How Asfandiyar went to the Brazen Hold in the
Guise of a Merchant
Thence he departed to his camp-enclosure.
They cleared the place of strangers, Bishutan
Came to Asfandiyar, and they discussed
The war. That warrior said: "We might assail
This hold in vain for years unless indeed
I take upon me to demean myself,
And try a stratagem against the foe.
Be thou upon the watch here night and day,
And guard the army from the enemy.
A man, I wean, is held in high esteem,
And worthy of a realm and lofty throne,
Who feareth not a host of enemies
In battle, pard on mount or crocodile
In water, but proceedeth now by craft
And now by force, whiles mounting, whiles descending.
I shall approach the hold in merchants' guise,
And none will know me for a paladin.
All craft will I employ and con all lore.
Dispense not thou with watchmen and with scouts,
And never let thy vigilance relax.
If in the day the watch shall spy a smoke,
Or in the night a bonfire like the sun,
The Lustre of the world, then be assured
That 'tis my doing, not my foeman's ruse;
So order thou the army and march hence,
With coat of mail, with helm, and massive mace;
Set up my flag without delay and take
Thy station at the centre of the host;
Charge with the ox-head mace, and bear thee so
That folk will hail thee as Asfandiyar."
He called the head-man of the cameleers,
Caused him to kneel to Bishutan, and said:-
"Bring me a hundred beasts with ruddy hair,
Beasts fit to carry burdens, sound and strong."
Ten of these beasts he loaded up with gold,
Upon five more he put brocade of Chin,
Another five had various kinds of gems,
A golden throne and massive crown. He brought
Forth eighty pairs of chests, whose fastenings
Were all concealed from sight, and therewithal
Made choice of eight score of his mighty men -
Such men as would not make his purpose known -
And, having hidden them within the chests,
Bound on the baggage and set forth. He bade
Some twenty of his nobles skilled in sword-play
To take the conduct of the caravan,
And turned these nobles into cameleers.
With slippered feet, a blanket thrown about him,
And freighted with the jewels, gold, and silver,
The chieftain went in haste toward the hold,
And journeyed in the guise of chafferers.
He led the way, and when the sound of bells
Rose from the caravan the chiefs inside
The hold grew ware of it, held talk at large,
Were all a-gog, and said: "A merchantman,
Who selleth at dinar's worth for a drachm,
The dealers and the nobles went
To buy, and asked the owner: "What hast thou
Of use within these bales?"
He made reply:-
"The first thing is for me to see your king,
And show my wares to him. When he commandeth
I will display them to your eyes."
One of the camels and himself proceeded
To see how he could make his market quickly.
He took a goblet filled with royal gems,
And many a piece of gold to give in largess,
Some signets set with ruby and with turquoise,
A steed, and ten bales of brocade of Chin.
He draped the goblet in a piece of silk,
Perfumed throughout with musk and spicery,
He donned a dress of beautiful brocade,
Sought for an introduction to Arjasp,
And at the interview strewed gold, and said:-
"May wisdom mate with kings! A merchant!
My sire was Turkman and my mother Persian.
I purchase from Turan, bear to Iran,
And also to the desert of the brave.
I have with me a caravan of camels,
And deal in stuff's, in clothes, and furniture,
In jewels, crowns, and other valuables.
I left my goods outside the hold, assured
That all are safe with thee. If thou wilt let
The cameleers conduct the caravan
Within the hold thy fortune will protect me
From every ill, and I shall sleep beneath
The shadow of thy love."
"Be happy and secure from every ill;
No one shall do thee hurt within Turan,
Nor when thou goest to Machin and Chin."
At his command they gave Asfandiyar
Within the Brazen Hold a spacious dwelling -
A warehouse with a mansion at its back -
And thither brought the baggage from the plain
That he might make the warehouse a bazar,
And keep his goods in safety. They departed,
And led the camels, after loading them.
A shrewd man asked: "What is inside the chests?
A cameleer replied: "Our wits, for we
Must carry there themselves."
Prepared the warehouse, decking it to look
Like flowers in spring. On all side buyers sprang up,
And there was busy trafficking within it.
The night passed by. At dawn Asfandiyar
Went to the palace to the king, there kissed
The ground before him, praised him much, and said
"I and my cameleers have made all haste
To bring the caravan and baggage in,
And there are crowns and bracelets suitable
For an exalted king, so let him bid
His treasurer inspect my stock, for all
The warehouse is in order. I shall be
Content if he will take what seemeth best,
The king's part is acceptance and the merchant's
Excuse and praise."
Arjasp smiled, showed him favour,
Assigned him a more honourable seat,
And asked: "What is thy name?"
He said: "Kharrad,
A merchant, traveller, and well to do."
The king replied: "O noble man ! concern not
Thyself with more excuses. Ask no longer,
For audience through the chamberlain, but come
Before me when thou wilt."
He then inquired
About the labours of the road, Iran,
The Shah, and host. Asfandiyar replied:-
"My journey hath been five months' pain and toil."
The king said: "In Iran what tidings were there
Both of Asfandiyar and of Gurgsar?"
He said: "My gracious lord! folk speak of them,
Each as his fancy is: 'Asfandiyar,'
Said one, 'is in revolt for injuries
Inflicted by his sire.' Another said:-
'He is advancing by the Seven Stages
In haste to fight Arjasp; he will attempt
War with Turan and boldly seek revenge.'"
Arjasp replied with smiles: "No man of age
And knowledge of the world would talk like that!
If vultures e'en approach the Seven Stages
Then call me Ahriman and not a man."
The warrior heard and, having kissed the ground,
Came from the palace of Arjasp rejoicing,
Then opening the noted warehouse-doors
He filled the hold with din of chaffering,
And seemed so occupied that he deceived
The eyes of all. Scarce for dinars took he
The worth of drachms and traded recklessly.
How the Sisters of Asfandiyar recognised him
Now when the bright sun set and buying ceased
The sisters of Asfandiyar descended
Lamenting from the palace to the street,
And bearing water-jars upon their shoulders.
They came heart-broken and in deep dejection
Toward Asfandiyar who, when he saw
That monstrous spectacle, concealed from view
His features from his sisters, for his heart
Misdoubted how they might comport themselves,
And so he hid his face behind his sleeve.
They both drew near him and the cheeks of each
Were running with the torrents from their eyes.
The hapless ones began to question him -
That wealthy man of merchandise - and said:-
"May all thy days and, nights be prosperous,
The nobles be before thee as thy slaves
What tidings hast thou from Iran, brave chief !
Both of Gushtasp and of Asfandiyar?
We twain, the daughters of the king of kings,
Are captives in the hands of wicked men,
And carry water, bare-foot and unveiled.
Our sire hath merry days and peaceful nights,
While we fare naked in the throng. How blest
Is she that hath a shroud to cover her !
The tears that we are shedding are of blood
Be our physician and relieve our pain.
If thou canst tell us aught of Shah and home
Our bane here will be changed to antidote."
He gave a cry beneath his robe that made
The damsels shake with terror: thus he said:-
"I would that there were no Asfandiyar,
And no one in the world to care for him.
Would there were no Gushtasp, that unjust Shah
May crown and girdle never see his like!
Perceive ye not that I am trading here,
And toiling that I may support myself? "
When glorious Humai had heard his voice
She recognised him and took heart again,
But, though she recognised his voice, she kept
The knowledge to herself and stood before him
As stricken to the heart as theretofore,
And pouring down the tear-drops on her cheeks.
Her feet and countenance were foul with dust,
Her soul was filled with terror of Arjasp.
The gentle warrior saw that Humai
Had recognised him and he thereupon
Revealed his countenance, his tearful eyes,
His heaving breast, and visage like the sun.
The process of the world astonished him,
He bit his lips in dudgeon and addressed
His sisters thus: "Restrain your tongues awhile,
For hither have I come to war and win
Renown by toil. Can any's sleep be sweet
Whose daughter is a water-bearing slave?
May heaven father, and earth mother, her
This lot I praise not I."
The young man left
The warehouse, hurried to Arjasp, and said:-
"O king! be happy, master of the world,
And live for ever. While upon my journey
I chanced upon a deep sea all unknown
To merchantmen. A whirlwind rose thereon;
The boatman said: 'I mind me of no like.'
On board we all were wretched and in tears,
Consuming for our persons and our lives.
I swore by God, the one and only Judge:-
If I escape from this with life to shore
Then will I hold a feast in every realm
That hath a monarch to rule over it,
Invite all cordially to be my guests,
And pour my very soul out for their sakes.
I will give more or less to all who ask,
And hold the mendicant exceeding dear.'
Now let the monarch show me special favour,
And honour this request of mine today;
I have arranged to make his army's chiefs -
Those whom the world's king honoureth - my guests,
And by so doing set my mind at ease."
Arjasp, that witless man, was well content
On hearing this; his head was filled with folly.
He bade: "Let every one of high degree,
And all the noblest of the army, visit
The dwelling of Kharrad today as guests,
And, if he giveth wine, bemuse yourselves:
Then said Asfandiyar: "King, hero, sage
The high-priest and the ruler of the world
My house is small, thy palace is too grand.
The rampart of the hold will do for us;
'Tis early summer. I will light a fire,
And glad the nobles' hearts with wine."
Said: "Go the way that pleaseth thee; the host
Is king at home."
The paladin rejoicing
Conveyed a mass of firewood to the ramparts.
They slaughtered steeds and sheep, and carried them
Up to the summit of the hold. The wood
Sent up a smother that obscured the sky.
He brought forth wine and, when they had partaken,
Each reveller became a slave thereto.
The chiefs all left bemused; to steady them,
While in their cups, each clutched a narciss-stem.
How Bishutan assaulted the Brazen Hold
The night came and a conflagration blazed,
Whose burning scorched the sky. When from the look-out
The watchman saw the flames by night, and day
Made thick with smoke, he left his post and came
Exultingly, and " mated to the wind,"
Thou wouldst have said. On reaching Bishutan
He told what he had seen of fire and fume.
Said Bishutan: "A valiant warrior
In courage passeth elephants and lions."
He sounded corn-pipe, flute, and brazen cymbal;
The blare of trumpets went up from his door.
The army from the plain approached the hold,
And bright Sol Bloomed with dust. The troops were all
In mail and helm, their livers seethed with blood.
When news spread in the hold: "A host hath come,
And all the world is hidden by dark dust,"
The place rang with the name "Asfandiyar";
The tree of bale was bearing colocynth.
Arjasp armed for the fray and rubbed his hands
Together vehemently. "Let Kuhram,
The lion-catcher," thus he bade, "take troops,
Mace, scimitar, and shaft."
He told Turkhan:-
"Exalted chief! speed forth with troops for fight.
Take thou ten thousand of the garrison,
All men of name and battle-loving swordsmen,
Discover who are our antagonists,
And why it is that they attack us thus."
Turkhan, the chief, with an interpreter
Went in all haste to that side of the hold.
He saw a host equipped with arms and armour,
Their flag a leopard on a sable ground.
Their leader Bishutan was at the centre,
And all his troops' hands had been bathed in blood.
He held Asfandiyar's own mace and rode
A noble steed; he seemed to be none other
Than brave Asfandiyar, and there was none
But hailed him monarch of Iran. He ranked
The troops to right and left till none saw daylight.
Such were the blows of spears with flashing points
That thou hadst said: "Blood runneth from the clouds."
The forces on both sides advanced to battle,
All who were men of war and loved the fray.
Then Nush Azar, the swordsman, galloped forth,
And offered combat to the enemy.
The noble chief Turkhan went out to him
To bring his head down trunkless to the ground.
When Nush Azar beheld him on the field
He clapped his hand upon his sword and drew it;
He cut Turkhan asunder at the waist,
And filled Kuhram's heart with dismay and anguish;
Then in like fashion fell upon the centre,
Where great and small were all alike to him,
Thus those two armies battled, each with each,
While dust collected in a cloud above them.
In full flight from the host the chief Kuhram
Made for the hold, and said before his sire:-
"0 famous monarch, glorious as the sun !
A mighty host hath come forth from Iran;
Their leader is a doughty warrior,
Who by his stature is Asfandiyar.
None like him hath approached the hold before.
He beareth in his hand the spear which thou
Beheld'st him grasping at fort Gumbadan."
The words distressed the heart of king Arjasp,
Because the old feud had revived again.
He gave the Turkmans orders: "Go Ye forth
Upon the plain in mass, surround the foe,
Roar like great lions, let none live, and name not
The soldiers marched away
With wounded hearts and eager for the fray.
How Asfandiyar slew Arjasp
Asfandiyar, when night was growing dark,
Arrayed himself again in fighting-gear,
Undid the chest-lids that more air might come
To those inside, and brought kabab and wine
With other provand, battle-mail, and raiment.
When they had eaten he supplied to each
Three cups of wine, which gladdened them, and said:-
"This night is one of bale. Hence we may well
Win fame. Put forth your powers. Quit you like men,
And from calamities make God your refuge."
Then of those warriors adventurous
He formed three troops, one in the stronghold's midst
To combat any that they met, the second
To move upon the gate and take no rest
From strife and bloodshed, while he told the third:-
"I must not find hereafter any trace
Of those that revelled with me yesternight,
So take your daggers and behead them all."
He went with twenty valiant men of war
In haste, committing to them other work,
Went boldly to the palace of Arjasp,
Arrayed in mail and roaring like a lion.
Humai, when these shouts reached her in the palace,
Came rushing with her sister Bih Afrid,
Their cheeks all hid by tears, to meet the chiefs.
Asfandiyar perceived that spring - like pair
As he approached. "Like flying dust-clouds speed,"
Thus spake that lion-man, "to my bazar
With all its wealth, for 'tis upon my way,
And wait till in this fight I lose my head
Or win a crown."
This said, he turned from them,
And vengeful sought the palace of Arjasp.
He entered with an Indian sword in hand,
And slaughtered all the nobles that he saw.
The audience-chamber of that famous court
Was blocked, its floor was like a billowing sea,
So many were the wounded, stunned, and slain.
Arjasp awoke, was troubled at the din,
Arose in fury, donned his coat of mail
And Ruman helm, a bright glaive in his hand,
The war-cry on his lips and rage at heart.
Asfandiyar rushed from the palace-gate,
And, clutching with his hand a glittering sword,
Cried to Arjasp: "Now will this merchantman
Supply thee with a sword that cost dinars.
I give it as a present from Luhrasp,
And on it is impressed Gushtasp's own seal.
When thou shalt take it thine heart's blood will flow,
And thy next stage will be beneath the dust."
They closed in strife outrageous, foot to foot
With sword and dagger, striking whiles at waist
And whiles at head. Arjasp failed 'neath the blows;
He was a mass of wounds; his huge form sank,
And then Asfandiyar behoaded him.
Such is the fashion of life's changeful day
Thou hast by turns its sweetness and its bane.
Why dote upon this Hostel by the Way?
Grieve not, thou canst not, as thou know'st, remain.
Asfandiyar, freed from Arjasp, commanded
To kindle torches and to fire the palace
He raised its reek to Saturn. Having charged
The eunuchs with the womenfolk he carried
Them all away - the Lustre of the place -
And set a seal upon the treasury-door,
No one opposing him. He sought the stables,
He mounted there with Indian sword in hand,
And of the Arab horses bade his men
To saddle such as liked him. There went forth
A cavalcade of eight score warriors,
Approven horsemen on the day of battle.
He furnished mounts, moreover, for his sisters,
And marched forth from the court-gate of Arjasp,
But left a few Iranians, men of name,
With noble Sawa in the hold. "When we,"
He said, "have gone outside the walls, have gone,
I and my noble warriors, to the plain,
Secure the gate against the Turkman troops,
And may my good star aid me. When ye think
That I have joined our noble troops outside,
Then let the watchmen from the look-out cry:-
'Blessed be the head and crown of Shlih Gushtasp.'
And when the Turkman troops come toward the hold,
In flight retreating from the battlefield,
Then ye shall throw the head of king Arjasp
Before them from the tower of the watch."
The valiant hero rushed upon the plain,
And slaughtered all the Turkmans that he found.
As he approached the troops of Bishutan
They saw and praised him in amaze that he,
Who was so young, should show such bravery.
How Asfandiyar slew Kuhram
Whenas the moon had left her silvern throne,
And when three watches of the night had passed,
The watchman shouted lustily, proclaiming:-
"Gushtasp, the Shah, hath gained the victory,
And may Asfandiyar be ever young.
May heaven, moon, and fortune be his helpers,
Who hath in vengeance for Luhrasp beheaded
Arjasp and, adding lustre to our Grace
And customs, cast him down from throne to dust,
And made the name and fortune of Gushtasp
Hearing such a cry the Turkmans
All listened while Kuhram grew dark of heart
By reason of that watchman, was astonied,
And spake thus to Andariman: "How clear
This cry is in the night ! What, sayest thou,
Can be the cause? Let us consult, for who
Would dare to bawl thus by the monarch's couch
And after dark? What tricks might such an one
Play in the day of battle and thus bring
Our nobles into straits ! So send and have
His head cut off, whoever he may be.
If one of our own household is our foe,
And he is backing up our enemies
With evil words and evil presages,
Then will we brain him with an evil mace."
Now when the cry went on persistently
Kuhram was stricken to the heart with anger
Against the watch whose utterance, spread abroad
In such a fashion, filled the nobles' ears.
The soldiers said: "The shouts increase, beyond
A watchman's ! Let us drive the foemen forth
And after take this host."
Kuhram was straitened
At heart about that watchman, writhed, and frowned.
He told the troops: "These men have filled my heart
With dread about the king. We must return
At once, past question. What may happen after
I know not."
So that night they left the field,
Whereat Asfandiyar, with ox-head mace
And mailed, pursued them. When Kuhram had
The portal of the hold, and saw the Iranians
Pursuing, "What is left us," he exclaimed,
"Unless to fight with brave Asfandiyar?
Unsheathe and send your message by the sword."
But fortune frowned and those famed chiefs fared ill.
The two hosts raged and smote each other's heads
Till morning came, and then the chiefs of Chin
Had had their day. Ascending to the ramparts
The warriors of Asfandiyar inside
The hold flung down therefrom the severed head
Of brave Arjasp - the king that slew Luhrasp.
The Turkmans fought no longer, from their host
Arose a cry, and all the troops unhelmed.
The two sons of Arjasp wept and consumed
As in fierce fire, while all the army knew
What they must weep for on that evil day.
They said: "Alas! thou gallant heart, thou prince,
Thou chief of lions, hero, warrior
May he who slew thee perish on the field
Of vengeance, may his day be gone for ever!
To whom shall we intrust our families?
Whose standard shall we have upon our right?
Now that the dais is bereaved of king
Let crown and host not be."
The soldiers longed
For death, and from Khallukh up to Taraz
Was universal anguish. In the end
They all of them advanced to certain death,
Advanced in armour with their helms and casques.
Rose from the battlefield the sound of strife,
The air above was like a dusky cloud.
The slain lay everywhere in heaps, the plain
Was thick with trunkless heads and limbs; elsewhere
Lay hands and maces, while a wave of blood
Rose at the portal of the hold, and who
Could tell left hand from right? Asfandiyar
Advanced; Kuhram, the captain of the host,
Opposed him; and those warriors grappled so
That thou hadst said: "They are one!" The peerless chief
Took by the waist Kuhram, whirled him aloft -
A wondrous feat - and dashed him to the ground
While all the Iranian army roared applause.
They bound his hands and bore him off in shame,
And all his splendid armament dispersed.
Then maces fell like hail, the earth was full
Of Turkmans, and the air was charged with death;
Heads showered beneath the swords like leaves from
One side lost all, the other gained a throne;
Blood dashed in billows on the battlefield;
Here heads were trampled and there heads were
The world is fain to keep its secret still,
And no man really wotteth of its will.
Those that had noble chargers fled the field,
Those in the Dragon's gullet strove in vain.
Few of Turan or Chin were left and none
Of name. All flung away their mail and helms,
And all had blood-drops in their eyes. They made
All haste to come before Asfandiyar
With eyes like early spring. The general
Shed blood unmercifully, and the host
Approved the want of mercy that he showed;
He gave no quarter to a warrior,
And had the wounded slaughtered past account;
No noted warrior of Chin remained,
No prince was left surviving in Turan.
They moved the camp-enclosure and the tents,
And left the whole field to the slain. He reared
Before the palace-gate two lofty gibbets
Whence twisted lassos fell. From one he hung
Andariman head-downward, from the other
His brother living, sent out troops on all sides,
And when they lighted on some chieftain's seat
His orders were that they should burn it down
They wrecked thus all the cities of Turan;
No man of name was left in any place,
And not a horseman in Turan or Chin.
Thou wouldst have said: "There rose a murky cloud,
And poured down fire upon the battlefield."
The atheling, with matters in this trim,
Brought wine and gathered all the chiefs to him.
How Asfandiyar wrote a Letter to Gushtasp and his Answer
Asfandiyar called for a scribe and told
The story of his stratagem and fight.
The illustrious scribe sat on the throne and bade
His Turkman slave to bring him silk of Chin
And pen which having inked, he lauded first
The Master of the Moon, the Lord of Saturn,
Of Venus and the Sun, of elephant,
Of ant, of victory, and Grace divine,
The Lord of the imperial diadem,
The Lord of right direction and good gifts,
The Lord of place and counsel: "May the name
Of Shah Gushtasp for ever live through Him,
Luhrasp have all his will in Paradise!
I reached Turan and by a road which I
Shall never praise. If I narrated all
Youth's locks would age with grief, but when the Shah
Is so disposed I will expound the plan
Of my campaign; his sight will gladden me,
And I shall revel in these longsome toils.
The Brazen Hold, by means of the devices
That I employed to compass my revenge,
Is void both of Arjasp and of Kuhram,
Is void of all save wailing, grief, and mourning.
I have spared none; the herbs upon the plain
No longer bear; the lion and wolf devour
The brains, and lusty pards the hearts, of men.
Oh! may the crown of Shah Gushtasp illume
The sky, and Shah Luhrasp make earth a rosebed."
They set the signet of Asfandiyar
Upon the letter and made choice of riders,
Whom that young ruler sent forth to Iran
On beasts that went apace with lips afoam.
He tarried till he should receive the answer,
Repressing all a self-willed man's impatience,
And in a little while the answer came,
A key whereby his fetters were unlocked.
It opened thus: "Established may he be
That seeketh good. The rightly minded sage
Will compass in adversity God's praise."
It further said: "I pray the one just God
That He may guide thee ever. I have planted
In Paradise a Tree that is more bearing
Than any set by Faridun. Its fruit
Is gold and rubies and its leafage beauty
And Grace. Its summit chafeth on high heaven;
Its roots withal are precious. May this Tree
Abide for ever, flourishing of stem,
And glad of heart - the favourite of fortune !
As for thy words: 'By craft and subtlety
I sought for vengeance for my grandsire's death,
And then for thy description of the bloodshed,
And of thine exploits in the fight - the persons
Of kings are precious though renown may come
From strife and travail. Guard thy person well
And wisdom too, for wisdom nourisheth
The mind with knowledge. Thirdly thou hast said
Of all these thousands I have spared not one.'
Be thy heart ever warm and merciful,
Be temperate in soul and soft in voice.
Let it not be thy business to shed blood,
Or fight with chieftains, saving for revenge,
Because the bloodshed hath surpassed all bounds
In this thy wreak for eight and thirty brothers.
But in that, though thy grandsire in old age
Had banished craft and ill will from his heart,
Since they shed his blood thou hast shed theirs too,
And closed with them like lions when they fight,
For that be ever fortunate and happy,
And do the dictates of thy soul and wisdom.
I long to look upon thy face and mind
So doughty and so shrewd. On reading this
Bid thy troops mount, and come back with thy chiefs
The speedy dromedaries went,
And all Iran re-echoed with the news.
Now when they had returned the cameleers
Came to the exalted chief who had no peers.
How Asfandiyar returned to Gushtasp
Asfandiyar, when he had read the letter,
Distributed dinars and made an end,
Reserving but the treasure of Arjasp,
While lavishing the treasures of his kinsmen
The troops were all enriched beyond compute.
On plain and mountain there were steeds and camels,
All brand-marked by the monarch of Turan.
Ten thousand head of these Asfandiyar
Collected from the plain and mountain-top,
And bade his men to load of them a thousand
With gold out of the royal treasury,
Three hundred with brocade and thrones and casques,
Five score with musk, with ambergris, and jewels,
Five score with crowns and splendid diadems,
One thousand with brocaded tapestries,
Three hundred with the native stuffs of Chin,
With hides both raw and tanned and painted silks
He furnished litters with brocaded curtains,
And carried off from Chin two troops of girls,
With cheeks like spring and tall as cypress-trees,
With reed-like waists and pheasant-like in gait.
A hundred ladies, beautiful as idols,
Went with the sisters of Asfandiyar.
Five ladies of the kindred of Arjasp -
His mother, his two sisters, and two daughters -
Toiled on in misery and wretchedness,
In pain and grief and stricken to the heart,
And, finally, he fired the Brazen Hold;
The tongue of flame ascended to high heaven.
He razed the castle-ramparts to the ground,
And sent the dust up from the land of Chin.
He gave his three young sons a force each, saying:-
"Take various roads, and fortune be with you.
If any shall insult you on your way
Cut off the head of such remorselessly.
March ye in haste toward the desert-track,
And raise your spear-points to the shining sun.
I shall myself go by the Seven Stages
To hunt the lion. Make what speed ye may,
But I shall take my time, shall occupy
The road's end, and expect you in a month."
Asfandiyar went with his famous troops
To hunt along the Seven Stages' route.
As soon as he approached the frozen stage
He saw his baggage lying all about.
The air was sweet, the earth was beautiful
Thou wouldst have said: "'Tis spring in summertime
He gathered all the goods that he had left,
And marvelled that he was so fortunate.
As he was drawing nearer to Iran -
The land of Lions and of warriors -
He whiled away two weeks with hawks and cheetahs,
Distressed with travail and the longsome road,
And kept a watch for his three noble sons,
Whose long delay in coming angered him,
But when the armies and the sons arrived
He smiled on all, and said: "My journey done,
I was anangered at your tarrying."
The three sons kissed the ground and made reply:-
"Who hath a father in the world like thee?"
He went thence toward Iran and bare off all
The treasures to his valiant countrymen.
The folk decked all the cities of the land,
And called for wine, for harp, and for musicians.
They draped the walls with hangings and showered musk
And ambergris from overhead. The air
Resounded with the voice of minstrelsy,
And earth was full of horsemen armed with spears.
Gushtasp made merry when he heard the news,
And pledged the tidings in a cup of wine.
At his command all that were with the host,
And all the great men of the provinces,
Assembled at the palace-gate with drums.
The chiefs went out to meet Asfandiy4r.
His sire, moreover, with illustrious sages,
The great, the wise, and the archmages, went
With beaming countenance toward his son,
And all the city talked of little else.
Now when the prince beheld his father's face
His heart grew merry and his spirit bright.
He urged his black steed forward from the ranks,
That steed which set a-blaze the flames of war,
And, having lighted down, embraced his sire,
Who, wondering at his exploits, praised him much,
Thus saying: "Ne'er may time and earth lack thee.
Thence went they to the palace of the Shah
In popularity with all the world.
Gushtasp prepared the palace and the throne;
His great good fortune made his heart rejoice.
They spread the banquet in the halls. The Shah
Said to the chamberlain: "Invite the lords."
The boon-companions camp from every aide
To that imperial Shah. The royal wine
In crystal goblets gave to those that quaffed
A lustre like the sun's; upon their cheeks
The hush of wine was burning, and the hearts
Of evil wishers died and were consumed.
The son drank modestly his father's health,
The father in like manner pledged his son,
And asked him how he passed the Seven Stages.
Asfandiyar replied: "Nay, ask me not
Such questions in the banquet-hall. Tomorrow
Will I relate the story in thy presence,
Wise king of men ! Tomorrow thou wilt hear
In soberness and own that God hath triumphed."
Each one among the guests that grew bemused
Went homeward clinging to a moon-faced page.
Told is the story of the Stages Seven,
Peruse it in His name - the Lord of Heaven,
Lord of the sun and of the shining moon,
Him who alone hath power for bale or boon.
If this tale please our conquering monarch's eye
I set my saddle on the circling sky.
The time to quaff delicious wine is now,
For musky scents breathe from the mountain-brow,
The air resoundetli and earth tr availeth,
And blest is he whose heart drink gladdeneth,
He that hath wine and money, bread and sweets,
And can behead a sheep to make him meats.
These have not I. Who hath thorn, well is he.
Oh ! pity one that is in poverty !
The garth is strewn with rose-leaves and each hill
With tulip and with hyacinth, and still
The nightingale complaineth in the close,
And at its plaining burgeoneth the rose.
At night it never ceaseth to complain;
The rose is overcharged by wind and rain.
I see the cloud's sighs and its tears, but why
The narciss should be sad I know not I.
The nightingale bemocketh rose and cloud;
Perched on the rose it carolleth aloud.
I wist not which of them it holdeth dear,
But from the cloud a lion's roar I hear.
The cloud's robe sundereth and from its form
Fire flasheth, and the tear-drops of the storm
Bear witness for themselves upon the ground
Before the imperious sun. Who shall expound
The descant of the nightingale, disclose
The purport of its quest beneath the rose?
But mark it at the dawning of the day,
If thou wouldst list to its heroic lay,
Bewailing dead Asfandiynr, for he
Surviveth only in that threnody.
A-nights the cloud with Rustanr's voice doth flaw
The heart of elephant and lion's claw.
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