Shah Nameh

From Useless Joy

Shah Nameh (The Book of Kings) by Ferdowsi

O ye, who dwell in Youth’s inviting bowers,
Waste not, in useless joy, your fleeting hours,
But rather let the tears of sorrow roll,
And sad reflection fill the conscious soul.
For many a jocund spring has passed away,
And many a flower has blossomed, to decay;
And human life, still hastening to a close,
Finds in the worthless dust its last repose.
Still the vain world abounds in strife and hate,
And sire and son provoke each other’s fate;
And kindred blood by kindred hands is shed,
And vengeance sleeps not–dies not, with the dead.
All nature fades–the garden’s treasures fall,
Young bud, and citron ripe–all perish, all.

And now a tale of sorrow must be told,
A tale of tears, derived from Múbid old,
And thus remembered.–

With the dawn of day,
Rustem arose, and wandering took his way,
Armed for the chase, where sloping to the sky,
Túrán’s lone wilds in sullen grandeur lie;
There, to dispel his melancholy mood,
He urged his matchless steed through glen and wood.
Flushed with the noble game which met his view,
He starts the wild-ass o’er the glistening dew;
And, oft exulting, sees his quivering dart,
Plunge through the glossy skin, and pierce the heart.
Tired of the sport, at length, he sought the shade,
Which near a stream embowering trees displayed,
And with his arrow’s point, a fire he raised,
And thorns and grass before him quickly blazed.
The severed parts upon a bough he cast,
To catch the flames; and when the rich repast
Was drest; with flesh and marrow, savory food,
He quelled his hunger; and the sparkling flood
That murmured at his feet, his thirst represt;
Then gentle sleep composed his limbs to rest.

Meanwhile his horse, for speed and form renown’d,
Ranged o’er the plain with flowery herbage crown’d,
Encumbering arms no more his sides opprest,
No folding mail confined his ample chest,
Gallant and free, he left the Champion’s side,
And cropp’d the mead, or sought the cooling tide;
When lo! it chanced amid that woodland chase,
A band of horsemen, rambling near the place,
Saw, with surprise, superior game astray,
And rushed at once to seize the noble prey;
But, in the imminent struggle, two beneath
His steel-clad hoofs received the stroke of death;
One proved a sterner fate–for downward borne,
The mangled head was from the shoulders torn.
Still undismayed, again they nimbly sprung,
And round his neck the noose entangling flung:
Now, all in vain, he spurns the smoking ground,
In vain the tumult echoes all around;
They bear him off, and view, with ardent eyes,
His matchless beauty and majestic size;
Then soothe his fury, anxious to obtain,
A bounding steed of his immortal strain.

When Rustem woke, and miss’d his favourite horse,
The loved companion of his glorious course;
Sorrowing he rose, and, hastening thence, began
To shape his dubious way to Samengán;
“Reduced to journey thus, alone!” he said,
“How pierce the gloom which thickens round my head;
Burthen’d, on foot, a dreary waste in view,
Where shall I bend my steps, what path pursue?
The scoffing Turks will cry, ‘Behold our might!
We won the trophy from the Champion-knight!
From him who, reckless of his fame and pride,
Thus idly slept, and thus ignobly died,'”
Girding his loins he gathered from the field,
His quivered stores, his beamy sword and shield,
Harness and saddle-gear were o’er him slung.
Bridle and mail across his shoulders hung.
Then looking round, with anxious eye, to meet,
The broad impression of his charger’s feet,
The track he hail’d, and following, onward prest.
While grief and hope alternate filled his breast.

O’er vale and wild-wood led, he soon descries.
The regal city’s shining turrets rise.
And when the Champion’s near approach is known,
The usual homage waits him to the throne.
The king, on foot, received his welcome guest
With preferred friendship, and his coming blest:
But Rustem frowned, and with resentment fired,
Spoke of his wrongs, the plundered steed required.
“I’ve traced his footsteps to your royal town,
Here must he be, protected by your crown;
But if retained, if not from fetters freed,
My vengeance shall o’ertake the felon-deed.”
“My honored guest!” the wondering King replied–
“Shall Rustem’s wants or wishes be denied?
But let not anger, headlong, fierce, and blind,
O’ercloud the virtues of a generous mind.
If still within the limits of my reign,
The well known courser shall be thine again:
For Rakush never can remain concealed,
No more than Rustem in the battle-field!
Then cease to nourish useless rage, and share
With joyous heart my hospitable fare.”

The son of Zál now felt his wrath subdued,
And glad sensations in his soul renewed.
The ready herald by the King’s command,
Convened the Chiefs and Warriors of the land;
And soon the banquet social glee restored,
And China wine-cups glittered on the board;
And cheerful song, and music’s magic power,
And sparkling wine, beguiled the festive hour.
The dulcet draughts o’er Rustem’s senses stole,
And melting strains absorbed his softened soul.
But when approached the period of repose,
All, prompt and mindful, from the banquet rose;
A couch was spread well worthy such a guest,
Perfumed with rose and musk; and whilst at rest,
In deep sound sleep, the wearied Champion lay,
Forgot were all the sorrows of the way.

The complete (well, abridged,) text of Shah Nameh