Shah Nameh/The Dream of Sám


It is said that one night, after melancholy musings and reflecting on the miseries of this life, Sám was visited by a dream, and when the particulars of it were communicated to the interpreters of mysterious warnings and omens, they declared that Zál was certainly still alive, although he had been long exposed on Alberz, and left there to be torn to pieces by wild animals. Upon this interpretation being given, the natural feelings of the father returned, and he sent his people to the mountain in search of Zál, but without success. On another night Sám dreamt a second time, when he beheld a young man of a beautiful countenance at the head of an immense army, with a banner flying before him, and a Múbid on his left hand. One of them addressed Sám, and reproached him thus:--

  Unfeeling mortal, hast thou from thy eyes
  Washed out all sense of shame? Dost thou believe
  That to have silvery tresses is a crime?
  If so, thy head is covered with white hair;
  And were not both spontaneous gifts from Heaven?
  Although the boy was hateful to thy sight,
  The grace of God has been bestowed upon him;
  And what is human tenderness and love
  To Heaven's protection? Thou to him wert cruel,
  But Heaven has blest him, shielding him from harm.

Sám screamed aloud in his sleep, and awoke greatly terrified. Without delay he went himself to Alberz, and ascended the mountain, and wept and prayed before the throne of the Almighty, saying:--

  "If that forsaken child be truly mine,
  And not the progeny of Demon fell,
  O pity me! forgive the wicked deed,
  And to my eyes, my injured son restore."

His prayer was accepted. The Símúrgh, hearing the lamentations of Sám among his people, knew that he had come in quest of his son, and thus said to Zál:--"I have fed and protected thee like a kind nurse, and I have given thee the name of Dustán, like a father. Sám, the warrior, has just come upon the mountain in search of his child, and I must restore thee to him, and we must part." Zál wept when he heard of this unexpected separation, and in strong terms expressed his gratitude to his benefactor; for the Wonderful Bird had not omitted to teach him the language of the country, and to cultivate his understanding, removed as they were to such a distance from the haunts of mankind. The Símúrgh soothed him by assuring him that he was not going to abandon him to misfortune, but to increase his prosperity; and, as a striking proof of affection, gave him a feather from his own wing, with these instructions:--"Whenever thou art involved in difficulty or danger, put this feather on the fire, and I will instantly appear to thee to ensure thy safety. Never cease to remember me.

 "I have watched thee with fondness by day and by night,
  And supplied all thy wants with a father's delight;
  O forget not thy nurse--still be faithful to me--
  And my heart will be ever devoted to thee."

Zál immediately replied in a strain of gratitude and admiration; and then the Símúrgh conveyed him to Sám, and said to him: "Receive thy son--he is of wonderful promise, and will be worthy of the throne and the diadem."

  The soul of Sám rejoiced to hear
  Applause so sweet to a parent's ear;
  And blessed them both in thought and word,
  The lovely boy, and the Wondrous Bird.

He also declared to Zál that he was ashamed of the crime of which he had been guilty, and that he would endeavor to obliterate the recollection of the past by treating him in future with the utmost respect and honor.

When Minúchihr heard from Zábul of these things, and of Sám's return, he was exceedingly pleased, and ordered his son, Nauder, with a splendid istakbál,[1] to meet the father and son on their approach to the city. They were surrounded by warriors and great men, and Sám embraced the first moment to introduce Zál to the king.

  Zál humbly kissed the earth before the king,
  And from the hands of Minúchihr received
  A golden mace and helm. Then those who knew
  The stars and planetary signs, were told
  To calculate the stripling's destiny;
  And all proclaimed him of exalted fortune,
  That he would be prodigious in his might,
  Outshining every warrior of the age.

Delighted with this information, Minúchihr, seated upon his throne, with Kárun on one side and Sám on the other, presented Zál with Arabian horses, and armor, and gold, and splendid garments, and appointed Sám to the government of Kábul, Zábul, and Ind. Zál accompanied his father on his return; and when they arrived at Zábulistán, the most renowned instructors in every art and science were collected together to cultivate and enrich his young mind.

In the meantime Sám was commanded by the king to invade and subdue the Demon provinces of Karugsár and Mázinderán;[2] and Zál was in consequence left by his father in charge of Zábulistán. The young nursling of the Símúrgh is said to have performed the duties of sovereignty with admirable wisdom and discretion, during the absence of his father. He did not pass his time in idle exercises, but with zealous delight in the society of accomplished and learned men, for the purpose of becoming familiar with every species of knowledge and acquirement. The city of Zábul, however, as a constant residence, did not entirely satisfy him, and he wished to see more of the world; he therefore visited several other places, and proceeded as far as Kábul, where he pitched his tents, and remained for some time.

notes (from the original)Edit

  1. This custom is derived from the earliest ages of Persia, and has been continued down to the present times with no abatement of its pomp or splendor Mr. Morier thus speaks of the progress of the Embassy to Persia:-- "An Istakbál composed of fifty horsemen of our Mehmandar's tribe, met us about three miles from our encampment; they were succeeded as we advanced by an assemblage on foot, who threw a glass vessel filled with sweetmeats beneath the Envoy's horse, a ceremony which we had before witnessed at Kauzeroon, and which we again understood to be an honor shared with the King and his sons alone. Then came two of the principal merchants of Shiraz, accompanied by a boy, the son of Mahomed Nebee Khan, the new Governor of Bushere. They, however, incurred the Envoy's displeasure by not dismounting from their horses, a form always observed in Persia by those of lower rank, when they met a superior. We were thus met by three Istakbáls during the course of the day."
  2. The province of Mázinderán, of which the principal city is Amol, comprehends the whole of the southern coast of the Caspian sea. It was known to the ancients by the name of Hyrcania. At the period to which the text refers, the country was in the possession of demons.