Persian Literature, Volume 1,Comprising The Shah Nameh, The
Part 7 out of 9
No tiger fierce, nor lion ever
Could breathe that pestilential air;
Even the unsparing vulture never
Ventures on blood-stained pinions there.
"At the distance of three farsangs beyond this inaccessible belt of
scorching country lies the Brazen Fortress, to which there is no visible
path; and if an army of a hundred thousand strong were to attempt its
reduction, there would not be the least chance of success."
Seventh Stage.--When Isfendiyar heard these things, enough to alarm the
bravest heart, he turned towards his people to ascertain their
determination; when they unanimously repeated their readiness to
sacrifice their lives in his service, and to follow wherever he might be
disposed to lead the way. He then put Kurugsar in chains again, and
prosecuted his journey, until he reached the place said to be covered
with burning sand. Arrived on the spot, he observed to the demon-guide:
"Thou hast described the sand as hot, but it is not so." "True; and it
is on account of the heavy showers of snow that have fallen and cooled
the ground, a proof that thou art under the protection of the Almighty."
Isfendiyar smiled, and said: "Thou art all insincerity and deception,
thus to play upon my feelings with false or imaginary terrors." Saying
this he urged his soldiers to pass rapidly on, so as to leave the sand
behind them, and they presently came to a great river. Isfendiyar was
now angry with Kurugsar, and said: "Thou hast declared that for the
space of forty farsangs there was no water, every drop being everywhere
dried up by the burning heat of the sun, and here we find water! Why
didst thou also idly fill the minds of my soldiers with groundless
fears?" Kurugsar replied: "I will confess the truth. Did I not swear a
solemn oath to be faithful, and yet I was still doubted, and still
confined in irons, though the experience of six days of trial had proved
the correctness of my information and advice. For this reason I was
disappointed and displeased; and I must confess that I did, therefore,
exaggerate the dangers of the last day, in the hope too of inducing thee
to return and release me from my bonds.
"For what have I received from thee,
But scorn, and chains, and slavery."
Isfendiyar now struck off the irons from the hands and feet of his
demon-guide and treated him with favor and kindness, repeating to him
his promise to reward him at the close of his victorious career with the
government of a kingdom. Kurugsar was grateful for this change of
conduct to him, and again acknowledging the deception he had been guilty
of, hoped for pardon, engaging at the same time to take the party in
safety across the great river which had impeded their progress. This was
accordingly done, and the Brazen Fortress was now at no great distance.
At the close of the day they were only one farsang from the towers, but
Isfendiyar preferred resting till the next morning. "What is thy counsel
now?" said he to his guide. "What sort of a fortress is this which fame
describes in such dreadful colors?" "It is stronger than imagination can
conceive, and impregnable."--"Then how shall I get to Arjasp?
"How shall I cleave the oppressor's form asunder,
The murderer of my grandsire, Lohurasp?
The bravest heroes of Turan shall fall
Under my conquering sword; their wives and children
Led captive to Iran; and desolation
Scathe the whole realm beneath the tyrant's sway."
But these words only roused and exasperated the feelings of Kurugsar,
who bitterly replied:--
"Then may calamity be thy reward,
Thy stars malignant, and thy life all sorrow;
And may'st thou perish, weltering in thy blood,
And the bare desert be thy lonely grave
For that inhuman thought, that cruel menace."
Isfendiyar, upon hearing this unexpected language, became furious with
indignation, and instantly punished the offender on the spot; with one
stroke of his sword he cleft Kurugsar in twain.
When the clouds of night had darkened the sky, Isfendiyar, with a number
of his warriors, proceeded towards the Brazen Fortress, and secretly
explored it on every side. He found it constructed entirely of iron and
brass; and, notwithstanding a strict examination at every point,
discovered no accessible part for attack. It was three farsangs high,
and forty wide; and such a place as was never before beheld by man.
CAPTURE OF THE BRAZEN FORTRESS
Isfendiyar returned from reconnoitring the fortress with acute feelings
of sorrow and despair. He was at last convinced that Kurugsar had spoken
the truth; for there seemed to be no chance whatever of taking the place
by any stratagem he could invent. Revolving the enterprise seriously in
his mind, he now began to repent of his folly, and the overweening
confidence which had led him to undertake the journey. Returning thus to
his tent in a melancholy mood, he saw a Fakir sitting down on the road,
and him he anxiously accosted. "What may be the number of the garrison
in this fort?" "There are a hundred thousand veteran warriors in the
service of Arjasp in the fort, with abundance of supplies of every kind,
and streams of pure water, so that nothing is wanted to foil an enemy."
This was very unwelcome intelligence to Isfendiyar, who now assembled
his officers to consider what was best to be done. They all agreed that
the reduction of the fortress was utterly impracticable, and that the
safest course for him would be to return. But he could not bring himself
to acquiesce in this measure, saying: "God is almighty, and beneficent,
and with him is the victory." He then reflected deeply and long, and
finally determined upon entering the fort disguised as a merchant.
Having first settled the mode of proceeding, he put Bashutan in
temporary charge of the army, saying:--
"This Brazen Fortress scorns all feats of arms,
Nor sword nor spear, nor battle-axe, can here
Be wielded to advantage; stratagem
Must be employed, or we shall never gain
Possession of its wide-extended walls,
Placing my confidence in God alone
I go with rich and curious wares for sale,
To take the credulous people by surprise,
Under the semblance of a peaceful merchant."
Isfendiyar then directed a hundred dromedaries to be collected, and when
they were brought to him he disposed of them in the following manner. He
loaded ten with embroidered cloths, five with rubies and sapphires, and
five more with pearls and other precious jewels. Upon each of the
remaining eighty he placed two chests, and in each chest a warrior was
secreted, making in all one hundred and sixty; and one hundred more were
disposed as camel-drivers and servants. Thus the whole force, consisting
of a hundred dromedaries and two hundred and sixty warriors, set off
towards the Brazen Fortress, Isfendiyar having first intimated to his
brother Bashutan to march with his army direct to the gates of the fort,
as soon as he saw a column of flame and smoke ascend from the interior.
On the way they gave out that they were merchants come with valuable
goods from Persia, and hoped for custom. The tidings of travellers
having arrived with rubies and gold-embroidered garments for sale, soon
reached the ears of Arjasp, the king, who immediately gave them
permission to enter the fort. When Isfendiyar, the reputed master of the
caravan, had got within the walls, he said that he had brought rich
presents for the king, and requested to be introduced to him in person.
He was accordingly allowed to take the presents himself, was received
with distinguished attention, and having stated his name to be Kherad,
was invited to go to the royal palace, whenever, and as often as, he
might please. At one of the interviews the king asked him, as he had
come from Persia, if he knew whether the report was true or not that
Kurugsar had been put to death, and what Gushtasp and Isfendiyar were
engaged upon. The hero in disguise replied that it was five months since
he left Persia; but he had heard on the road from many persons that
Isfendiyar intended proceeding by the way of the Heft-khan with a vast
army, towards the Brazen Fortress. At these words Arjasp smiled in
derision, and said: "Ah! ah! by that way even the winged tribe are
afraid to venture; and if Isfendiyar had a thousand lives, he would lose
them all in any attempt to accomplish that journey." After this
interview Isfendiyar daily continued to attend to the sale of his
merchandise, and soon found that his sisters were employed in the
degrading office of drawing and carrying water for the kitchen of
Arjasp. When they heard that a caravan had arrived from Iran, they went
to Isfendiyar (who recognized them at a distance, but hid his face that
they might not know him), to inquire what tidings he had brought about
their father and brother. Alarmed at the hazard of discovery, he replied
that he knew nothing, and desired them to depart; but they remained, and
said: "On thy return to Iran, at least, let it be known that here we
are, two daughters of Gushtasp, reduced to the basest servitude, and
neither father nor brother takes compassion upon our distresses.
"Whilst with bare head, and naked feet, we toil,
They pass their time in peace and happiness,
Regardless of the misery we endure."
Isfendiyar again, in assumed anger, told them to depart, saying: "Talk
not to me of Gushtasp and Isfendiyar--what have I to do with them?" At
that moment the sound of his voice was recognized by the elder sister,
who, in a transport of joy, instantly communicated her discovery to the
younger; but they kept the secret till night, and then they returned to
commune with their brother. Isfendiyar finding that he was known,
acknowledged himself, and informed them that he had undertaken to
restore them to liberty, and that he was now engaged in the enterprise,
opposing every obstacle in his way; but it was necessary that they
should continue their usual labor at the wells, till a fitting
For the purpose of accelerating the moment of release, Isfendiyar
represented to the king that at a period of great adversity, he had made
a vow that he would give a splendid banquet if ever Heaven again smiled
upon him, and as he then was in the way to prosperity, and wished to
fulfil his vow, he hoped that his majesty would honor him with his
presence on the occasion. The king accepted the invitation with
satisfaction, and said: "To-morrow I will be thy guest, at thy own
house, and with all my warriors and soldiers." But this did not suit the
scheme of the pretended merchant, who apologized on account of his house
being too small, and proposed that the feast should be held upon the
loftiest part of the fortress, where spacious tents and pavilions might
be erected for the purpose, and a large fire lighted to give splendor to
the scene. The king assented, and every requisite preparation being
made, all the royal and warrior guests assembled in the morning, and
eagerly partook of the rich viands set before them. They all drank wine
with such relish and delight, that they soon became intoxicated, and
Kherad seizing the opportunity, ordered the logs of wood which had been
collected, to be set on fire, and rapidly the smoke and flame sprung up,
and ascended to the sky. Bashutan saw the looked-for sign, and hastened
with two thousand horsemen to the gates of the fortress, where he slew
every one that he met, calling himself Isfendiyar. Arjasp had enjoyed
the banquet exceedingly; the music gave him infinite pleasure, and the
wine had intoxicated him; but in the midst of his hilarity and
merriment, he was told that Isfendiyar had reached the gates, and
entered the fort, killing immense numbers of his people. This terrible
intelligence roused him and quitting the festive board of Kherad, he
ordered his son Kahram, with fifty thousand horsemen, to repel the
invader. He also ordered forty thousand horsemen to protect different
parts of the walls, and ten thousand to remain as his own personal
guard. Kahram accordingly issued forth without delay, and soon engaged
in battle with the force under Bashutan.
When night came, Isfendiyar opened the lids of the chests, and let out
the hundred and sixty warriors, whom he supplied with swords and spears,
and armor, and also the hundred who were disguised as camel-drivers and
With this bold band he sped,
Whither Arjasp had fled;
And all who fought around,
To keep untouched that sacred ground;
(Resistance weak and vain,)
By him were quickly slain.
The sisters of Isfendiyar now arrived, and pointed out to him the
chamber of Arjasp, to which place he immediately repaired, and roused up
the king, who was almost insensible with the fumes of wine. Arjasp,
however, sprang upon his feet,
And grappled stoutly with Isfendiyar,
And desperate was the conflict: head and loins
Alternately received deep gaping wounds
From sword and dagger. Wearied out at length,
Arjasp shrunk back, when with one mighty blow,
Isfendiyar, exulting in his power,
Cleft him asunder.
Two of the wives, two daughters, and one sister of Arjasp fell
immediately into the hands of the conqueror, who delivered them into the
custody of his son, to be conveyed home. He then quitted the palace, and
turning his steps towards the gates of the fortress, slew a great number
of the enemy.
Kahram, in the meantime, had been fiercely engaged with Bashutan, and
was extremely reduced. At the very moment too of his discomfiture, he
heard the watchmen call out aloud that Arjasp had been slain by Kherad.
Confounded and alarmed by these tidings, he approached the fort, where
he heard the confirmation of his misfortune from every mouth, and also
that the garrison had been put to the sword. Leading on the remainder of
his troops he now came in contact with Isfendiyar and his two hundred
and sixty warriors, and a sharp engagement ensued; but the coming up of
Bashutan's force on his rear, placed him in such a predicament on every
side, that defeat and destruction were almost inevitable. In short,
Kahram was left with only a few of his soldiers near him, when
Isfendiyar, observing his situation, challenged him to personal combat,
and the challenge was accepted.
So closely did the eager warriors close,
They seemed together joined, and but one man.
At last Isfendiyar seized Kahram's girth,
And flung him to the ground, and bound his hands;
And as a leaf is severed from its stalk,
So he the head cleft from its quivering trunk;
Thus one blow wins, and takes away a throne,
In battle heads are trodden under hoofs,
Crowns under heads.
After the death of Kahram, Isfendiyar issued a proclamation, offering
full pardon to all who would unite under his banners. They had no king.
The country had no throne, no crown. Alas!
What is the world without a governor,
What, but a headless trunk? A thing more worthless
Than the vile dust upon the common road.
What could the people do in their despair?
They were obedient, and Isfendiyar
Encouraged them with kind and gentle words,
Fitting a generous and a prudent master.
Having first written to his father an account of the great victory which
he had gained, he occupied himself in reducing all the surrounding
provinces and their inhabitants to subjection. Those people who
continued hostile to him he deemed it necessary to put to death. He took
all the women of Arjasp into his own service, and their daughters he
presented to his own sons.
Not a warrior of Chin remained;
The king of Turan was swept away;
And the realm where in pomp he had reigned,
Where he basked in prosperity's ray,
Was spoiled by the conqueror's brand,
Desolation marked every scene,
And a stranger now governed the mountainous land,
Where the splendour of Poshang had been.
Not a dirhem of treasure was left;
For nothing eluded the conqueror's grasp;
Of all was the royal pavilion bereft;
All followed the fate of Arjasp!
When Gushtasp received information of this mighty conquest, he sent
orders to Isfendiyar to continue in the government of the new empire;
but the prince replied that he had settled the country, and was anxious
to see his father. This request being permitted, he was desired to bring
away all the immense booty, and return by the road of the Heft-khan.
Arriving at the place where he was overtaken by the dreadful
winter-storm, he again found all the property he had lost under the
drifts of snow; and when he had accomplished his journey, he was
received with the warmest welcome and congratulations, on account of his
extraordinary successes. A royal feast was prepared, and the king filled
his son's goblet with wine so repeatedly, and drank himself so
frequently, and with such zest, that both of them at length became
intoxicated. Gushtasp then asked Isfendiyar to describe to him the
particulars of his expedition by the road of the Heft-khan; for though
he had heard the story from others, he wished to have it from his own
mouth. But Isfendiyar replied: "We have both drank too much wine, and
nothing good can proceed from a drunken man; I will recite my adventures
to-morrow, when my head is clear." The next day Gushtasp, seated upon
his throne, and Isfendiyar placed before him on a golden chair, again
asked for the prince's description of his triumphant progress by the
Heft-khan, and according to his wish every incident that merited notice
was faithfully detailed to him. The king expressed great pleasure at the
conclusion; but envy and suspicion lurked in his breast, and writhing
internally like a serpent, he still delayed fulfilling his promise to
invest Isfendiyar, upon the overthrow of Arjasp, with the sovereignty of
The prince could not fail to observe the changed disposition of his
father, and privately went to Kitabun, his mother, to whom he related
the solemn promise and engagement of Gushtasp, and requested her to go
to him, and say: "Thou hast given thy royal word to Isfendiyar, that
when he had conquered and slain Arjasp, and restored his own sisters to
liberty, thou wouldst place upon his head the crown of Iran; faith and
honor are indispensable in princes, they are inculcated by religion, and
yet thou hast failed to make good thy word." But the mother had more
prudence, and said: "Let me give thee timely counsel, and breathe not a
syllable to any one on the subject. God forbid that thou shouldst again
be thrown into prison, and confined in chains. Recollect thine is the
succession; the army is in thy favor; thy father is old and infirm. Have
a little patience and in the end thou wilt undoubtedly be the King of
"The gold and jewels, the imperial sway,
The crown, the throne, the army, all he owns,
Will presently be thine; then wait in patience,
And reign, in time, the monarch of the world."
Isfendiyar, however, was not contented with his mother's counsel, and
suspecting that she would communicate to the king what he had said, he
one day, as if under the influence of wine, thus addressed his father:
"In what way have I failed to accomplish thy wishes? Have I not
performed such actions as never were heard of, and never will be
performed again, in furtherance of thy glory? I have overthrown thy
greatest enemy, and supported thy honor with ceaseless toil and
exertion. Is it not then incumbent on thee to fulfil thy promise?"
Gushtasp replied: "Do not be impatient--the throne is thine;" but he was
deeply irritated at heart on being thus reproached by his own son. When
he retired he consulted with Jamasp, and was anxious to know what the
stars foretold. The answer was: "He is of exalted fortune, of high
destiny; he will overcome all his enemies, and finally obtain the
sovereignty of the heft-aklim, or seven climes." This favorable prophecy
aggravated the spleen of the father against the son, and he inquired
with bitter and unnatural curiosity: "What will be his death? Look to
"A deadly dart from Rustem's bow,
Will lay the glorious warrior low."
These tidings gladdened the heart of Gushtasp, and he said: "If this
miscreant had been slain in his expedition to the Brazen Fortress I
should not now have been insulted with his claim to my throne." The king
then having resolved upon a scheme of deep dissimulation, ordered a
gorgeous banquet, and invited to it all his relations and warriors; and
when the guests were assembled he said to Isfendiyar: "The crown and the
throne are thine; indeed, who is there so well qualified for imperial
sway?" and turning to his warriors, he spoke of him with praise and
admiration, and added: "When I was entering upon the war against Arjasp,
before I quitted Sistan, I said to Rustem: 'Lohurasp, my father, is
dead, my wife and children made prisoners, wilt thou assist me in
punishing the murderer and oppressor?' but he excused himself, and
remained at home, and although I have since been involved in numberless
perils, he has not once by inquiry shown himself interested in my
behalf; in short, he boasts that Kai-khosrau gave him the principalities
of Zabul and Kabul, and Nim-ruz, and that he owes no allegiance to me!
It behooves me, therefore, to depute Isfendiyar to go and put him to
death, or bring him before me in bonds alive. After that I shall have no
enemy to be revenged upon, and I shall retire from the world, and leave
to Isfendiyar the crown and the throne of Persia, with confidence and
satisfaction." All the nobles and heroes present approved of the
measure, and the king, gratified by their approbation, then turned to
Isfendiyar, and said: "I have sworn on the Zendavesta, to relinquish my
power, and place it in thy hands, as soon as Rustem is subdued. Take
whatever force the important occasion may require, for the whole
resources of the empire shall be at thy command," But Isfendiyar thus
replied: "Remember the first time I defeated Arjasp--what was my reward?
Through the machinations of Gurzam I was thrown into prison and chained.
And what is my reward now that I have slain both Arjasp and his son in
battle? Thy solemn promise to me is forgotten, or disregarded. The
prince who forgets one promise will forget another, if it be convenient
for his purpose.
"Whenever the Heft-khan is brought to mind,
I feel a sense of horror. But why should I
Repeat the story of those great exploits!
God is my witness, how I slew the wolf,
The lion, and the dragon; how I punished
That fell enchantress with her thousand wiles;
And how I suffered, midst the storm of snow,
Which almost froze the blood within my veins;
And how that vast unfathomable deep
We crossed securely. These are deeds which awaken
Wonder and praise in others, not in thee!
The treasure which I captured now is thine;
And what is my reward?--the interest, sorrow.
Thus am I cheated of my recompense.
It is the custom for great kings to keep
Religiously their pledged, affianced word;
But thou hast broken thine, despite of honour.
"I do remember in my early youth,
It was in Rum, thou didst perform a feat
Of gallant daring; for thou didst destroy
A dragon and a wolf, but thou didst bear
Thyself most proudly, thinking human arm
Never before had done a deed so mighty;
Yes, thou wert proud and vain, and seemed exalted
Up to the Heavens; and for that noble act
What did thy father do? The king for that
Gave thee with joyous heart his crown and throne.
Now mark the difference; think what I have done,
What perils I sustained, and for thy sake!
Thy foes I vanquished, clearing from thy mind
The gnawing rust of trouble and affliction.
Monsters I slew, reduced the Brazen Fortress,
And laid Arjasp's whole empire at thy feet,
And what was my reward? Neglect and scorn.
Did I deserve this at a father's hands?"
Gushtasp remained unmoved by this sharp rebuke, though he readily
acknowledged its justice. "The crown shall be thine," said he, "but
consider my position. Think, too, what services Zal and Rustem performed
for Kai-khosrau, and shall I expect less from my own son, gifted as he
is with a form of brass, and the most prodigious valor? Forbid it,
Heaven! that any rumor of our difference should get abroad in the world,
which would redound to the dishonor of both! Nearly half of Iran is in
the possession of Rustem." "Give me the crown," said Isfendiyar, "and I
will immediately proceed against the Zabul champion." "I have given thee
both the crown and the throne, take with thee my whole army, and all my
treasure.--What wouldst thou have more? He who has conquered the
terrific obstacles of the Heft-khan, and has slain Arjasp and subdued
his entire kingdom, can have no cause to fear the prowess of Rustem, or
any other chief." Isfendiyar replied that he had no fear of Rustem's
prowess; he was now old, and therefore not equal to himself in strength;
still he had no wish to oppose him:--
"For he has been the monitor and friend
Of our Kaianian ancestors; his care
Enriched their minds, and taught them to be brave;
And he was ever faithful to their cause.
Besides," said he, "thou wert the honoured guest
Of Rustem two long years; and at Sistan
Enjoyed his hospitality and friendship,
His festive, social board; and canst thou now,
Forgetting that delightful intercourse,
Become his bitterest foe?"
"Tis true he may have served my ancestors;
But what is that to me? His spirit is proud,
And he refused to yield me needful aid
When danger pressed; that is enough, and thou
Canst not divert me from my settled purpose.
Therefore, if thy aim be still
To rule, thy father's wish fulfil;
Quickly trace the distant road;
Quick invade the chiefs abode;
Bind his feet, and bind his hands
In a captive's galling bands;
Bring him here, that all may know
Thou hast quelled the mighty foe."
But Isfendiyar was still reluctant, and implored him to relinquish his
"For if resolved, a gloomy cloud
Will quickly all thy glories shroud,
And dim thy brilliant throne;
I would not thus aspire to reign,
But rather, free from crime, remain
Sequestered and alone."
Again Gushtasp spoke, and said: "There is no necessity for any further
delay. Thou art appointed my successor, and the crown and the throne are
thine; thou hast therefore only to march to the scene of action, and
accomplish the object of the war." Hearing this, Isfendiyar sullenly
retired to his own house, and Gushtasp, perceiving that he was in an
angry mood, requested Jamasp (his minister) to ascertain the state of
his mind, and whether he intended to proceed to Sistan or not. Jamasp
immediately went, and Isfendiyar asked him, as his friend, what he would
advise. "The commands of a father," he replied, "must be obeyed." There
was now no remedy, and the king being informed that the prince consented
to undertake the expedition, no further discussion took place.
But Kitabun was deeply affected when she heard of these proceedings, and
repaired instantly to her son, to represent to him the hopelessness of
the enterprise he had engaged to conduct.
"A mother's counsel is a golden treasure,
Consider well, and listen not to folly.
Rustem, the champion of the world, will never
Suffer himself to be confined in bonds.
Did he not conquer the White Demon, fill
The world with blood, in terrible revenge,
When Saiawush was by Afrasiyab
Cruelly slain? O, curses on the throne,
And ruin seize the country, which returns
Evil for good, and spurns its benefactor.
Restrain thy steps, engage not in this war;
It cannot do thee honour. Hear my voice!
For Rustem still can conquer all the world."
Hear the safe counsel of thy anxious mother!
Thus spoke Kitabun, shedding ceaseless tears;
And thus Isfendiyar: "I fear not Rustem;
I fear not his prodigious power and skill;
But never can I on so great a hero
Place ignominious bonds; it must not be.
Yet, mother dear, my faithful word is pledged;
My word Jamasp has taken to the king,
And I must follow where my fortune leads."
The next morning Isfendiyar took leave of the king, and with a vast
army, and immense treasure, commenced his march towards Sistan. It
happened that one of the camels in advance laid down, and though beaten
severely, could not be made to get up on its legs. Isfendiyar, seeing
the obstinacy of the animal, ordered it to be killed, and passed on. The
people, however, interpreted the accident as a bad omen, and wished him
not to proceed; but he could not attend to their suggestions, as he
thought the king would look upon it as a mere pretence, and therefore
continued his journey.
When he approached Sistan, he sent Bahman, his eldest son, to Rustem,
with a flattering message, to induce the champion to honor him with an
istakbal, or deputation to receive him. Upon Bahman's arrival, however,
he hesitated and delayed, being reluctant to give a direct answer; but
Zal interposed, saying: "Why not immediately wait upon the prince?--have
we not always been devoted to the Kaianian dynasty?--Go and bring him
hither, that we may tender him our allegiance, and entertain him at our
mansion as becomes his illustrious birth," Accordingly Rustem went out
to welcome Isfendiyar, and alighting from Rakush, proceeded respectfully
on foot to embrace him. He then invited him to his house, but Isfendiyar
said: "So strict are my father's commands, that after having seen thee,
I am not permitted to delay my departure." Rustem, however, pressed him
to remain with him, but all in vain. On the contrary the prince artfully
conducted him to his own quarters, where he addressed him thus: "If thou
wilt allow me to bind thee, hand and foot, in chains, I will convey thee
to the king my father, whose humor it is to see thee once in fetters,
and then to release thee!" Rustem was silent. Again Isfendiyar said: "If
thou art not disposed to comply with this demand, go thy ways," Rustem
replied: "First be my guest, as thy father once was, and after that I
will conform to thy will." Again the prince said: "My father visited
thee under other circumstances; I have come for a different purpose. If
I eat thy bread and salt, and after that thou shouldst refuse thy
acquiescence, I must have recourse to force. But if I become thy guest,
how can I in honor fight with thee? and if I do not take thee bound into
my father's presence, according to his command, what answer shall I give
to him?" "For the same reason," said Rustem; "how can I eat thy bread
and salt?" Isfendiyar then replied: "Thou needest not eat my bread and
salt, but only drink wine.--Bring thy own pure ruby." To this Rustem
agreed, and they drank, each his own wine, together.
In a short space Rustem observed that he wished to consult his father
Zal; and being allowed to depart, he, on his return home, described in
strong terms of admiration the personal appearance and mental qualities
"In wisdom ripe, and with a form
Of brass to meet the battle-storm,
Thou wouldst confess his every boon,
Had been derived from Feridun."
Bashutan in the meanwhile observed to his brother, with some degree of
dissatisfaction, that his enemy had come into his power, on his own feet
too, but had been strangely permitted to go away again. To this gentle
reproof Isfendiyar confidently replied, "If he does fail to return, I
will go and secure him in bonds, even in his own house,"--"Ah!" said
Bashutan, "that might be done by gentleness, but not by force, for the
descendant of Sam, the champion of the world, is not to be subdued so
easily." These words had a powerful effect upon the mind of Isfendiyar,
and he became apprehensive that Rustem would not return; but whilst he
was still murmuring at his own want of vigilance, the champion appeared,
and at this second interview repeated his desire that the prince would
become his guest. "I am sent here by my father, who relies upon thy
accepting his proffered hospitality."--"That may be," said Isfendiyar,
"but I am at my utmost limit, I cannot go farther. From this place,
therefore, thou hadst better prepare to accompany me to Iran." Here
Rustem paused, and at length artfully began to enumerate his various
achievements, and to blazon his own name.
"I fettered fast the emperor of Chin,
And broke the enchantment of the Seven Khans;
I stood the guardian of the Persian kings,
Their shield in danger. I have cleared the world
Of all their foes, enduring pain and toil
Incalculable. Such exploits for thee
Will I achieve, such sufferings will I bear,
And hence we offer thee a social welcome.
But let not dark suspicion cloud thy mind,
Nor think thyself exalted as the heavens,
Because I thus invite thee to our home."
Isfendiyar felt so indignant and irritated by this apparent boasting and
self-sufficiency of Rustem, that his first impulse was to cast a dagger
at him; but he kept down his wrath, and satisfied himself with giving
him a scornful glance, and telling him to take a seat on his left hand.
But Rustem resented this affront, saying that he never yet had sat down
on the left of any king, and placed himself, without permission, on the
right hand of Isfendiyar. The unfavorable impression on the prince's
mind was increased by this independent conduct, and he was provoked to
say to him, "Rustem! I have heard that Zal, thy father, was of demon
extraction, and that Sam cast him into the desert because of his
disgusting and abominable appearance; that even the hungry Simurgh, on
the same account, forebore to feed upon him, but conveyed him to her
nest among her own young ones, who, pitying his wretched condition,
supplied him with part of the carrion they were accustomed to devour.
Naked and filthy, he is thus said to have subsisted on garbage, till Sam
was induced to commiserate his wretchedness, and take him to Sastan,
where, by the indulgence of his family and royal bounty, he was
instructed in human manners and human science." This was a reproach and
an insult too biting for Rustem to bear with any degree of patience, and
frowning with strong indignation, he said, "Thy father knows, and thy
grandfather well knew that Zal was the son of Sam, and Sam of Nariman,
and that Nariman was descended from Husheng. Thou and I, therefore, have
the same origin. Besides, on my mother's side, I am descended from
Zohak, so that by both parents I am of a race of princes. Knowest thou
not that the Iranian empire was for some time in my hands, and that I
refused to retain it, though urged by the nobles and the army to
exercise the functions of royalty? It was my sense of justice, and
attachment to the Kais and to thy family, which have enabled thee to
possess thy present dignity and command. It is through my fidelity and
zeal that thou art now in a situation to reproach me. Thou hast slain
one king, Arjasp, how many kings have I slain? Did I not conquer
Afrasiyab, the greatest and bravest king that ever ruled over Turan? And
did I not also subdue the king of Hamaveran, and the Khakan of Chin?
Kaus, thy own ancestor, I released from the demons of Mazinderan. I slew
the White Demon, and the tremendous giant, Akwan Diw. Can thy
insignificant exploits be compared with mine? Never!" Rustem's
vehemence, and the disdainful tone of his voice, exasperated still more
the feelings of Isfendiyar, who however recollected that he was under
his roof, otherwise he would have avenged himself instantly on the spot.
Restraining his anger, he then said softly to him, "Wherefore dost thou
raise thy voice so high? For though thy head be exalted to the skies,
thou wert, and still art, but a dependent on the Kais. And was thy
Heft-khan equal in terrible danger to mine? Was the capture of
Mazinderan equal in valorous exertion to the capture of the Brazen
Fortress? And did I not, by the power of my sword, diffuse throughout
the world the blessings of my own religion, the faith of the
fire-worshipper, which was derived from Heaven itself? Thou hast
performed the duties of a warrior and a servant, whilst I have performed
the holy functions of a sovereign and a prophet!" Rustem, in reply,
"In thy Heft-khan thou hadst twelve thousand men
Completely armed, with ample stores and treasure,
Whilst Rakush and my sword, my conquering sword,
Were all the aid I had, and all I sought,
In that prodigious enterprise of mine.
Two sisters thou released--no arduous task,
Whilst I recovered from the demon's grasp
The mighty Kaus, and the monsters slew,
Roaring like thunder in their dismal caves.
"This great exploit my single arm achieved;
And when Kai-khosrau gave the regal crown
To Lohurasp, the warriors were incensed,
And deemed Friburz, Kaus's valiant son,
Fittest by birth to rule. My sire and I
Espoused the cause of Lohurasp; else he
Had never sat upon the throne, nor thou
Been here to treat with scorn thy benefactor.
And now Gushtasp, with foul ingratitude,
Would bind me hand and foot! But who on earth
Can do that office? I am not accustomed
To hear harsh terms, and cannot brook their sting,
Therefore desist. Once in Kaus's court,
When I was moved to anger, I poured out
Upon him words of bitterest scorn and rage,
And though surrounded by a thousand chiefs,
Not one attempted to repress my fury,
Not one, but all stood silent and amazed."
"Smooth that indignant brow," the prince replied
"And measure not my courage nor my strength
With that of Kaus; had he nerve like mine?
Thou might'st have kept the timorous king in awe,
But I am come myself to fetter thee!"
So saying, he the hand of Rustem grasped,
And wrung it so intensely, that the champion
Felt inwardly surprised, but careless said,
"The time is not yet come for us to try
Our power in battle." Then Isfendiyar
Dropped Rustem's hand, and spoke, "To-day let wine
Inspire our hearts, and on the field to-morrow
Be ours the strife, with battle-axe and sword,
And my first aim shall be to bind thee fast,
And show thee to my troops, Rustem in fetters!"
At this the champion smiled, and thus exclaimed,
"Where hast thou seen the deeds of warriors brave?
Where hast thou heard the clash of mace and sword
Wielded by men of valour? I to-morrow
Will take thee in my arms, and straight convey thee
To Zal, and place thee on the ivory throne,
And on thy head a crown of gold shall glitter.
The treasury I will open, and our troops
Shall fight for thee, and I will gird my loins
As they were girt for thy bold ancestors;
And when thou art the chosen king, and I
Thy warrior-chief, the world will be thy own;
No other sovereign need attempt to reign."
"So much time has been spent in vain boasting, and extravagant
self-praise," rejoined Isfendiyar, "that the day is nearly done, and I
am hungry; let us therefore take some refreshment together." Rustem's
appetite being equally keen, the board was spread, and every dish that
was brought to him he emptied at once, as if at one swallow; then he
threw aside the goblets, and called for the large flagon that he might
drink his fill without stint. When he had finished several dishes and as
many flagons of wine, he paused, and Isfendiyar and the assembled chiefs
were astonished at the quantity he had devoured. He now prepared to
depart, and the prince said to him, "Go and consult with thy father: if
thou art contented to be bound, well; if not, thou wilt have cause to
repent, for I will assuredly attend to the commands of Gushtasp."--"Do
thou also consult with thy brethren and friends," replied Rustem,
"whether thou wilt be our guest to-morrow, or not; if not, come to this
place before sunrise, that we may decide our differences in battle."
Isfendiyar said, "My most anxious desire, my wish to heaven, is to meet
thee, for I shall have no difficulty in binding thee hand and foot. I
would indeed willingly convey thee without fetters to my father, but if
I did so, he would say that I was unable to put thee in bonds, and that
would disgrace my name." Rustem observed that the immense number of men
and demons he had contended against was as nothing in the balance of his
mind compared with the painful subject of his present thoughts and
fears. He was ready to engage, but afraid of meriting a bad name.
"If in the battle thou art slain by me,
Will not my cheek turn pale among the princes
Of the Kaianian race, having cut off
A lovely branch of that illustrious tree?
Will not reproaches hang upon my name
When I am dead, and shall I not be cursed
For perpetrating such a horrid deed?
Thy father, too, is old, and near his end,
And thou upon the eve of being crowned;
And in thy heart thou knowest that I proffered,
And proffer my allegiance and devotion,
And would avoid the conflict. Sure, thy father
Is practising some trick, some foul deception,
To urge thee on to an untimely death,
To rid himself of some unnatural fear,
He stoops to an unnatural, treacherous act,
For I have ever been the firm support
Of crown and throne, and perfectly he knows
No mortal ever conquered me in battle,
None ever from my sword escaped his life."
Then spoke Isfendiyar: "Thou wouldst be generous
And bear a spotless name, and tarnish mine;
But I am not to be deceived by thee:
In fetters thou must go!" Rustem replied:
"Banish that idle fancy from thy brain;
Dream not of things impossible, for death
Is busy with thee; pause, or thou wilt die."
"No more!" exclaimed the prince, "no more of this.
Nor seek to frighten me with threatening words;
Go, and to-morrow bring with thee thy friends,
Thy father and thy brother, to behold
With their own eyes thy downfall, and lament
In sorrow over thy impending fate."
"So let it be," said Rustem, and at once
Mounted his noble horse, and hastened home.
The champion immediately requested his father's permission to go and
fight Isfendiyar the following day, but the old man recommended
reconciliation and peace. "That cannot be," said Rustem, "for he has
reviled thee so severely, and heaped upon me so many indignities, that
my patience is exhausted, and the contest unavoidable." In the morning
Zal, weeping bitterly, tied on Rustem's armor himself, and in an agony
of grief, said: "If thou shouldst kill Isfendiyar, thy name will be
rendered infamous throughout the world; and if thou shouldst be killed,
Sistan will be prostrate in the dust, and extinguished forever! My heart
shudders at the thoughts of this battle, but there is no remedy." Rustem
said to him:--"Put thy trust in God, and be not sorrowful, for when I
grasp my sword the head of the enemy is lost; but my desire is to take
Isfendiyar alive, and not to kill him. I would serve him, and not sever
his head from his body." Zal was pleased with this determination, and
rejoiced that there was a promise of a happy issue to the engagement.
In the morning Rustem arrayed himself in his war-attire, helmet and
breast-plate, and mounted Rakush, also armed in his bargustuwan. His
troops, too, were all assembled, and Zal appointed Zuara to take charge
of them, and be careful of his brother on all occasions where assistance
might be necessary. The old man then prostrated himself in prayer, and
said, "O God, turn from us all affliction, and vouchsafe to us a
prosperous day." Rustem being prepared for the struggle, directed Zuara
to wait with the troops at a distance, whilst he went alone to meet
Isfendiyar. When Bashutan first saw him, he thought he was coming to
offer terms of peace, and said to Isfendiyar, "He is coming alone, and
it is better that he should go to thy father of his own accord, than in
bonds."--"But," replied Isfendiyar, "he is coming completely equipped in
mail--quick, bring me my arms."--"Alas!" rejoined Bashutan, "thy brain
is wild, and thou art resolved upon fighting. This impetuous spirit will
break my heart." But Isfendiyar took no notice of the gentle rebuke.
Presently he saw Rustem ascend a high place, and heard his summons to
single combat. He then told his brother to keep at a distance with the
army, and not to interfere till aid was positively required. Insisting
rigidly on these instructions, he mounted his night-black charger, and
hastened towards Rustem, who now proposed to him that they should wait
awhile, and that in the meantime the two armies might be put in motion
against each other. "Though," said he, "my men of Zabul are few, and
thou hast a numerous host."
"This is a strange request," replied the prince,
"But thou art all deceit and artifice;
Mark thy position, lofty and commanding,
And mine, beneath thee--in a spreading vale.
Now, Heaven forbid that I, in reckless mood,
Should give my valiant legions to destruction,
And look unpitying on! No, I advance,
Whoever may oppose me; and if thou
Requirest aid, select thy friend, and come,
For I need none, save God, in battle--none."
And Rustem said the same, for he required
No human refuge, no support but Heaven.
The battle rose, and numerous javelins whizzed
Along the air, and helm and mail were bruised;
Spear fractured spear, and then with shining swords
The strife went on, till, trenched with many a wound,
They, too, snapped short. The battle-axe was next
Wielded, in furious wrath; each bending forward
Struck brain-bewildering blows; each tried in vain
To hurl the other from his fiery horse.
Wearied, at length, they stood apart to breathe
Their charges panting from excessive toil,
Covered with foam and blood, and the strong armor,
Of steed and rider rent. The combatants
Thus paused, in mutual consternation lost.
In the meantime Zuara, impatient at this delay, advanced towards the
Iranians, and reproached them for their cowardice so severely, that
Nushawer, the younger son of Isfendiyar, felt ashamed, and immediately
challenged the bravest of the enemy to fight. Alwai, one of Rustem's
followers, came boldly forward, but his efforts only terminated in his
discomfiture and death. After him came Zuara himself:--
Who galloped to the charge incensed, and, high
Lifting his iron mace, upon the head
Of bold Nushawer struck a furious blow,
Which drove him from his steed a lifeless corse.
Seeing their gallant leader thus overthrown,
The troops in terror fled, and in their flight
Thousands were slain, among them brave Mehrnus,
Another kinsman of Isfendiyar.
Bahman, observing the defeat and confusion of the Iranians, went
immediately to his father, and told him that two of his own family were
killed by the warriors of Zabul, who had also attacked him and put his
troops to the rout with great slaughter. Isfendiyar was extremely
irritated at this intelligence, and called aloud to Rustem: "Is
treachery like this becoming in a warrior?" The champion being deeply
concerned, shook like a branch, and swore by the head and life of the
king, by the sun, and his own conquering sword, that he was ignorant of
the event, and innocent of what had been done. To prove what he said, he
offered to bind in fetters his brother Zuara, who must have authorized
the movement; and also to secure Feramurz, who slew Mehrnus, and deliver
them over to Gushtasp, the fire-worshipper. "Nay," said he, "I will
deliver over to thee my whole family, as well as my brother and son, and
thou mayest sacrifice them all as a punishment for having commenced the
fight without permission." Isfendiyar replied: "Of what use would it be
to sacrifice thy brother and thy son? Would that restore my own to me?
No. Instead of them, I will put thee to death, therefore come on!"
Accordingly both simultaneously bent their bows, and shot their arrows
with the utmost rapidity; but whilst Rustem's made no impression, those
of Isfendiyar's produced great effect on the champion and his horse. So
severely was Rakush wounded, that Rustem, when he perceived how much his
favorite horse was exhausted, dismounted, and continued to impel his
arrows against the enemy from behind his shield. But Rakush brooked not
the dreadful storm, and galloped off unconscious that his master himself
was in as bad a plight. When Zuara saw the noble animal, riderless,
crossing the plain, he gasped for breath, and in an agony of grief
hurried to the fatal spot, where he found Rustem desperately hurt, and
the blood flowing copiously from every wound. The champion observed,
that though he was himself bleeding so much, not one drop of blood
appeared to have issued from the veins of his antagonist. He was very
weak, but succeeded in dragging himself up to his former position, when
Isfendiyar, smiling to see them thus, exclaimed:--
"Is this the valiant Rustem, the renowned,
Quitting the field of battle? Where is now
The raging tiger, the victorious chief?
Was it from thee the Demons shrunk in terror,
And did thy burning sword sear out their hearts?
What has become of all thy valour now?
Where is thy matchless mace, and why art thou,
The roaring lion, turned into a fox,
An animal of slyness, not of courage,
Losing thy noble character and name?"
Zuara, when he came to Rustem, alighted and resigned his horse to his
brother; and placing an arrow on his bow-string, wished himself to
engage Isfendiyar, who was ready to fight him, but Rustem cried, "No, I
have not yet done with thee." Isfendiyar replied: "I know thee well, and
all thy dissimulation, but nothing yet is accomplished. Come and consent
to be fettered, or I must compel thee." Rustem, however, was not to be
overcome, and he said: "If I were really subdued by thee, I might agree
to be bound like a vanquished slave; but the day is now closing,
to-morrow we will resume the fight!" Isfendiyar acquiesced, and they
separated, Rustem going to his own tent, and the prince remaining on the
field. There he affectionately embraced the severed heads of his
kinsmen, placed them himself on a bier, and sent them to his father, the
king, with a letter in which he said, "Thy commands must be obeyed, and
such is the result of to-day; Heaven only knows what may befall
to-morrow." Then he spoke privately to Bashutan: "This Rustem is not
human, he is formed of rock and iron, neither sword nor javelin has done
him mortal harm; but the arrows went deep into his body, and it will
indeed be wonderful if he lives throughout the night. I know not what to
think of to-morrow, or how I shall be able to overcome him."
When Rustem arrived at his quarters, Zal soon discovered that he had
received many wounds, which occasioned great affliction in his family,
and he said: "Alas! that in my old age such a misfortune should have
befallen us, and that with my own eyes I should see these gaping
wounds!" He then rubbed Rustem's feet, and applied healing balm to the
wounds, and bound them up with the skill and care of a physician. Rustem
said to his father: "I never met with a foe, warrior or demon, of such
amazing strength and bravery as this! He seems to have a brazen body,
for my arrows, which I can drive through an anvil, cannot penetrate his
chest. If I had applied the power which I have exerted to a mountain,
the mountain would have moved from its base, but he sat firmly upon his
saddle and scorned my efforts. I thank God that it is night, and that I
have escaped from his grasp. To-morrow I cannot fight, and my secret
wish is to retire unseen from the struggle, that no trace of me may be
discovered."--"In that case," replied Zal, "the victor will come and
take me and all my family into bondage. But let us not despair. Did not
the Simurgh promise that whenever I might be overcome by adversity, if I
burned one of her feathers, she would instantly appear? Shall we not
then solicit assistance in this awful extremity?" So saying, Zal went up
to a high place, and burnt the feather in a censer, and in a short time
the Simurgh stood before him. After due praise and acknowledgment, he
explained his wants. "But," said he, "may the misfortune we endure be
far from him who has brought it upon us. My son Rustem is wounded almost
unto death, and I am so helpless that I can do him no good." He then
brought forward Rakush, pierced by numerous arrows; upon which the
wonderful Bird said to him, "Be under no alarm on that account, for I
will soon cure him;" and she immediately plucked out the rankling
weapons with her beak, and the wounds, on passing a feather over them,
were quickly healed.
To Rustem now she turns, and soothes his grief,
And drawing forth the arrows, sucks the blood
From out the wounds, which at her bidding close,
And the illustrious champion is restored
To life and power.
Being thus reinvigorated by the magic influence of the Simurgh, he
solicits further aid in the coming strife with Isfendiyar; but the
mysterious animal laments that she cannot assist him. "There never
appeared in the world," said she, "so brave and so perfect a hero as
Isfendiyar. The favor of Heaven is with him, for in his Heft-khan he, by
some artifice, succeeded in killing a Simurgh, and the further thou art
removed from his invincible arm, the greater will be thy safety." Here
Zal interposed and said: "If Rustem retires from the contest, his family
will all be enslaved, and I shall equally share their bondage and
affliction." The Simurgh, hearing these words, fell into deep thought,
and remained some time silent. At length she told Rustem to mount Rakush
and follow her. Away she went to a far distance; and crossing a great
river, arrived at a place covered with reeds, where the Kazu-tree
abounded. The Simurgh then rubbed one of her feathers upon the eyes of
Rustem, and directed him to take a branch of the Kazu-tree, and make it
straight upon the fire, and form that wand into a forked arrow; after
which he was to advance against Isfendiyar, and, placing the arrow on
his bow-string, shoot it into the eyes of his enemy. "The arrow will
only make him blind," said the Simurgh, "but he who spills the blood of
Isfendiyar will never be free from calamity during his whole life. The
Kazu-tree has also this peculiar quality: an arrow made of it is sure to
accomplish its intended errand--it never misses the aim of the archer."
Rustem expressed his boundless gratitude for this information and
assistance; and the Simurgh having transported him back to his tent, and
affectionately kissed his face, returned to her own habitation. The
champion now prepared the arrow according to the instructions he had
received; and when morning dawned, mounted his horse, and hastened to
the field. He found Isfendiyar still sleeping, and exclaimed aloud:
"Warrior, art thou still slumbering? Rise, and see Rustem before thee!"
When the prince heard his stern voice, he started up, and in great
anxiety hurried on his armor. He said to Bashutan, "I had uncharitably
thought he would have died of his wounds in the night, but this clear
and bold voice seems to indicate perfect health--go and see whether his
wounds are bound up or not, and whether he is mounted on Rakush or on
some other horse." Rustem perceived Bashutan approach with an
inquisitive look, and conjectured that his object was to ascertain the
condition of himself and Rakush. He therefore vociferated to him: "I am
now wholly free from wounds, and so is my horse, for I possess an elixir
which heals the most cruel lacerations of the flesh the moment it is
applied; but no such wounds were inflicted upon me, the arrows of
Isfendiyar being only like needles sticking in my body." Bashutan now
reported to his brother that Rustem appeared to be more fresh and
vigorous than the day before, and, thinking from the spirit and
gallantry of his demeanor that he would be victorious in another
contest, he strongly recommended a reconciliation.
THE DEATH OF ISFENDIYAR
Isfendiyar, blind to the march of fate, treated the suggestion of his
brother with scorn, and mounting his horse, was soon in the presence of
Rustem, whom he thus hastily addressed: "Yesterday thou wert wounded
almost to death by my arrows, and to-day there is no trace of them. How
"But thy father Zal is a sorcerer,
And he by charm and spell
Has cured all the wounds of the warrior,
And now he is safe and well.
For the wounds I gave could never be
Closed up, excepting by sorcery.
Yes, the wounds I gave thee in every part,
Could never be cured but by magic art."
Rustem replied, "If a thousand arrows were shot at me, they would all
drop harmless to the ground, and in the end thou wilt fall by my hands.
Therefore, if thou seekest thy own welfare, come at once and be my
guest, and I swear by the Almighty, by Zerdusht, and the Zendavesta, by
the sun and moon, that I will go with thee, but unfetterd, to thy
father, who may do with me what he lists."--"That is not enough,"
replied Isfendiyar, "thou must be fettered."--"Then do not bind my arms,
and take whatever thou wilt from me."--"And what hast thou to give?"
"A thousand jewels of brilliant hue,
And of unknown price, shall be thine;
A thousand imperial diadems too,
And a thousand damsels divine,
Who with angel-voices will sing and play,
And delight thy senses both night and day;
And my family wealth shall be brought thee, all
That was gathered by Nariman, Sam, and Zal."
"This is all in vain," said Isfendiyar. "I may have wandered from the
way of Heaven, but I will not disobey the commands of the king. And of
what use would thy treasure and property be to me? I must please my
father, that he may surrender to me his crown and throne, and I have
solemnly sworn to him that I will place thee before him in fetters."
Rustem replied, "And in the hopes of a crown and throne thou wouldst
sacrifice thyself!"--"Thou shalt see!" said Isfendiyar, and seized his
bow to commence the combat. Rustem did the same, and when he had placed
the forked arrow in the bow-string, he imploringly turned up his face
towards Heaven, and fervently exclaimed, "O God, thou knowest how
anxiously I have wished for a reconciliation, how I have suffered, and
that I would now give all my treasures and wealth and go with him to
Iran, to avoid this conflict; but my offers are disdained, for he is
bent upon consigning me to bondage and disgrace. Thou art the redresser
of grievances--direct the flight of this arrow into his eyes, but do not
let me be punished for the involuntary deed." At this moment Isfendiyar
shot an arrow with great force at Rustem, who dexterously eluded its
point, and then, in return, instantly lodged the charmed weapon in the
eyes of his antagonist.
And darkness overspread his sight,
The world to him was hid in night;
The bow dropped from his slackened hand,
And down he sunk upon the sand.
"Yesterday," said Rustem, "thou discharged at me a hundred and sixty
arrows in vain, and now thou art overthrown by one arrow of mine."
Bahman, the son of Isfendiyar, seeing his father bleeding on the ground,
uttered loud lamentations, and Bashutan, followed by the Iranian troops,
also drew nigh with the deepest sorrow marked on their countenances. The
fatal arrow was immediately drawn from the wounded eyes of the prince,
and some medicine being first applied to them, they conveyed him
mournfully to his own tent.
The conflict having thus terminated, Rustem at the same time returned
with his army to where Zal remained in anxious suspense about the
result. The old man rejoiced at the issue, but said, "O, my son, thou
hast killed thy enemy, but I have learnt from the wise men and
astrologers that the slayer of Isfendiyar must soon come to a fatal end.
May God protect thee!" Rustem replied, "I am guiltless, his blood is
upon his own head." The next day they both proceeded to visit
Isfendiyar, and offer to him their sympathy and condolence, when the
wounded prince thus spoke to Rustem: "I do not ascribe my misfortune to
thee, but to an all-ruling power. Fate would have it so, and thus it is!
I now consign to thy care and guardianship my son Bahman: instruct him
in the science of government, the customs of kings, and the rules and
stratagems of the warrior, for thou art exceedingly wise and
experienced, and perfect in all things," Rustem readily complied, and
"That duty shall be mine alone,
To seat him firmly on the throne."
Then Isfendiyar murmured to Bashutan, that the anguish of his wound was
wearing him away, and that he had but a short time to live.
"The pace of death is fast and fleet,
And nothing my life can save,
I shall want no robe, but my winding sheet,
No mansion but the grave.
"And tell my father the wish of his heart
Has not been breathed in vain,
The doom he desired when he made me depart,
Has been sealed, and his son is slain!
"And, O! to my mother, in kindliest tone,
The mournful tidings bear,
And soothe her woes for her warrior gone,
For her lost Isfendiyar."
He now groaned heavily, and his last words were:--
"I die, pursued by unrelenting fate,
The hapless victim of a father's hate."
Life having departed, his body was placed upon a bier, and conveyed to
Iran, amidst the tears and lamentations of the people.
Rustem now took charge of Bahman, according to the dying request of
Isfendiyar, and brought him to Sistan. This was, however, repugnant to
the wishes of Zuara, who observed to his brother: "Thou hast slain the
father of this youth; do not therefore nurture and instruct the son of
thy enemy, for, mark me, in the end he will be avenged."--"But did not
Isfendiyar, with his last breath, consign him to my guardianship? how
can I refuse it now? It must be so written and determined in the
dispensations of Heaven."
The arrival of the bier in Persia, at the palace of Gushtasp, produced a
melancholy scene of public and domestic affliction. The king took off
the covering and wept bitterly, and the mother and sisters exclaimed,
"Alas! thy death is not the work of human hands; it is not the work of
Rustem, nor of Zal, but of the Simurgh. Thou hast not lived long enough
to be ashamed of a gray beard, nor to witness the maturity and
attainments of thy children. Alas! thou art snatched away at a moment of
the highest promise, even at the commencement of thy glory." In the
meanwhile the curses and imprecations of the people were poured upon the
devoted head of Gushtasp on account of his cruel and unnatural conduct,
so that he was obliged to confine himself to his palace till after the
interment of Isfendiyar.
Rustem scrupulously fulfilled his engagement, and instructed Bahman in
all manly exercises; in the use of bow and javelin, in the management of
sword and buckler, and in all the arts and accomplishments of the
warrior. He then wrote to Gushtasp, repeating that he was unblamable in
the conflict which terminated in the death of his son Isfendiyar, that
he had offered him presents and wealth to a vast extent, and moreover
was ready to return with him to Iran, to his father; but every overture
was rejected. Relentless fate must have hurried him on to a premature
death. "I have now," continued Rustem, "completed the education of
Bahman, according to the directions of his father, and await thy further
commands." Gushtasp, after reading this letter, referred to Bashutan,
who confirmed the declarations of Rustem, and the treacherous king,
willing to ascribe the event to an overruling destiny, readily acquitted
Rustem of all guilt in killing Isfendiyar. At the same time he sent for
Bahman, and on his arrival from Sistan, was so pleased with him that he
without hesitation appointed him to succeed to the throne.
"Methinks I see Isfendiyar again,
Thou hast the form, the very look he bore,
And since thy glorious father is no more,
Long as I live thou must with me remain."
THE DEATH OF RUSTEM
Firdusi seems to have derived the account of Shughad, and the melancholy
fate of Rustem, from a descendant of Sam and Nariman, who was
particularly acquainted with the chronicles of the heroes and the kings
of Persia. Shughad, it appears, was the son of Zal, by one of the old
warrior's maid-servants, and at his very birth the astrologers predicted
that he would be the ruin of the glorious house of Sam and Nariman, and
the destruction of their race.
Throughout Sistan the prophecy was heard
With horror and amazement; every town
And city in Iran was full of woe,
And Zal, in deepest agony and grief,
Sent up his prayers to the Almighty Power
That he would purify the infant's heart,
And free it from that quality, foretold
As the destroyer of his ancient house.
But what are prayers, opposed by destiny?
The child, notwithstanding, was brought up with great care and
attention, and when arrived at maturity, he was sent to the king of
Kabul, whose daughter he espoused.
Rustem was accustomed to go to Kabul every year to receive the tribute
due to him; but on the last occasion, it is said that he exacted and
took a higher rate than usual, and thus put many of the people to
distress. The king was angry, and expressed his dissatisfaction to
Shughad, who was not slow in uttering his own discontent, saying,
"Though I am his brother, he has no respect for me, but treats me always
like an enemy. For this personal hostility I long to punish him with
death."--"But how," inquired the king, "couldst thou compass that
end?" Shughad replied, "I have well considered the subject, and propose
to accomplish my purpose in this manner. I shall feign that I have been
insulted and injured by thee, and carry my complaint to Zal and Rustem,
who will no doubt come to Kabul to redress my wrongs. Thou must in the
meantime prepare for a sporting excursion, and order a number of pits to
be dug on the road sufficiently large to hold Rustem and his horse, and
in each several swords must be placed with their points and edges
upwards. The mouths of the pits must then be slightly covered over, but
so carefully that there may be no appearance of the earth underneath
having been removed. Everything being thus ready, Rustem, on the
pretence of going to the sporting ground, must be conducted by that
road, and he will certainly fall into one of the pits, which will become
his grave." This stratagem was highly approved by the king, and it was
agreed that at a royal banquet, Shughad should revile and irritate the
king, whose indignant answer should be before all the assembly: "Thou
hast no pretensions to be thought of the stock of Sam and Nariman. Zal
pays thee no attention, at least, not such attention as he would pay to
a son, and Rustem declares thou art not his brother; indeed, all the
family treat thee as a slave." At these words, Shughad affected to be
greatly enraged, and, starting up from the banquet, hastened to Rustem
to complain of the insult offered him by the king of Kabul. Rustem
received him with demonstrations of affection, and hearing his
complaint, declared that he would immediately proceed to Kabul, depose
the king for his insolence, and place Shughad himself on the throne of
that country. In a short time they arrived at the city, and were met by
the king, who, with naked feet and in humble guise, solicited
forgiveness. Rustem was induced to pardon the offence, and was honored
in return with great apparent respect, and with boundless hospitality.
In the meantime, however, the pits were dug, and the work of destruction
in progress, and Rustem was now invited to share the sports of the
forest. The champion was highly gratified by the courtesy which the king
displayed, and mounted Rakush, anticipating a day of excellent
diversion. Shughad accompanied him, keeping on one side, whilst Rustem,
suspecting nothing, rode boldly forward. Suddenly Rakush stopped, and
though urged to advance, refused to move a step. At last the champion
became angry, and struck the noble animal severely; the blows made him
dart forward, and in a moment he unfortunately fell into one of the
It was a place, deep, dark, and perilous,
All bristled o'er with swords, leaving no chance
Of extrication without cruel wounds;
And horse and rider sinking in the midst,
Bore many a grievous stab and many a cut
In limb and body, ghastly to the sight.
Yet from that depth, at one prodigious spring,
Rakush escaped with Rustem on his back;
But what availed that effort? Down again
Into another pit both fell together,
And yet again they rose, again, again;
Seven times down prostrate, seven times bruised and maimed,
They struggled on, till mounting up the edge
Of the seventh pit, all covered with deep wounds,
Both lay exhausted. When the champion's brain
Grew cool, and he had power to think, he knew
Full well to whom he owed this treachery,
And calling to Shughad, said: "Thou, my brother!
Why hast thou done this wrong? Was it for thee,
My father's son, by wicked plot and fraud
To work this ruin, to destroy my life?"
Shughad thus sternly answered: "'Tis for all
The blood that thou hast shed, God has decreed
This awful vengeance--now thy time is come!"
Then spoke the king of Kabul, as if pity
Had softened his false heart: "Alas! the day
That thou shouldst perish, so ignobly too,
And in my kingdom; what a wretched fate!
But bring some medicine to relieve his wounds--
Quick, bring the matchless balm for Rustem's cure;
He must not die, the champion must not die!"
But Rustem scorned the offer, and in wrath,
Thus spoke: "How many a mighty king has died,
And left me still triumphant--still in power,
Unconquerable; treacherous thou hast been,
Inhuman, too, but Feramurz, the brave,
Will be revenged upon thee for this crime."
Rustem now turned towards Shughad, and in an altered and mournful tone,
told him that he was at the point of death, and asked him to string his
bow and give it to him, that he might seem as a scare-crow, to prevent
the wolves and other wild animals from devouring him when dead.
Shughad performed the task, and lingered not,
For he rejoiced at this catastrophe,
And with a smile of fiendish satisfaction,
Placed the strong bow before him--Rustem grasped
The bended horn with such an eager hand,
That wondering at the sight, the caitiff wretch
Shuddered with terror, and behind a tree
Shielded himself, but nothing could avail;
The arrow pierced both tree and him, and they
Were thus transfixed together--thus the hour
Of death afforded one bright gleam of joy
To Rustem, who, with lifted eyes to Heaven,
Exclaimed: "Thanksgivings to the great Creator,
For granting me the power, with my own hand,
To be revenged upon my murderer!"
So saying, the great champion breathed his last,
And not a knightly follower remained,
Zuara, and the rest, in other pits,
Dug by the traitor-king, and traitor-brother,
Had sunk and perished, all, save one, who fled,
And to the afflicted veteran at Sistan
Told the sad tidings. Zal, in agony,
Tore his white hair, and wildly rent his garments,
And cried: "Why did not I die for him, why
Was I not present, fighting by his side?
But he, alas! is gone! Oh! gone forever."
Then the old man despatched Feramurz with a numerous force to Kabul, to
bring away the dead body of Rustem. Upon his approach, the king of Kabul
and his army retired to the mountains, and Feramurz laid waste the
country. He found only the skeletons of Rustem and Zuara, the beasts of
prey having stripped them of their flesh: he however gathered the bones
together and conveyed them home and buried them, amidst the lamentations
of the people. After that, he returned to Kabul with his army, and
encountered the king, captured the cruel wretch, and carried him to
Sistan, where he was put to death.
Gushtasp having become old and infirm, bequeathed his empire to Bahman,
and then died. He reigned one hundred and eight years.
Bahman, the grandson of Gushtasp, having at the commencement of his
sovereignty obtained the approbation of his people, by the clemency of
his conduct and the apparent generosity of his disposition, was not long
in meditating vindictive measures against the family of Rustem. "Did not
Kai-khosrau," said he to his warriors, "revenge himself on Afrasiyab for
the murder of Saiawush; and have not all my glorious ancestors pursued a
similar course? Why, then, should not I be revenged on the father of
Rustem for the death of Isfendiyar?" The warriors, as usual, approved of
the king's resolution, and in consequence one hundred thousand veteran
troops were assembled for the immediate invasion of Sistan. When Bahman
had arrived on the borders of the river Behermund, he sent a message to
Zal, frankly declaring his purpose, and that he must sacrifice the lives
of himself and all his family as an atonement for Rustem's guilt in
shedding the blood of Isfendiyar.
Zal heard his menace with astonishment,
Mingled with anguish, and he thus replied:
"Rustem was not in fault; and thou canst tell,
For thou wert present, how he wept, and prayed
That he might not be bound. How frequently
He offered all his wealth, his gold, and gems,
To be excused that ignominious thrall;
And would have followed thy impatient father
To wait upon Gushtasp; but this was scorned;
Nothing but bonds would satisfy his pride;
All this thou know'st. Then did not I and Rustem
Strictly fulfil Isfendiyar's commands,
And most assiduously endow thy mind
With all the skill and virtues of a hero,
That might deserve some kindness in return?
Now take my house, my treasure, my possessions,
Take all; but spare my family and me."
The messenger went back, and told the tale
Of Zal's deep grief with such persuasive grace,
And piteous accent, that the heart of Bahman
Softened at every word, and the old man
Was not to suffer. After that was known,
With gorgeous presents Zal went forth to meet
The monarch in his progress to the city;
And having prostrated himself in low
Humility, retired among the train
Attendant on the king. "Thou must not walk,"
Bahman exclaimed, well skilled in all the arts
Of smooth hypocrisy--"thou art too weak;
Remount thy horse, for thou requirest help."
But Zal declined the honour, and preferred
Doing that homage as illustrious Sam,
His conquering ancestor, had always done,
Barefoot, in presence of the royal race.
Fast moving onwards, Bahman soon approached
Sistan, and entered Zal's superb abode;
Not as a friend, or a forgiving foe,
But with a spirit unappeased, unsoothed;
True, he had spared the old man's life, but there
His mercy stopped; all else was confiscate,
For every room was plundered, all the treasure
Seized and devoted to the tyrant's use.
After remorselessly obtaining this booty, Bahman inquired what had
become of Feramurz, and Zal pretended that, unaware of the king's
approach, he had gone a-hunting. But this excuse was easily seen
through, and the king was so indignant on the occasion, that he put Zal
himself in fetters. Feramurz had, in fact, secretly retired with the
Zabul army to a convenient distance, for the purpose of acting as
necessity might require, and when he heard that Zal was placed in
confinement, he immediately marched against the invader and oppressor of
his country. Both armies met, and closed, and were in desperate conflict
three long days and nights. On the fourth day, a tremendous hurricane
arose, which blew thick clouds of dust in the face of the Zabul army,
and blinding them, impeded their progress, whilst the enemy were driven
furiously forward by the strong wind at their backs. The consequence was
the defeat of the Zabul troops. Feramurz, with a few companions,
however, kept his ground, though assailed by showers of arrows. He tried
repeatedly to get face to face with Bahman, but every effort was
fruitless, and he felt convinced that his career was now nearly at an
end. He bravely defended himself, and aimed his arrows with great
precision; but what is the use of art when Fortune is unfavorable?
When Fate's dark clouds portentous lower,
And quench the light of day,
No effort, none, of human power,
Can chase the gloom away.
Arrows may fly a countless shower,
Amidst the desperate fray;
But not to sword or arrow death is given,
Unless decreed by favouring Heaven
And it was so decreed that the exertions of Feramurz should be
unsuccessful. His horse fell, he was wounded severely, and whilst
insensible, the enemy secured and conveyed him in fetters to Bahman, who
immediately ordered him to be hanged. The king then directed all the
people of Sistan to be put to the sword; upon which Bashutan said:
"Alas! why should the innocent and unoffending people be thus made to
perish? Hast thou no fear of God? Thou hast taken vengeance for thy
father, by slaying Feramurz, the son of Rustem. Is not that enough? Be
merciful and beneficent now to the people, and thank Heaven for the
great victory thou hast gained." Bahman was thus withdrawn from his
wicked purpose, and was also induced to liberate Zal, whose age and
infirmities had rendered him perfectly harmless. He not only did this,
but restored to him the possession of Sistan; and divesting himself of
all further revenge, returned to Persia. There he continued to exercise
the functions of royalty, till one day he happened to be bitten by a
snake, whose venom was so excruciating, that remedies were of no avail,
and he died of the wound, in the eighth year of his reign. Although he
had a son named Sassan, he did not appoint him his successor; but gave
the crown and the throne to his wife, Humai, whom he had married a short
time before his death, saying: "If Humai should have a son, that son
shall be my successor; but if a daughter, Humai continue to reign."
HUMAI AND THE BIRTH OF DARAB
Wisdom and generosity were said to have marked the government of Humai.
In justice and beneficence she was unequalled. No misfortune happened in
her days: even the poor and the needy became rich. She gave birth to a
son, whom she entrusted to a nurse to be brought up secretly, and
declared publicly that it had died the same day it was born. At this
event the people rejoiced, for they were happy under the administration
of Humai. Upon the boy attaining his seventh month, however, the queen
sent for him, and wrapping him up in rich garments, put him in a box,
and when she had fastened down the cover, gave it to two confidential
servants, in the middle of the night, to be flung into the Euphrates.
"For," thought she, "if he be found in the city, there will be an end to
my authority, and the crown will be placed upon his head; wiser,
therefore, will it be for me to cast him into the river; and if it
please God to preserve him, he may be nurtured, and brought up in
another country." Accordingly in the darkness of night, the box was
thrown into the Euphrates, and it floated rapidly down the stream for
some time without being observed.
Amidst the waters, in that little ark
Was launched the future monarch. But, vain mortal!
How bootless are thy most ingenious schemes,
Thy wisest projects! Such were thine, Humai!
Presumptuous as thou wert to think success
Would crown that deed unnatural and unjust.
But human passions, human expectations
Are happily controlled by righteous Heaven.
In the morning the ark was noticed by a washerman; who, curious to know
what it contained, drew it to the shore, and opened the lid. Within the
box he then saw splendid silk-embroidered scarfs and costly raiment, and
upon them a lovely infant asleep. He immediately took up the child, and
carried it to his wife, saying: "It was but yesterday that our own
infant died, and now the Almighty has sent thee another in its place."
The woman looked at the child with affection, and taking it in her arms
fed it with her own milk. In the box they also found jewels and rubies,
and they congratulated themselves upon being at length blessed by
Providence with wealth, and a boy at the same time. They called him
Darab, and the child soon began to speak in the language of his
foster-parents. The washerman and his wife, for fear that the boy and
the wealth might be discovered, thought it safest to quit their home,
and sojourn in another country. When Darab grew up, he was more skilful
and accomplished, and more expert at wrestling than other boys of a
greater age. But whenever the washerman told him to assist in washing
clothes, he always ran away, and would not stoop to the drudgery. This
untoward behavior grieved the washerman exceedingly, and he lamented
that God had given him so useless a son, not knowing that he was
destined to be the sovereign of all the world.
How little thought he, whilst the task he prest,
A purer spirit warmed the stripling's breast,
Whose opening soul, by kingly pride inspired,
Disdained the toil a menial slave required;
The royal branch on high its foliage flung,
And showed the lofty stem from which it sprung.
Darab was now sent to school, and he soon excelled his master, who
continually said to the washerman: "Thy son is of wonderful capacity,
acute and intelligent beyond his years, of an enlarged understanding,
and will be at least the minister of a king." Darab requested to have
another master, and also a fine horse of Irak, that he might acquire the
science and accomplishments of a warrior; but the washerman replied that
he was too poor to comply with his wishes, which threw the youth into
despair, so that he did not touch a morsel of food for two days
together. His foster-mother, deeply affected by his disappointment, and
naturally anxious to gratify his desires, gave an article of value to
the washerman, that he might sell it, and with the money purchase the
horse required. The horse obtained, he was daily instructed in the art
of using the bow, the javelin, and the sword, and in every exercise
becoming a young gentleman and a warrior. So devouringly did he
persevere in his studies, and in his exertions to excel, that he never
remained a moment unoccupied at home or abroad. The development of his
talents and genius suggested to him an inquiry who he was, and how he
came into the house of a washerman; and his foster-mother, in compliance
with his entreaties, described to him the manner in which he was found.
He had long been miserable at the thoughts of being the son of a
washerman, but now he rejoiced, and looked upon himself as the son of
some person of consideration. He asked her if she had anything that was
taken out of the box, and she replied: "Two valuable rubies remain." The
youth requested them to be brought to him; one he bound round his arm,
and the other he sold to pay the expenses of travelling and change of
At that time, it is said, the king of Rum had sent an army into the
country of Iran. Upon receiving this information, Humai told her
general, named Rishnawad, to collect a force corresponding with the
emergency; and he issued a proclamation, inviting all young men desirous
of military glory to flock to his standard. Darab heard this
proclamation with delight, and among others hastened to Rishnawad, who
presented the young warriors as they arrived successively to Humai. The
queen steadfastly marked the majestic form and features of Darab, and
said in her heart: "The youth who bears this dignified and royal aspect,
appears to be a Kaianian by birth;" and as she spoke, the instinctive
feeling of a mother seemed to agitate her bosom.
The queen beheld his form and face,
The scion of a princely race;
And natural instinct seemed to move
Her heart, which spoke a mother's love;
She gazed, but like the lightning's ray,
That sudden thrill soon passed away.
The army was now in motion. After the first march, a tremendous wind and
heavy rain came on, and all the soldiers were under tents, excepting
Darab, who had none, and was obliged to take shelter from the inclemency
of the weather beneath an archway, where he laid himself down, and fell
asleep. Suddenly a supernatural voice was heard, saying:--
"Arch! stand firm, and from thy wall
Let no ruined fragment fall!
He who sleeps beneath is one
Destined to a royal throne.
Arch! a monarch claims thy care,
The king of Persia slumbers there!"
The voice was heard by every one near, and Rishnawad having also heard
it, inquired of his people from whence it came. As he spoke, the voice
repeated its caution:--
"Arch! stand firm, and from thy wall
Let no ruined fragment fall!
Bahman's son is in thy keeping;
He beneath thy roof is sleeping.
Though the winds are loudly roaring,
And the rain in torrents pouring,
Arch! stand firm, and from thy wall
Let no loosened fragment fall."
Again Rishnawad sent other persons to ascertain from whence the voice
proceeded; and they returned, saying, that it was not of the earth, but
from Heaven. Again the caution sounded in his ears:--
"Arch! stand firm, and from thy wall
Let no loosened fragment fall."
And his amazement increased. He now sent a person under the archway to
see if any one was there, when the youth was discovered in deep sleep
upon the ground, and the arch above him rent and broken in many parts.
Rishnawad being apprised of this circumstance, desired that he might be
awakened and brought to him. The moment he was removed, the whole of the
arch fell down with a dreadful crash, and this wonderful escape was also
communicated to the leader of the army, who by a strict and particular
enquiry soon became acquainted with all the occurrences of the
stranger's life. Rishnawad also summoned before him the washerman and
his wife, and they corroborated the story he had been told. Indeed he
himself recognized the ruby on Darab's arm, which convinced him that he
was the son of Bahman, whom Humai caused to be thrown into the
Euphrates. Thus satisfied of his identity, he treated him with great
honor, placed him on his right hand, and appointed him to a high command
in the army. Soon afterwards an engagement took place with the Rumis,
and Darab in the advanced guard performed prodigies of valor. The battle
lasted all day, and in the evening Rishnawad bestowed upon him the
praise which he merited. Next day the army was again prepared for
battle, when Darab proposed that the leader should remain quiet, whilst
he with a chosen band of soldiers attacked the whole force of the enemy.
The proposal being agreed to, he advanced with fearless impetuosity to
With loosened rein he rushed along the field,
And through opposing numbers hewed his path,
Then pierced the Kulub-gah, the centre-host,
Where many a warrior brave, renowned in arms,
Fell by his sword. Like sheep before a wolf
The harassed Rumis fled; for none had power
To cope with his strong arm. His wondrous might
Alone, subdued the legions right and left;
And when, unwearied, he had fought his way
To where great Kaisar stood, night came, and darkness,
Shielding the trembling emperor of Rum,
Snatched the expected triumph from his hands.
Rishnawad was so filled with admiration at his splendid prowess, that he
now offered him the most magnificent presents; but when they were
exposed to his view, a suit of armor was the only thing he would accept.
The Rumis were entirely disheartened by his valor, and they said: "We
understood that the sovereign of Persia was only a woman, and that the
conquest of the empire would be no difficult task; but this woman seems
to be more fortunate than a warrior-king. Even her general remains
inactive with the great body of his army; and a youth, with a small
force, is sufficient to subdue the legions of Rum; we had, therefore,
better return to our own country." The principal warriors entertained
the same sentiments, and suggested to Kaisar the necessity of retiring
from the field; but the king opposed this measure, thinking it cowardly
and disgraceful, and said:--
"To-morrow we renew the fight,
To-morrow we shall try our might;
To-morrow, with the smiles of Heaven,
To us the victory will be given."
Accordingly on the following day the armies met again, and after a
sanguinary struggle, the Persians were again triumphant. Kaisar now
despaired of success, sent a messenger to Rishnawad, in which he
acknowledged the aggressions he had committed, and offered to pay him
whatever tribute he might require. Rishnawad readily settled the terms
of the peace; and the emperor was permitted to return to his own
After this event Rishnawad sent to Humai intelligence of the victories
he had gained, and of the surprising valor of Darab, transmitting to her
the ruby as an evidence of his birth. Humai was at once convinced that
he was her son, for she well remembered the day on which he was enrolled
as one of her soldiers, when her heart throbbed with instinctive
affection at the sight of him; and though she had unfortunately failed
to question him then, she now rejoiced that he was so near being
restored to her. She immediately proceeded to the Atish-gadeh, or the
Fire-altar, and made an offering on the occasion; and ordering a great
fire to be lighted, gave immense sums away in charity to the poor.
Having called Darab to her presence, she went with a splendid retinue to
meet him at the distance of one journey from the city; and as soon as he
approached, she pressed him to her bosom, and kissed his head and eyes
with the fondest affection of a mother. Upon the first day of happy
omen, she relinquished in his favor the crown and the throne, after
having herself reigned thirty-two years.
DARAB AND DARA
When Darab had ascended the throne, he conducted the affairs of the
kingdom with humanity, justice, and benevolence; and by these means
secured the happiness of his people. He had no sooner commenced his
reign, than he sent for the washerman and his wife, and enriched them by
his gifts. "But," said he, "I present to you this property on these
conditions--you must not give up your occupation--you must go every day,
as usual, to the river-side, and wash clothes; for perhaps in process of
time you may discover another box floating down the stream, containing
another infant!" With these conditions the washerman complied.
Some time afterwards the kingdom was invaded by an Arabian army,
consisting of one hundred thousand men, and commanded by Shaib, a
distinguished warrior. Darab was engaged with this army three days and
three nights, and on the fourth morning the battle terminated, in
consequence of Shaib being slain. The booty was immense, and a vast
number of Arabian horses fell into the hands of the victor; which,
together with the quantity of treasure captured, strengthened greatly
the resources of the state. The success of this campaign enabled Darab
to extend his military operations; and having put his army in order, he
proceeded against Failakus (Philip of Macedon), then king of Rum, whom
he defeated with great loss. Many were put to the sword, and the women
and children carried into captivity. Failakus himself took refuge in the
fortress of Amur, from whence he sent an ambassador to Darab, saying,
that if peace was only granted to him, he would willingly consent to any
terms that might be demanded. When the ambassador arrived, Darab said to
him: "If Failakus will bestow upon me his daughter, Nahid, peace shall
be instantly re-established between us--I require no other terms."
Failakus readily agreed, and sent Nahid with numerous splendid presents
to the king of Persia, who espoused her, and took her with him to his
own country. It so happened that Nahid had an offensive breath, which
was extremely disagreeable to her husband, and in consequence he
directed enquiries to be made everywhere for a remedy. No place was left
unexplored; at length an herb of peculiar efficacy and fragrance was
discovered, which never failed to remove the imperfection complained of;
and it was accordingly administered with confident hopes of success.
Nahid was desired to wash her mouth with the infused herb, and in a few
days her breath became balmy and pure. When she found she was likely to
become a mother she did not communicate the circumstance, but requested
permission to pay a visit to her father. The request was granted; and on
her arrival in Rum she was delivered of a son. Failakus had no male
offspring, and was overjoyed at this event, which he at once determined
to keep unknown to Darab, publishing abroad that a son had been born in
his house, and causing it to be understood that the child was his own.
When the boy grew up, he was called Sikander; and, like Rustem, became
highly accomplished in all the arts of diplomacy and war. Failakus
placed him under Aristatalis, a sage of great renown, and he soon
equalled his master in learning and science.
Darab married another wife, by whom he had another son, named Dara; and
when the youth was twenty years of age, the father died. The period of
Darab's reign was thirty-four years.
Dara continued the government of the empire in the same spirit as his
father; claiming custom and tribute from the inferior rulers, with
similar strictness and decision. After the death of Failakus, Sikander
became the king of Rum; and refusing to pay the demanded tribute to
Persia, went to war with Dara, whom he killed in battle; the particulars
of these events will be presently shown. Failakus reigned twenty-four
Failakus, before his death, placed the crown of sovereignty upon the
head of Sikander, and appointed Aristu, who was one of the disciples of
the great Aflatun, his vizir. He cautioned him to pursue the path of
virtue and rectitude, and to cast from his heart every feeling of vanity
and pride; above all he implored him to be just and merciful, and
"Think not that thou art wise, but ignorant,
And ever listen to advice and counsel;
We are but dust, and from the dust created;
And what our lives but helplessness and sorrow!"
Sikander for a time attended faithfully to the instructions of his
father, and to the counsel of Aristu, both in public and private
Upon Sikander's elevation to the throne, Dara sent an envoy to him to
claim the customary tribute, but he received for answer: "The time is
past when Rum acknowledged the superiority of Persia. It is now thy turn
to pay tribute to Rum. If my demand be refused, I will immediately
invade thy dominions; and think not that I shall be satisfied with the
conquest of Persia alone, the whole world shall be mine; therefore
prepare for war." Dara had no alternative, not even submission, and
accordingly assembled his army, for Sikander was already in full march
against him. Upon the confines of Persia the armies came in sight of
each other, when Sikander, in the assumed character of an envoy, was
resolved to ascertain the exact condition of the enemy. With this view
he entered the Persian camp, and Dara allowing the person whom he
supposed an ambassador, to approach, enquired what message the king of
Rum had sent to him. "Hear me!" said the pretended envoy: "Sikander has
not invaded thy empire for the exclusive purpose of fighting, but to
know its history, its laws, and customs, from personal inspection. His
object is to travel through the whole world. Why then should he make war
upon thee? Give him but a free passage through thy kingdom, and nothing
more is required. However if it be thy wish to proceed to hostilities,
he apprehends nothing from the greatness of thy power." Dara was
astonished at the majestic air and dignity of the envoy, never having
witnessed his equal, and he anxiously said:--
"What is thy name, from whom art thou descended?
For that commanding front, that fearless eye,
Bespeaks illustrious birth. Art thou indeed
Sikander, whom my fancy would believe thee,
So eloquent in speech, in mien so noble?"
"No!" said the envoy, "no such rank is mine,
Sikander holds among his numerous host
Thousands superior to the humble slave
Who stands before thee. It is not for me
To put upon myself the air of kings,
To ape their manners and their lofty state."
Dara could not help smiling, and ordered refreshments and wine to be
brought. He filled a cup and gave it to the envoy, who drank it off, but
did not, according to custom, return the empty goblet to the cup-bearer.
The cup-bearer demanded the cup, and Dara asked the envoy why he did not
give it back. "It is the custom in my country," said the envoy, "when a
cup is once given into an ambassador's hands, never to receive it back
again." Dara was still more amused by this explanation, and presented to
him another cup, and successively four, which the envoy did not fail to
appropriate severally in the same way. In the evening a feast was held,
and Sikander partook of the delicious refreshments that had been
prepared for him; but in the midst of the entertainment one of the
persons present recognized him, and immediately whispered to Dara that
his enemy was in his power.
Sikander's sharp and cautious eye now marked
The changing scene, and up he sprang, but first
Snatched the four cups, and rushing from the tent,
Vaulted upon his horse, and rode away.
So instantaneous was the act, amazed
The assembly rose, and presently a troop
Was ordered in pursuit--but night, dark night,
Baffled their search, and checked their eager speed.
As soon as he reached his own army, he sent for Aristatalis and his
courtiers, and exultingly displayed to them the four golden cups.
"These," said he, "have I taken from my enemy, I have taken them from
his own table, and before his own eyes. His strength and numbers too I
have ascertained, and my success is certain." No time was now lost in
arrangements for the battle. The armies engaged, and they fought seven
days without a decisive blow being struck. On the eighth, Dara was
compelled to fly, and his legions, defeated and harassed, were pursued
by the Rumis with great slaughter to the banks of the Euphrates.
Sikander now returned to take possession of the capital. In the meantime
Dara collected his scattered forces together, and again tried his
fortune, but he was again defeated. After his second success, the
conqueror devoted himself so zealously to conciliate and win the
affections of the people, that they soon ceased to remember their former
king with any degree of attachment to his interests. Sikander said to
them: "Persia indeed is my inheritance: I am no stranger to you, for I
am myself descended from Darab; you may therefore safely trust to my
justice and paternal care, in everything that concerns your welfare."
The result was, that legion after legion united in his cause, and
consolidated his power.
When Dara was informed of the universal disaffection of his army, he
said to the remaining friends who were personally devoted to him: "Alas!
my subjects have been deluded by the artful dissimulation and skill of
Sikander; your next misfortune will be the captivity of your wives and
children. Yes, your wives and children will be made the slaves of the
conquerors." A few troops, still faithful to their unfortunate king,
offered to make another effort against the enemy, and Dara was too
grateful and too brave to discountenance their enthusiastic fidelity,
though with such little chance of success. A fragment of an army was
consequently brought into action, and the result was what had been
anticipated. Dara was again a fugitive; and after the defeat, escaped
with three hundred men into the neighboring desert. Sikander captured
his wife and family, but magnanimously restored them to the unfortunate
monarch, who, destitute of all further hope, now asked for a place of
refuge in his own dominions, and for that he offered him all the buried
treasure of his ancestors. Sikander, in reply, invited him to his
presence; and promised to restore him to his throne, that he might
himself be enabled to pursue other conquests; but Dara refused to go,
although advised by his nobles to accept the invitation. "I am willing
to put myself to death," said he with emotion, "but I cannot submit to
this degradation. I cannot go before him, and thus personally
acknowledge his authority over me." Resolved upon this point, he wrote
to Faur, one of the sovereigns of Ind, to request his assistance, and
Faur recommended that he should pay him a visit for the purpose of
concerting what measures should be adopted. This correspondence having
come to the knowledge of Sikander, he took care that his enemy should be
intercepted in whatever direction he might proceed.
Dara had two ministers, named Mahiyar and Jamusipar, who, finding that
according to the predictions of the astrologers their master would in a
few days fall into the hands of Sikander, consulted together, and
thought they had better put him to death themselves, in order that they
might get into favor with Sikander. It was night, and the soldiers of
the escort were dispersed at various distances, and the vizirs were
stationed on each side of the king. As they travelled on, Jamusipar took
an opportunity of plunging his dagger into Dara's side, and Mahiyar gave
another blow, which felled the monarch to the ground. They immediately
sent the tidings of this event to Sikander, who hastened to the spot,
and the opening daylight presented to his view the wounded king.
Dismounting quickly, he in sorrow placed
The head of Dara on his lap, and wept
In bitterness of soul, to see that form
Mangled with ghastly wounds.
Dara still breathed; and when he lifted up his eyes and beheld Sikander,
he groaned deeply. Sikander said, "Rise up, that we may convey thee to a
place of safety, and apply the proper remedies to thy wounds."--"Alas!"
replied Dara, "the time for remedies is past. I leave thee to Heaven,
and may thy reign give peace and happiness to the empire."--"Never,"
said Sikander, "never did I desire to see thee thus mangled and
fallen--never to witness this sight! If the Almighty should spare thy
life, thou shalt again be the monarch of Persia, and I will go from
hence. On my mother's word, thou and I are sons of the same father. It
is this brotherly affection which now wrings my heart!" Saying this, the
tears chased each other down his cheeks in such abundance that they fell
upon the face of Dara. Again, he said, "Thy murderers shall meet with
merited vengeance, they shall be punished to the uttermost." Dara
blessed him, and said, "My end is approaching, but thy sweet discourse
and consoling kindness have banished all my grief. I shall now die with
a mind at rest. Weep no more--
"My course is finished, thine is scarce begun;
But hear my dying wish, my last request:
Preserve the honour of my family,
Preserve it from disgrace. I have a daughter
Dearer to me than life, her name is Roshung;
Espouse her, I beseech thee--and if Heaven
Should bless thee with a boy, O! let his name be
Isfendiyar, that he may propagate
With zeal the sacred doctrines of Zerdusht,
The Zendavesta, then my soul will be
Happy in Heaven; and he, at Nau-ruz tide,
Will also hold the festival I love,
And at the altar light the Holy Fire;
Nor will he cease his labour, till the faith
Of Lohurasp be everywhere accepted,
And everywhere believed the true religion."
Sikander promised that he would assuredly fulfil the wishes he had
expressed, and then Dara placed the palm of his brother's hand on his
mouth, and shortly afterwards expired. Sikander again wept bitterly, and
then the body was placed on a golden couch, and he attended it in sorrow
to the grave.
After the burial of Dara, the two ministers, Jamusipar and Mahiyar, were
brought near the tomb, and executed upon the dar.
Just vengeance upon the guilty head,
For they their generous monarch's blood had shed.
Sikander had now no rival to the throne of Persia, and he commenced his
government under the most favorable auspices. He continued the same
customs and ordinances which were handed down to him, and retained every
one in his established rank and occupation. He gladdened the heart by
his justice and liberality. Keeping in mind his promise to Dara, he now
wrote to the mother of Roshung, and communicating to her the dying
solicitations of the king, requested her to send Roshung to him, that he
might fulfil the last wish of his brother. The wife of Dara immediately
complied with the command, and sent her daughter with various presents
to Sikander, and she was on her arrival married to the conqueror,
acceding to the customs and laws of the empire. Sikander loved her
exceedingly, and on her account remained some time in Persia, but he at
length determined to proceed into Ind to conquer that country of
enchanters and enchantment.
On approaching Ind he wrote to Kaid, summoning him to surrender his
kingdom, and received from him the following answer: "I will certainly
submit to thy authority, but I have four things which no other person in
the world possesses, and which I cannot relinquish. I have a daughter,
beautiful as an angel of Paradise, a wise minister, a skilful physician,
and a goblet of inestimable value!" Upon receiving this extraordinary
reply, Sikander again addressed a letter to him, in which he
peremptorily required all these things immediately. Kaid not daring to
refuse, or make any attempt at evasion, reluctantly complied with the
requisition. Sikander received the minister and the physician with great
politeness and attention, and in the evening held a splendid feast, at
which he espoused the beautiful daughter of Kaid, and taking the goblet
from her hands, drank off the wine with which it was filled. After that,
Kaid himself waited upon Sikander, and personally acknowledged his
authority and dominion.
Sikander then proceeded to claim the allegiance and homage of Faur, the
king of Kanuj, and wrote to him to submit to his power; but Faur
returned a haughty answer, saying:--
"Kaid Indi is a coward to obey thee,
But I am Faur, descended from a race
Of matchless warriors; and shall I submit,
And to a Greek!"
Sikander was highly incensed at this bold reply. The force he had now
with him amounted to eighty thousand men; that is, thirty thousand
Iranians, forty thousand Rumis, and ten thousand Indis. Faur had sixty
thousand horsemen, and two thousand elephants. The troops of Sikander
were greatly terrified at the sight of so many elephants, which gave the
enemy such a tremendous superiority. Aristatalis, and some other
ingenious counsellors, were requested to consult together to contrive
some means of counteracting the power of the war-elephants, and they
suggested the construction of an iron horse, and the figure of a rider
also of iron, to be placed upon wheels like a carriage, and drawn by a
number of horses. A soldier, clothed in iron armor, was to follow the
vehicle--his hands and face besmeared with combustible matter, and this
soldier, armed with a long staff, was at an appointed signal, to pierce
the belly of the horse and also of the rider, previously filled with
combustibles, so that when the ignited point came in contact with them,
the whole engine would make a tremendous explosion and blaze in the air.
Sikander approved of this invention, and collected all the blacksmiths
and artisans in the country to construct a thousand machines of this
description with the utmost expedition, and as soon as they were
completed, he prepared for action. Faur too pushed forward with his two
thousand elephants in advance; but when the Kanujians beheld such a
formidable array they were surprised, and Faur anxiously inquired from
his spies what it could be. Upon being told that it was Sikander's
artillery, his troops pushed the elephants against the enemy with vigor,
at which moment the combustibles were fired by the Rumis, and the
machinery exploding, many elephants were burnt and destroyed, and the
remainder, with the troops, fled in confusion. Sikander then encountered
Faur, and after a severe contest, slew him, and became ruler of the
kingdom of Kanuj.
After the conquest of Kanuj, Sikander went to Mekka, carrying thither
rich presents and offerings. From thence he proceeded to another city,
where he was received with great homage by the most illustrious of the
nation. He enquired of them if there was anything wonderful or
extraordinary in their country, that he might go to see it, and they
replied that there were two trees in the kingdom, one a male, the other
a female, from which a voice proceeded. The male-tree spoke in the day,
and the female-tree in the night, and whoever had a wish, went thither
to have his desires accomplished. Sikander immediately repaired to the
spot, and approaching it, he hoped in his heart that a considerable part
of his life still remained to be enjoyed. When he came under the tree, a
terrible sound arose and rung in his ears, and he asked the people
present what it meant. The attendant priest said it implied that
fourteen years of his life still remained. Sikander, at this
interpretation of the prophetic sound, wept and the burning tears ran
down his cheeks. Again he asked, "Shall I return to Rum, and see my
mother and children before I die?" and the answer was, "Thou wilt die at
"Nor mother, nor thy family at home
Wilt thou behold again, for thou wilt die,
Closing thy course of glory at Kashan."
Back to Full Books