On the Compilation of the Shahnameh
All have gone sweeping in the garth of lore
And what I tell hath all been told before,
But though upon a fruit-tree I obtain
No place, and purpose not to climb, still he
That sheltereth beneath a lofty tree
Will from its shadow some protection gain;
A footing on the boughs too I may find
Of yonder shady cypress after all
For having left this history behind
Of famous kings as my memorial.
Deem not these legends lying fantasy,
As if the world were always in one stay,
For most accord with sense, or anyway
Contain a moral.
In the days gone by
There was an Epic Cycle spread broadcast
Among the learned archmages (arch-magi or mobeds), and at last
A certain paladin, of rustic birth,
A man of courage, wisdom, rank, and worth,
An antiquary, one who ransacked earth
For any legends of the ages past,
Intent on learning what might yet be known,
Called hoar archmages (arch-magi or mobeds) out of every clime,
To ask about the annals of the throne,
The famed successful heroes of old tune,
What men were doing in those days that we
Inherit such a world of misery,
And how each day beneath auspicious skies
They carried out some daring enterprise.
The archmages (arch-magi or mobeds) told their legendary store,
How this world fared and what kings undertook,
And as he listened to the men of lore
He laid the basis of the famous book,
Which now remaineth his memorial,
Amid the plaudits both of great and small.
Of the Poet Dakiki
Now, when the readers of the book had brought
The stories into vogue, all hearts were caught,
At least among the men of parts and thought.
A brilliant youth well skilled in poetry
Arose, of ardent mind and eloquent;
"I will retell these tales in verse," said he,
And every one rejoiced at his intent;
But vicious habits were his friends, though we
Should hold all vices foes that we should dread,
And death, approaching unexpectedly,
Imposed its gloomy helmet on his head.
He gave his life to vice, and earth ne'er gave
Him true enjoyment for a single day
While fortune quickly turned its face away
He perished by the hand of his own slave.
Departing thus he left those tales of yore
Untold; their wakened fortune slept once more.
O God! forgive his faults, and in Thy grace
Assign him at the last an honoured place.
How the Present Book was Begun
Mine ardent heart turned, when Dakiki fell,
Spontaneously toward the Iranian throne;
"If I can get the book I will retell,"
I said, "the tales in language of mine own."
I asked of persons more than I can say,
For I was fearful as time passed away
That life would not suffice, but that I too
Should leave the work for other hands to do.
There was besides a dearth of patronage
For such a work; there was no purchaser.
It was a time of war, a straitened age
For those who had petitions to prefer.
Much time elapsed. I still concealed from all
My secret purpose, for I could not see
One who was worthy to partake with me
This enterprise. What in this world can be
More excellent than noble words? Men call
Down blessings on them, men both great and small.
Good words had God vouchsafed not to provide,
How had the Prophet ever been our guide?
I had a dear friend in the city, thou
Hadst said: "They twain have but one skin." One day
He said: "I like thy scheme; pursue thy way;
Thy feet are in the right direction now.
I undertake for my part to procure
This ancient Persian book; but be not slack.
Of youth and eloquence thou hast a store,
Thy speech possesseth too the ancient smack.
The stories of our kings afresh relate,
And raise thy reputation with the great."
He brought the volume to me and anon
The darkness of my gloomy soul was gone.
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