Shah Nameh/Garshásp


Garshásp, whilst in his minority, being unacquainted with the affairs of government, abided in all things by the judgment and counsels of Zál. When Afrásiyáb arrived at Túrán, his father was in great distress and anger on account of the inhuman murder of Aghríras; and so exceedingly did he grieve, that he would not endure his presence.

  And when Afrásiyáb returned, his sire,
  Poshang, in grief, refused to see his face.
  To him the day of happiness and joy
  Had been obscured by the dark clouds of night;
  And thus he said: "Why didst thou, why didst _thou_
  In power supreme, without pretence of guilt,
  With thy own hand his precious life destroy?
  Why hast thou shed thy innocent brother's blood?
  In this life thou art nothing now to me;
  Away, I must not see thy face again."

Afrásiyáb continued offensive and despicable in the mind of his father till he heard that Garshásp was unequal to rule over Persia, and then thinking he could turn the warlike spirit of Afrásiyáb to advantage, he forgave the crime of his son. He forthwith collected an immense army, and sent him again to effect the conquest of Irán, under the pretext of avenging the death of Sílim and Túr.

  Afrásiyáb a mighty army raised,
  And passing plain and river, mountain high,
  And desert wild, filled all the Persian realm
  With consternation, universal dread.

The chief authorities of the country applied to Zál as their only remedy against the invasion of Afrásiyáb.

  They said to Zál, "How easy is the task
  For thee to grasp the world--then, since thou canst
  Afford us succour, yield the blessing now;
  For, lo! the King Afrásiyáb has come,
  In all his power and overwhelming might."

Zál replied that he had on this occasion appointed Rustem to command the army, and to oppose the invasion of Afrásiyáb.

  And thus the warrior Zál to Rustem spoke--
  "Strong as an elephant thou art, my son,
  Surpassing thy companions, and I now
  Forewarn thee that a difficult emprize,
  Hostile to ease or sleep, demands thy care.
  'Tis true, of battles thou canst nothing know,
  But what am I to do? This is no time
  For banquetting, and yet thy lips still breathe
  The scent of milk, a proof of infancy;
  Thy heart pants after gladness and the sweet
  Endearments of domestic life; can I
  Then send thee to the war to cope with heroes
  Burning with wrath and vengeance?" Rustem said--
  "Mistake me not, I have no wish, not I,
  For soft endearments, nor domestic life,
  Nor home-felt joys. This chest, these nervous limbs,
  Denote far other objects of pursuit,
  Than a luxurious life of ease and pleasure."

Zál having taken great pains in the instruction of Rustem in warlike exercises, and the rules of battle, found infinite aptitude in the boy, and his activity and skill seemed to be superior to his own. He thanked God for the comfort it gave him, and was glad. Then Rustem asked his father for a suitable mace; and seeing the huge weapon which was borne by the great Sám, he took it up, and it answered his purpose exactly.

  When the young hero saw the mace of Sám
  He smiled with pleasure, and his heart rejoiced;
  And paying homage to his father Zál,
  The champion of the age, asked for a steed
  Of corresponding power, that he might use
  That famous club with added force and vigor.

Zál showed him all the horses in his possession, and Rustem tried many, but found not one of sufficient strength to suit him. At last his eyes fell upon a mare followed by a foal of great promise, beauty, and strength.

  Seeing that foal, whose bright and glossy skin
  Was dappled o'er, like blossoms of the rose
  Upon a saffron lawn, Rustem prepared
  His noose, and held it ready in his hand.

The groom recommended him to secure the foal, as it was the offspring of Abresh, born of a Díw, or Demon, and called Rakush. The dam had killed several persons who attempted to seize her young one.

  Now Rustem flings the noose, and suddenly
  Rakush secures. Meanwhile the furious mare
  Attacks him, eager with her pointed teeth
  To crush his brain--but, stunned by his loud cry,
  She stops in wonder. Then with clenched hand
  He smites her on the head and neck, and down
  She tumbles, struggling in the pangs of death.

Rakush, however, though with the noose round his neck, was not so easily subdued; but kept dragging and pulling Rustem, as if by a tether, and it was a considerable time before the animal could be reduced to subjection. At last, Rustem thanked Heaven that he had obtained the very horse he wanted.

  "Now am I with my horse prepared to join
  The field of warriors!" Thus the hero said,
  And placed the saddle on his charger. Zál
  Beheld him with delight,--his withered heart
  Glowing with summer freshness. Open then
  He threw his treasury--thoughtless of the past
  Or future--present joy absorbing all
  His faculties, and thrilling every nerve.

In a short time Zál sent Rustem with a prodigious army against Afrásiyáb, and two days afterwards set off himself and joined his son. Afrásiyáb said, "The son is but a boy, and the father is old; I shall have no difficulty in recovering the empire of Persia." These observations having reached Zál, he pondered deeply, considering that Garshásp would not be able to contend against Afrásiyáb, and that no other prince of the race of Feridún was known to be in existence. However, he despatched people in every quarter to gather information on the subject, and at length Kai-kobád was understood to be residing in obscurity on the mountain Alberz, distinguished for his wisdom and valor, and his qualifications for the exercise of sovereign power. Zál therefore recommended Rustem to proceed to Alberz, and bring him from his concealment.

  Thus Zál to Rustem spoke, "Go forth, my son,
  And speedily perform this pressing duty,
  To linger would be dangerous. Say to him,
  'The army is prepared--the throne is ready,
  And thou alone, of the Kaiánian race,
  Deemed fit for sovereign rule.'"

Rustem accordingly mounted Rakush, and accompanied by a powerful force, pursued his way towards the mountain Alberz; and though the road was infested by the troops of Afrásiyáb, he valiantly overcame every difficulty that was opposed to his progress. On reaching the vicinity of Alberz, he observed a beautiful spot of ground studded with luxuriant trees, and watered by glittering rills. There too, sitting upon a throne, placed in the shade on the flowery margin of a stream, he saw a young man, surrounded by a company of friends and attendants, and engaged at a gorgeous entertainment. Rustem, when he came near, was hospitably invited to partake of the feast: but this he declined, saying, that he was on an important mission to Alberz, which forbade the enjoyment of any pleasure till his task was accomplished; in short, that he was in search of Kai-kobád: but upon being told that he would there receive intelligence of him, he alighted and approached the bank of the stream where the company was assembled. The young man who was seated upon the golden throne took hold of the hand of Rustem, and filling up a goblet with wine, gave another to his guest, and asked him at whose command or suggestion he was in search of Kai-kobád. Rustem replied, that he was sent by his father Zál, and frankly communicated to him the special object they had in view. The young man, delighted with the information, immediately discovered himself, acknowledged that he was Kai-kobád, and then Rustem respectfully hailed him as the sovereign of Persia.

  The banquet was resumed again--
  And, hark, the softly warbled strain,
  As harp and flute, in union sweet,
  The voices of the singers meet.
  The black-eyed damsels now display
  Their art in many an amorous lay;
  And now the song is loud and clear,
  And speaks of Rustem's welcome here.
  "This is a day, a glorious day,
  That drives ungenial thoughts away;
  This is a day to make us glad,
  Since Rustem comes for Kai-kobád;
  O, let us pass our time in glee,
  And talk of Jemshíd's majesty,
  The pomp and glory of his reign,
  And still the sparkling goblet drain.--
  Come, Sakí, fill the wine-cup high,
  And let not even its brim be dry;
  For wine alone has power to part
  The rust of sorrow from the heart.
  Drink to the king, in merry mood,
  Since fortune smiles, and wine is good;
  Quaffing red wine is better far
  Than shedding blood in strife, or war;
  Man is but dust, and why should he
  Become a fire of enmity?
  Drink deep, all other cares resign.
  For what can vie with ruby wine?"

In this manner ran the song of the revellers. After which, and being rather merry with wine, Kai-kobád told Rustem of the dream that had induced him to descend from his place of refuge on Alberz, and to prepare a banquet on the occasion. He dreamt the night before that two white falcons from Persia placed a splendid crown upon his head, and this vision was interpreted by Rustem as symbolical of his father and himself, who at that moment were engaged in investing him with kingly power. The hero then solicited the young sovereign to hasten his departure for Persia, and preparations were made without delay. They travelled night and day, and fell in with several detachments of the enemy, which were easily repulsed by the valor of Rustem. The fiercest attack proceeded from Kelún, one of Afrásiyáb's warriors, near the confines of Persia, who in the encounter used his spear with great dexterity and address.

  But Rustem with his javelin soon transfixed
  The Tartar knight--who in the eyes of all
  Looked like a spitted chicken--down he sunk,
  And all his soldiers fled in wild dismay.
  Then Rustem turned aside, and found a spot
  Where verdant meadows smiled, and streamlets flowed,
  Inviting weary travellers to rest.
  There they awhile remained--and when the sun
  Went down, and night had darkened all the sky,
  The champion joyfully pursued his way,
  And brought the monarch to his father's house.
  --Seven days they sat in council--on the eighth
  Young Kai-kobád was crowned--and placed upon
  The ivory throne in presence of his warriors,
  Who all besought him to commence the war
  Against the Tartar prince, Afrásiyáb.