Jump to content

Ferdowsi's Shahnameh - Translation


Recommended Posts

Chapter 1

The Shahs of Old

Kaiumers first sat upon the throne of Persia, and was master of the world. He took up his abode in the mountains, and clad himself and his people in tiger-skins, and from him sprang all kindly nurture and the arts of clothing, till then unknown. Men and beasts from all parts of the earth came to do him homage and receive laws at his hands, and his glory was like to the sun. Then Ahriman the Evil, when he saw how the Shah's honour was increased, waxed envious, and sought to usurp the diadem of the world. So he bade his son, a mighty Deev, gather together an army to go out against Kaiumers and his beloved son Saiamuk and destroy them utterly.

Now the Serosch, the angel who defendeth men from the snares of the Deevs, and who each night flieth seven times around the earth that he may watch over the children of Ormuzd, when he learned this, appeared like unto a Peri and warned Kaiumers. So when Saiamuk set forth at the head of his warriors to meet the army of Ahriman, he knew that he was contending against a Deev, and he put forth all his strength. But the Deev was mightier than he, and overcame him, and crushed him under his hands.

When Kaiumers heard the news of mourning, he was bowed to the ground. For a year did he weep without ceasing, and his army wept with him; yea, even the savage beasts and the birds of the air joined in the wailing. And sorrow reigned in the land, and all the world was darkened until the Serosch bade the Shah lift his head and think on vengeance. And Kaiumers obeyed, and commanded Husheng, the son of Saiamuk, "Take the lead of the army, and march against the Deevs." And the King, by reason of his great age, went in the rear. Now there were in the host Peris; also tigers, lions, wolves, and other fierce creatures, and when the black Deev heard their roaring he trembled for very fear. Neither could he hold himself against them, and Husheng routed him utterly. Then when Kaiumers saw that his well-beloved son was revenged he laid him down to die, and the world was void of him, and Husheng reigned in his stead.

Now Husheng was a wise man and just, and the heavens revolved over his throne forty years. justice did he spread over the land, and the world was better for his reign. For he first gave to men fire, and showed them how to draw it from out the stone; and he taught them how they might lead the rivers, that they should water the land and make it fertile; and he bade them till and reap. And he divided the beasts and paired them and gave them names. And when he passed to a brighter life he left the world empty of a throne of power. But Tahumers, his son, was not unworthy of his sire. He too opened the eyes of men, and they learned to spin and to weave; and he reigned over the land long and mightily. But of him also were the Deevs right envious, and sought to destroy him. Yet Tahumers overcame them and cast them to earth. Then some craved mercy at his hands, and sware how they would show him an art if he would spare them, and Tahumers listened to their voice. And they taught him the art of writing, and thus from the evil Deevs came a boon upon mankind.

Howbeit when Tahumers had sat upon the golden throne for the space of thirty years he passed away, but his works endured; and Jemshid, his glorious son, whose heart was filled with the counsels of his father, came after him. Now Jemshid reigned over the land seven hundred years girt with might, and Deevs, birds, and Peris obeyed him. And the world was happier for his sake, and he too was glad, and death was unknown among men, neither did they wot of pain or sorrow. And he first parcelled out men into classes; priests, warriors, artificers, and husbandmen did he name them. And the year also he divided into periods. And by aid of the Deevs he raised mighty works, and Persepolis was builded by him, that to this day is called Tukht-e-Jemsheed, which being interpreted meaneth the throne of Jemshid. Then, when these things were accomplished, men flocked from all corners of the earth around his throne to do him homage and pour gifts before his face. And Jemshid prepared a feast, and bade them keep it, and called it Neurouz, which is the New Day, and the people of Persia keep it to this hour. And Jemshid's power increased, and the world was at peace, and men beheld in him nought but what was good.

Then it came about that the heart of Jemshid was uplifted in pride, and he forgot whence came his weal and the source of his blessings. He beheld only himself upon the earth, and he named himself God, and sent forth his image to be worshipped. But when he had spoken thus, the Mubids, which are astrologers and wise men, hung their heads in sorrow, and no man knew how he should answer the Shah. And God withdrew his hand from Jemshid, and the kings and the nobles rose up against him, and removed their warriors from his court, and Ahriman had power over the land.

Now there dwelt in the deserts of Arabia a king named Mirtas, generous and just, and he had a son, Zohak, whom he loved. And it came about that Ahriman visited the palace disguised as a noble, and tempted Zohak that he should depart from the paths of virtue. And he spake unto him and said-

"If thou wilt listen to me, and enter into a covenant, I will raise thy head above the sun."

Now the young man was guileless and simple of heart, and he sware unto the Deev that he would obey him in all things. Then Ahriman bade him slay his father,

"for this old man,"

he said,

"cumbereth the ground, and while he liveth thou wilt remain unknown."

When Zohak heard this he was filled with grief, and would have broken his oath, but Ahriman suffered him not, but made him set a trap for Mirtas. And Zohak and the evil Ahriman held their peace and Mirtas fell into the snare and was killed. Then Zohak placed the crown of Thasis upon his head, and Ahriman taught him the arts of magic, and he ruled over his people in good and evil, for he was not yet wholly given up to guile.

Then Ahriman imagined a device in his black heart. He took upon himself the form of a youth, and craved that he might serve the King as cook. And Zohak, who knew him not, received him well and granted his request, and the keys of the kitchen were given unto him. Now hitherto men had been nourished with herbs, but Ahriman prepared flesh for Zohak. New dishes did he put before him, and the royal favour was accorded to his savory meats. And the flesh gave the King courage and strength like to that of a lion, and he commanded that his cook should be brought before him and ask a boon at his hands. And the cook said-

"If the King take pleasure in his servant, grant that he may kiss his shoulders."

Now Zohak, who feared no evil, granted the request, and Ahriman kissed him on his shoulders. And when he had done so, the ground opened beneath his feet and covered the cook, so that all men present were amazed thereat. But from his kiss sprang hissing serpents, venomous and black; and the King was afraid, and desired that they should be cut off from the root. But as often as the snakes were cut down did they grow again, and in vain the wise men and physicians cast about for a remedy. Then Ahriman came once again disguised as a learned man, and was led before Zohak, and he spake, saying-

"This ill cannot be healed, neither can the serpents be uprooted. Prepare food for them, therefore, that they may be fed, and give unto them for nourishment the brains of men, for perchance this may destroy them."

But in his secret heart Ahriman desired that the world might thus be made desolate; and daily were the serpents fed, and the fear of the King was great in the land. The world withered in his thrall, the customs of good men were forgotten, and the desires of the wicked were accomplished.

Now it was spread abroad in Iran that in the land of Thasis there reigned a man who was mighty and terrible to his foes. Then the kings and nobles who had withdrawn from Jemshid because he had rebelled against God, turned to Zohak and besought him that he would be their ruler, and they proclaimed him Shah. And the armies of Arabia and Persia marched against Jemshid, and he fled before their face. For the space of twice fifty years no man knew whither he was gone, for he hid from the wrath of the Serpent-King. But in the fulness of time he could no longer escape the fury of Zohak, whose servants found him as he wandered on the sea-shore of Cathay, and they sawed him in twain, and sent tidings thereof to their lord. And thus perished the throne and power of Jemshid like unto the grass that withereth, because that he was grown proud, and would have lifted himself above his Maker.

So the beloved of Ahriman, Zohak the Serpent, sat upon the throne of Iran, the kingdom of Light. And he continued to pile evil upon evil till the measure thereof was full to overflowing, and all the land cried out against him. But Zohak and his councillors, the Deevs, shut ear unto this cry, and the Shah reigned thus for the space of a thousand years, and vice stalked in daylight, but virtue was hidden. And despair filled all hearts, for it was as though mankind must perish to still the appetite of those snakes sprung from Evil, for daily were two men slaughtered to satisfy their desire. Neither had Zohak mercy upon any man. And darkness was spread over the land because of his wickedness.

But Ormuzd saw it and was moved with compassion for his people, and he declared they should no longer suffer for the sin of Jemshid. And he caused a grandson to be born to Jemshid, and his parents called him Feridoun.

Now it befell that when he was born, Zohak dreamed he beheld a youth slender like to a cypress, and he came towards him bearing a cow-headed mace, and with it he struck Zohak to the ground. Then the tyrant awoke and trembled, and called for his Mubids, that they should interpret to him this dream. And they were troubled, for they foresaw danger, and he menaced them if they foretold him evil. And they were silent for fear three days, but on the fourth one who had courage spake and said-

"There will arise one named Feridoun, who shall inherit thy throne and reverse thy fortunes, and strike thee down with a cow-headed mace."

When Zohak heard these words he swooned, and the Mubids fled before his wrath. But when he had recovered he bade the world be scoured for Feridoun. And henceforth Zohak was consumed for bitterness of spirit, and he knew neither rest nor joy.

Now it came about that the mother of Feridoun feared lest the Shah should destroy the child if he learned that he was sprung from Jemshid's race. So she hid him in the thick forest where dwelt the wondrous cow Purmaieh, whose hairs were like unto the plumes of a peacock for beauty. And she prayed the guardian of Purmaieh to have a care of her son, and for three years he was reared in the wood, and Purmaieh was his nurse. But when the time was accomplished the mother knew that news of Purmaieh had reached the ears of Zohak, and she feared he would find her son. Therefore she took him far into Ind, to a pious hermit who dwelt on the Mount Alberz. And she prayed the hermit to guard her boy, who was destined for mighty deeds. And the hermit granted her request. And it befell that while she sojourned with him Zohak had found the beauteous Purmaieh and learned of Feridoun, and when he heard that the boy was fled he was like unto a mad elephant in his fury. He slew the wondrous cow and all the living things round about, and made the forest a desert. Then he continued his search, but neither tidings nor sight could he get of Feridoun, and his heart was filled with anguish.

In this year Zohak caused his army to be strengthened, and he demanded of his people that they should certify that he had ever been to them a just and noble king. And they obeyed for very fear. But while they sware there arose without the doorway of the Shah the cry of one who demanded justice. And Zohak commanded that he should be brought in, and the man stood before the assembly of the nobles.

Then Zohak opened his mouth and said,

"I charge thee give a name unto him who hath done thee wrong."

And the man, when he saw it was the Shah who questioned him, smote his head with his hands. But he answered and said-

"I am Kawah, a blacksmith and a blameless man, and I sue for justice, and it is against thee, O King, that I cry out. Seventeen fair sons have I called mine, yet only one remaineth to me, for that his brethren were slain to still the hunger of thy serpents, and now they have taken from me this last child also. I pray thee spare him unto me, nor heap thy cruelties upon the land past bearing."

And the Shah feared Kawah's wrath, beholding that it was great, and he granted him the life of his son and sought to win him with soft words. Then he prayed him that he would also sign the testimony that Zohak was a just and noble king. But Kawah cried,

"Not so, thou wicked and ignoble man, ally of Deevs, I will not lend my hand unto this lie,"

and he seized the declaration and tore it into fragments and scattered them into the air. And when he had done so he strode forth from the palace, and all the nobles and people were astonished, so that none dared uplift a finger to restrain him. Then Kawah went to the market-place and related to the people all that which he had seen, and recalled to them the evil deeds of Zohak and the wrongs they had suffered at his hands. And he provoked them to shake off the yoke of Ahriman. And taking off the leathern apron wherewith blacksmiths cover their knees when they strike with the hammer, he raised it aloft upon the point of a lance and cried-

"Be this our banner to march forth and seek out Feridoun and entreat him that he deliver us from out the hands of the Serpent-King."

Then the people set up a shout of joy and gathered themselves round Kawah, and he led them out of the city bearing aloft his standard. And they marched thus for many days unto the palace of Feridoun.

Now these things came about in the land of Iran after twice eight years were passed over the head of Feridoun. And when that time was accomplished, he descended from the Mount Alberz and sought out his mother, questioning her of his lineage. And she told him how that he was sprung from the race of Jemshid, and also of Zohak and of his evil deeds.

Then said Feridoun,

"I will uproot this monster from the earth, and his palace will I raze to the dust."

But his mother spake, and said,

"Not so, my son, let not thine youthful anger betray thee; for how canst thou stand against all the world?"

Yet not long did she suffer the hard task to hinder him, for soon a mighty crowd came towards the palace led by one who bare an apron uplifted upon a lance. Then Feridoun knew that succour was come unto him. And when he had listened to Kawah, he came into the presence of his mother with the helmet of kings upon his head, and he said unto her-

"Mother, I go to the wars, and it remaineth for thee to pray God for my safety."

Then he caused a mighty club to be made for him, and he traced the pattern thereof upon the ground, and the top thereof was the head of a cow, in memory of Purmaieh, his nurse. Then he cased the standard of Kawah in rich brocades of Roum, and hung jewels upon it. And when all was made ready, they set forth towards the West to seek out Zohak, for, they knew not that he was gone to Ind in search of Feridoun. Now when they were come to Bagdad, which is upon the banks of the Tigris, they halted, and Feridoun bade the guardians of the flood convey them across. But these refused, saying, the King bade that none should pass save only those who bore the royal seal. When Feridoun heard these words he was wroth, and he regarded not the rushing river nor the dangers hidden within its floods. He girded his loins and plunged with his steed into the waters, and all the army followed after him. Now they struggled sore with the rushing stream, and it seemed as though the waves would bear them down. But their brave horses overcame all dangers, and they stepped in safety upon the shore. Then they turned their faces towards the city which is now called Jerusalem, for here stood the glorious house that Zohak had builded. And when they had entered the city all the people rallied round Feridoun, for they hated Zohak and looked to Feridoun to deliver them. And he slew the Deevs that held the palace, and cast down the evil talisman that was graven upon the walls. Then he mounted the throne of the idolater and placed the crown of Iran upon his head, and all the people bowed down before him and called him Shah.

Now when Zohak returned from his search after Feridoun and learned that he was seated upon his throne, he encompassed the city with his host. But the army of Feridoun marched against him, and the desires of the people went with them. And all that day bricks fell from the walls and stones from the terraces, and it rained arrows and spears like to hail falling from a dark cloud, until Feridoun had overcome the might of Zohak. Then Feridoun raised his cow-headed mace to slay the Serpent-King. But the blessed Serosch swooped down, and cried-

"Not so, strike not, for Zohak's hour is not yet come."

Then the Serosch bade the Shah bind the usurper and carry him far from the haunts of men, and there fasten him to a rock. And Feridoun did as he was bidden, and led forth Zohak to the Mount Demawend. And he bound him to the rock with mighty chains and nails driven into his hands, and left him to perish in agony. And the hot sun shone down upon the barren cliffs, and there was neither tree nor shrub to shelter him, and the chains entered into his flesh, and his tongue was consumed with thirst. Thus after a while the earth was delivered of Zohak the evil one, and Feridoun reigned in his stead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 2


Five hundred years did Feridoun rule the world, and might and virtue increased in the land, and all his days he did that which was good. And he roamed throughout the kingdom to seek out that which was open and that which was hid, and wrong was righted at his hands. With kindness did he curb the sway of evil. He ordered the world like to a paradise, he planted the cypress and the rose where the wild herb had sprouted.

Now after many years were passed there were born to him three sons, whose mother was of the house of Jemshid. And the sons were fair of mien, tall and strong, yet their names were not known to men, for Feridoun had not tested their hearts. But when he beheld that they were come to years of strength he called them about his throne and bade them search out the King of Yemen, who had three daughters, fair as the moon, that they should woo them unto themselves. And the sons of Feridoun did according to the command of their father. They set forth unto Yemen, and there went with them a host countless as the stars. And when they were come to Yemen, the King came forth to greet them, and his train was like to the plumage of a pheasant. Then the sons of Feridoun gained the hands of the daughters of Serv, King of Yemen, and departed with them to their own land. And Serv gave to his new sons much treasure laid upon the backs of camels, and umbrellas too did he give unto them in sign of kingship.

Now it came about that when Feridoun learned that his sons were returning, he went forth to meet them and prove their hearts. So he took upon him the form of a dragon that foamed at the mouth with fury, and from whose jaws sprang mighty flames. And when his sons were come near unto the mountain pass, he came upon them suddenly, like to a whirlwind, and raised a cloud of dust about the place with his writhings, and his roaring filled the air with noise. Then he threw himself upon the eldest born, and the prince laid down his spear and said,

"A wise and prudent man striveth not with dragons."

And he turned his back and fled before the monster, and left him to fall upon his brothers. Then the dragon sprang upon the second, and he said,

"An it be that I must fight, what matter if it be a furious lion or a knight full of valour?"

So he took his bow and stretched it. But the youngest came towards him, and seeing the dragon, said,

"Thou reptile, flee from our presence, and strut not in the path of lions. For if thou hast heard the name of Feridoun, beware how thou doest thus, for we are his sons, armed with spears and ready for the fight. Quit therefore, I counsel thee, thine evil path, lest I plant upon thy head the crown of enmity."

Then the glorious Feridoun, when he had thus made trial of their hearts, vanished from their sight. But presently he came again with the face of their father, and many warriors, elephants, and cymbals were in his train. And Feridoun bore in his hand the cow-headed mace, and the Kawanee, the apron of Kawah, the kingly standard, was waved above his head. Now when the sons saw their father, they alighted from their steeds and ran to greet him, and kissed the ground before his feet. And the cymbals were clashed, and the trumpets brayed, and sounds of rejoicing were heard around. Then Feridoun raised his sons and kissed their foreheads, and gave unto them honour according to their due. And when they were come to the royal house he prayed to God that He would bless his offspring, and calling them about him, he seated them upon thrones of splendour. Then he opened his mouth and said unto them-

"O my sons, listen unto the words that I shall speak. The raging dragon whose breath was danger was but your father, who sought to test your hearts, and having learned them gave way with joy. But now will I give to you names such as are fitting unto men. The first-born shall be called Silim (may thy desires be accomplished in the world!) for thou soughtest to save thyself from the clutches of the dragon, nor didst thou hesitate in the hour of flight. A man who fleeth neither before an elephant nor a lion, call him rather foolhardy than brave. And the second, who from the beginning showed his courage, which was ardent as a flame, I will call him Tur, the courageous, whom even a mad elephant cannot daunt. But the youngest is a man prudent and brave, who knoweth both how to haste and how to tarry; he chose the midway between the flame and the ground, as it beseemeth a man of counsel, and he hath proven himself brave, prudent, and bold. Irij shall he be called, that the gate of power may be his goal, for first did he show gentleness, but his bravery sprang forth at the hour of danger."

When Feridoun had thus opened his lips he called for the book wherein are written the stars, and he searched for the planets of his sons. And he found that Jupiter reigned in the sign of the Archer in the house of Silim, and the sun in the Lion in that of Tur, but in the house of Irij there reigned the moon in the Scorpion. And when he saw this he was sorrowful, for he knew that for Irij were grief and bale held in store. Then having read the secrets of Fate, Feridoun parted the world and gave the three parts unto his sons in suzerainty. Roum and Khaver, which are the lands of the setting sun, did he give unto Silim. Turan and Turkestan did he give unto Tur, and made him master of the Turks and of China, but unto Irij he gave Iran, with the throne of might and the crown of supremacy.

For many years had the sons of Feridoun sat upon their golden thrones in happiness and peace, but evil was hidden in the bosom of Fate. For Feridoun had grown old, and his strength inclined to the grave. And as his life waned, the evil passions of his sons waxed stronger. The heart of Silim was changed, and his desires turned towards evil; his soul also was steeped in greed. And he pondered in his spirit the parting of the lands, and he revolted thereat in his thoughts, because that the youngest bore the crown of supremacy. Then he bade a messenger mount him upon a dromedary swift of foot, and bear this saying unto Tur-

"O King of Turan, thy brother greeteth thee, and may thy days be long in the land. Tell unto me, I pray thee, for thou hast might and wisdom, should we remain thus ever satisfied, for surely unto us, not unto Irij, pertaineth the throne of Iran, but now is our brother set above our heads, and should we not strive against the injustice of our father?"

Now. when Tur had listened to these words, his head was filled with wind, and he spake unto the messenger and said-

"Say unto your master, O my brother, full of courage, since our father deceived us when we were young and void of guile, with his own hands hath he planted a tree whence must issue fruit of blood and leaves that are poison. Let us therefore meet and take counsel together how we may rid us of our evil fate."

When Silim heard this he set forth from Roum, and Tur also quitted China, and they met to counsel together how they should act. Then they sent a messenger unto Feridoun the glorious, and they said-

"O King, aged and great, fearest thou not to go home unto thy God? for evil hast thou done, and injustice dost thou leave behind thee. Thy realm hast thou allotted with iniquity, and thine eldest born hast thou treated with disfavour. But we thy sons entreat thee that ere it be too late thou listen to our voice. Command thou Irij to step down from the throne of Iran, and hide him in some corner of the earth, that he be weak and forgotten like ourselves. Yet if thou doest not our bidding, we will bring forth riders from Turkestan and Khaver filled with vengeance, and will utterly destroy Irij and the land of Iran."

When Feridoun had listened to these hard words he was angered, and straightway said-

"Speak unto these men, senseless and impure, these sons of Ahriman, perverse of heart, and say unto them, Feridoun rejoiceth that ye have laid bare before him your hearts, for now he knoweth what manner of men ye are. And he answereth unto you that he hath parted his realm with equity. Many counsellors did he seek, and night and day did they ponder it, and gave unto each that which seemed best in their sight. And he now speaketh unto you a word that he doth bid you treasure in your hearts, As ye sow, so also shall ye reap, for there is for us another, an eternal home. And this is the rede sent unto you by an aged man, that he who betrayeth his brother for greed is not worthy to be sprung from a noble race. So pray unto God that He turn your hearts from evil."

When the messenger had heard these words he departed. Then Feridoun called Irij before him and warned him against the craft of his brethren, and bade him prepare an army and go forth to meet them. But Irij, when he had heard of the evil thoughts of his brothers, was moved, and said-

"Not so, O my father, suffer that I go forth alone and speak unto my brethren, that I may still the anger that they feel against me. And I will entreat them that they put not their trust in the glory of this world, and will recall unto them the name of Jemshid, and how that his end was evil because that he was uplifted in his heart."

Then Feridoun answered and said,

"Go forth, my son, if such be thy desire. The wish of thy brethren is even unto war, but thou seekest the paths of peace. Yet I pray thee take with thee worthy knights, and return unto me with speed, for my life is rooted in thy happiness."

And he gave him a letter signed with his royal seal that he should bear it unto the kings of Roum and China. And Feridoun wrote how that he was old, and desired neither gold nor treasures, save only that his sons should be united. And he commended unto them his youngest born, who was descended from his throne and come forth to meet them with peace in his heart.

Now when Irij was come to the spot where his brethren were encamped, the army saw him and was filled with wonder at his beauty and at his kingly form, and they murmured among themselves, saying, "Surely this one alone is worthy to bear the sceptre."

But when Silim and Tur heard this murmur their anger was deepened, and they retreated into their tents, and all night long did they hold counsel how they might do hurt unto their brother.

Now when the curtain that hid the sun was lifted, the brethren went forth unto the tents of Irij. And Irij would have greeted them, but they suffered him not, but straightway began to question him, and heap reproaches upon his head. And Tur said-

"Why hast thou uplifted thyself above us, and is it meet that thy elders bow down before thee?"

When Irij heard their words, he answered,

"O Kings greedy of power, I say unto you, if ye desire happiness, strive after peace. I covet neither the royal crown nor the hosts of Iran; power that endeth in discord is an honour that leadeth to tears. And I will step down from the throne of Iran if it shall foster peace between us, for I crave not the possession of the world if ye are afflicted by the sight. For I am humble of heart, and my faith bids me be kind."

Now Tur heard these words, but they softened not his spirit, for he knew only that which is evil, and wist not that Irij spoke truly. And he took up the chair whereon he sat and threw it at his brother in his anger. Then Irij called for mercy at his hands, saying-

"O King, hast thou no fear of God, no pity for thy father? I pray thee destroy me not, lest God ask vengeance for my blood. Let it not be spoken that thou who hast life takest that gift from others. Do not this evil. Crush not even the tiny ant that beareth a grain of corn, for she hath life, and sweet life is a boon. I will vanish from thy sight, I will live in solitude and secrecy, so thou grant that I may yet behold the sun."

But these words angered Tur only the more, and he drew from his boot a dagger that was poisoned and sharp, and he thrust it into the breast of Irij, the kingly cedar. And the young lord of the world paled and was dead. Then Tur cut the head from the trunk, and filled it with musk and ambergris, and sent it unto the old man his father, who had parted the world, saying-

"Behold the head of thy darling, give unto him now the crown and the throne."

And when they had done this evil deed the brethren furled their tents, and turned them back again unto the lands of Roum and Cathay.

Now Feridoun held his eyes fastened upon the road whither Irij was gone, and his heart yearned after him. And when he heard that the time of his return was come, he bade a host go forth to meet him, and he himself went in the wake. Now when they were gone but a little way they beheld a mighty cloud of dust upon the sky. And the cloud neared, and there came thence a dromedary whereon was seated a knight clad in the garb of woe. And he bare in his arms a casket of gold, and in the casket were rich stuffs of silk, and in the stuffs was wrapped the head of Irij. And when Feridoun beheld the face of the messenger his heart was smote with fear, but when he saw the head of his son he fell from his horse with sorrow. Then a cry of wailing rent the air, and the army shouted for grief, and the flags were torn, and the drums broken, and the elephants and cymbals hung with the colours of mourning, because that Irij was gone from the world. And Feridoun returned on foot unto the city, and all the nobles went with him, and they retraced their steps in the dust. Now when they were come to the garden of Irij, Feridoun faltered in his sorrow, and he pressed the head of the young King, his son, unto his breast. And he cast black earth upon his throne, and tore his hair, and shed tears, and his cries mounted even unto the seventh sphere. And he spake in his grief and said-

"O Master of the world, that metest out justice, look down, I pray thee, upon this innocent whom his brethren have foully murdered! Sear their hearts that joy cannot enter, and grant unto me my prayer. Suffer that I may live until a hero, a warrior mighty to avenge, be sprung from the seed of Irij. Then when I shall have beheld his face I will go hence as it beseemeth me and the earth shall cover my body."

Thus wept Feridoun in the bitterness of his soul, neither would he take comfort day and night, nor quit the garden of his son. And the earth was his couch and the dust his bed, and he watered the ground with his tears. And he rested in this spot till that the grass was grown above his bosom, and his eyes were blinded with weeping. Yet his tongue did not cease from plaining and his heart from sorrow. And he cried continually-

"O Irij, O my son, my son, never prince died a death like thine! Thy head was severed by Ahriman, thy body torn by lions."

Thus mourned Feridoun, and the voice of lamentation was abroad. Then it came about that after many years had passed Feridoun bethought him of the daughter of Irij, and how that men said she was fair. And he sought for her in the house of the women; and when he learned that she was fair indeed, he desired that a husband be found for her, and he wedded her unto Pescheng, who was a hero of the race of Jemshid. And there was born unto them a son fair and strong, worthy the throne. And when he was yet but a tender babe they brought him to Feridoun and cried-

"O Lord of earth, let thy soul rejoice, behold this Irij!"

Then the lips of Feridoun were wreathed with smiles, and he took up the infant in his arms and cried unto God, saying-

"O God, grant that my sight be restored unto me, that I may behold the face of this babe."

And as he prayed his eyes were opened, and his sight rested upon his son. Then Feridoun gave thanks unto God. And he called down blessings upon the child, and prayed that the day might be blessed also, and the heart of his enemies be torn with anguish. And he named him Minuchihr, saying,

"A branch worthy of a noble stock hath borne fruit."

And the child was reared in the house of Feridoun, and he suffered not that ill came near unto him, and though the years passed above his head the stars brought him no evil. And when he was of a ripe age Feridoun gave to Minuchihr a throne of gold, and a mace, and a crown of jewels, and the key to all his treasures. Then he commanded his nobles that they should do him reverence and salute him king. And there were gathered about the throne Karun, the son of Kawah, and Serv, King of Yemen, and Guerschasp the victorious, and many other mighty princes more than tongue can name. But the young Shah outshone them in strength and beauty, and joy was once more in the land.

But tidings of the splendour that surrounded Feridoun pierced even unto the lands of Roum and China, and the kings thereof were troubled and downcast in their hearts. Then they conferred how they should regain the favour of the Shah, for they feared Minuchihr when he should be come unto years of might. So they sent a messenger unto Feridoun bearing rich gifts, and bade him speak unto their father and say-

"O Shah, live for ever I bear a message from the humblest of thy slaves, who are bowed unto the earth with contrition, wherefore they have not ventured into thy presence. And they pray that thou pardon their evil deed, for their hearts are good, and they did it not of themselves, but because it was written that they should do this wrong, and that which is written in the stars surely it is accomplished. And therefore, O King, their eyes are filled with tears, and they pray thee incline unto them thine ear. And as a sign of thy grace send unto them Minuchihr thy son, for their hearts yearn to look upon his face and do him homage."

Now when Feridoun had listened to the words of his sons, he knitted his brows in anger, for he knew that they sought only to beguile him. And he said unto the messenger-

"Go, say unto your masters that their false-hearted words shall avail them nothing. And ask them if they be not shamed to utter white words with tongues of blackness. I have heard their message, hear now the answer that I send. Ye say unto me that ye desire the love of Minuchihr, and I ask of you, What did ye for Irij? And now that ye are delivered of him ye seek the blood of his son. Verily I say unto you, never shall ye look upon his face save when he leadeth a mighty army. Then shall be watered with blood the leaves and fruits of the tree sprung from the vengeance that is due. For unto this day hath vengeance slumbered, since it became me not to stretch forth mine hand in battle upon my sons; but now is there sprung a branch from the tree which the enemy uprooted, and he shall come as a raging lion, girt with the vengeance of his sire. And I say unto you, take back the treasures ye have sent me, for think ye that for coloured toys I will abandon my vengeance, and efface for baubles the blood that ye have spilled, or sell for gold the head of mine offspring? And say yet again that while the father of Irij lives he will not abandon his intent. And now that thou hast listened unto my message, lay it up in thy heart and make haste from hence."

When the messenger had heard these words he departed with speed. And when he was come unto Silim and Tur he told them thereof, and how he had seen Minuchihr sitting upon a throne of gold, and how for strength he was like unto Tahumers, who had bound the Deevs. And he told how heroes bearing names that filled the world with wonder stood round about him, Kawah the smith, and Karun his son, and Serv, the King of Yemen, and next in might unto the Shah was Saum, the son of Neriman, the unvanquished in fight, and Guerschasp the victorious, his treasurer. Then he spake of the treasures that filled the house of Feridoun, and of the army great in number, so that the men of Roum and China could not stand against them. And he told how their hearts were filled with hatred of the Kings because of Irij.

The Kings, when they heard this and the message of their father, trembled for fear. And Tur said unto Silim-

"Henceforth we must forego pleasure, for it behoveth us to hasten, and not tarry till the teeth of this young lion be sharpened, and he be waxed tall and strong."

Then they made ready their armies, and the number of their men was past the counting. Helmet was joined to helmet, and spear to spear, and jewels, baggage, and elephants without number went with them, and you would have said it was a host that none could understand. And they marched from Turan into Iran, and the two Kings rode before them, their hearts filled with hate. But the star of these evil ones was sinking. For Feridoun, when he learned that an army had crossed the Jihun, called unto him Minuchihr his son, and bade him place himself at the head of the warriors. And the host of the Shah was mighty to behold, great and strong, and it covered the land like unto a cloud of locusts. And they marched from Temmische unto the desert, and Minuchihr commanded them with might. And on his right rode Karun the Avenger, and on his left Saum, the son of Neriman, and above their heads waved the flag of Kawah, and their armour glistened in the sun. Like as a lion breaketh forth from the jungle to seize upon his prey, so did this army rush forth to avenge the death of Irij. And the head of Minuchihr rose above the rest like to the moon or the sun when it shineth above the mountains. And he exhorted them in words of fire that they rest not, neither weary, until they should have broken the power of these sons of Ahriman.

Now Tur and Silim, when they saw that the Iranians were come out against them, set in order their army. And when the day had torn asunder the folds of night, the two armies met in battle, and the fight waged strong until the setting of the sun. And the earth was a sea of blood, and the feet of the elephants were like to pillars of coral. And when the sun was sunk to his rest, Tur and Silim consulted how they might seize upon Minuchihr by fraud, for they saw that his arm was strong and his courage undaunted. So Tur set forth at the head of a small band to surprise him in his tents. But Minuchihr was aware of his evil plans, and sprang upon him. And when Tur would have fled Minuchihr followed after him and struck a lance into his back. And when he had killed him he cut his head from his trunk, and the body did he give unto the wild beasts, but the head he sent to Feridoun. And he wrote to him and sent him greeting, and told him all that was come about, and how he should neither rest nor tarry until the death of Irij be avenged.

Now Silim, when he learned the fate of his brother, was sore afraid, and cast about him for an ally. And there came unto him Kakoui, of the seed of Zohak. But Minuchihr wrestled with him for a morning's space and overcame him also, though the Deev was strong and powerful in fight. Then Silim was cast down yet more, and he sought to hide him by the sea-shore. But Minuchihr cut off his path and overtook him, and with his own hand he slew him, and cut his head from his trunk. And he raised the head upon his lance. And when the army of Silim saw this they fled into the hills, and vanished like cattle whom the snow hath driven from their pasture. Then they took counsel and chose out a man from among their midst, one that was prudent and gentle of speech. And they bade him go before the Shah and say-

"Have mercy upon us, O Shah, for neither hate nor vengeance drove us forth against thee, but only this, that we obeyed the wills of our lords. But we ourselves are peaceful men, tillers of the earth and keepers of cattle, and we pray thee that thou let us return in safety whence we are come. And we acknowledge thee our Shah, and we pray thee make thy servants acquainted with thy desires."

When Minuchihr had heard these words he spake and said-

"My desire is not after these men, neither is my longing after blood but mercy. Let every man lay down his arms and go his ways, and let peace be in the land, and joy wait upon your feet."

When the men heard this they praised the Shah, and called down blessings upon his head. And they came before him, every man bearing his armour and the weapons of battle. And they laid them at his feet, and of weapons there was reared a mighty mountain, and the blue steel glistened in the sun. Then Minuchihr dismissed them graciously. And when the army was dispersed he sent a messenger unto Feridoun bearing the head of Silim and a writing. And when he had ordered all things he set out at the head of his warriors unto the city of Feridoun. And his grandsire came forth to meet him, and there came with him many elephants swathed in gold, and warriors arrayed in rich attire, and a large multitude clad in garments of bright hue. And flags waved above them, and trumpets brayed, and cymbals clashed, and sounds of rejoicing filled the air. But when Minuchihr saw that his grandsire came towards him, he got from his horse and ran to meet him, and fell at his feet and craved his blessing. And Feridoun blessed Minuchihr and raised him from the dust. And he bade him sit again upon his horse and took his hand, and they entered the city in triumph. And when they were come to the King's house, Feridoun seated Minuchihr upon a throne of gold. Then he called unto him Saum, the son of Neriman, and said-

"I pray thee bring up this youth and nourish him for the kingdom, and aid him with thy might and mind."

And he took the hand of Minuchihr and put it into that of Saum, and said-

"Thanks be unto God the merciful, who hath listened unto my voice, and granted the desires of His servant. For now shall I go hence, and the world will I cumber no more."

Then when he had given gifts unto his servants he withdrew into solitude, and gazed without cease upon the heads of his sons, neither refrained he from bewailing their evil fate, and the sorrow they had brought upon him. And daily he grew fainter, and at last the light of his life expired, and Feridoun vanished from the earth, but his name remained behind him. And Minuchihr mourned for his grandsire with weeping and lamentation, and raised above him a stately tomb. But when the seven days of mourning were ended, he put upon his head the crown of the Kaianides, and girt his loins with a red sash of might. And the nation called him Shah, and he was beloved in the land.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Seistan, which is to the south-east of Iran, was ruled by Saum, the Pehliva, girt with might and glory, and, but for the grief that he was childless, his days were happy. Then it came to pass that a son was born unto him, beautiful of face and limb, who had neither fault nor blemish save that his hair was like unto that of an aged man. Now the women were afraid to tell Saum, lest he be wroth when he should learn that his child was thus set apart from his fellow-men. So the infant had gazed upon the light eight days ere he knew thereof. Then a woman, brave above the rest, ventured into his presence. She bowed herself unto the dust and craved of Saum the boon of speech. And he suffered her, and she spake, saying-

"May the Lord keep and guard thee. May thine enemies be utterly destroyed. May the days of Saum the hero be happy. For the Almighty hath accomplished his desire. He hath given to him an heir, a son is born unto the mighty warrior behind the curtains of his house, a moon-faced boy, beautiful of face and limb, in whom there is neither fault nor blemish, save that his hair is like unto that of an aged man. I beseech thee, O my master, bethink thee that this gift is from God, nor give place in thine heart to ingratitude."

When Saum had listened to her words he arose and went unto the house of the women. And he beheld the babe that was beautiful of face and limb, but whose head was like unto that of an aged man. Then Saum, fearing the jeers of his enemies, quitted the paths of wisdom. He lifted his head unto heaven and murmured against the Lord of Destiny, and cried, saying-

"O thou eternally just and good, O source of happiness, incline thine ear unto me and listen to my voice. If I have sinned, if I have strayed in the paths of Ahriman, behold my repentance and pardon me. My soul is ashamed, my heart is angered for reason of this child, for will not the nobles say this boy presageth evil? They will hold me up to shame, and what can I reply to their questions? It behoveth me to remove this stain, that the land of Iran be not accursed."

Thus spake Saum in his anger, railing against fate, and he commanded his servants to take the child and cast it forth out of the land.

Now there standeth far from the haunts of men the Mount Alberz, whose head toucheth the stars, and never had mortal foot been planted upon its crest. And upon it had the Simurgh, the bird of marvel, builded her nest. Of ebony and of sandal-wood did she build it, and twined it with aloes, so that it was like unto a king's house, and the evil sway of Saturn could not reach thereto. And at the foot of this mount was laid the child of Saum. Then the Simurgh, when she spied the infant lying upon the ground, bereft of clothes and wherewithal to nourish it, sucking its fingers for very hunger, darted to earth and raised him in her talons. And she bare him unto her nest, that her young might devour him. But when she had brought him her heart was stirred within her for compassion. Therefore she bade her young ones spare the babe and treat him like to a brother. Then she chose out tender flesh to feed her guest, and tended the infant forsaken of his sire. And thus did the Simurgh, nor ever wearied till that moons and years had rolled above their heads, and the babe was grown to be a youth full of strength and beauty. And his renown filled the land, for neither good nor evil can be hidden for ever. And his fame spread even unto the ears of Saum, the son of Neriman.

Then it came to pass that Saum dreamed a dream, wherein he beheld a man riding towards him mounted upon an Arab steed. And the man gave him tidings of his son, and taunted him, saying-

"O thou who hast offended against every duty, who disownest thy son because that his hair is white, though thine own resembleth the silver poplar, and to whom a bird seemeth fit nurse for thine offspring, wilt thou abjure all kinship with him for ever?"

Now when Saum awoke he remembered his dream, and fear came upon him for his sin. And he called unto him his Mubids, and questioned them concerning the stripling of the Mount Alberz, and whether this could be indeed his son, for surely frosts and heat must long since have destroyed him. Then the Mubids answered and said-

"Not so, thou most ungrateful unto God, thou more cruel than the lion, the tiger, and the crocodile, for even savage beasts tend their young, whilst thou didst reject thine own, because thou heldest the white hair given unto him by his Creator for a reproach in the sight of men. O faint of heart, arise and seek thy child, for surely one whom God hath blessed can never perish. And turn thou unto him and pray that he forgive thee."

When Saum had heard these words he was contrite, and called about him his army and set forth unto the mountains. And when they were come unto the mount that is raised up to the Pleiades, Saum beheld the Simurgh and the nest, and a stripling that was like unto himself walking around it. And his desire to get unto him was great, but he strove in vain to scale the crest. Then Saum called upon God in his humility. And God heard him, and put it into the heart of the Simurgh to look down and behold the warrior and the army that was with him. And when she had seen Saum she knew wherefore the chief was come, and she spake and said-

"O thou who hast shared this nest, I have reared thee and been to thee a mother, for thy father cast thee out; the hour is come to part us, and I must give thee again unto thy people. For thy father is Saum the hero, the Pehliva of the world, greatest among the great, and he is come hither to seek his son, and splendour awaiteth thee beside him."

When the youth had heard her words his eyes were filled with tears and his heart with sorrow, for he had never gazed upon men, though he had learned their speech. And he said-

"Art thou then weary of me, or am I no longer fit to be thy house-fellow? See, thy nest is unto me a throne, thy sheltering wings a parent. To thee I owe all that I am, for thou wast my friend in need."

And the Simurgh answered him saying,

"I do not send thee away for enmity, O my son; nay, I would keep thee beside me for ever, but another destiny is better for thee. When thou shalt have seen the throne and its pomp my nest will sink in thine esteem. Go forth, therefore, my son, and try thy fortune in the world. But that thou mayst remember thy nurse who shielded thee, and reared thee amid her little ones, that thou mayst remain under the shadow of her wings, bear with thee this feather from her breast. And in the day of thy need cast it into the fire, and I will come like unto a cloud and deliver thee from danger."

Thus she spake, and raised him in her talons and bore him to the spot where Saum was bowed to the dust in penitence. Now when Saum beheld his son, whose body was like unto an elephant's for strength and beauty, he bent low before the Simurgh and covered her with benison. And he cried out and said-

"O Shah of birds, O bird of God, who confoundest the wicked, mayst thou be great for ever."

But while he yet spake the Simurgh flew upwards, and the gaze of Saum was fixed upon his son. And as he looked he saw that he was worthy of the throne, and that there was neither fault nor blemish in him, save only his silvery locks. Then his heart rejoiced within him, and he blessed him, and entreated his forgiveness. And he said-

"O my son, open thine heart unto the meanest of God's servants, and I swear unto thee, in the presence of Him that made us, that never again will I harden my heart towards thee, and that I will grant unto thee all thy desires."

Then he clothed him in rich robes and named him Zal, which being interpreted meaneth the aged. And he showed him unto the army. And when they had looked on the youth they saw that he was goodly of visage and of limb, and they shouted for very joy. Then the host made them ready to return unto Seistan. And the kettle-drummers rode at their head, mounted upon mighty elephants whose feet raised a cloud of dust that rose unto the sky. And the tabors were beat, and the trumpets brayed, and the cymbals clashed, and sounds of rejoicing filled the land because that Saum had found his son, and that Zal was a hero among men.

Now the news spread even unto Minuchihr that Saum was returning from the mountains with great pomp and joy. And when he had heard it he bade Nuder go forth to meet the Pehliva and bid him bring Zal unto the court. And when Saum heard the desires of his master he obeyed and came within his gates. Then he beheld the Shah seated upon the throne of the Kaianides, bearing his crown upon his head, and on his right hand sat Karun the Pehliva, and he bade Saum be seated on his left. And the Shah commanded Saum that he should speak. Then Saum unbosomed himself before the Shah and spake concerning his son, neither did he hide his evil deed. And Minuchihr commanded that Zal be brought before him. So the chamberlains brought him into the presence of the King, and he was clad in robes of splendour, and the King was amazed at his aspect. And he turned and said unto Saum-

"O Pehliva of the world, the Shah enjoineth you have a care of this noble youth, and guard him for the land of Iran. And teach him forthwith the arts of war, and the pleasures and customs of the banquet, for how should one that hath been reared in a nest be familiar with our ways?"

Then the Shah bade the Mubids cast Zal's horoscope, and they read that he would be a brave and prudent knight. Now when he had heard this the Pehliva was relieved of all his fears, and the Shah rejoiced and covered Saum with gifts. Arab horses did he give unto him with golden saddles, Indian swords in scabbards of gold, brocades of Roum, skins of beasts, and carpets of Ind, and the rubies and pearls were past the numbering. And slaves poured musk and amber before him. And Minuchihr also granted to Saum a throne, and a crown and a girdle of gold, and he named him ruler of all the lands that stretch from the Sea of China to that of Sind, from Zaboulistan to the Caspian. Then he bade that the Pehliva's horse be led forth, and sent him away from his presence. And Saum called down blessings upon the Shah, and turned his face towards home. And his train followed after him, and the sound of music went before them.

Then when the tidings came to Seistan that the great hero was drawing nigh, the city decked itself in festive garbs, and every man called down the blessings of Heaven upon Zal, the son of Saum, and poured gifts at his feet. And there was joy in all the land for that Saum had taken back his son.

Now Saum forthwith called about him his Mubids, and bade them instruct the youth in all the virtues of a king.

And daily Zal increased in wisdom and strength, and his fame filled the land. And when Saum went forth to fight the battles of the Shah, he left the kingdom under his hands, and Zal administered it with judgment and virtue.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 4

Zal and Rudabeh

Anon it came about that Zal desired to see the kingdom. And he set forth, and there followed after him a goodly train, and when they had journeyed a while they marched with pomp into Cabul. Now Mihrab, who was descended from Zohak the Serpent, reigned in Cabul, yet he was worthy, prudent, and wise. When he heard that the son of Saum, to whom he paid tribute, drew nigh unto the city, he went out to meet him, and his nobles went with him, and slaves bearing costly gifts. And Zal, hearing that Mihrab was at hand, prepared a feast in his tents, and Mihrab and his train feasted with him until the night was far spent. Now, after the King was gone, Zal praised his beauty. Then a noble rose up and said unto him-

"O Zal, thou knowest not beauty since thou hast not beheld the daughter of this man. For she is like unto the slender cypress, her face is brighter than the sun, her mouth is a pomegranate flower."

When Zal heard these words he was filled with longing, and sleep would not visit his eyelids for thinking of her beauty.

Now, when the day dawned, he opened the doors of his court, and the nobles stood about him, each man according to his rank. And presently there came from Cabul Mihrab the King to tender morning greeting to the stranger without his gates. And Zal desired that Mihrab should crave a boon at his hands. Then spake Mihrab unto him saying-

"O ruler mighty and great, I have but one desire, and to bring it to pass is easy. For I crave thee that thou dwell as guest beneath my roof, and let my heart rejoice in thy presence."

Then Zal said unto him,

"O King, ask not this boon at my hands, I pray thee, for it can in nowise be accomplished. The Shah and Saum would be angered should they learn that I had eaten under the roof of Zohak. I beg of thee ask aught but this."

When Mihrab heard these words he was sorrowful, and bent low before Zal, and departed from out the tents. And the eye of Zal looked after him, and yet again he spake his praises. Then he bethought him of the King's daughter, and how that she was fair, and he was sunk in brooding and desire, and the days passed unheeded over his head.

Now it came to pass that on a certain morning Mihrab stepped forth from his palace to the house of the women to visit Sindokht his wife, and her daughter Rudabeh. Truly the house was like to a garden for colour and perfume, and over all shone those moons of beauty. Now when Mihrab had greeted Rudabeh he marvelled at her loveliness, and called down the blessings of Heaven upon her head. Then Sindokht opened her lips and questioned Mihrab concerning the stranger whose tents were without their gates. And she said-

"I pray thee tell unto me what manner of man is this white-haired son of Saum, and is he worthy the nest or the throne? "

Then Mihrab said unto her,

"O my fair cypress, the son of Saum is a hero among men. His heart is like unto a lion's, his strength is as an elephant's, to his friends he is a gracious Nile, unto his enemies a wasting crocodile. And in him are even blemishes turned to beauties, his white locks but enhance his glory."

When Rudabeh had listened to these words her heart burned with love for Zal, so that she could neither eat nor rest, and was like unto one that hath changed her shape. And after a while, because that she could bear the burden thereof no longer, she told her secret to the slaves that loved and served her. And she charged them tell no man, and entreated of them that they would aid her to allay the troubles of her heart. And when the slaves had listened to her story, they were filled with fear, and with one accord entreated her that she would dismiss from her heart one branded among men, and whom his own father had cast out. But Rudabeh would not listen to their voice. And when they beheld that she was firm in her spirit, and that their words were vain, they cast about how they might serve her. And one among them who was wise above the rest opened her lips and spake-

"O moon-faced beauty, slender cypress, it shall be done at thy desire. Thy slaves will neither rest nor slumber until the royal youth shall have become the footstool to thy feet."

Then Rudabeh was glad and said-

"An the issue be happy, there shall be planted for thee a noble tree, and it shall bear riches and jewels, and wisdom shall cull its fruits."

Then the slaves pondered in their hearts how they should compass their end, for they knew that only by craft could it be brought about. Straightway they clothed themselves in costly raiment, and went forth blithely into the garden of flowers that was spread beside the river's bank without the city. And they gathered roses, and decked their hair with blossoms, and threw them into the stream for sooth-telling; and as they gathered they came unto the spot over against which were pitched the tents of Zal. Now Zal beheld them from his tent, and he questioned them concerning these rose-gatherers. And one uprose and said unto him-

"They are slaves sent forth by the moon of Cabul into the garden of flowers."

Now when Zal heard this his heart leaped for joy, and he set forth unto the river's bank with only one page to bear him company. And seeing a water-bird fly upwards, he took his bow and shot it through the heart, and it fell among the rose-gatherers. Then Zal bade the boy cross the water and bring him the bird. And when he had landed, the moon-faced women pressed about him and questioned him, saying-

"O youth, tell us the name of him who aimeth thus surely, for verily he is a king among men."

Then the boy answering said,

"What! know ye not the son of Saum the hero? The world hath not his equal for strength and beauty."

But the girls reproved him, and said,

"Not so, boast not thus vainly, for the house of Mihrab holdeth a sun that o'ershines all besides."

And the page smiled, and the smile yet lingered on his lips when he came back to Zal. And Zal said-

"Why smilest thou, boy? What have they spoken unto thee that thou openest thy lips and showest thy ivory teeth? "

Then the boy told unto him the speech of the women. And Zal said-

"Go over yet again and bid them tarry, that they may bear back jewels with their roses."

And he chose forth from among his treasures trinkets of pearl and gold, and sent them to the slaves. Then the one who had sworn to serve Rudabeh above the rest craved that she might look upon the face of the hero, for she said-

"A secret that is known to three is one no longer."

And Zal granted her desire, and she told him of Rudabeh and of her beauty, and his passion burned the more. And he spake-

"Show unto me, I pray thee, the path by which I may behold this fair one, for my heart is filled with longing."

Then the slave said,

"Suffer that we go back to the house of the women, and we will fill the ears of Rudabeh with praises of the son of Saum, and will entangle her in the meshes of our net, and the lion shall rejoice in his chase of the lamb."

Then Zal bade her go forth, and the women returned to the house rejoicing and saying-

"The lion entereth the snare spread forth to entrap him, and the wishes of Rudabeh and Zal will be accomplished."

But when they were come to the gates the porter chid them that they were gone without while the stranger sojourned in Cabul, and they were troubled and sore afraid for their secret. But they stilled his wrath and came unto where Rudabeh awaited them. And they told her of Zal, the son of Saum, and of his beauty and his prowess. And Rudabeh smiled and said-

"Wherefore have ye thus changed your note? For a while back ye spake with scorn of this bird-reared youth, on whose head hang the locks of a sage, but now are ye loud in his praises."

Then Rudabeh began privily to deck her house that it might be worthy a guest. With brocades of Roum and carpets of Ind did she hang it, and she perfumed it with musk and ambergris, and flowers did she cause to bloom about the rooms. And when the sun was sunk, and the doors of the house were locked and the keys withdrawn, a slave went forth unto Zal, the son of Saum. And she spake unto him in a low voice-

"Come now, for all is ready."

And Zal followed after her. And when they were come to the house of the women Zal beheld the daughter of the King standing upon the roof, and her beauty was like unto a cypress on which the full moon shineth. And when she beheld him, she spake and said-

"I bid thee welcome, O young man, son of a hero, and may the blessing of Heaven rest upon thee."

And Zal answered her benison, and prayed that he might enter into nearer converse, for he was on the ground and she was on the roof. Then the Peri-faced loosened her tresses, and they were long, so that they fell from the battlements unto the ground. And she said unto Zal-

"Here hast thou a cord without flaw. Mount, O Pehliva, and seize my black locks, for it is fitting that I should be a snare unto thee."

But Zal cried,

"Not so, O fair one, it would beseem me ill to do thee hurt."

And he covered her hair with kisses. Then he called for a cord and made a running knot, and threw it upwards and fastened it to the battlements. And with a bound he swung himself upon the roof. Then Rudabeh took his hand and they stepped down together into the golden chambers, and the slaves stood round about them. And they gazed upon each other and knew that they excelled in beauty, and the hours slipped by in sweet talk, while love was fanned in their hearts. Then Zal cried-

"O fair cypress, musk-perfumed, when Minuchihr shall learn of this he will be angered and Saum also will chide. And they will say I have forgotten my God, and will lift their hands against me. But I swear unto thee that this life is to me vile if it be not spent in thy presence. And I call upon Heaven to hear me that none other but thee will I call my bride."

And Rudabeh said,

"I too will swear unto thee this oath."

So the hours sped, and there arose from out the tents of the King the sound of drums that announce the coming of the day. Then cried Zal and Rudabeh of one accord-

"O glory of the world, tarry yet a while, neither arrive so quickly."

But the sun gave no ear to their reproaches, and the hour to part was come. Then Zal swung himself from the battlements unto the ground, and quitted the house of his beloved.

Now when the earth was flooded with light, and the nobles and chiefs had tendered unto Zal their morning greetings as was their wont, he called about him his Mubids, and laid before them how that he was filled with love for a daughter of the Serpent. And the Mubids when they heard it were troubled, and their lips were closed, and the words were chained upon their tongues. For there was none of them that listed to mingle poison in the honey of this love. Whereupon Zal reproved them, and said that he would bestow on them rich gifts if they would open their mouths. Then they spake and said unto him that the honour of a king could not suffer by a woman, and though Mihrab be indeed of Zohak's race, he was noble and valiant. And they urged him to write unto his father and crave Saum to wait upon the Shah.

Then Zal called unto him a scribe and bade him write down the words that he spake. And he told unto Saum his love and his fears. And he recalled unto him how that he had cast him out, and how that he had lived in a nest, and a bird had reared him, and the sun had poured down upon his head, and raw flesh had been his nourishment the while his father had sat within a goodly house clothed in silk. And he recalled the promise given to him by Saum. Neither did he seek to justify that which was come about. Then he gave the letter to a messenger, and bade him ride until he should be come into the presence of Saum.

When Saum had heard the words of his son his spirit was troubled, and he cried-

"Woe unto me, for now is clear what hath so long been hidden. One whom a wild bird hath reared looketh for the fulfilment of wild desires, and seeks union with an accursed race."

And he pondered long what he should answer. For he said,

"If I say, Abandon this desire, sow no discord, return to reason, I break my oath and God will punish me. Yet if I say, Thy desire is just, satisfy the passions of thy heart, what offspring can come to pass from the union of a Deev and the nursling of a bird?"

And the heart of Saum was heavy with care. So he called unto him his Mubids that they should search the stars, for he said-

"If I mingle fire and water I do ill, and ill will come of it."

Then all that day the Wise Men searched the secrets of Fate, and they cast the horoscope of Zal and Rudabeh, and at even they returned to the King rejoicing. And they found him torn with anguish. Then they said-

"Hail unto thee, O Saum, for we have followed the movement of the stars and counted their course, and we have read the message of the skies. And it is written, 'A clear spring shall issue into the day, a son shall be born to Zal, a hero full of power and glory, and there shall not be his like in Iran.'"

Now when Saum had drunk in these words, his soul was uplifted, and he poured gifts upon the Mubids. Then he called to him the messenger of Zal, and he gave him pieces of silver, and bade him return unto his master and say-

"I hold thy passion folly, O my son, but because of the oath that I have sworn to thee it shall be done at thy desire. I will hie me unto Iran and lay thy suit before the Shah."

Then Saum called together his army and set forth for Iran, and the sound of trumpets and cymbals went before him.

Now when the messenger was come back to Zal, he rejoiced and praised God, and gave gold and silver to the poor, and gifts unto his servants. But when night was come he could not close his eyes in slumber, nor could he rest during the day. Neither did he drink wine nor demand the singers, for his soul was filled with longing after his love. And presently there came out to him a slave, and he gave unto her Saum's letter that she might bear it to Rudabeh. And Rudabeh rejoiced also, and chose from among her treasures a costly crown and a ring of worth, and bade the woman bear them unto Zal. Now as she quitted the chamber she met Sindokht. And the Queen questioned her and said-

"Whence comest thou? Reply to all my questions, neither seek thou to deceive me, for already a long time do I suspect thy passing to and fro."

And the woman trembled as she heard these words, and fell down and kissed the feet of the Queen, and said-

"Have pity on thine handmaiden, who is poor and gaineth her bread as she can. I go into the houses of the rich and sell to them robes and jewels. And Rudabeh hath this day bought of me a tiara and a bracelet of gold."

Then said Sindokht,

"Show unto me the money thou hast received for the same, that my anger be appeased."

And the woman answered and said,

"Demand not that I show unto thee that which I have not, for Rudabeh will pay me tomorrow."

Now Sindokht knew that these words were feigned, and she searched the sleeve of the woman, and lo! she found therein the tiara that Rudabeh had broidered with her hands. Then she was angered, and commanded that the slave should be bound in chains. And she desired that her daughter be brought into her presence. And when she was come, Sindokht opened her mouth and spake, saying-

"O moon of noble race, to whom hath been taught naught but that which is good, how hast thou gone astray upon the paths of evil? O my daughter, confide unto thy mother thy secrets. From whom cometh this woman? For what man are destined thy gifts?"

When she had heard, Rudabeh was abashed, but after a while she told all unto Sindokht. Now when the Queen had heard she was confounded, for she feared the wrath of the Shah, and that he would raze Cabul to the dust for this mischance. And she went into her rooms and wept in her sorrow. Then presently Mihrab the King came in to Sindokht, and he was of joyful mind, for Zal had received him graciously. But when he beheld her tears he questioned of her grief. Then she told him how that his daughter was filled with love for Zal, the son of Saum. And when Mihrab had heard her to an end, his heart also was troubled, for he knew that Cabul could not stand before the Shah.

Minuchihr, too, when he had heard these things, was troubled, for he beheld in them the device of Ahriman, and feared lest this union should bring evil upon Iran. And he bade Nauder call Saum before him. Now when Saum heard the desire of the Shah, he spake and said-

"I obey, and the sight of the King will be a banquet. unto my soul."

Then Saum went into the presence of Minuchihr, and he kissed the ground, and called down blessings upon the head of the Shah. But Minuchihr raised him and seated him beside him on the throne, and straightway began to question him concerning the war, and the Deevs of Mazinderan. Then Saum told him all the story of his battles. And Minuchihr listened with joy though the tale was long, and when Saum had ended he praised his prowess. And he lifted his crown unto heaven and rejoiced that his enemies were thus confounded. Then be bade a banquet be spread, and all night long the heroes feasted and shortened the hours with wine. But when the first rays of morn had shed their light, the curtains of the Shah's house were opened, that he might hold audience and grant the petitions of his people. And Saum the Pehliva came the first to stand before the King, for he desired to speak to him of Zal. But the Shah of the world would not suffer him to open his lips, but said unto him-

"Go hence, O Saum, and take with thee thine army, for I command thee to go yet again to battle. Set forth unto Cabul and burn the house of Mihrab the King, and utterly destroy his race and all who serve him, nor suffer that any of the seed of Zohak escape destruction, for I will that the earth be delivered of this serpent brood."

When Saum heard these words he knew that the Shah was angered, and that speech would avail him naught. So he kissed the throne and touched the earth with his forehead, and said,

"Lord, I am thy servant, and I obey thy desires."

And he departed, and the earth trembled under the stamping of footmen and of hoofs, and the air of the city was darkened with his spears.

Now the news of Saum's intent reached even unto Cabul, and the land was sunk in woe, and weeping filled the house of the King. But Zal was wroth, and he went forth to meet his father. And when he was come to the spot where he had encamped his army, he craved an audience. And Saum granted it, and Zal reminded him yet again of his oath, and desired that he would spare the land of Cabul, nor visit his judgments upon the innocent. When Saum had listened, his heart was moved, and he said-

"O my son, thou speakest that which is right. To thee have I been unjust from the day of thy birth. But stay thy wrath, for surely I will find a remedy, and thy wishes shall yet be accomplished. For thou shalt bear a letter unto the Shah, and when he shall have looked on thy face, he will be moved with compassion and cease to trouble thee."

Then Zal kissed the ground before his father and craved the blessings of God upon his head. And Saum dictated a letter to the Shah, and he spoke therein of all he had done for Minuchihr, and how he had killed the dragon that had laid waste the land, how he had ever subdued the foes of Iran, and how the frontiers were enlarged by his hands. Yet now was he waxing old, and could no longer do doughty deeds. But a brave son was his, worthy and true, who would follow in his footsteps. Only his heart was devoured of love, and perchance he would die if his longing were unsatisfied. And therewith he commended to the wisdom of the Shah the affairs of Zal.

When the letter was ended Zal set forth with it unto the court, and the flower of his army went with him.

But the fear of Minuchihr was great in Cabul, and Mihrab pondered how he should quench the wrath of the King of kings. And he spake to Sindokht and said-

"For that the King is angered against me because of thee and thy daughter, and because I cannot stand before him, I will lead Rudabeh unto his court and kill her before his eyes. Perchance his anger may be thus allayed."

Sindokht listened to his words in silence, and when he had ended she cast about her for a plan, for she was quick of wit. And when she had found one she came again into the presence of Mihrab, and she craved of him that he should give her the key of his treasury. For she said-

"This is not the hour to be strait-handed; suffer that I take what seemeth good unto me and go before Saum, it may be that I move him to spare the land."

And Mihrab agreed to her demand because of the fear that devoured him. Then Sindokht went out to the house of Saum, and she took with her three hundred thousand pieces of gold, and sixty horses caparisoned in silver, bearing sixty slaves that held cups filled to the brim with musk and camphor, and rubies, and turquoise, and precious stones of every kind. And there followed two hundred dromedaries and four tall Indian elephants laden with carpets and brocades of Roum, and the train reached for two miles beyond the King's gates. Now when Sindokht was come to Seistan she bade the guardians of the door say unto Saum that an envoy was come from Cabul bearing a message. And Saum granted an audience, and Sindokht was brought into his presence. Then she kissed the ground at his feet and called upon Heaven to shower down blessings on his head. And when she had done so, she caused her gifts to be laid before Saum, and when Saum beheld these treasures, he marvelled and thought within himself,

"How cometh it that a woman is sent as envoy from a land that boasteth such riches? If I accept them the Shah will be angered, and if I refuse perchance Zal will reproach me that I rob him of his heritage."

So he lifted his head and said-

"Let these treasures be given unto the treasurer of my son."

When Sindokht beheld that her gifts were accepted, she rejoiced and raised her voice in speech. And she questioned Saum, saying-

"Tell me, I pray thee, what wrong have the people of Cabul done unto thee that thou wouldst destroy them?"

Then answered Saum the hero,

"Reply unto my questions and lie not. Art thou the slave or the wife of Mihrab, and is it thy daughter whom Zal hath seen? If indeed it be so, tell me, I pray, of her beauty, that I may know if she be worthy of my son."

Then Sindokht said,

"O Pehliva, swear to me first a great oath that thou wilt spare my life and the lives of those dear unto me. And when I am assured of thy protection I will recount all that thou desirest."

Then Saum took the hand of Sindokht, and he sware unto her a great oath, and gave her his word and his promise. And when she had heard it she was no longer afraid, and she told him all her secrets. And she said-

"I am of the race of Zohak, and wife unto the valiant Mihrab, and mother of Rudabeh, who hath found favour in the eyes of thy son. And I am come to learn of thy desire, and who are thine enemies in Cabul. Destroy the wicked, and those who merit chastisement, but spare, I pray thee, the innocent, or thy deeds will change day into night."

Then spake Saum,

"My oath is sacred, and if it cost my life, thou and thine and Cabul may rest assured that I will not harm them. And I desire that Zal should find a wife in Rudabeh, though she be of an alien race."

And he told her how that he had written to the Shah a letter of supplication such as only one in grief could pen, and how Zal was absent with the message, and he craved her to tell him of Rudabeh.

But Sindokht replied,

"If the Pehliva of the world will make the hearts of his slaves rejoice, he will visit us and look with his own eyes upon our moon."

And Saum smiled and said,

"Rest content and deliver thine heart of cares, for all shall end according unto thy desires."

When Sindokht heard this she bade him farewell and made all haste to return. And Saum loaded her with gifts and bade her depart in peace. And Sindokht's face shone brightly, like unto the moon when she hath been eclipsed, and hope once more reigned in her breast.

Now listen to what happened to Zal while these things were passing in Seistan. When he was come to the court of Minuchihr he hastened into his presence, and kissed the ground at his feet, and lay prostrate before him in the dust. And when the Shah saw this he was moved, and bade his servants raise Zal, and pour musk before him. Then Zal drew nigh unto the throne and gave to the King the letter written by Saum the son of Neriman. And when Minuchihr had read it he was grieved, and said-

"This letter, written by Saum thy father in his sorrow, hath awakened an old pain within me. But for the sake of my faithful servant I will do unto thee that which is thy desire. Yet I ask that thou abide with me a little while that I may seek counsel about thee."

Then the cooks brought forth a table of gold, and Zal was seated beside the Shah and all the nobles according to their rank, and they ate flesh and drank wine together. Then when the mantle of night was fallen over the earth Zal sprang upon his steed and scoured the land in the unrest of his spirit, for his heart was full of thoughts and his mouth of words. But when morning was come he presented himself before the Shah in audience. And his speech and mien found favour in the eyes of the Shah, and he called unto him his Wise Men and bade them question the stars of this matter. Three days and three nights did the Mubids search the heavens without ceasing, and on the fourth they came before the Shah and spake. And they said unto him-

"Hail to thee, hero of the golden girdle, for we bring unto thee glad tidings. The son of Saum and the daughter of Mihrab shall be a glorious pair, and from their union shall spring a son like to a war-elephant, and he shall subdue all men by his sword and raise the glory of Iran even unto the skies. And he shall uproot the wicked from the earth so that there shall be no room for them. Segsars and Mazinderan shall feel the weight of his mace, and he shall bring much woe upon Turan, but Iran shall be loaded with prosperity at his hands. And he will give back sleep to the unhappy, and close the doors of discord, and bar the paths of wrong-doing. The kingdom will rejoice while he lives; Roum, Ind, and Iran will grave his name upon their seals."

When the Shah had heard this he charged the Mubids that they keep secret that which they had revealed unto him. And he called for Zal that he might question him and test his wisdom. And the Wise Men and the Mubids were seated in a circle, and they put these questions to the son of Saum.

And the first opened his mouth and said-

"Twelve trees, well grown and green,

Fair and lofty, have I seen;

Each has sprung with vigorous sprout,

Sending thirty branches out;

Wax no more, nor wane, they can

In the kingdom of Iran."

And Zal pondered a while and then answered and said-

'Twelve moons in the year, and each I praise

As a new-made king on a new throne's blaze:

Each comes to an end in thirty days."

Then the second Mubid questioned him and said-

"Thou whose head is high in air,

Rede me now of coursers twain;

Both are noble, swift to speed;

Black as storms in the night one steed,

The other crystal, white and fair,

They race for ever and haste in vain,

Towards a goal they never gain."

And Zal thought again yet a while and answered-

"Two shining horses, one black, one white.

That run for ever in rapid flight;

The one is the day, the other the night,

That count the throbs of the heavens height,

Like the hunted prey from the following chase

They flee, yet neither wins the race."

Then the third Mubid questioned him and said-

"Thirty knights before the king

Pass along. Regard the thing

Closely; one is gone. Again

Look- the thirty are in train."

And Zal answered and spake-

"Thirty knights of whom the train

Is full, then fails, then fills again,

Know, each moon is reckoned thus,

So willed by God who governs us,

And thy word is true of the faint moon's wane,

Now failing in darkness, now shining plain."

Then the fourth Mubid questioned him and said-

"See a green garden full of springs;

A strong man with a sickle keen

Enters, and reaps both dry and green;

No word thine utmost anguish wrings."

And Zal bethought him and replied-

"Thy word was of a garden green,

A reaper with a sickle keen,

Who cuts alike the fresh and the dry

Nor heedeth prayer nor any cry:

Time is the reaper, we the grass;

Pity nor fear his spirit has,

But old and young he reaps alike.

No rank can stay his sickle's strike,

No love, but he will leave it lorn,

For to this end all men are born.

Birth opes to all the gate of Life,

Death shuts it down on love and strife,

And Fate, that counts the breath of man,

Measures to each a reckoned span."

Then the fifth Mubid questioned him and said-

"Look how two lofty cypresses

Spring up, like reeds, from stormy seas,

There builds a bird his dwelling-place;

Upon the one all night he stays,

But swift, with the dawn, across he flies;

The abandoned tree dries up and dies,

While that whereon he sets his feet

Breathes odours out, surpassing sweet.

The one is dead for ever and aye,

The other lives and blooms alway."

Then Zal yet again bethought him before he said-

"Hear of the sea-born cypresses,

Where builds a bird, and rests, and flees.

From the Ram to the Scales the earth o'erpowers,

Shadows obscure of the night that lowers,

But when the Scales' sign it must quit,

Darkness and gloom o'ermaster it;

The sides of heaven thy fable shows

Whence grief to man or blessing flows,

The sun like a bird flies to and fro,

Weal with him bringing, but leaving woe."

Then the sixth Mubid questioned him, and it was the last question that he asked, and he deemed it the hardest of all to answer. And all men hung upon his words and listened to the answer of Zal. And the Mubid said-

"Builded on a rock I found

A town. Men left the gate and chose

A thicket on the level ground.

Soon their soaring mansions rose

Lifting roofs that reach the moon,

Some men slaves, some kings, became,

Of their earlier city soon

The memory died in all. Its name

None breathed. But hark! an earthquake; down,

Lost in the chasm lies the land-

Now long they for their rock-built town,

Enduring things they understand.

Seek in thy soul the truth of this;

This before kings proclaim, I was,

If rightly thou the riddle rede,

Black earth to musk thou hast changed indeed."

And Zal pondered this riddle but a little while, and then opened his mouth and said-

"The eternal, final world is shown

By image of a rock-built town;

The thicket is our passing life,

A place of pleasure and of pain,

A world of dreams and eager strife,

A time for labour, and loss, and gain;

This counts thy heart-beats, at its will

Prolongs their pulse or makes it still.

But winds and earthquake rouse: a cry

Goes up of bitterness and woe,

Now we must leave our homes below

And climb the rocky fastness high.

Another reaps our fruit of pain,

That yet to another leaves his gain;

So was it aye, must so remain.

Well for us if our name endure,

Though we shall pass, beloved and pure,

For all the evil man hath done,

Stalks, when he dies, in the sight of the sun;

When dust is strown on breast and head,

Then desolation reigns with dread."

When Zal had spoken thus the Shah was glad, and an the assembly were amazed, and lauded the son of Saum. And the King bade a great banquet be prepared, and they drank wine until the world was darkened, and the heads of the drinkers were troubled. Then when morn was come Zal prayed that the Shah would dismiss him. But Minuchihr said-

"Not so, abide with me yet another day,"

and he bade the drums be beaten to call together his heroes, for he desired to test Zal also in feats of strength. And the Shah sat upon the roof of his house and looked down upon the games, and he beheld Zal, the son of Saum, do mighty deeds of prowess. With his arrow did he shoot farther and straighter than the rest, and with his spear he pierced all shields, and in wrestling he overcame the strongest who had never known defeat. When the nobles beheld these doughty deeds they shouted and clapped their hands, and Minuchihr loaded Zal with gifts. Then he prepared a reply unto the letter of Saum. And he wrote-

"O my Pehliva, hero of great renown, I have listened to thy desires, and I have beheld the youth who is worthy to be thy son. And he hath found favour in my sight, and I send him back to thee satisfied. May his enemies be impotent to harm him."

Then when the Shah had given him leave to go, Zal set forth, and he bare his head high in the joy of his heart. And when he came before his father and gave to him the letter of the Shah, Saum was young again for happiness. Then the drums sounded the signal to depart, and the tents were prepared, and a messenger, mounted on a fleet dromedary, was sent unto Mihrab to tell him that Saum and Zal were setting forth for Cabul. And when Mihrab heard the tidings his fears were stilled, and he commanded that his army be clad in festal array. And silken standards of bright colour decked the city, and the sounds of trumpets, harps, and cymbals filled the air. And Sindokht told the glad tidings to Rudabeh, and they made ready the house like unto a paradise. Carpets broidered with gold and precious stones did they lay down upon its floors, and set forth thrones of ivory and rich carving. And the ground they watered with rose-water and wine.

Then when the guests were come near unto Cabul, Mihrab went forth to meet them, and he placed upon the head of Zal a crown of diamonds, and they came into the city in triumph. And all the people did homage before them, and Sindokht met them at the doors of the King's house, and poured out musk and precious stones before them. Then Saum, when he had replied to their homage, smiled, and turned to Sindokht and said-

"How much longer dost thou think to hide Rudabeh from our eyes?"

And Sindokht said,

"What wilt thou give me to see the sun?"

Then Saum replied,

"All that thou wilt, even unto my slaves and my throne, will I give to thee."

Then Sindokht led him within the curtains, and when Saum beheld Rudabeh he was struck dumb with wonder, for her beauty exceeded dreams, and he knew not how he could find words to praise her. Then he asked of Mihrab that he would give unto him her hand, and they concluded an alliance according to custom and the law. And the lovers were seated upon a throne, and Mihrab read out the list of the gifts, and it was so long the ear did not suffice to hear them. Then they repaired unto the banquet, and they feasted seven days without ceasing. And when a month had passed Saum went back to Seistan, and Zal and Rudabeh followed after him. And speedily did he set forth again to battle, and left the kingdom in the hands of his son, and Zal administered it with wisdom and judgment. And Rudabeh sat beside him on the throne, and he placed a crown of gold upon her head.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 5


Now ere the son of Zal was born, Rudabeh was sore afflicted, and neither by day nor night could she find rest. Then Zal in his trouble bethought him of the Simurgh, his nurse, and how she had given unto him a feather that he might use it in the hour of his need. And he cast the feather into the fire as she had commanded, and straightway a sound of rushing wings filled the air, and the sky was darkened and the bird of God stood before Zal. And she said unto him-

"O my son, wherefore art thou troubled, and why are the eyes of this lion wet with tears?"

Then he told her of his sorrow, and she bade him be of good cheer, "For verily thy nurse who shielded thee, and reared thee when thy father cast thee out, is come yet again to succour thee."

And she told him how he should act, and when she had done speaking she turned her once more towards her nest. But Zal did as she had commanded, and there was born to him a son comely of limb. And when Rudabeh beheld the babe, she smiled and said-

"Verily he shall be called Rustem (which, being interpreted, meaneth delivered), for I am delivered of my pains."

And all the land was glad that a son was come unto Zal the hero, and the sounds of feasting and joy were heard throughout its breadth.

Then fleet messengers brought the sweet tidings unto Saum. And they bare with them an image of Rustem sewn of silk, whereon were traced the features of this lion's whelp, and a club was put into its hands, and it was mounted upon a dromedary. Now when Saum beheld the image his heart leaped up within him. He poured mountains of gold before the messengers, and gave thanks unto Ormuzd that he had suffered his eyes to look upon this child.

And when eight summers had rolled above their heads, Saum learned that Rustem was mighty of stature and fair of mien, and his heart yearned towards him. He therefore made ready a mighty host and passed unto Zaboulistan, that he might look upon his son. And Rustem rode forth to meet his sire, mounted upon an elephant of war, and when he beheld Saum he fell upon his face and craved his blessing. And Saum blessed Rustem, the son of Zal. Then Rustem spake unto Saum and said,

"O Pehliva, I rejoice in that I am sprung from thee, for my desires are not after the feast, neither do I covet sleep or rest. My heart is fixed upon valour, a horse do I crave and a saddle, a coat of mail and a helmet, and my delight is in the arrow. Thine enemies will I vanquish, and may my courage be like unto thine."

And Saum, when he had heard these words, was astonished, and blessed Rustem yet again. And his eyes could not cease from gazing upon the face of the boy, and he lingered in the land until a moon had run her course.

Now it befell that when yet two springs had passed, Rustem was awakened from his slumber by a mighty roaring that shook the walls of the house, even unto the foundation, and a cry went forth that the white elephant of the King had broken its chain in fury, and that the housemates were in danger. And Rustem, when he learned it, sprang from his bed, and desired of the guards that they should suffer him to pass into the court that he might conquer the beast. But the guards barred the way from him, saying-

"How can we answer for it before the King if thou run into danger?"

But Rustem would not listen to their voice. He forced a passage for himself with his mighty arms, with his strong fists he broke down the barriers of the door. And when he was without he beheld how that all the warriors were sore afraid of the elephant, because that he was mad with rage. And Rustem was ashamed for them in his soul, and he ran towards the beast with a loud cry. Then the elephant, when he saw him, raised his trunk to strike him, but Rustem beat him upon the head with his club, and smote him that he died. And when he had done this deed, he returned unto his bed and slept until the morning. But the news of his prowess spread throughout the house of the King and far into the land, even unto the realms of Saum. And Zal, and all men with him, rejoiced because a hero was arisen in Iran.

Now, while these things were passing in the house of Zal, in the land of Zaboulistan, Minuchihr made him ready to pass from the world, for he had reached twice sixty years. He called before him Nauder his son, and gave him wise counsels, and exhorted him that he should ever walk in the paths of wisdom. And he bade him rest his throne upon the strength of Saum and Zal, and the child that was sprung from their loins. Then when he had spoken, Minuchihr closed his eyes and sighed, and there remained of him only a memory in the world.

But Nauder forgot the counsels of his father. He vexed the land and reigned in anger, and cruel deeds were committed in his name, so that the people rose up and cried against the King. And men of might came unto Saum and laid before him their plaints, and the petitions of the people, and they prayed that he would wrest the crown from the head of Nauder, and place it upon his own. But Saum was sore grieved when he had heard these words, and he spake, saying-

"Not so, for it beseemeth me not to put out my hand after the crown, for Nauder is of the race of the Kaianides, and unto them is given majesty and might."

Then he girt his sword about his loins, and took with him a host, and rode before the face of the Shah. And when he was come unto him, Saum exhorted him with prayers and tears that he would turn him from the paths of evil. And Nauder listened unto the voice of Saum the Pehliva, and joy was abroad once more.

But the tidings spread, even into Turan, that Minuchihr the just was departed, and that the hand of Nauder was heavy upon the land. And Poshang, who was of the race of Tur, heard the news thereof with gladness, for he deemed that the time was ripe to remember the vengeance that was due unto the blood of his sire. Therefore he called about him his warriors, and bade them go forth to war against Iran, saying the time was come to avenge his father and draw unto himself the heritage. And while his son Afrasiyab made ready the host to fulfil the desire of his father, there spread the news that Saum the Pehliva had been gathered unto the dust, and that Zal tarried in his house to build him a tomb. And the news gave courage unto Afrasiyab and his men, and they made haste to gain the frontier.

But the grandson of Feridoun had learned of their coming, and he prepared him to meet the foes of his land. Then he sent forth an army that overshadowed the earth in its progress. But the army of Afrasiyab was great also, and it covered the ground like unto ants and locusts. And both hosts pitched their tents in the plains of Dehstan, and made them ready for the fight. And the horses neighed loud, and the pawing of their hoofs shook the deep places of the earth, and the dust of their trampling uprose even unto heaven. Then when they had put their men into array, they fell upon each other, and for two days did they rage in fierce combat, neither did the victory lean to either side. And the clamour and confusion were mighty, and earth and sky seemed blended into one. And the carnage was great, and blood flowed like water, and heads fell from their trunks like unto autumn leaves that are withered. But on the third day it came about that the upper hand was given unto the men of Turan, and Nauder the King, and the flower of his army with him, fell into the hands of the foe.

Then Afrasiyab cut off the head of Nauder the Shah, and sat himself down upon the throne of light. And he proclaimed himself lord of Iran, and required of all men that they should do him homage, and pour gifts before his face. But the people would not listen unto his voice, and they sent messengers into Seistan, and craved counsel of the Pehliva in their distress. And Zal, when he heard their tidings, cast aside the sorrow for Saum his father, and girded his loins in enmity against the son of Tur. And he bade the Iranians choose out Zew, the son of Thamasp, of the blood of Feridoun, of wisdom in speech, that he should rule over them on the throne of the Kaianides. And the people did as Zal commanded.

Now the throne of Feridoun grew young again under the sway of Zew. With power did he beat back the host of Turan, a covenant of peace did he wring from their hands. And it was written that the Jihun should divide the lands, and that the power of Zal the Pehliva should end where men take up their abode in tents. And Zew ruled rightly in the sight of Ormuzd, and God gave unto the land the key of abundance. Yet few were the years that he commanded with equity, and Garshasp his son reigned in his stead. But neither to him was it given to reign long with glory, and bitter fruit sprouted yet again from the tree of misfortune. For the throne of the Kaianides was empty, and Afrasiyab, when he learned thereof, followed the counsels of Poshang his father, and hurried him unto the land of Iran, that he might place himself upon the seat of power. And all the men of Iran, when they learned thereof, were sore afraid, and they turned them once again unto the son of Saum. And they spake unto him hard words, and heaped reproaches upon him that he had not averted these dangers from their heads. And Zal in his heart smiled at their ingratitude and lipwisdom, but he also sorrowed with them and with his land. And he spake, saying-

"I have ever done for you what was fitting and right, and all my life have I feared no enemy save only old age. But that enemy is now upon me, therefore I charge you that ye look unto Rustem to deliver you. Howbeit he shall be backed by the counsels of his father."

Then he called before him his son, who was yet of tender age, and he said unto him-

"O my son, thy lips still smell of milk, and thy heart should go out to pleasure. But the days are grave, and Iran looketh unto thee in its danger. I must send thee forth to cope with heroes."

And Rustem answered and said,

"Thou knowest, O my father, that my desires are rather after war than pleasures. Give unto me, therefore, a steed of strength and the mace of Saum thy father, and suffer that I go out to meet the hosts of Ahriman."

Then Zal's heart laughed within him when he heard these words of manhood. And he commanded that all the flocks of horses, both from Zaboulistan and Cabul, be brought before his son, that he might choose from their midst his steed of battle. And they were passed in order before Rustem, and he laid upon the backs of each his hand of might to test them if they could bear his weight of valour. And the horses shuddered as they bent beneath his grasp, and sank upon their haunches in weakness. And thus did he do with them all in turn, until he came unto the flocks of Cabul. Then he perceived in their midst a mare mighty and strong, and there followed after her a colt like to its mother, with the chest and shoulders of a lion. And in strength it seemed like an elephant, and in colour it was as rose leaves that have been scattered upon a saffron ground. Now Rustem, when he had tested the colt with his eyes, made a running knot in his cord and threw it about the beast. And he caught the colt in the snare, though the mare defended it mightily. Then the keeper of the flock came before Rustem and said-

"O youth puissant and tall, take not, I counsel thee, the horse of another."

And Rustem answered him and asked,

"To whom then pertaineth this steed? I see no mark upon its flanks."

And the keeper said,

"We know not its master, but rumours are rife anent it throughout the land, and men name it the Rakush of Rustem. And I warn thee, the mother will never permit thee to ride on it. Three years has it been ready for the saddle, but none would she suffer to mount thereon."

Then Rustem, when he heard these words, swung himself upon the colt with a great bound. And the mare, when she saw it, ran at him and would have pulled him down, but when she had heard his voice she suffered it. And the rose-coloured steed bore Rustem along the plains like unto the wind. Then when he was returned, the son of Zal spake and said to the keeper-

"I pray thee, tell unto me what is the price of this dragon?"

But the keeper replied,

"If thou be Rustem, mount him, and retrieve the sorrows of Iran. For his price is the land of Iran, and seated upon him thou wilt save the world."

And Rustem rejoiced in Rakush (whose name, being interpreted, meaneth the lightning), and Zal rejoiced with him, and they made them ready to stand against Afrasiyab.

Now it was in the time of roses, and the meadows smiled with verdure, when Zal led forth his hosts against the offspring of Tur. And the standard of Kawah streamed upon the breeze, and Mihrab marched on the left, and Gustahem marched on the right, and Zal went in the midst of the men, but Rustem went at the head of all. And there followed after him a number like to the sands of the sea, and the sounds of cymbals and bells made a noise throughout the land like unto the day of judgment, when the earth shall cry unto the dead, "Arise."

And they marched in order even unto the shores of the river Rai, and the two armies were but some farsangs apart.

Albeit, when Afrasiyab heard that Rustem and Zal were come out against him, he was in nowise dismayed, for he said,

"The son is but a boy, and the father is old; it will not, therefore, be hard for me to keep my power in Iran."

And he made ready his warriors with gladness of heart.

But Zal, when he had drawn up his army in battle array, spake unto them, saying-

"O men valiant in fight, we are great in number, but there is wanting to us a chief, for we are without the counsels of a Shah, and verily no labour succeedeth when the head is lacking. But rejoice, and be not downcast in your hearts, for a Mubid hath revealed unto me that there yet liveth one of the race of Feridoun to whom pertaineth the throne, and that he is a youth wise and brave."

And when he had thus spoken, he turned him to Rustem and said-

"I charge thee, O my son, depart in haste for the Mount Alberz, neither tarry by the way. And wend thee unto Kai Kobad, and say unto him that his army awaiteth him, and that the throne of the Kaianides is empty."

And Rustem, when he had heard his father's command, touched with his eyelashes the ground before his feet, and straightway departed. In his hand he bare a mace of might, and under him was Rakush the swift of foot. And he rode till he came within sight of the Mount Alberz, whereon had stood the cradle of his father. Then he beheld at its foot a house beauteous like unto that of a king. And around it was spread a garden whence came the sounds of running waters, and trees of tall stature uprose therein, and under their shade, by a gurgling rill, there stood a throne, and a youth, fair like to the moon, was seated thereon. And round about him leaned knights girt with red sashes of power, and you would have said it was a paradise for perfume and beauty.

Now when those within the garden beheld the son of Zal ride by, they came out unto him and said-

"O Pehliva, it behoveth us not to let thee go farther before thou hast permitted us to greet thee as our guest. We pray thee, therefore, descend from off thy horse and drink the cup of friendship in our house."

But Rustem said,

"Not so, I thank you, but suffer that I may pass unto the mountain with an errand that brooketh no delay. For the borders of Iran are encircled by the enemy, and the throne is empty of a king. Wherefore I may not stay to taste of wine."

Then they answered him,

"If thou goest unto the mount, tell us, we pray thee, thy mission, for unto us is it given to guard its sides."

And Rustem replied,

"I seek there a king of the seed of Feridoun, who cleansed the world of the abominations of Zohak, a youth who reareth high his head. I pray ye, therefore, if ye know aught of Kai Kobad, that ye give me tidings where I may find him."

Then the youth that sat upon the throne opened his mouth and said, "Kai Kobad is known unto me, and if thou wilt enter this garden and rejoice my soul with thy presence I will give thee tidings concerning him."

When Rustem heard these words he sprang from off his horse and came within the gates. And the youth took his hand and led him unto the steps of the throne. Then he mounted it yet again, and when he had filled a cup with wine, he pledged the guest within his gates. Then he gave a cup unto Rustem, and questioned him wherefore he sought for Kai Kobad, and at whose desire he was come forth to find him. And Rustem told him of the Mubids, and how that his father had sent him with all speed to pray the young King that he would be their Shah, and lead the host against the enemies of Iran. Then the youth, when he had listened to an end, smiled and said-

"O Pehliva, behold me, for verily I am Kai Kobad of the race of Feridoun!"

And Rustem, when he had heard these words, fell on the ground before his feet, and saluted him Shah. Then the King raised him, and commanded that the slaves should give him yet another cup of wine, and he bore it to his lips in honour of Rustem, the son of Zal, the son of Saum, the son of Neriman. And they gave a cup also unto Rustem, and he cried-

"May the Shah live for ever!"

Then instruments of music rent the air, and joy spread over all the assembly. But when silence was fallen yet again, Kai Kobad opened his mouth and said-

"Hearken, O my knights, unto the dream that I had dreamed, and ye will know wherefore I called upon you this day to stand in majesty about my throne. For in my sleep I beheld two falcons white of wing, and they came out unto me from Iran, and in their beaks they bare a sunny crown. And the crown they placed upon my head. And behold now is Rustem come out unto me like to a white bird, and his father, the nursling of a bird, hath sent him, and they have given unto me the crown of Iran."

And Rustem, when he had heard this dream, said,

"Surely thy vision was given unto thee of God! But now, I pray thee, up and tarry no longer, for the land of Iran groaneth sore and awaiteth thee with much travail."

So Kai Kobad listened to the desires of Rustem, and swung him upon his steed of war; and they rode day and night, until they came down from the hills unto the green plains that are watered by murmuring streams. And Rustem brought the King safely through the outposts of the enemy; and when the night was fallen, he led him within the tents of Zal, and none knew that he was come save only the Mubids. For seven days did they hold counsel together, and on the eighth the message of the stars was received with joy. And Zal made ready a throne of ivory and a banquet, and the crown of Iran was placed upon the head of the young Shah. Then the nobles came and did homage before him, and they revelled in wine till the night was far spent. And they prayed him that he would make him ready to lead them against the Turks. And Kai Kobad mustered the army and did as they desired.

And soon the battle raged hot and strong many days, and deeds of valour were done on either side; but the men of Turan could not stand against the men of Iran, neither could the strength of Rustem be broken. For he put forth the power of a lion, and his shadow extended for miles. And from that day men named him Tehemten (which being interpreted, meaneth the strong-limbed), for he did deeds of prowess in the sight of men. And Afrasiyab was discomfited, and fled before him, and his army followed after, and their hearts were bruised and full of care.

But the Iranians, when they beheld that their foes had vanished before them, turned them unto Kai Kobad and did homage before his throne. And Kai Kobad celebrated the victory with much pomp, as is the manner of kings; and he placed Rustem upon his right hand and Zal upon his left, and they feasted and made them merry with wine.

In the meantime Afrasiyab returned him unto Poshang his father, who was of the race of Tur. And he came before him right sorrowful and spake, saying-

"O King, whose name is glorious, thou didst evil to provoke this war. The land which Feridoun the great did give in ancient time unto Tur the valiant, it hath been delivered unto thee, and the partition was just. Why, therefore, seekest thou to enlarge thy border? Verily I say, if thou haste not to make peace with Iran, Kai Kobad will send out against us an army from the four quarters of the earth, and they will subdue us, and by our own act we shall make the land too narrow for us. For the world is not delivered of the race of Irij, and the noxious poison hath not been converted into honey. For when one dieth another taketh his place, and never do they leave the world without a master. And there is arisen of the race of Saum a warrior called Rustem, and none can withstand him. He hath broken the power of thine host, and the world hath not seen his like for stoutness; and withal he is but little more than a weanling. Ponder therefore, O King, how shall it be when he may be come to years of vigour. Surely I am a man who desireth to possess the world, the stay of thine army, and thy refuge in danger, but before this boy my power fadeth like unto the mists that rise above the hills."

When the King of Turan had listened to these words, the tears of bitterness fell from his eyes. Then he called before him a scribe and he bade him write a letter unto Kai Kobad, the Shah. And the scribe adorned it with many colours and fair designs. And the scribe wrote-

"In the name of Ormuzd, the ruler of the sun and moon, greeting and salutation unto Kai Kobad the gracious from the meanest of his servants. Listen unto me, O valiant Shah, and ponder the words that I shall write. May grace fall upon the soul of Feridoun, who wove the woof of our race! Why should we any longer hold the world in confusion? That which he fixed, surely it was right, for he parted the world with equity, and we do wrong before him when we depart from the grooves that he hath shaped. I pray thee, therefore, let us no longer speak of Tur and his evil acts unto Irij, for if Irij was the cause of our hates, surely by Minuchihr hath he been avenged. Let us return, then, within the bounds that Feridoun hath blest, and let us part the world anew, as it was parted for Tur, and Selim, and Irij. For wherefore should we seek the land of another, since in the end each will receive in heritage a spot no larger than his body? If then Kai Kobad will listen unto my prayer, let the Jihun be the boundary between us, and none of my people shall behold its waters, nay, not even in a dream, neither shall any Iranian cross its floods, save only in amity."

And the King put his seal upon the letter and sent it unto Kai Kobad, and the messenger bare with him rich gifts of jewels and steeds of Araby. And when Kai Kobad had read the letter he smiled in his spirit and said-

"Verily not my people sought out this war but Afrasiyab, who deemed that he could wrest unto himself the crown of Iran, and could subdue the masterless land unto his will. And he hath but followed in the footsteps of Tur his father, for even as he robbed the throne of Irij, so did Afrasiyab take from it Nauder the Shah. And I say to you that I need not make peace with you because of any fear, but I will do it because war is not pleasing unto me. I will give unto you, therefore, the farther side of the river, and it shall be a boundary between us, and I pray that Afrasiyab may find rest within his borders."

And Kai Kobad did according to his word. He drew up a fresh covenant between them, and planted a new tree in the garden of power. And the messenger took the writing unto Poshang, King of Turan, and Kai Kobad proclaimed that there was peace throughout the land.

Now for the space of an hundred years did Kai Kobad rule over Iran, and he administered his realm with clemency, and the earth was quiet before him, and he gat his people great honour, and I ask of you what king can be likened unto him? But when this time had passed, his strength waned, and he knew that a green leaf was about to fade. So he called before him Kai Kaous his son, and gave unto him counsels many and wise. And when he had done speaking he bade them make ready his grave, and he exchanged the palace for the tomb. And thus endeth the history of Kai Kobad the glorious. It behoveth us now to speak of his son.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shahnameh (The Epic of Kings) composed in the 10th century by Ferdowsi is the Crown Jewel of the Persian literature and is cherished by all Iranians (including non-Persian ethnic groups) as well as Persian speaking societies of Afghanistan, Tajikestan and Central Asia.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...