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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee





The epic

The Poet Ferdowsi


Writing & Books

Oral Tradition

Ferdowsi's Sources

Khvatay-Namak / Khodai-Nama

Achaemenian Era Book of King - Basilikai Difeterai


Other Legends

Ferdowsi's Original Work Lost

Differences in Shahnameh Copies

Reconstruction of an Authoritative Shahnameh

English Translations

Spelling of the Names

Resources-Persian Text


Ferdowsi's Manuscript

Earliest Surviving Manuscript Copies Known

Recent Manuscript Discovery in Beirut

Illuminated Manuscripts

Great Mongol/Demotte Manuscript

Bayasanghori Manuscript

Tahmaspi/Houghton Manuscript

Elation, Regret & Hope

Shahnameh's Characters

The Heroes - Story in Brief

English Translation

W = Warner & Warner
A = James Atkinson
Z = Helen Zimmerman

1. Prologue W

2. Creation W

3. Gaiumart W

3. Kaiumers A

4. Hushang W

5. Tahmuras W

6. Jamshid W

7. Zahak W

3-7. Shahs of Old Z

8. Faridun W

9. Minuchihr, Sam, Zal, Rustam W

10. Naudar W

11. Zav W

12. Kai Kaus 1 W

13. 7 Courses of Rustam W

14. Kai Kaus 2 W

15. Kai Kaus 3 W

16. Warriors W

17. Suhrab W

18. Siyawush W

19. Kai Khusrau 1 W

20. Kai Khusrau 2 W

21. Farud W

22. Kai Khusrau 3 W

23. Rustam W

24. Rustam's Exploits W

25. Bizhan W

26. Gudarz W

27. Great War W

28. Passing of Kai Khusrau W

29. Luhrasp & Gushtasp W

30. Gushtasp & Zardhusht W

31. Asfandiyar's Seven Stages W

32. Asfandiyar W

33. Asfandiyar's Fight with Rustam W

34. Rustam & Shaghad W

35. Bahman W

36. Humai & Darab W

36a. Humai & Darab A

37. Darab & Dara A

38. Sikandar A

Satire on Sultan Mahmud A

The Heroes - Story in Brief


The Characters

Locale - Sistan

Pahlavans & Their Role


Zal Woos Princess Rudabeh

The Birth of Rustam

Rustam's Horse Rakhsh

Rustam Meets Princess Tahmina

The Tragedy of Sohrab

Page 7

Chapter 5
Zahak & Faridun

Zahak Reigned a Thousand Hundred Years

The Evil Customs of Zahhak and the Device of Irma'il and Karma'il

Zahhak sat on the throne a thousand years
Obeyed by all the world. Through that long time
The customs of the wise were out of vogue,
The lusts of madmen flourished everywhere,
All virtue was despised, black art esteemed,
Right lost to sight, disaster manifest;
While divs accomplished their fell purposes
And no man spake of good unless by stealth.
Two sisters of Jamshid, their sex's crown,
Were brought out trembling like a willow-leaf.
Of those two ladies visaged like the moon
The names were Shahrinaz and Arnawaz.
Men bore them to the palace of Zahhak
And gave them over to the dragon king,
Who educated them in evil ways
And taught them sorcery and necromancy.
The only teaching that he knew was bad -
To massacre, to pillage, and to burn.
Each night two youths of high or lowly birth
Were taken to the palace by the cook,
Who having slaughtered them took out their brains
To feed the snakes and ease the monarch's anguish.
Now in the realm were two good high-born Persians -
The pious Irma'il and Karma'il
The prescient. Talking of the lawless Shah,
Of his retainers and those hideous meals,
One said: "By cookery we might approach
The Shah, and by our wits devise a scheme
To rescue one from each pair doomed to death."
They went and learned that art. The clever twain
Became the monarch's cooks and joyed in secret.
The time for shedding blood and taking life
Came, and some murderous minions of the Shah
Dragged to the cooks with violence two youths
And flung them prone. The livers of the cooks
Ached, their eyes filled with blood, their hearts with wrath,
And each glanced at the other as he thought
Of such an outrage by the Shah. They slew
One of the youths and thought it best to mingle
His precious brains with sheep's and spare the other,
To whom they said: "Make shift to hide thyself,
Approach not any dwelling-place of man,
Thine are the wastes and heights."
A worthless head
Thus fed the serpents, and in every month
The cooks preserved from slaughter thirty youths.
And when the number reached two hundred saved
Provided them, the donors all unknown,
With sheep and goats, and sent them desertward.
Thus sprang the Kurds, who know no settled home,
But dwell in woollen tents and fear not God.
Zahhak was wont, such was his evil nature,
To choose him one among his warriors
And slay him for consPirang with the divs.
Moreover, all the lovely noble maidens
Secluded in their bowers, not tanged of tongues,
He took for handmaids. Not a jot had he
Of faith, king's uses, or morality.

How Zahhak Saw Faridun in a Dream

Observe God's dealings with Zahhak when he
Had forty years to live. One longsome night
He slumbered in the arms of Arnawaz,
And saw a vision of three warriors -
Boughs of the tree of kings. The youngest one,
Who held the middle place, was cypress tall,
In face, in armour, and in mien a king.
He rushed with ox-head mace to fight Zahhak,
Smote him upon the head, stripped off his skin,
And used it as a rope to bind his hands
Firm as a rock,' placed on his neck a yoke,
Then casting earth and dust upon his head
Dragged him before the crowd in shame and anguish
Toward Mount Damawand.
The tyrant writhed
Thou wouldst have said: "His liver split with fright."
He yelled. The palace of the hundred columns
Shook, and the sun-faced ladies left their couches,
While Arnawaz said to him? Shah! what was it?
Confide in me; thou vast asleep in peace
At home! What saw'st thou? Say what came to thee?
The world is at thy will, beast, divr and man
Watch o'er thee and the seven climes are thine -
All 'twixt the moon and Fish.' What made thee start?
O roaster of the world! Oh! answer me."
The chief replied? I may not tell, or else
Ye will despair my life."
Then Arnawaz :-
"Be pleased to tell us; we perchance may find
A cure, no ill is irremediable."
He told them every whit, then said the Fair:-
"Neglect it not but seek a remedy.
Thy throne's seat is the signet of the age,
Thy famous fortune brightenetlr the world,
Beneath thy finger-ring thou hast the earth
With all its fairies, divs, beasts, fowls, and men.
Call both the archmages and astrologers -
The wisest of each realm - and tell them all.
See if the hand that threateneth thy life
Is that of fairy, div, or man. This known
Act vigorously; quail not before thy foes."
The lady's counsel pleased the Shah.
Night then
Was dark as raven's plumes, but when at length
The Lamp showed o'er the hills, and thou hadst said,
"Strewed yellow gems upon the azure vault,"
Zahhak brought archimages shrewd of heart
And told to them the dream that pierced his liver.
He said: "Expound this dream without delay,
And make my soul a pathway toward the light."
He asked them privily about the future,
Demanding? What will be my latter end,
And who succeed me? Tell or hide your heads
In shame."
They talked together sad at heart,
With parched lips and with sallow countenances
They said: "If we till truly what is fated
We shall be tortured, haply lose our lives;
And if we do not act straightforwardly
As well wash hands of life."
None dared to speak
Their fortune was in jeopardy three days.
Upon the fourth the Shah was wroth, exclaiming:-
"Foretell the future or be hung alive."
They drooped their heads, their hearts were rent,
their eyes
Wept tears of blood. Among them was a man,
Wise, honest, prescient, by name Zirak -
The chief of all the band of archimages.
Concerned but fearless he addressed Zahhak
"Indulge no vapouring for none is born
Except to die. There have been kings ere thee
Fit for the throne of power. Both griefs and joys
Enough they reckoned up yet their time came.
If thou wert standing there - an iron wall -
Yon heaven would grind thee, thou wouldst not endure.
One will hereafter take thy throne and fling
Thy fortune to the ground. His name is Faridun,
And he will be a royal heaven to earth.
As yet he is not born, thy time of woe
Hath not arrived, but when his honoured mother
Hath borne him he will be a fruitful tree.
At man's estate his head will reach the moon
And he will seek thy belt, crown, throne, and casque.
In stature a tall cypress, he will shoulder
A mace of steel, will smite thy head therewith
And drag thee from the palace to the street
In bonds.'
In vengeance
"Why bind me," said the impious king,
Then Zirak: "Wert thou but wise . . .
But all make pretexts for injurious acts.
Thy hand will slay his father and that wrong
Will fill the son's brains with revengeful thoughts
Besides the nurse of this young atheling -
The cow, Birmaya hight - will perish too
By thy hand; so in vengeance he will brandish
An ox-head mace."
Zahhak heard anxiously,
And swooned upon his throne. The noble archmagc;
Turned him and fled away in dread of ill.
The Shah recovered and resumed his seat.
He diligently sought throughout the world
For traces faint or clear of Faridun;
No food, no slumber, or repose took he,
His daylight turned to lapislazuli.

The Birth of Faridun

Years passed away, calamity approached
The dragon-king, the blessed Faridun
Was born, the fashion of the world was changed.
Of cypress height he shone forth with the Grace
Of kings of kings which crst Jamshid possessed,
Was like the sun, as needful as the rain
To earth and fit as knowledge to the mind
Revolving heaven loved him tenderly.
Then lived the cow Birmaya, chief of kine,
Born with a coat all bright and peacock-hued.
The wise, the archmages, and astrologers
Collected round her; none had seen or heard
Of such a cow before.
Meanwhile Zahhak
Was searching everywhere, and filling earth
With hue and cry, till Faridun became
A source of danger to his sire Abtin,
Who fled for life but to the Lion's toils,
For certain of the followers of Zahhak,
That impious monarch, met Abtin one day,
Seized him and bore him, like a cheetah bound,
Before the Shah, who had him put to death.
When Faridun's wise mother Farunak,
A glorious dame devoted to her child,
Perceived her husband's evil fate she fled;
And came heart-broken weeping to the field
Wherein the beautiful Birmaya was.
Sill shedding drops of blood she bade the hind:-
"Protect this suckling for me, be a father
To him, and give him milk of yon fair cow.
Ask what thou wilt, e'en to my soul 'tis throe."
The hind replied? I will perform thy bidding
And be as 'twere a slave before thy child."
Then Faranak resigned the babe to him,
With all instructions that were requisite,
And that wise guardian like a father fed
The child for three years with Birmaya's milk;
But as Zahhak ne'er wearied of the search,
And as the cow was tallied of everywhere,
The mother hasted to the field again
And spake thus to the guardian of her child:" A prudent
thought - a thought inspired by GodHath risen in my heart.
What we must do Is this - there is no remedy, my son And
my dear life are one - I must abandon This land of sorcerers,
depart unmarked To Hindustan and bear him to Alburz."
Then like a roe or one who rideth post She took the
young child to that lofty mountain Where dwelt a
devotee dead to the world, To whom she said: "I am,
O holy one! A woeful woman from Iran. Know thou
That this my noble son will be hereafter
The loader of his people, will discrown Zahhak and
tread his girdle in the dust. Take thou this child and
father him with care."
The good man took her child and never breathed One
cold breath on him.
When the rumour reached
Zahhak about the cow and field he went,
Like some mad elephant, and slew Birmaya,
With all the other cattle that, he saw
Within the field, and harried all the land.
He went next to the home of Faridun,
Searched it, but all in vain, for none was found,
And burned the lofty palace to the ground.

How Faridun Questioned His Mother About His Origin

Now Faridun, when twice eight years had passed,
Sought out his mother on the plain and said:
"Disclose thy secret, say who is my father,
What is my lineage, whom shall I declare
Myself in public? Let me have the truth."
She said: "I will tell all, my noble boy!
Within Iran erewhile lived one Abtin,
Of royal race, discerning mind, wise, brave,
And inoffensive, sprung from Tahmuras;
Abtin knew all the pedigree. Thy sire
And my dear spouse was he; my days were dark
When we were parted. Now Zahhak the warlock
stretched from Iran his hand against thy life,
But I concealed thee. Oh! what woeful days
I passed while that brave youth - thy father - forfeited
His own sweet life for thee! Now on Zahhak
The warlock's shoulders grew two snakes which sucked
The life-breath of Iran, and thy sire's brains
Were taken from his head to feed them. I
In course of time came on an open pasture,
As yet unknown to fame, and there beheld
A cow like jocund spring, well shaped and coloured
From head to foot: before her sat her herd
Upon his heels as one before a king.
I put thee in his charge. For long he nursed thee
Upon his breast, the cow of peacock-hues
Supplying thee with milk that made thee thrive
Like some bold crocodile, until the tidings
Of cow and meadow reached the Shah, and then
I bare thee from the pasture in all haste
And fled Iran and home and family.
He came and slew the noble, tender nurse
That could not speak to thee, then sent the dust,
Up from our home and turned it to ditch."
The prince, enraged thereat, mused on revenge,
And said with aching heart and knitted brows:-
"The lion groweth brave by venturing,
And since the sorcerer hath done his part
Mine is to take my scimitar and lay
His palace in the dust; such is God's will."
She said: "This is not well; thou canst not stand
Alone against the world. He bath the crown
And throne, and troops at his command, who come
From all the realm to battle when he willeth,
A hundred thousand strong. View not the world
With boyish eyes; the laws of blood-revenge
Demand it not. Drunk with the wine of youth
Men think themselves the only ones on earth
And vapour, but be thy days mirth and joy.
Do thou, my son! bear this advice in mind,
Give all words save thy mother's to the wind."

The Story of Zahhak and Kawa the Smith

Zahhak had " Faridun " upon his lips
Both day and night, his lofty stature bent
Beneath the terrors of his heart until
One day, when sitting on the ivory throne
And wearing on his head the turquoise crown,
He called the notables from every province
To firm the bases of his sovereignty,
And said to them? Good, wise, illustrious men!
I have, as sages wot, an enemy
Concealed, and I through fear of ill to come
Despise not such though weak. I therefore need
A larger host - men, divs, and fairies too -
And ask your aid, for rumours trouble me;
So sign me now a scroll to this effect:-
'Our monarch soweth naught but seeds of good,
He ever speaketh truth, and wrongeth none.'".
Those upright men both young and old subscribed
Their names upon the Dragon's document,
Against their wills, because they feared the Shah.
Just then was heard outside the palace-gate
The voice of one that clamoured for redress.
They called him in before the Shah and set him
Among the paladins. Zahhak in dudgeon
Said: "Tell us who hath wronged thee."
Then the man
Smote on his head before the Shah and cried:-
"O Shah! my name is Kawa and I sue
For justice. Do me right. I come in haste
Accusing thee in bitterness of soul;
An act of justice will enhance thy greatness.
I have had many an outrage at thy hands,
For thou hast stabbed my heart unceasingly,
And if the outrages had not thy sanction
Why hath my son been taken? I had once
In this world eighteen sons: but one is left!
Have mercy! Look on me this once! My liver
Is ever burning' What is mine offence,
O Shah? Oh, say ' If I have not offended
Seek not occasion 'gainst the innocent,
Regard my plight and save thyself from woe.
My back is bent with length of years, despair
Hath seized my heart, my head is all distraught,
My youth is gone, my children are no more,
And children are the nearest kin on earth.
Oppression hath a middle and an end,
And pretext ever. Tell me what is throe
For wronging me and ruining my life.
A smith am I, an inoflensive man,
Upon whose head the Shah is pouring fire,
And thou art he, and, though of dragon-form,
Must still do justice in this cause of mine.
Since thou dost rule the seven provinces
Why should the toil and hardship all be ours?
We have accounts to settle - thou and I -
And all will be aghast if they shall show
That this my son hath perished in his turn
With all the rest to feed those snakes of throe."
The monarch listened and was sore amazed.
They set the young man free and strove to win
The father by fair words, but when Zahhak
Bade him subscribe the scroll he read it through
And shouted to the ancients of the realm:-
"Confederates of the Div with impious hearts!
Ye set your faces hellward and have yielded
To that man's bidding. I will not subscribe,
Or ever give the Shah another thought."
He shouted, rose in fury, rent the scroll
And trampled it; then with his noble son
In front of him went raving to the street.
But all the courtiers blessed the Shah and said:-
"Illustrious king of earth! may no cold blast
From heaven pass o'er thee on the day of battle.
Why was this insolent Kawa countenanced
As though a friend of throe? He tore the scroll,
Refusing to obey thee, and is gone
Bent on revenge and leagued, as thou wouldst say,
With Faridun! A viler deed than this
We never saw and marvel such should be."
He answered quickly? I will tell you wonders.
When Kawa entered and I heard his cries,
A mount of iron seemed to rise betwixt us;
And when he beat his head a strange sensation
Convulsed me. How 'twill end I cannot tell;
The secrets of the sky are known to none."
When Kawa left the presence of the Shah,
A crowd assembled in the market-place.
And still he shouted, crying out for aid
And urging all to stand upon their rights.
He took a leathern apron, such as smiths
Wear to protect their legs while at the forge,
Stuck it upon a spear's point and forthwith
Throughout the market dust began to rise.
He passed along with spear in hand exclaiming:-
"Ye men of name! Ye worshippers of God!
Whoe'er would 'scape the fetters of Zahhak
Let him resort with me to Faridun
And shadow in his Grace. Come ye to him;
The ruler here is Ahriman - God's foe."
So that poor leather, worthless as it was,
Discriminated friends and enemies.
He took the lead, and many valiant men
Resorted to him; he rebelled and went
To Faridun. When he arrived shouts rose.
He entered the new prince's court, who marked
The apron on the spear and hailed the omen.
He decked the apron with brocade of Rum
Of jewelled patterns on a golden ground,
Placed on the spearpoint a full moon - a token
Portending gloriously - and having draped it
With yellow, red, and violet, he named it
The Kawian flag. Thenceforth when any Shah
Acceded to the throne, and donned the crown,
He hung the worthless apron of the smith
With still more jewels, sumptuous brocade,
And painted silk of Chin. It thus fell out
That Kawa's standard grew to be a sun
Amid the gloom of night, and cheered all hearts.
Time passed and still the world maintained its secret.
When Faridun saw matters thus, and all men
Submiss to vile Zahhak, he came to Faranak
With girded loins, crowned with a royal casque,
And said: "I go to battle, but do thou
Devote thyself to prayer. The Maker ruleth.
In weal and woe alike clasp hands to Him."
With tears and bleeding heart she cried: "O God!
My trust hath been in Thee. Turn from my son
The onslaughts of the wicked on his life,
And rid the world of these infatuates."
Then Faridun gat ready with despatch
And secrecy. He had two brothers, both
Of noble birth and older than himself,
Hight Kaianush and prosperous Purmaya.
He said to them: "Live, gallant hearts! in joy.
Revolving heaven bringeth naught but good;
The crown of power is coming back to us.
Provide me cunning smiths and let them make me
A massive mace."
They sought the smiths' bazar
In haste, whence all the aspiring craftsmen went
To Faridun, who taking compasses
Showed to the smiths the pattern, tracing it
Upon the ground. It had a buffalo's head.
They took the work in hand, and having wrought
A massive mace they bore it to the hero.
It shone as brightly as the noonday sun,
And Faridun, approving of the work,
Bestowed upon the makers raiment, gold,
And silver, holding out to them beside
Bright hopes and promise of advancement, saying :-
"If I shall lay the Dragon in the dust
I will not leave the dust upon your heads,
But justify the entire world, since I
Have Him in mind who judgeth righteously.

How Faridun Went to Battle With Zahhak

With head raised o'er the sun he girt his loins
For vengeance for his father, and set forth
Upon the day Khurdad right joyfully
With favouring stars and splendid auguries.
The troops assembled at his gate, his throne
Was lifted to the clouds. The first to go
Were baggage and provisions for the army
On buffaloes and high-necked elephants.
Purmaya rode with Kaianush beside
The Shah, like younger brothers and true friends.
He went like wind from stage to stage; revenge
Was in his head and justice in his heart.
The warriors on their Arab chargers reached
A spot where people dwelt who worshipped God,
And Faridun dismounting greeted them.
When night was darkening one in friendly guise
Approached him, walking with a measured tread,
With musky hair descending to the feet
And favoured like a maid of Paradise.
It was Surush, who came thence to advise
The king of good and ill, came like a fairy
And taught him privily the magic art,
That he might know the key of every lock
And by his spells bring hidden things to light;
While Faridun, erceiving that the work
Was God's not Ahriman's or come of evil,
Flushed like a cercis-bloom and joyed to see
How lusty he and his young fortune were.
The cooks prepared a feast - a noble banquet,
One fit for mighty men. Now Faridun,
The drinking done, being heavy sought repose.
His brothers, seeing that God sped his cause,
And that his fortune slumbered not, departed
Without delay to compass his destruction.
There was above their heads a lofty cliff
And underneath the Shah slept peacefully.
His two abandoned brothers scaled the height
That night unseen, and scrupling at no crime
Set loose a mighty crag upon the brow
To fall directly on their brother's head,
And kill him in his sleep. The crashing crag,
For God so ordered, roused the slumberer,
Who by his magic art arrested it
In mid career: it stopped dead. Faridun
Went on his way but kept the matter secret.
In front marched Kawa with the Kawian standard,
Soon to become the ensign of the realm.
Thus Faridun advanced, as one who sought
A diadem, toward the Arwand, or call it,
As Arabs do, the Dijla, if thou knowest not
The ancient tongue. He marched another stage
And came upon the Dijla, at Baghdad.
On drawing near he sent to greet the guard
And said: "Despatch to this side instantly
Your boats and vessels, bear me across with all
Mine army and let none be left behind."
The river-guard sent not his boats nor came
At Faridun's behest, but made reply:-
"The Shah gave privy orders: 'Launch no boat
Without a passport under mine own seal.'"
The prince, enraged and fearless of the stream,
Girt like a king and bent upon revenge,
Plunged with his rose-red charger in the flood.
With one accord his comrades girt themselves,
Turned toward the stream, and on their brave, fleet steeds
Plunged over saddle-back. The warriors' heads
Reeled while their swift steeds struggled with the tide,
And with their necks emerging seemed to be
The phantom cohort of a dream. The warriors
Reached the dry land undamped in their revenge
And set their faces toward Bait al Mukaddas.
This men called when they used the ancient tongue
Gang-i-Dizhukht; to-day 'tis known among
The Arabs as " The Holy Place." The fair
Tall palace of Zahhak was budded there.
When they approached the city that they sought,
And Faridun beheld it a mile off,
He saw a pile whose building towered o'er Saturn,
So that thou wouldst have said: "'Twill catch the stars!"
It shone like Jupiter in heaven; the place
Appeared all peace and love and happiness.
The hero recognised that seat of power
And springlike beauty as the Dragon's dwelling,
And said: "The man who reared a pile like that
From dust I fear me cottoneth with the world,
But still 'tis better to press on than tarry."
This said he grasped his massive mace and gave
His fleet steed rein, and thou hadst said: "A flame
Shot up before the guards."
He entered riding -
An inexperienced but valiant youth,
Who called upon the name of God - while they
That were on guard fled from him in dismay.

How Faridun saw the Sisters of Jamshid

Then Faridun o'erthrew the talisman,
Raised heaven-high by Zahhak, because he saw
That it was not of God, with massive mace
Laid low the sorcerers within the palace -
All fierce and notable divs - and set himself
Upon the enchanter's throne. This done he took
Possession of the royal crown and palace,
But though he searched he failed to find Zahhak.
Then from the women's bower he brought two Idols
Sun-faced, dark-eyed; he had them bathed, he purged
The darkness of their minds by teaching them
The way of God and made them wholly clean;
For idol-worshippers had brought them up
And they were dazed in mind like drunken folk.
Then while the tears from their bright eyes bedewed
Their rosy cheeks those sisters of Jamshid
Said thus to Faridun: "Mayst thou be young
Till earth is old! What star was this of thine,
O favoured one! What tree bore thee as fruit,
Who venturest inside the Lion's lair
So hardily, thou mighty man of valour?
What anguish and what bale have we endured
All through this dragon-shouldered Ahriman!
Oh!what a miserable world for us
Did this infatuated sorcerer make!
Yet saw we never here a man so hardy,
Bold, and ambitious as to think that he
Could take the throne."
He answered? Throne and fortune
Abide with none. My sire was fortune's favourite,
But still Zahhak seized on him in Iran
And slew him cruelly, so I have set
My face against Zahhak's throne in revenge.
He slew the cow Birmaya too - my nurse,
A very gem of beauty. What could he,
That villain, gain by slaughtering that dumb beast?
Now I am ready and I purpose war;
I came not from Iran to bring him pardon,
Or good will, but to brain him in revenge
With this ox-headed mace."
When Arnawaz
Heard this she guessed the secret, and replied:-
"Then thou art Faridun the Shah and wilt
Abolish necromacy and black art,
For thou art fated to destroy Zahhak
The binding of thy loins will loose the world.
We twain, pure, modest, and of royal seed,
Submitted only through the fear of death,
Else would we ever sleep or wake, O king
Beside a serpent-spouse? "
Then Faridun :-
"If heaven over us shall do me right
I will cut off this Dragon from the earth,
And purge the world of its impurity.
Now speak the truth at once and tell me where
That vile one is."
Those fair dames told him all;
They thought? The Dragon's head will meet the shears,"
And said: "He went to Hindustan to practise
Some spell-work in that land of sorcerers.
He will cut off a thousand innocent heads,
For he is terror-struck at evil fortune,
Because a seer hath said: ' Earth will be void
Of thee, for Faridun will seize thy throne
And thy prosperity wither in a moment:
Struck by the words his heart is all aflame,
And life affordeth him no happiness.
Now is he slaughtering beasts and men and women
To make a bath of blood and thus defeat
That prophecy. Those serpents on his shoulders
Keep him in long and sore disquietude.
From clime to clime he roveth, for the snakes
Give him no rest. 'Tis time for his return,
But place there is not."
Stricken to the heart
That lovely pair revealed the mystery
The exalted chieftain listened eagerly.

The Story of Faridun and the Minister of Zahhak

Zahhak while absent left in charge of all
A man of wealth, who served him like a slave,
So that his master marvelled at his zeal,
One named Kundrav, because he used to limp
Before the unjust king. He came in haste
And saw within the hall a stranger crowned,
Reposing on the throne, in person like
A cypress over which the full moon shineth,
On one side Shahrinaz the cypress-slim,
Upon the other moon-faced Arnawaz.
The city swarmed with soldiers, and a guard
Stood ready armed before the palace-gate.
All undismayed, not asking what it meant,
Kundrav approached with lowly reverence,
Then offered homage, saying? Live, O king
While time shall last. Blest be thy sitting here
In Grace, for thou deservest sovereignty.
The seven climes be throe and be thy head
Above the rain-clouds."
Being bid approach
He told the Shah the secrets of his office
And was commanded? Serve a royal feast,
Let wine be brought, call minstrels fit to hear,
To cheer me at the banquet, fill the goblet,
Spread out the board, and summon worthy guests."
Kundrav obeyed and broughtbrightwine and minstrels,
And noble guests whose birth entitled them.
So Faridun quaffed wine and chose the lays
And held that night a worthy festival.
Kundrav at dawn left the new prince in haste
Arid on a swift steed sought Zahhak. Arrived
He told the things that he had seen and heard :-
"O king of chiefs! the token of thy fall
Hath come, three men of noble mien arrived
With troops; the youngest of the three, in height
A cypress and a king in face, is placed
Between the other two and bath precedence.
His mace is like a mountain-crag and shineth
Amid the host. He entered thine abode
On horseback, and the others rode with him -
A noble pair. He went and sat upon
The royal throne and broke thy charms and spells.
As for the divs and warriors in thy palace
He struck their heads off as he rode along
And mingled brains and blood!"
Zahhak replied :-
"'Tis well, guests should enjoy themselves."
Retorted: "One that hath an ox-head mace
Beware of such in coming and in going;
Besides, he sitteth boldly on thy couch,
Eraseth from the crown and belt thy name,
And maheth throe ungrateful folk his own
If such a guest thou knowest know him such.
Zahhak said: "Trouble not, it bodeth well
When guests are at their ease."
Kundrav replied:-
Yea, I have heard so; hear thou my rejoinder
If this great man be any guest of throe
What business hath he in thy women's bower?
He sitteth with the sisters of Jamshid
The worldlord, taking counsel, while this hand
Is toying with the cheek of Shahrinaz
And that with Arnavaz' carnelian lip.
At night he Both still worse and pilloweth
His head on musk! What musk? The locks of Moons
Who ever were the idols of thy heart."
Zahhak, wolf-savage, wished that he were dead.
With foul abuse he sternly hoarsely threatened
That luckless one? No more shah thou have charge
Of any house of mine:'
Kundrav replied :-
"Henceforth, O king! I deem thy fortune sheet.
How shouldst thou make me ruler in the city,
Or give me even minstrels' work, when thou
Hast lost the throne of power? For like a hair
From dough hast thou departed from the throne
Of sovereignty. Think, sire! what thou wilt do.
Have thine own interests no concern for thee?
They ne'er before were in such jeopardy."

How Faridun bound Zahhak

Roused by that talk Zahhak resolved to act,
And bade his keen-eyed roadsters to be saddled.
Now as he neared the city by a byway
With valiant divs and warriors, and saw
His palace-roofs and gate he vowed revenge.
The troops of Faridun received the tidings
And flocked to meet him. Leaping from their steeds
They struggled hand to hand. The citizens,
Such as were warlike, manned the roofs and gates
For Faridun; Zahhak had maddened them.
Bricks from the walls, stones from the roofs, with swords
And poplar arrows in the street, were plied
As thick as hail; no place was left to stand.
The mountains echoed with the chieftains' shouts,
Earth trembled neath the chargers' tramping hoofs,
A cloud of black dust gathered, and the flints
Were pierced by javelins. From the Fane of Fire
One shouted? If some wild beast had been Shah,
We - young and old - had served him loyally,
But not that foul Zahhak with dragon-shoulders."
The warriors and citizens were blent
Together as they fought - a mass of men.
O'er that bright city rose a cloud of dust
That turned the sun to lapislazuli.
Anon Zahhak alone in jealous fear
Approached the palace, mailed, that none might know him.
Armed with a lasso sixty cubits long
He scaled the lofty edifice in haste
And saw beneath him dark-eyed Shahrinaz,
Who toyed bewitchingly with Faridun.
Her cheeks were like the day, her locks like night,
Her lips were opened to revile Zahhak,
Who recognised therein the act of God -
A clutch of evil not to be evaded -
And with his brain inflamed by jealousy
Dropped one end of the lasso to the court
And so slid down from that high roof, regardless
Of throne and precious life. As he descended
He drew a keen-edged poniard from its sheath,
Told not his purpose or his name, but clutched
The steel-blue dagger in his hand, athirst
For blood - the blood of those two beauteous dames.
His feet no sooner rested on the ground
Than Faridun rushed on him like the wind
And beat his helm in with the ox-head mace.
"Strike not," cried blest Surush, who hurried thither,
"His time hath not yet come, but bind him vanquished
Firm as a rock and bear him to some gorge,
Where friends and kinsmen will not come to him."
When Faridun heard that he tarried not,
But gat a lasso made of lion's hide
And bound Zahhak around the arms and waist
With bonds that no huge elephant could snap,
Then sitting on Zahhak's own golden throne
Determined all the evil usages
And made a proclamation at the gate:-
"Ye citizens possessed of Grace and wisdom!
Disarm and follow but one path to fame,
For citizens and soldiers may not seek
A common excellence; this hath his craft
And that his mace; their spheres are evident
And, if confounded, earth will be so too.
Depart rejoicing, each one to his work,
And live and prosper long, because the foul one,
Whose acts brought terror on the world, is bound."
Men hearkened to the great redoubted Shah.
Then all the leading, wealthy citizens
Drew near with gladness bringing offerings
And heartily accepted Faridun,
Who graciously received them and discreetly
Gave each his rank's due, counselled them at large,
And offered up his prayers and thanks to God,
Then said: "The realm is mine, your fortune's star
Is bright, for me alone did God send forth
From Mount Alburz by Grace, and for your sakes,
To set the world free from the Dragon's bane.
Blest as we are by Him who giveth good
We ought to walk toward good upon His paths.
As king I may not tarry in one place,
Else would I pass with you a length of days."
The nobles kissed the ground. Anon the din
Of drums rose from the gate whereon all eyes
Were fixed, the people yelled against the man,
Whose days were almost sped? Bring forth the Dragon
Bound in the lasso's coils as he deserveth."
The troops withdrew no wealthier than they came,
And took Zahhak, bound shamefully and flung
In wretched plight upon a camel's back
On this wise to Shirkhan. Call this world old
Or ever thou shah hear this story told.
What changes numberless have passed and still
Must pass hereafter over plain and hill
Thus fortune's favourite bore Zahhak toward
Shirkhan, and driving him among the mountains
Was purposing to cast him headlong down,
When carne the blest Surush and whispered thus
The prince in friendly wise? Convey the captive
Thus to Mount Damawand with speed, and tape
No escort, or but what thy safety needeth."
He bore Zahhak as one that rideth post
And fettered him upon Mount Damawand;
So when new bonds were added to the old,
And fate had not another ill in store,
The glory of Zahhak became like dust
And earth was cleansed from his abominations,
He was removed from kindred and from friends,
And bonds alone were left him in the mountains,
Where Faridun chose out a narrow gorge -
A chasm which he had marked of viewless depth -
And having studded it with heavy nails,
Whereon the brain might chafe, secured Zahhak,
Bound by the hands upon a crag, that so
His anguish might endure. Thus was he left
To hang : his heart's blood trickled to the ground.
Come let us, lest we tread the world for ill,
Be on attaining every good intent;
No good or evil will endure but still
Good furnisheth the better monument.
A lofty palace, wealth of every kind,
Will not avail; thy monument on earth
Will be the reputation left behind
And therefore deem it not of little worth.
No angel was the glorious Faridun,
Not musk and ambergris; he strove to win
By justice and beneficence the boon
Of greatness : be a Faridun therein.
By godlike travail undertaken he
First cleansed the world from its iniquity.
The binding of Zahhak, that loathly one
Devoid of justice, was the chief deed done.
He next avenged the murder of Abtin,
Caused all the world to recognise his sway,
And lastly purged the surface of earth clean
Of madmen, and took miscreants' power away.
O world! how loveless and malign art thou
To breed the quarry and then hunt it down
Lo! where is Faridun the valiant now,
Who took away from old Zahhak the crown?
Upon this earth five hundred years he reigned
And then departing left an empty throne;
Bequeathing earth to others, he retained
Of all that he possessed regret alone.
So is it with us whether great or small
And sheep or shepherd, 'tis the same with all.

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