the people to death. In a moment he
issued from his apartment, brandishing his mace ; but was
soon stopped by the servants, who were anxious to expostulate
with him against venturing out in the darkness of night to
encounter a ferocious elephant. Impatient at being thus
interrupted he knocked down one of the watchmen, who fell
dead at his feet, and the others running away, he broke the
lock of the gate, and escaped. He immediately opposed
himself to the enormous animal, which looked like a mountain,
and kept roaring like the river Nil. Regarding him with a
cautious and steady eye, he gave a loud shout, and fearlessly
struck him a blow, with such strength and vigour, that the
iron mace was bent almost double. The elephant trembled,
and soon fell exhausted and lifeless in the dust. When it was
communicated to Zal that Rustem had killed the animal with
one blow, he was amazed, and fervently returned thanks to
heaven. He called him to him, and kissed him, and said :
" My darling boy, thou art indeed unequalled in valour and

Then it occurred to Z<il that Rustem, after such an achieve-
ment, would be a proper person to take vengeance on the
enemies of hib grandfather Nilrimjin, who was sent by Feridun
with a large army against an enchanted fort situated upon the
mountain Sipund, and who whilst endeavouring to effect his
object, was killed by a piece of rock thrown down from above

F 2


by the besieged. The fort,* which was many miles high,
inclosed beautiful lawns of the freshest verdure, and delightful
gardens abounding with fruit- and flowers ; it was also full of
treasure. Sam, on hearing of the fate of his father, was deeply
afflicted, and in a short time proceeded against the fort himself ;
but he was surrounded by a trackless desert. He knew not
what course to pursue ; not a being was ever seen to enter or
come out of the gates, and, after spending months and years
in fruitless endeavours, he was compelled to retire from the
appalling enterprize in despair. " Now," said Zal to Eustem,
" the time is come, and the remedy is at hand ; thou art yet
unknown, and may easily accomplish our purpose." Rustem
agreed to the proposed adventure, and according to his father's
advice, assumed the dress and character of a salt-merchant,
prepared a caravan of camels, and secreted arms for himself
and companions among the loads of salt. Every thing being
ready they set off, and it was not long before they reached the
fort on the mountain Sipund. Salt being a precious article, and
much wanted, as soon as the garrison knew that it was for sale,
the gates were opened ; and then was Rustem seen, together
with his warriors, surrounded by men, women, and children,
anxiously making their purchases, some giving clothes in
exchange, some gold, and some silver, without fear or suspicion.

But when the night came on, and it was dark,
Rustem impatient drew his warriors forth,
And moved towards the mansion of the chief
But not unheard. The unaccustomed noise,
Announcing warlike menace and attack,
Awoke the Kotwal, who sprung up to meet
The peril threatened by the invading foe.
Rustem meanwhile uplifts his ponderous mace,
And cleaves his head, and scatters on the ground

* The fort called Killah Suffeed, lies about seventy-six miles north-west of
the city of Shiraz. It is of an oblong form, and encloses a level space at the
top of the mountain, which is covered with delightful verdure, and watered
by numerous springs. The ascent is near three miles, and for the last five or
six hundred yards, the summit is so difficult of approach, that the slightest
opposition, if well directed, must render it impregnable.


Tbe reeking brains. And now the garrison
Are on the alert, all hastening to the spot
Where battle rages ; midst the deepened gloom
Flash sparkling swords, which shew the crimson earth
15 right as the ruby.

Rustem continued fighting with the people of the fort all
night, and, just as morning dawned, he discovered the chief
and slew him. Those who survived, then escaped, and not one
of the inhabitants remained within the walls alive. Rustem' s
next object was to enter the governor's mansion. It was built
of stone, and the gate, which was made of iron, he burst open
with his battle-axe, and advancing onward, he discovered a
temple, constructed with infinite skill and science, beyond the
power of mortal man, and which contained amazing wealth, in
jewels and gold. All the warriors gathered for themselves as
much treasure as they could carry away, and more than
imagination can conceive ; and Rustem wrote to Zal to know
his further commands on the subject of the capture. Zal,
overjoyed at the result of the enterprise, replied :

Thou hast illumed the soul of Nariman,
Now in the blissful bowers of Paradise,
13y punishing his foes with fire and sword.

He then recommended him to load all the camels with as much
of the invaluable property as could be removed, and bring it
away, and then burn and destroy the whole place, leaving not
a single vestige ; and the command having been strictly com-
plied with, Rustem retraced his steps to Zabulistan.

On his return Zal pressed him to his heart,
And paid him public honours. The fond mother
Kissed and embraced her darling son, and all
Uniting, showered their blessings on his head.



To Minilchihr we now must turn again,
And mark the close of his illustrious reign.

The king had flourished one hundred and 'twenty years,
when now the astrologers ascertained that the period of hip
departure from this life was at hand.

They told him of that day of bitterness,

Which would obscure the splendour of his throne ;

And said " The time approaches, thou must go,

Doubtless to Heaven. Think what thou hast to do ;

And be it done before the damp cold earth

Inshrine thy body. Let not sudden death

O'ertake thee, ere thou art prepared to die ! "

Warned by the wise, he called his courtiers round him,

And thus he counselled Nauder : " 0, my sou !

Fix not thy heart upon a regal crown,

For this vain world is fleeting as the wind ;

The pain and sorrows of twice sixty years

.Have I endured, though happiness and joy

Have also been my portion. I have fought

In many a battle, vanquished many a foe ;

By Fcridun's commands I girt my loins,

And his advice has ever been my guide.

I hurLd just vengeance on the tyrant-brothers

Solim and Tiir, who slew the gentle Irij ;

And cities have I built, and made the tree

Which yielded poison, teem with wholesome fruit.

And now to thce the kingdom I resign,

That kingdom which belonged to Feridun,

And thou wilt be the sovereign of the woill |

]>ut turn not from the worship of thy God,

That sucrcd worship Moses taught, the best

Of all the prophets ; turn not from the path

Of purest holiness, thy father's choice.

" My son, events of peril are before thee ;
Thy enemy will come in fierce array,
From the wild mountains of Turan, the son
Of Poshang, the invader. In that hour
Of danger, seek the aid of Sam and Zal,
And that young branch just blossoming ; Turan
Will then have no safe buckler of defence,
None to protect it from their conquering arms."

Thus spoke the sire prophetic to his son,
And both were moved to tears. Again the king


Kesumed his warning voice : " N.iuder, I charge thco

Place not thy trust upon a world like this,*

Where nothing fixed remains. The caravan

Goes to another city, one to-day,

The next, to-morrow, each observes its turn

And time appointed mine has come at last,

And I must travel on the destined road."

At the period Mimichihr uttered this exhortation, he was
entirely free from indisposition, but he shortly afterwards closed
his eves in death.


Upon the demise of Mimichihr, Nauder ascended the throne,
and commenced his reign in the most promising manner ; but
before two months had passed, he neglected the counsels of his
father, and betrayed the despotic character of his heart. To
such an extreme did he carry his oppression, that to escape

* The Persian poets, and particularly Firdausi, are eminently distinguished
for their apposite and striking reflections on fate and on the instability of
worldly grandeur. The portion of the Sh6h Naineh which contains the history
of Jemshid, abounds in heautiful and philosophical observations, conveyed in
all the enchanting sweetness of harmonious versification. The declension of
Jemshfd's glory, occasioned by his impious ambition to rival the Deity, and
his subsequent wanderings, afforded a rich subject for our poet's peculiar
vein. Sadi is also peculiarly successful in the same moral spirit. " When the
pure and spotless soul is about to depart, of what importance is it whether
we expire upon a throne or upon the bare ground 1 "

Thus Horace :


Pallida mors cequo pulsat pedo pauperum tttbernas,

Regumquo turres. I. OD. iv. 13,

What though we wade in wealth or soar in fame I
Earth's highest station ends in here he lies!
AJI<! ' ! usl fa dust conclijdes her noblest song,


from his violence, the people were induced to solicit other
princes to come and take possession of the empire. The
courtiers laboured under the greatest embarrassment, their
monarch being solely occupied in extorting money from his
subjects, and amassing wealth for his own coffers. Nauder
was not long in perceiving the dissatisfaction that universally
prevailed, and, anticipating, not only an immediate revolt, but
an invading army, solicited, according to his father's advice,
the assistance of Sam, then at M<lzinderd,n. The complaints of
the people, however, reached Sd,m before the arrival of the
messenger, and when he received the letter, he was greatly
distressed on account of the extreme severity exercised by the
new king. The champion, in consequence, proceeded forth-
with from Mdzinderiin to Persia, and when he entered the
capital, he was joyously welcomed, and at once entreated by
the people to take the sovereignty upon himself. It was said
of Naudcr :

The gloom of tyranny has hid

The light his father's counsel gave ;
The hope of life is lost amid

The desolation of the grave.

The world is withering in his thrall,

Exhausted by his iron sway ;
Do thou ascend the throne, and all

Will cheerfully thy will obey.

But Sam said, "No ; I should then be ungrateful to Mmuchihr,
a traitor, and deservedly offensive in the eyes of God. Nauder
is the king, and I am bound to do him service, although he
has deplorably departed from the advice of his father." He
then soothed the alarm and irritation of the chiefs, and en-
gaging to be a mediator upon the unhappy occasion, brought
them to a more pacific tone of thinking. After this he imme-
diately repaired to Nauder, who received him with great favour
and kindness. " king," said he, " only keep Feridiin in
remembrance, and govern the empire in such a manner that
thy name may be honoured by thy subjects ; for, be well


assured, that he who has a just estimate of the world, will
never look upon it as his place of rest. It is but an inn,
where all travellers meet on their way to eternity, but must
not remain. The wise consider those who fix their affections
on this life, as utterly devoid of reason and reflection :

Pleasure, and pomp, and wealth may be obtained

And every want luxuriously supplied :

But suddenly, without a moment's warning,

Death comes, and hurls the monarch from his throi.e,

His crown and sceptre scattering in the dust.

He who is satisfied with earthly joys,

Can never know the blessedness of Heaven ;

His soul must still be dark. Why do the good

Suffer in this world, but to be prepared

For future rest and happiness ? The name

Of Feridun is honoured among men,

Whilst curses load the memory of Zohak."

This intercession of Sam produced an entire change in the
government of Nauder, who promised, in future, to rule his
people according to the principles of Hiisheng, and Fcridiin,
and Mimichihr. The chiefs and captains of the army were,
in consequence, contented, and the kingdom reunited itself
under his sway.

In the mean time, however, the news of the death of
Minuchihr, together with Naudcr's injustice and severity, and
the disaffection of his people, had reached Tiinin, of which
country Poshang, a descendant from Tur, was then the sovereign.
Poshang, who had been unable to make a single successful
hostile movement during the life of Minuchihr, at once con-
ceived this to be a fit opportunity of taking revenge for the
blood of Selim and Tur, and every appearance seeming to be
in his favour, he called before him his heroic son Afrasiyilb,
and explained to him his purpose and views. It was not diffi-
cult to inspire the youthful mind of Afrasiyab with the senti-
ments he himself cherished, and a large army was immediately
collected to take the field against Nauder. Poshang was proud
of the chivalrous spirit and promptitude displayed by his son,
who is said to have been as strong as a lion, or an elephant, and


whose shadow extended miles. His tongue was like a bright
sword, and his heart as bounteous as the ocean, and his hands
like the clouds when rain falls to gladden the thirsty earth.
Aghriras, the brother of Afrasiydb, however, was not so pre-
cipitate. He cautioned his father to be prudent, for though
Persia could no longer boast of the presence of Miniichihr,
still the great warrior Silm, and Kiirun, and Garshasp, were
living, and Poshang had only to look at the result of the wars
in which Selim and Tur were involved, to be convinced that
the existing conjuncture required mature deliberation. " It
would be better," said he, " not to begin the contest at all,
than to bring ruin and desolation on our own country."
Poshang, on the contrary, thought the time peculiarly fit and
inviting, and contended that, as Mimichihr took vengeance for
the blood of his grandfather, so ought Afnlsiyab to take ven-
geance for his. " The grandson," he said, " who refuses to do
this act of justice, is unworthy of his family. There is nothing
to apprehend from the efforts of Xauder, who is an inex-
perienced youth, nor from the valour of his warriors. Afrasiydb
is brave and powerful in war, and thou must accompany him
and share the glory." After this no further observation was
offered, and the martial preparations were completed.


The brazen drums on the elephants were sounded as the
signal of departure, and the army proceeded rapidly to its
destination, overshadowing the earth in its progress. Afnlsiyab
had penetrated as far as the Jihiin before Nauder was aware of
his approach. Upon receiving this intelligence of the activity
of the enemy, the warriors of the Persian army immediately


moved in that direction, and on their arrival at Dehstan, pre-
pared for battle.

Afriisiyab despatched thirty thousand of his troops under the
command of Shimasas and Khazervan to Ztibulistan, to act
against Zal, having heard on his march of the death of the
illustrious Sam. and advanced himself upon Dehsttln with four
hundred thousand soldiers, covering the ground like swarms of
ants and locusts. He soon discovered that Nauder's forces did
not exceed one hundred and forty thousand men, and wrote to
Poshang, his father, in high spirits, especially on account of not
having to contend against Sa"ra, the warrior, and informed him
that he had detached Shimasas against Zdbulistan. "When the
armies had approached to within two leagues of each other,
Barmdn, one of the Turanian chiefs, offered to challenge any one
of the enemy to single combat : but Aghriras objected to it, not
wishing that so valuable a hero should run the hazard of dis-
comfiture. At this Afnisiyab was very indignant, and directed
Banna 1 n to follow the bent of his own inclinations.

" "Tis not for us to shrink from Persian foe,
Put on thy armour, and prepare thy bow."

Accordingly the challenge was given. Ka"run looked round,
and the only person who answered the call was the aged Kobad,
his brother. Kiirun and Kobad were both sons of Kavah, the
blacksmith, and both leaders in the Persian army. No per-
suasion could restrain Kobad from the unequal conflict. He
resisted all the entreaties of Karun, who said to him,

" 0. should thy hoary locks be stained with blood,
Thy legions will be overwhelmed with grief,
And, in despair, decline the coming battle."
But what was the reply of brave Kobad ?
" Brother, this body, this frail tenement,
Belongs to death. No living man has ever
Gone up to Heaven for all are doomed to die.
Some by the sword, the dagger, or the spear.
And some, devoured by roaring beasts of prey ;
Some peacefully upon their beds, and others
Snatched suddenly from life, endure the lot


fhvlained by the Creator. If I perish,
Does not my brother live, my noble brother,
To bury me beneath a warrior's tomb,
And bless my memory ? "

Saying this, he rushed forward, and the two warriors met in
desperate conflict. The struggle lasted all day ; at last B drman
threw a stone at his antagonist with such force, that Kobad in
receiving the blow fell lifeless from his horse. \Vhen Karun
saw that his brother was slain, he brought forward his whole
army to be revenged upon the enemy for the death of Kobdd.
Afrasiyab himself advanced to the charge, and the encounter
was dreadful. The soldiers who fell among the Turanians
could not be numbered, but the Persians lost fifty thousand

Loud neighed the steeds, and their resounding hoofs,
Shook the deep caverns of the earth ; the dust
lio^e up in clouds and hid the azure heavens
I> right beamed the swords, and in that caniaec wide,
Blood flowed like water. Night alone divided
The hostile armies.

When the battle ceased Karun fell back upon Dehsttln, and
communicated his misfortune to Nauder, who lamented the
loss of Kobad, even more than that of Sam. In the morning
Karun again took the field against Afrasiyab, and the conflict
was again terrible. Nauder boldly opposed himself to the
enemy, and singling out Afrasiyab, the two heroes fought with
great bravery till night again put an end to the engagement.
The Persian army had suffered most, and Nauder retired to his
tent disappointed, fatigued, and sorrowful. He then called to
mind the words of Minuchibr, and called for his two sons, Tiis
and Gustahem. With melancholy forebodings he directed them
to return to Iran, with his shubistan, or domestic establishment,
and take refuge on the mountain Alberz, in the hope that some
one of the race of Feridiin might survive the general ruin which
seemed to be approaching.

The armies rested two days. On the third the rever-


berating noise of drums and trumpets announced the recom-
mencement of the battle. On the Persian side Shahpiir had
been appointed in the room of Kobdd, and Bdrmdn and
Shiwaz led the right and left of the Turd nians under Afrdsiydb.

From dawn to sun-set, mountain, plain, and stream,

Were hid from view ; the earth, beneath the tread

Of myriads, groaned ; and when the javelins cast

Long shadows on the plain at even tide,

The Tartar host had won the victory ;

And many a Persian chief fell on that day :

Shahpur himself was slain.

When Nauder and Kdrun saw the unfortunate result of the
battle, they again fell back upon Dehstdn, and secured them-
selves in the fort. Afrdsiydb in the mean time dispatched
Kanikhdn to Iran, through the desert, with a body of horse-
men, for the purpose of intercepting and capturing the
shubistan of Nauder. As soon as Kdrun heard of this
expedition he was all on fire, and proposed to pursue the
squadron under Kariikhdn, and frustrate, at once the object
which the enemy had in view ; and though Nauder was un-
favourable to this movement, Kdrun, supported by several of
the chiefs and a strong volunteer force, set off at midnight,
without permission, on this important enterprise. It was not
long before they reached the Duz-i-Suped, or white fort, of
which Gustahem was the governor, and falling in with Bdrmdn,
who was also pushing forward to Persia, Karun, in revenge for
his brother Kobdd, sought him out, and dared him to single
combat. He threw his javelin with such might, that his
antagonist was driven furiously from his horse ; and then,
dismounting, he cut off his head, and hung it at his saddle-
bow. After this he attacked and defeated the Tartar troops,
and continued his march towards Irdn.

Nauder having found that Karun had departed, immediately
followed, and Afrdsiydb was not long in pursuing him. The
Turdnians at length came up with Nauder, and attacked him
with great vigour. The unfortunate king, unable to parry the


onset, fell into the hands of his enemies, together with upwards
of one thousand of his famous warriors.

Long fought they, Nauder and the Tartar-chief,
And the thick dust which rose from either host,
Darkened the rolling Heavens. Afrasiyab
Seized by the girdle-belt the Persian king,
And furious, dragged him from his foaming horse.
With him a thousand warriors, high in name,
Were taken on the field ; and every legion,
Captured whilst flying from the victor's brand.

Such are the freaks of Fortune : friend and foe
Alternate wear the crown. The world itself
Is an ingenious juggler every moment
Playing some novel trick ; exalting one
In pomp and splendour, crushing down another,

Online LibraryFirdawsiThe Shah Nameh of the Persian poet Firdausi → online text (page 8 of 35)