Shah Nameh/Minúchihr

Feridún continued to cherish with the fondest affection the memory of his murdered son, and still looked forward with anxiety to the anticipated hour of retribution. He fervently hoped that a son might be born to take vengeance for his father's death. But it so happened that Mahafríd, the wife of Irij, gave birth to a daughter. When this daughter grew up, Feridún gave her in marriage to Pishung, and from that union an heir was born who in form and feature resembled Irij and Feridún. He was called Minúchihr, and great rejoicings took place on the occasion of his birth.

  The old man's lips, with smiles apart,
  Bespoke the gladness of his heart.
  And in his arms he took the boy
  The harbinger of future joy;
  Delighted that indulgent Heaven
  To his fond hopes this pledge had given,
  It seemed as if, to bless his reign,
  Irij had come to life again.

The child was nourished with great tenderness during his infancy, and when he grew up he was sedulously instructed in every art necessary to form the character, and acquire the accomplishments of a warrior. Feridún was accustomed to place him on the throne, and decorate his brows with the crown of sovereignty; and the soldiers enthusiastically acknowledged him as their king, urging him to rouse himself and take vengeance of his enemies for the murder of his grandfather. Having opened his treasury, Feridún distributed abundance of gold among the people, so that Minúchihr was in a short time enabled to embody an immense army, by whom he was looked upon with attachment and admiration.

When Sílim and Túr were informed of the preparations that were making against them, that Minúchihr, having grown to manhood, was distinguished for his valor and intrepidity, and that multitudes flocked to his standard with the intention of forwarding his purpose of revenge, they were seized with inexpressible terror, and anticipated an immediate invasion of their kingdoms. Thus alarmed, they counselled together upon the course it would be wisest to adopt.

  "Should he advance, his cause is just,
  And blood will mingle with the dust,
  But heaven forbid our power should be
  O'erwhelmed to give him victory;
  Though strong his arm, and wild his ire,
  And vengeance keen his heart inspire."

They determined, at length, to pursue pacific measures, and endeavor by splendid presents and conciliatory language to regain the good-will of Feridún. The elephants were immediately loaded with treasure, a crown of gold, and other articles of value, and a messenger was dispatched, charged with an acknowledgment of guilt and abundant expressions of repentance. "It was Iblís," they said, "who led us astray, and our destiny has been such that we are in every way criminal. But thou art the ocean of mercy; pardon our offences. Though manifold, they were involuntary, and forgiveness will cleanse our hearts and restore us to ourselves. Let our tears wash away the faults we have committed. To Minúchihr and to thyself we offer obedience and fealty, and we wait your commands, being but the dust of your feet."

When the messenger arrived at the court of Feridún he first delivered the magnificent presents, and the king, having placed Minúchihr on a golden chair by his side, observed to him, "These presents are to thee a prosperous and blessed omen--they show that thy enemy is afraid of thee." Then the messenger was permitted to communicate the object of his mission.

  He spoke with studied phrase, intent to hide,
  Or mitigate the horror of their crime;
  And with excuses plausible and bland
  His speech was dressed. The brothers, he observed,
  Desired to see their kinsman Minúchihr,
  And with the costliest gems they sought to pay
  The price of kindred blood unjustly shed--
  And they would willingly to him resign
  Their kingdoms for the sake of peace and friendship.

  The monarch marked him scornfully, and said:
  "Canst thou conceal the sun? It is in vain
  Truth to disguise with words of shallow meaning.
  Now hear my answer. Ask thy cruel masters,
  Who talk of their affection for the prince,
  Where lies the body of the gentle Irij?
  Him they have slain, the fierce, unnatural brothers,
  And now they thirst to gain another victim.
  They long to see the face of Minúchihr!
  Yes, and they shall, surrounded by his soldiers,
  And clad in steel, and they shall feel the edge
  Of life-destroying swords. Yes, they shall see him!"

After uttering this indignant speech, Feridún showed to the messenger his great warriors, one by one. He showed him Kavah and his two sons, Shahpúr, and Shírúeh, and Kárun, and Sám,[3] and Narímán, and other chiefs--all of admirable courage and valor in war--and thus resumed:

  "Hence with your presents, hence, away,
  Can gold or gems turn night to day?
  Must kingly heads be bought and sold,
  And shall I barter blood for gold?
  Shall gold a father's heart entice,
  Blood to redeem beyond all price?
  Hence, hence with treachery; I have heard
  Their glozing falsehoods, every word;
  But human feelings guide my will,
  And keep my honour sacred still.
  True is the oracle we read:
  'Those who have sown oppression's seed
  Reap bitter fruit; their souls, perplext,
  Joy not in this world or the next.'
  The brothers of my murdered boy,
  Who could a father's hopes destroy,
  An equal punishment will reap,
  And lasting vengeance o'er them sweep.
  They rooted up my favourite tree,
  But yet a branch remains to me.
  Now the young lion comes apace,
  The glory of his glorious race;
  He comes apace, to punish guilt,
  Where brother's blood was basely spilt;
  And blood alone for blood must pay;
  Hence with your gold, depart, away!"

When the messenger heard these reproaches, mingled with poison, he immediately took leave, and trembling with fear, returned to Sílim and Túr with the utmost speed. He described to them in strong and alarming terms the appearance and character of Minúchihr, and his warriors; of that noble youth who with frowning eyebrows was only anxious for battle. He then communicated to them in what manner he had been received, and repeated the denunciations of Feridún, at which the brothers were exceedingly grieved and disappointed. But Sílim said to Túr:

  "Let us be first upon the field, before
  He marshals his array. It follows not,
  That he should be a hero bold and valiant,
  Because he is descended from the brave;
  But it becomes us well to try our power,--
  For speed, in war, is better than delay."

In this spirit the two brothers rapidly collected from both their kingdoms a large army, and proceeded towards Irán. On hearing of their progress, Feridún said: "This is well--they come of themselves. The forest game surrenders itself voluntarily at the foot of the sportsman." Then he commanded his army to wait quietly till they arrived; for skill and patience, he observed, will draw the lion's head into your toils.

As soon as the enemy had approached within a short distance, Minúchihr solicited Feridún to commence the engagement--and the king having summoned his chief warriors before him, appointed them all, one by one, to their proper places.

  The warriors of renown assembled straight
  With ponderous clubs; each like a lion fierce,
  Girded his loins impatient. In their front
  The sacred banner of the blacksmith waved;
  Bright scimitars were brandished in the air;
  Beneath them pranced their steeds, all armed for fight,
  And so incased in iron were the chiefs
  From top to toe, their eyes were only seen.

  When Kárun drew his hundred thousand troops
  Upon the field, the battle-word was given,
  And Minúchihr was, like the cypress tall,
  Engaged along the centre of the hosts;
  And like the moon he shone, amid the groups
  Of congregated clouds, or as the sun
  Glittering upon the mountain of Alberz.
  The squadrons in advance Kabád commanded,
  Garshásp the left, and Sám upon the right.

  The shedders of a brother's blood had now
  Brought their innumerous legions to the strife,
  And formed them in magnificent array:
  The picket guards were almost thrown together,
  When Túr sprung forward, and with sharp reproach,
  And haughty gesture, thus addressed Kabád:
  "Ask this new king, this Minúchihr, since Heaven
  To Irij gave a daughter, who on him
  Bestowed the mail, the battle-axe, and sword?"
  To this insulting speech, Kabád replied:
  "The message shall be given, and I will bring
  The answer, too. Ye know what ye have done;
  Have ye not murdered him who, trusting, sought
  Protection from ye? All mankind for this
  Must curse your memory till the day of doom;
  If savage monsters were to fly your presence,
  It would not be surprising. Those who die
  In this most righteous cause will go to Heaven,
  With all their sins forgotten!" Then Kabád
  Went to the king, and told the speech of Túr:
  A smile played o'er the cheek of Minúchihr
  As thus he spoke: "A boaster he must be,
  Or a vain fool, for when engaged in battle,
  Vigour of arm and the enduring soul,
  Will best be proved. I ask but for revenge--
  Vengeance for Irij slain. Meanwhile, return;
  We shall not fight to-day."

                               He too retired,
  And in his tent upon the sandy plain,
  Ordered the festive board to be prepared,
  And wine and music whiled the hours away.

When morning dawned the battle commenced, and multitudes were slain on both sides.

  The spacious plain became a sea of blood;
  It seemed as if the earth was covered o'er
  With crimson tulips; slippery was the ground,
  And all in dire confusion.

The army of Minúchihr was victorious, owing to the bravery and skill of the commander. But Heaven was in his favor.

In the evening Sílim and Túr consulted together, and came to the resolution of effecting a formidable night attack on the enemy. The spies of Minúchihr, however, obtained information of this intention, and communicated the secret to the king. Minúchihr immediately placed the army in charge of Kárun, and took himself thirty thousand men to wait in ambuscade for the enemy, and frustrate his views. Túr advanced with a hundred thousand men; but as he advanced, he found every one on the alert, and aware of his approach. He had gone too far to retreat in the dark without fighting, and therefore began a vigorous conflict. Minúchihr sprung up from his ambuscade, and with his thirty thousand men rushed upon the centre of the enemy's troops, and in the end encountered Túr. The struggle was not long. Minúchihr dexterously using his javelin, hurled him from his saddle precipitately to the ground, and then with his dagger severed the head from his body. The body he left to be devoured by the beasts of the field, and the head he sent as a trophy to Feridún; after which, he proceeded in search of Sílim.

The army of the confederates, however, having suffered such a signal defeat, Sílim thought it prudent to fall back and take refuge in a fort. But Minúchihr went in pursuit, and besieged the castle. One day a warrior named Kakú made a sally out of the fort, and approaching the centre of the besieging army, threw a javelin at Minúchihr, which, however, fell harmless before it reached its aim. Then Minúchihr seized the enemy by the girdle, raised him up in air, and flung him from his saddle to the ground.

  He grasped the foe-man by the girth,
  And thundering drove him to the earth;
  By wound of spear, and gory brand,
  He died upon the burning sand.

The siege was continued for some time with the view of weakening the power of Sílim; at last Minúchihr sent a message to him, saying: "Let the battle be decided between us. Quit the fort, and boldly meet me here, that it may be seen to whom God gives the victory." Sílim could not, without disgrace, refuse this challenge: he descended from the fort, and met Minúchihr. A desperate conflict ensued, and he was slain on the spot. Minúchihr's keen sword severed the royal head from the body, and thus quickly ended the career of Sílim. After that, the whole of the enemy's troops were defeated and put to flight in every direction.

The leading warriors of the routed army now sought protection from Minúchihr, who immediately complied with their solicitation, and by their influence all the forces of Sílim and Túr united under him. To each he gave rank according to his merits. After the victory, Minúchihr hastened to pay his respects to Feridún, who received him with praises and thanksgivings, and the customary honors. Returning from the battle, Feridún met him on foot; and the moment Minúchihr beheld the venerable monarch, he alighted and kissed the ground. They then, seated in the palace together, congratulated themselves on the success of their arms. In a short time after, the end of Feridún approached; when recommending Minúchihr to the care of Sám and Narímán, he said: "My hour of departure has arrived, and I place the prince under your protection." He then directed Minúchihr to be seated on the throne;

  And put himself the crown upon his head,
  And stored his mind with counsel good and wise.

Upon the death of Feridún, Minúchihr accordingly succeeded to the government of the empire, and continued to observe strictly all the laws and regulations of his great grandfather. He commanded his subjects to be constant in the worship of God.

  The army and the people gave him praise,
  Prayed for his happiness and length of days;
  Our hearts, they said, are ever bound to thee;
  Our hearts, inspired by love and loyalty.