The Story of the Seven Stages of Asfandiyar
The Seven Stages will I next set forth
In words both novel and of dainty worth.
Oh ! may the world's Shah live for ever, may
Its potentates be slaves beneath his sway !
He showed his visage like bright Sol above,
And graced the surface of the earth with love.
Sol was in Aries when first he wore
The crown, and East and West rejoiced therefore.
The thunder-peal is rolling o'er the hills,
And tulip and narcissus throng the rills,
The patient tulip, arch narcissus, yea
And awesome spikenard and pomegranate gay.
The clouds have hearts of fire and tearful eyes,
And bursts of anger mix with melodies.
The levin flasheth and the waters leap
Till at the din thou rousest from thy sleep.
Thus wakened look abroad and call the scene
Brocade or painted by Mani in Chin,
A scene that, bright in sunshine, having spied
The tulip and narcissus still wet-eyed,
Will laugh and cry: "Ye minxes ! thus again
I weep for love of you, not wrath or pain."
Earth hath no laughter while the heaven is dry.
I do not call our great king's hand the sky,
Which only giveth forth its rains in spring,
For such is not the usance of a king.
As Sol, when it ariseth gloriously
In Aries, such shall the Shah's hand be,
For whensoe'er there cometh to his hand
A wealth of pearls or musk from sea or land,
The radiance that is his he doth not scant
To proud-necked monarch and to mendicant.
Abu'l Kasim ! our great Shah's hand is still
Thus generous alike to good and ill.
He never slackeneth in bounteousness,
And never resteth on the day of stress,
Delivereth battle when the times demand,
And taketh heads of monarchs in his hand,
But largesseth the humble with his spoils,
And maketh no account of his own toils.
Oh ! may Mahmud still rule the world, still be
The source of bounty and of equity !
Now list to what an ancient sage hath told,
And learn the legend of the Brazen Hold.
THE FIRST STAGE
How Asfandiyar slew two Wolves
A rustic bard hath spread the board and there
Set forth " The Seven Stages " as the fare.
He took within his hand a cup of gold,
And of Gushtasp and of the Brazen Hold,
And of the doings of Asfandiyar,
His journey and the counsels of Gurgsar,
Spake thus:-Now when embittered, tongue and soul,
Asfandiyar reached Balkh he left his sire,
And set out with Gurgsar toward Turan.
He marched until he came where two roads met,
And camped there with his host, bade spread the board,
And furnish wine and harp and minstrelsy,
While all the captains of the host drew near,
And sat at table with the king of men,
By whose directions presently Gurgsar,
In miserable plight, was brought before him,
And furnished with a golden goblet filled
Four times successively. Thereafter said
Asfandiyar to him: "Thou luckless one !
I will advance thee to the crown and throne,
Will give thee all the kingdom of the Turkmans,
And will exalt thee to the shining sun,
As soon as I return victorious,
If thou wilt tell me truly what I ask,
Nor will I harm thy children, kith or kin;
But if thou go about to utter lies
In any way they will not pass with me,
My sword shall cleave thee, and the hearts of all
Shall tremble at thy fate."
"0 famous, glorious Asfandiyar!
From me the king shall hear naught but the truth,
And be it thine to act the kingly part."
"Where is the Brazen Hold," Asfandiyar
Said, "for its marches march not with Iran?
What roads are there to it? How many leagues?
How can it be approached without mishap?
Say too how many troops there are within it,
And tell me what thou knowest of its height."
"O kind and glorious Asfandiyar!"
Gurgsar replied, "three roads lead hence to what
Arjasp hath titled 'Battlestead.' One route
Will take thy troops three months, the second two.
The first hath water, grass, and towns, and chiefly
Pertaineth to the chieftains of Turan.
The second road, that which will take two months,
Will furnish for the troops but little provand;
There is no grass or water for the beasts,
And thou wilt find no camping-grounds. The third
Will occupy but seven days; the troops
Will reach the Brazen Hold upon the eighth,
But that road is all lions, wolves, and dragons,
And none can scape their claws; yet mightier
Than lion, wolf, and savage dragon are
A witch's charms, who raiseth from the deep
One to the moon and flingeth to the abyss
Another headlong. There are wastes, Simurghs,
And bitter frosts which rise like blasts and cut
The trees. Then will appear the Brazen Hold,
And none e'er saw, or heard of, such another.
It toppeth the dark cloud-rack. Arms and troops
Abound within it. Waters and a river -
A sight to cheer the soul-environ it.
The monarch crosseth to the plain by boat
When he will hunt, but should he stay within
For five score years the plain could furnish naught
That he would need, because inside the hold
Are tilth and pasture, fruit-trees and a mill."
Asfandiyar, on hearing this, was troubled
Awhile and sighed, but said: "There is no way
For us save this; the short road is the best
In this world," and Gurgsar retorted thus:-
"0 king! none e'er by puissance and pains
Hath made the passage of the Seven Stages
Without foregoing life."
The chieftain answered:-
If thou art with me thou shaft see the heart
And strength of Ahriman. What, sayest thou,
Will meet me first? What must I fight for passage?"
Gurgsar replied: "0 famed and fearless man !
Two wolves, each like a lusty elephant,
A male and female, having horns like stags
And all a-gog to make a fight of lions,
Broad in the neck and breast and thin of flank,
With monstrous elephants' tusks, first will confront thee."
Asfandiyar then bade lead back Gurgsar
Bound as he was in miserable plight,
And blithe himself assumed his Kaian casque,
And held his court.
When Sol displayed its crown
On high, and heaven showed earth its mysteries,
The din of drums rose from the royal tent,
Earth turned to iron, air to ebony,
While in high spirits and with fair array
The prince set forward toward the Seven Stages,
And toward Turan. When he approached the First
He chose a veteran among the host,
A watchful man, hight Bishutan, who guarded
The army from the foe, and said to him:-
"Maintain good discipline among the troops.
I am disturbed by what Gurgsar hath said,
And will go on. If evil shall befall me
It must not come upon my followers."
He went and armed; they girthed his night-hued steed.
The chief, when he had drawn anigh the wolves,
Sat firmly like a mighty elephant.
The wolves beheld his breast and neck, his waist,
His warrior-handgrip, and his iron mace,
And like grim elephants and keen for fight
Made at him from the plain. The hero strung
His bow and, roaring like a rending lion,
Rained arrows down upon those Ahrimans,
And hardily employed the horsemen's sleights.
The steel-tipped shafts disabled both the beasts,
And neither could approach unscathed. With joy
Asfandiyar perceived them growing weak
And sore distressed, unsheathed his watered glaive,
And charged. He hacked-their heads and made the dust
Mire with their blood, lit from his noble steed,
Acknowledging his helplessness to God,
And washed the wolves' gore from his arms and person,
Then sought a spot that had not been defiled
Upon the sand and turning toward the sun,
With troubled heart and cheeks besmirched with dust,
Exclaimed: "0 righteous Judge ! Thou hast bestowed
Upon me strength, Grace, prowess. Thou hast laid
These beasts upon the dust and to all good
When Bishutan came with the host
They saw the hero at the place of prayer.
The warriors were astonied at his exploit,
And all the troops thought: "Shall we call these wolves
Or lusty elephants? May such a heart
And sword and hand live ever ! Never may
The throne of kingship, majesty, and feast,
And host lack him."
The wary warriors
Approached and pitched the tent-enclosure round him;
They set a golden board whereat to dine,
Partook of victuals and called out for wine.
THE Second STAGE
How Asfandiyar slew two Lions
As for Gurgsar his portion was chagrin
About those fierce wolves and Asfandiyar,
Who bade the prisoner be brought before him.
They brought him quaking, with his face all tears.
The prince bestowed on him three cups of wine,
And asked: "What wonder shall I next behold
By thine account?"
He answered thus the chief:-
"O monarch crowned and leonine of heart !
Upon the next stage lions will assail thee,
Such as no crocodile would dare encounter;
The lusty eagle, valiant though it be,
Will fly not in their path."
Laughed with light heart, and said: "O feckless Turkman!
Tomorrow thou shalt see a valiant man
Address the lion with the scimitar."
When night grew dark the monarch gave command,
And they resumed the march. He led the host
Apace amid the gloom, blood in his eyes,
Despite at heart, and when the sun had doffed
Its dusky cloak and donned brocade of gold
He reached the station for the brave - the plain
Where he must fight the lions. He commanded
That Bishutan should come to him, advised him
At large, and said: "I go to fight in person,
Committing this exalted host to thee."
He went his way, and drawing near the lions
Turned all the world to darkness in their hearts.
There were a lion and a lioness,
And bravely both came forth to fight with him,
The lion first. He smote it with his sword;
Its face grew coral-hued; 'twas cloven from head
To midriff; which appalled the lioness,
Yet, like her mate, she came on savagely.
The chieftain emote her on the head, which fell
And rolled upon the sand. Her paws and breast
Were tulip-hued with blood. He bathed himself
And, looking to all-holy God alone
As his Protector, said: "O righteous Judge!
Thou heat destroyed these creatures by my hand:'
Meanwhile the troops camp up, and Bishutan
Surveyed the lions' breasts and limbs while all
Acclaimed Asfandiyar. That valiant leader
Thereafter went to his pavilion where
They served to that pure prince delicious fare.
THE THIRD STAGE
How Asfandiyar slew a Dragon
Asfandiyar then ordered to his presence
The luckless and malevolent Gurgasar,
Gave him three goblets filled with rosy wine,
And, when the wine had cheered that Ahriman,
Addressed him thus and said, "Ill-fated wretch
Tell what thou knowest of tomorrow's sight."
Gurgsar returned reply: "High-minded king
May evil-doers ne'er approach to harm thee,
Gone hast thou into battle like a fire,
And made a shift to over-pass these bales,
But know'st not what will come on thee tomorrow,
Have mercy then upon thy wakeful fortune,
For when tomorrow thou shalt reach the stage
A greater task by far confronteth thee.
There will encounter thee an awesome dragon,
Whose breath doth draw forth from the deep the fish.
A flame of fire proceedeth from its maw;
Its body is a mountain made of flint.
Now if thou wilt retrace thy steps 'tis well;
My very soul is pleading in this counsel.
Thou hast not any pity for thyself,
And by that token came this host together."
Asfandiyar replied: "Thou evil one!
I mean to drag thee in thy chains with me
To be a witness that this sharp-clawed dragon
Escapeth not my trenchant scimitar."
At his command some carpenters were fetched,
And therewithal some long and heavy beams.
He had a goodly wooden carriage built
All set about with swords and with a box,
Framed by a clever carpenter, whereon
That seeker of the diadem sat down,
And harnessed to the break two noble steeds'
To put it to the proof. He drove awhile
In mail, armed with a falchion of Kabul,
And helmed for fight. Or ever all was ready
For battle with the dragon night grew dark,
As 'twere a negro's face, while Luna showed
Her crown in Aries. Asfandiyar
Gat on his steed Shulak; his noble host
Marched after him. Next day when it was light,
And night's black flag was furled, the heroic world-lord
Assumed his breastplate and resigned the host
To glorious Bishutan, had break and box,
Wherein he sat, brought forth, attached two steeds
Of noble stock, and sped toward the dragon.
Afar it heard the rumble and beheld
The prancing of the battle-steeds. It came,
Like some black mountain, and thou wouldst have said:-
The The sun and moon are darkened." Its two eyes
Seemed fountains bright with blood, while from its gullet
Fire issued, and like some dark cavern gaped
Its jaws. It bellowed at Asfandiyar,
Who, seeing the monster, drew his breath and turned
To God for help. The horses strove to 'scape ,
The dragon's mischief, but it sucked them in,
Them and the break, and in his box dismayed
The warrior. In the dragon's gullet stuck
The sword-blades, and blood poured forth like a sea;
It could not free its gullet, for the swords
Were sheathed within it. Tortured by the points
And chariot the dragon by degrees
Grew weak, and then the gallant warrior,
Arising from the box, clutched his keen glaive
With lion-grip and hacked the dragon's brains
Till fumes of venom rising from the dust
O'erpowered him; he tumbled mountain-like,
And swooned away. Then Bishutan and all
His mighty host came up in tears and grief
Lest ill should have befallen Asfandiyar,
The troops all wailed, dismounted, and advanced
Afoot while Bishutan came hurrying,
And poured rose-water o'er the hero's head.
Now when the atheling had oped his eyes
He thus addressed the exalted warriors:-
"The venom's fumes o'ercame me, for the dragon
Ne'er struck me."
Rising from the ground like one
Awakening from a drunken drowse he sought
The water, plunged therein, and bathed, bespeaking
A change of raiment from his treasurer.
Then in the presence of all-holy God
He wallowed in the dust and wept, exclaiming:-
"Who could have slain that dragon if the World-lord
Had not assisted him?"
His soldiers too
Bent to the earth and praised the righteous Judge;
But thus to find alive Asfandiyar,
Whom he thought dead, was grievous to Gurgsar
THE FOURTH STAGE
How Asfandiyar slew a Witch
Asfandiyar pitched by the water-side
His tent-enclosure while the troops camped round him.
He set forth wine, called boon-companions,
Rose to his feet, and drank to Shah Gushtasp,
Commanding too to bring Gurgsar who came.
Before him, quaking. Then Asfandiyar
Gave him to drink three cups of royal wine,
Spake laughingly with him about the dragon,
And said: "Thou worthless fellow! now behold
How with its breath that dragon sucked us in !
When I go forward for another stage
What greater toils and troubles are in store?"
Gurgsar replied. "0 conquering prince ! thou hast
The fruit of thy good star. When thou alightest
Tomorrow at the stage a witch will come
To greet thee. She hath looked on many a host,
But quailed at none. She turneth waste to sea
At will and maketh sunset at mid day,
Men call her Ghul, 0 Shah ! Face not her toils
In these thy days of youth. Thou hast o'ercome
The dragon; now turn back; thou shouldst not bring
Thy name to dust."
The atheling replied:-
"Tomorrow, knave ! thou shall recount my prowess,
For I will break the warlocks' backs and hearts,
So will I maul that witch, and trample down
Their heads by might of Him, the one just God."
When day donned yellow weeds, and this world's Lustre
Sank in the west, he marched on, packed the loads,
With prayer to God, the Giver of all good,
And led the army onward through the night.
When Sol had raised its golden casque, begemming
The Ram's face, and the Champaign was all smiles,
The prince gave up the host to Bishutan,
And took a golden goblet filled with wine,
Called for a costly lute and, though he went
To battle, dight himself its for a feast.
He had in view a wood like Paradise;
Thou wouldst have said: "The sky sowed tulips there."
The sun saw not within it for the trees,
And streamlets like rose-water flowed around.
He lighted from his steed as seemed him good,
And, having chosen him a fountain's marge
Within the forest, grasped the golden goblet.
Now when his heart was gladdened with the wine
The hero took the lute upon his lap,
And out of all the fulness of his heart
Began to troll this ditty to himself:-
"Oh! never is it mine to see
Both wine and one to quaff with me,
But mine 'tie ever to behold
The lion and the dragon bold,
And not, from bales' clutch, liberty.
Tis not my lot to look upon
On earth some glorious fay-cheeked one,
Yet now if God will but impart
A winsome breaker of the heart
The longing of mine own is won."
Now when she heard Asfandiyar the witch
Grew like a rose in springtide, saying thus:-
"The mighty Lion cometh to the toils
With robe and lute and goblet filled with wine."
Foul, wrinkled, and malevolent she plied
Her magic arts amid the gloom and grew
As beauteous as a Turkinan maid, with cheek
As 'twere brocade of Chin and musk-perfumed,
Of cypress-height, a sun to look upon,
With musky tresses falling to her feet.
Her cheeks like rosaries, she drew anear
Asfandiyar, with roses in her breast.
The atheling, when he beheld her face,
Plied song and wine and harp more ardently,
And said: "O just and only God ! Thou art
Our Guide upon the mountain and the waste.
I wanted even now a fay-faced maid
Of beauteous form as my companion;
The just Creator hath bestowed her on me,
Oh ! may my heart and pure soul worship Him."
He plied her with musk-scented wine and made
Her face a tulip-red. Now he possessed
A goodly chain of steel which he had kept
Concealed from her. Zarduhsht, who brought it down
From Paradise for Shah Gushtasp, had bound it
About the prince's arm. Asfandiyar
Flung it around her neck; her strength was gone;
She took a lion's form. The atheling.
Made at her with his scimitar, and said:-
"Thou wilt not injure me though thou hast reared
An iron mountain. Take thy proper shape,
For now the answer that I make to thee
Is with the scimitar."
Within the chain
There was a fetid hag, calamitous,
With head and hair like snow, and black of face.
With trenchant sword he smote her on the head,
Which with her body came down to the dust.
Sight failed, so loured the sky when that witch died,
While blast and black cloud veiled the sun and moon.
The atheling clomb to a hill and shouted
As 'twere a thunder-clap. Then Bishutan
Came quickly with the host, and said: "Famed prince!
No crocodile or witch, wolf, pard and lion,
Can stand thy blows, and by that token thou
Wilt be exalted still. Oh! may the world
Desire thy love!"
The head-piece of Gurgsar
Flamed at these triumphs of Asfandiyar.
THE FIFTH STAGE
How Asfandiyar slew the Simurgh
The atheling laid face upon the ground
Awhile before the Maker of the world,
Then pitched his camp-enclosure in the wood.
They spread the board in fitting mode and then
Asfandiyar gave orders to the deathsman:-
"Bring hither in his bonds that wretch Gurgsar."
They brought him to the prince who, seeing him,
Gave him three cups of royal wine. Now when
The ruddy wine had gladdened him thus said
Asfandiyar: "Thou wretched Turkman ! mark
Upon the tree the head of that old witch,
'Who turneth,' so thou saidst, 'the plain to sea,
And doth exalt her o'er the Pleiades.'
And now what marvel shall I see next stage,
Judged by the standard of this witch?"
"0 Elephant of war in battle-time!
Upon this stage thou hast a harder task
Be more than ever cautious and alert.
Thou wilt behold a mount, with head in air,
And thereupon a bird imperious,
One like a flying mountain, combative,
And called Simurgh by merchants. With its claws
It beareth off the elephant at sight,
The pard on land, the crocodile from water,
And feeleth not the effort. Weigh it not
With wolf and witch. Upon its mountain-horns
It hath two young, their wills to hers affined,
And when it flieth the earth is impotent,
The sun is put to shame. 'Twill profit thee
To turn back for thou canst not strive against
Simurgh and mountain-height."
The hero laughed.
"A wonder ! " he exclaimed. "I will sew up
Its shoulders with mine arrows, cleave its breast
With Indian scimitar, and bring its head
From height to dust."
When bright Sol showed its back,
Which ruffled all the bosom of the west,
The chief of warriors led the army forth,
And pondered that account of the Simurgh.
Thus he and host fared onward all the night.
Whenas the shining sun rose o'er the mountains
The Lamp of time gave freshness to the earth,
Transforming dale and plain. Asfandiyar
Gave up the army to its chief and took
To steed and box and break. He sped along,
Like an imperious blast, and spying in air
A peak stayed in its shadow break and steed,
Absorbed in contemplation. The Simurgh
Marked from the mount the box, the troops behind it,
And all their trumpeting, and, swooping down
Like some dark cloud obscuring sun and moon,
Essayed to seize the chariot with its talons,
As leopard seizeth quarry, but transfixed
Its legs and pinions with the swords, and all
Its might and glory passed away. It beat
Awhile with claws and beak while strength remained,
And then was still. On seeing this its young
Flew off with screams and weeping tears of blood
Down from the eyry, blurring every eye
Beneath their shade. When the Simurgh thus sank
With all its wounds and bathed steeds, box, and break
In blood, Asfandiyar, all armed and shouting,
Emerged and hewed to pieces with his sword
That bird now mastered, once so masterful;
Then prayed thus to the Maker who had given
Such mastery to him in good and ill,
And said: "0 righteous Judge ! Thou hast bestowed
Upon me wisdom, puissance, and prowess,
Hast driven out the sorcerers and been
My Guide to every good."
With that arose
The sound of clarions, and Bishutan
Set forward with the host. None could behold
The desert for the bird, but only saw
Its form and talons bathed in blood which covered
The earth from range to range, and thou wouldst say
"The plain was lost in plumes! " Men saw the prince
Blood-boltered, 'twas a sight to fray the moon,
And all the captains, cavaliers of war,
And mighty men applauded him. Anon
Gurgsar heard tidings of that famed chief's triumph,
Quaked, paled, and fared with tears and heart all
The world's king had the tent-enclosure pitched,
His joyous warriors round him. Then to dine
They spread brocade, took seat, and called for wine.
THE SIXTH STAGE
How Asfandiyar passed through the Snow
Asfandiyar, the illustrious prince, then bade
Gurgsar to come and gave him in succession
Three cups of wine whereat his checks became
Like bloom of fenugreek, and then the prince
Addressed him: "Miscreant in mind and body !
Observe the doings of this whirling world !
Evanished are Simurgh and lion, wolf
And dragon sharp of claw and valorous!"
Gurgsar then lifted up his voice and said:-
"0 famous, glorious Asfandiyar
God is thy Helper, 0 most fortunate !
The royal Tree hath come to fruit; howbeit
Tomorrow there confronteth thee a task
That none in war expecteth. Thou wilt take
No thought of mace or bow or sword, and see
No opening for fight, no way of flight,
For snow, a spear's length deep, will come upon thee,
A crisis will confront thee, thou with all
Thy famous army wilt be lost therein,
0 glorious Asfandiyar ! No marvel
If thou turn back, nor need my words offend thee;
Thou wilt be guiltless of this army's blood,
And quit this road for other. Sure am I
That earth will rive beneath a mighty blast,
The trees be levelled. E'en if thou shalt make
At last thy way through to the plain beyond
The next stage will be thirty leagues across,
An arid wilderness of dust and sand,
Which birds and ants and locusts traverse not.
Thou wilt not see a drop of water there;
Its soil is ever seething with the sun.
A lion cannot pass that sandy waste,
Nor swift-winged vulture fly across the sky.
No herbage groweth in the arid soil,
And that is tutty-like, all shifting sands.
Thus wilt thou fare along for forty leagues;
Men's souls will fail and horses lose all heart.
Thy host then will approach the Brazen Hold,
Which thou wilt find upon no fruitful spot.
Its soil is in the maw of poverty;
Its summit holdeth conclave with the sun.
Outside the castle beasts look not for food,
The army will not have a horseman left.
Though there should come a hundred thousand men,
Sword-wielders from Iran and from Turan,
And should beleaguer it a hundred years,
And shower arrows there, it recketh not
How many enemies or few there be;
They are but as a knocker on the door."
The Iranians heard Gurgsar, were pained, and said:-
"0 noble prince ! forbear with all thy might
To compass thine own ruin. If things are
As said Gurgsar we cannot blink that we
Came hither to our death and not to wreck
The Turkmans. Thou hast traversed this rough road,
And 'scaped disaster from wild beasts. Not one
Of all our warriors and heroic Shahs
Can reckon up so great a tale of toils
As thou hast met with in these Seven Stages.
So thank the Maker for it all, and since
Thou wilt return victorious thou mayst go
Light-hearted to the Shah, while if thou marchest
To war elsewhere the whole state of Iran
Will homage thee. So, as Gurgsar saith, hold not
Thy person cheaply and involve not all
A host in slaughter, for this ancient sky
Will play now tricks. Now that we are triumphant
And glad there is no need for thee to fling
Thine own head to the winds."
On hearing this
That young, heroic paladin replied
"Why fray me thus and open for yourselves
The door of terror? Came ye from Iran
To counsel then and not for high renown?
If this was then the mind of all of you
Why did ye gird yourselves to fare with me
Since at this miserable Turkman's words
Ye tremble like a tree? Where then are all
The counsels and the presents of the Shah,
The golden girdles, thrones, and diadems,
Where all your oaths, your bonds, and covenants
By God 'neath favouring stars that now your feet
Should falter thus and one march wreck your plans?
Turn back then happy and victorious,
But as for me may I seek naught but fight.
The World-lord is my conquering ally,
And fortune's head reclineth on my breast.
Now by my manhood I will none of you
As comrades whether I am slain or slay,
And by my manhood, might of hand, and triumph
Will show the foe what prowess is. Withal
Ye shall not lack for tidings of my Grace
Imperial, famed, and that which I have wrought
In His name, who is Lord of Sun and Saturn,
Upon this stronghold by my might and manhood."
The Iranians looked upon Asfandiyar,
Beheld his eyes all wrath, and went before him
To make excuses: "Let the prince forgive
Our fault if he see fit. Oh ! may our souls
And bodies be thy ransom, such hath been,
And will remain, our covenant with thee.
We grieve for thee, O prince! Our toil and strife
Have not reduced us to extremities,
And, while a chief surviveth, none of us
Will shrink from fight."
Their leader, hearing this,
Grieved for his words and praised the Iranians.
He said, "will show itself. If we return
Victorious we shall enjoy the fruits
Of our past toil; it will not be forgotten,
And your own treasuries shall not be void."
The prince took counsel till the world grew cool,
And zephyrs wafted from the mountain-top,
Then trump and clarion sounded from the court-gate,
And all the host set forward, sped like fire,
And called upon the Maker. When the dawn
Rose o'er the mountain-tops, and night drew o'er
Her head her filmy wimple as a veil
Against the blazing sun which pressed behind,
That mighty host - all mace-men clad in armour -
Reached their next stage. It was a glorious day
In spring, a day to gladden heart and world.
The prince bade pitch the tent and tent-enclosure,
Then had the board spread and the wine brought forth.
With that there came a fierce blast from the mountains,
And sore dismayed him. All the world became
Like ravens' plumes, and none knew plain from upland.
From that dark cloud descended showers of snow;
The earth was filled with snow and raging blast,
And o'er the desert for three days and nights
The fury of the wind was measureless.
The tents and tent-enclosure were soaked through,
And not a man could stand or stir for cold.
The air was woof, the snow was like the warp;
The chief, resourceless, called to Bishutan:-
"This plight of ours is one with misery.
I met the dragon's fumings like a man,
But strength and manhood now avail us not.
Make supplication, all of you, to God !
Call ye upon Him, offer to Him praise,
That He may cause these ills to pass from us,
Else we are naught henceforth."
Made prayer to God, who is the Guide to good,
While all the soldiers lifted up their hands,
And offered supplications numberless.
Thereon a gentle breeze arose which bare
The clouds away and heaven became serene,
And when the Iranians had taken heart
They offered thanks to God. They stayed three days
And, when the world's Light shone upon the fourth,
The leader called the officers to him,
And apake to them at large and graciously:-
"Leave baggage here and take but gear of war.
Let every chief that hath a hundred beasts
Load half of them with water and supplies,
The other half with means of serving them.
Leave all the other baggage here, for now
The door of God is opened unto us.
When any man hath lost all hope in God
His portion of success is small indeed;
But we by help of God shall overcome
That evil-doer and idolater,
While ye shall be the richer for yon hold,
And all have crowns and treasures."
When the sun
Drew o'er its head its yellow veil, and when
The west became like flower of fenugreek,
The warriors, having loaded up the beasts,
Marched with the king of men. Now in the night
A sound of cranes came from the sky above.
Asfandiyar was wrathful at the sound,
And sent this message to Gurgsar: "Thou said'st:-
There is no water for thee on this stage,
Nor rest nor sloop withal.' Yet cranes give note
Above ! Why didst thou make us dread a drought? "
Gurgsar replied: "The baggage-beasts will get
But brackish water here, and thou wilt find
The fountains poisonous, though birds and beasts
The chief said: "In Gurgsar have I
A hostile guide."
He bade the host proceed.
Invoking God they hurried on at speed.
THE SEVENTH STAGE
How Asfandiyar crossed the River and slew Gurgsar
When one watch of the darksome night had passed
There rose a clamour from the plain in front.
The young prince, smiling on his charger, rode
Forth from the centre of the army vanward.
When he had ridden past the troops he saw
A deep, unfathomed river. Now a camel,
One of the caravan whose cameleer
Had kept it in the front, had tumbled in.
The chieftain seized and dragged it from the mud,
And that malignant Turkman of Chigil
quaked. At the bidding of the prince he came -
That fell Gurgsar - both seared of heart and fettered.
"Base villain ! " said the prince, "why hast thou used
This snake-like subtlety? Didst thou not say
'Here thou wilt find no water, and the sun
Will burn thee up'? Why didst thou make out water
To be but dust and wouldst have wrecked the host,
Thou miscreant? "
He said: "Thy host's destruction
Would be as bright to me as sun and moon.
I get from thee but fetters; what should I
Wish but thy bale and loss?"
The chieftain laughed,
Stared, was amazed at him, but showed no wrath,
And said: "Gurgsar, thou man of little wit!
When I return victorious from the fight
Thou shall be captain of the Brazen Hold
Far be from me to harm thee. All the realm
Is thine if thou wilt give me honest counsel.
I will not hurt thy children, kith, or kin."
Gurgsar grew hopeful at the words. In wonder
He kissed the ground and asked to be forgiven.
The prince replied: "Thy words are passed, but water
Hath not been turned to land by thy wild talk.
Where is the ford? Thou must direct us right."
Gurgsar rejoined: "No arrow plumed and pointed,
When ironed thus, can find its way across.
Thou shalt work magic with the mighty stream
If thou wilt but unfetter me."
Astonished bade to loose him, and Gurgsar,
When he had seized a camel by the halter,
Descended to the stream and at a spot
That was within his depth essayed the passage.
The soldiers followed him in single file.
Inflating at Asfandiyar's behest
Their water-skins forthwith, and binding them
Along the barrels of their beasts of burden,
They all plunged in. The host and baggage reached
Land, and reforming to the left and right
Marched till the Brazen Hold was ten leagues off.
The captain of the host sat down to meat,
The slaves attended him with cups of wine
And, at that mighty Lion's bidding, brought
His tunic, helmet, coat of mail, and sword.
In merry pin the hero gave command,
And when they brought Gurgsar thus said to him:-
"Now that thou hast escaped calamity
Good words and truthful will become thee well.
When I behead Arjasp and make rejoice
The spirit of Luhrasp; when I behead
Kuhram, who slaughtered Farshidward and troubled
My soldiers' hearts; behead Andariman,
Who slaughtered eight and thirty of our chiefs
When he prevailed; when for my grandsire's death
I take revenge in all ways; when I make
The lions' maws their tombs and gratify
The Iranian warriors' lust; when I stitch up
Their livers with mine arrows and take captive
Their wives and children, shall I call then glad
Or grieved thereat? Tell all thy heart to me."
Heart-straitened, hostile both in speech and soul,
Gurgsar retorted: "How long wilts thou use
Such converse? Be accursed and justly so.
May every evil star control thy life,
Thy waist be cut asunder with the sword,
Thy gory body flung upon the dust,
The earth thy bed, the grave thy winding-sheet."
Roused by his words, and raging at the oaf,
The prince smote with an Indian sword his head,
And clave him, crown to midriff. To the river
They flung him presently, and that malignant
Grew food for fishes. Then Asfandiyar
Gat on his steed, girt up his warrior-loins
In wrath, and mounted on a height to view
The hold. He saw a mighty iron rampart
Extending over forty leagues by three,
But saw not any earth or water there.
The wall was broad enough for cavaliers
To gallop round upon it four abreast.
Whenas Asfandiyar beheld that wonder
He heaved a sigh, and said: "I cannot capture
A place like that ! I suffer for my sins.
Alas for all my fighting and my toil !
Repentance is the only fruit thereof."
He looked around upon the waste and saw
Two Turkmans coursing with four hounds. Descending
With spear in hand he unhorsed both the Turkmans,
Brought them upon the heights and questioned them:-
"What is this splendid hold? How many horsemen
Are there within?"
They told about Arjasp
At large and of the hold. "Observe," they said,
"How long and wide it is ! One gate is toward
Iran and one toward Chin, while m it are
A hundred thousand swordsmen - all renowned,
Exalted cavaliers - yet all of them
Are slaves before Arjasp and bow the head
To his command and counsel. There is provand
fast all compute with stores of grain in case
Fresh food should fail, while if the monarch closed
The gates for ten years there is food enough,
Great though his host is, while, if he so willed,
A hundred thousand noble cavaliers
Would come to him from Chin and from Machin.
He hath no need of aught from any one,
For he possesseth provand and defenders."
They spake. His Indian sword the chieftain drew,
And put to death the simple-minded two.
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