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So will he apeak, perhaps, while men applaud; j Then were the chiefs of Iran shamed through me."
And then he turned, and sternly spake aloud:—
"Bise! wherefore dost thou vainly question thus
Of Bustum? I am here, whom thou hast called By challenge forth; make good thy vaunt, or yield I
Is it with Rustum only thou wouldst fight f
Bash boy, men look on Rustum's face and flee!
For well I know, that did great Rustum stand
Before thy face this day, and were re-
There would be then no talk of fighting more.
But being what I am, I tell thee this—
Do thou record it in thine inmost soul:
Either thou shalt renounce thy vaunt and yield,
Or else thy bones shall strew this sand, till
Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer-floods,
Oxus in summer wash them all away.''
He spoke; and Sohrab answered, on his feet: —
"Art thou so fiercef Thou wilt not fright me
I am no girl, to be made pale by words.
Yet this thou hast said well, did Rustum stand
Here on this field, there were no fighting then.
But Rustum is far hence, and we stand here.
Begin! thou art more vast, more dread than I,
And thou art proved, I know, and I am young—
But yet success sways with the breath of
And though thou thinkest that thou knowest sure
Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know,
For we are all, like swimmers in the sea, 390
Poised on the top of a huge wave of fate,
Which hangs uncertain to which side to fall.
And whether it will heave us up to land,
Or whether it will roll us out to sea,
Back out to sea, to the deep waves of death,
We know not, and no senrch will make us know;
Only the event will teach us in its hour."
He spoke, and Rustum answered not, but
His spear; down from the shoulder, down it came,
As on some partridge in the corn a hawk, 400 That long has towered in the air.y clouds, Drops like a plummet; Sohrab saw it come, And sprang aside, quick as a flash; the spear Hissed, and went quivering down into the sand, Whieh.it sent flying wide;—then Sohrab threw In turn, and full struck Rustum's shield; sharp rang,
The iron plates rang sharp, but turned the spear.
And Rustum seized his club, which none but he Could wield; an unlopped trunk it was, and huge,
Still rough—like those which men in treeless
To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers,
Hyphasis or Hydaspes, when, high up
By their dark springs, the wind in winter-time
Hath made in Himalayan forests wrack,
And strewn the channels with torn boughs—so
The club which Rustum lifted now, and struck
One stroke; but again Sohrab sprang aside,
Lithe as the glancing snake, and the club came
Thundering to earth, and leapt from Rustum's
And Rustum followed his own blow, and fell To his knees, and with his fingers clutched the
sand; 421 And now might Sohrab have unsheathed his
And pierced the mighty Rustum while he lay Dizzy, and on his knees, and choked with sand; But he looked on, and smiled, nor bared his sword,
But courteously drew back, and spoke, and said:—
"Thou strik'st too hard! that club of thine will float
Upon the summer-floods, and not my bones.
But rise, and be not wroth! not wroth am I;
No, when I see thee, wrath forsakes my soul.
Thou say'st, thou art not Rustum; be it so! 431
Who art thou then, that canst so touch my soul?
Boy as I am, I have seen battles too—
Have waded* foremost in their bloody waves,
And heard their hollow roar of dying men;
But never was my heart thus touched before.
Are they from Heaven, these softenings of the
O thou old warrior, let us yield to Heaven!
Come, plant we here in earth our angry spears.
And make a truce, and sit upon this sand, 440
And pledge each other in red wine, like friends.
And thou shalt talk to me of Rustum's deeds.
There are enough foes in the Persian host,
Whom I may meet, and strike, and feel no
Champions enough Afrasiab has, whom thou Mayst fight; fight them, when they confront thy spear!
| But oh, let there be peace 'twixt thee and me!"
• The word originally meant only "walked": with the change In meaning grow up the hyperbole ot "seas of blood," "bloody waves," etc.
He ceased, but while he spake, Rust urn had risen,
Aud stood erect, trembling with rage; his club He left to lie, but had regained his spear, 450 Whose fiery point now in his mailed righthand
Blazed bright and baleful, like that autumnstar,
The baleful sign of fevers; dust had soiled His stately crest, and dimmed his glittering arms.
His breast heaved, his lips foamed, and twice his voice
Was choked with rage; at last these words broke way:— "Oirl! nimble with thy feet, not with thy hands!
Curled minion, dancer, coiner of sweet words!
Fight, let me hear thy hateful voice no more!
Thou art not in Afrasiab's gardens now 460
With Tartar girls, with whom thou art wont to
But on the Oxus-sands, and in the dance
Of battle, and with me, who make no play
Of war; I fight it out, and hand to hand.
Speak not to me of truce, and pledge, and wine!
Remember all thy valour; try thy feints
And cunning! all the pity I had is gone;
Because thou hast shamed me before both the
With thy light skipping tricks, and thy girl's wiles." 469 He spoke, and Sohrab kindled at his taunts,
And he too drew his sword; at once they rushed
Together, as two eagles on one prey
Come rushing down together from the clouds,
One from the east, one from the west; their
Dashed with a clang together, and a din
Rose, such as that the sinewy wood-cutters
.Make often in the forest's heart at morn,
Of hewing axes, crashing trees—such blows
Rustum and Sohrab on each other hailed.
And you would say that sun and stars took
In that unnatural conflict; for a cloud
Crew suddenly in Heaven, and darked the sun
Over the fighters' heads; and a wind rose
Under their feet, and moaning swept the plain,
And in a sandy whirlwind wrapped the pair.
In gloom they twain were wrapped, and they
For both the on-looking hosts on either hand
Stood in broad daylight, and the sky was pure,
And the sun sparkled on the Oxus stream.
But in the gloom they fought, with bloodshot
And labouring breath; first Rustum struck the shield
Which Sohrab held stiff out; the steel-spiked spear
Rent the tough plates, but failed to reach the skin,
And Rustum plucked it back with angry groan. Then Sohrab with his sword smote Rustum's helm,
Nor clove its steel quite through; but all the crest
He shore away, and that proud horsehair plume.
Never till now defiled, sank to the dust;
And Rustum bowed his head; but then the
Grew blacker, thunder rumbled in the air, 500 And lightnings rent the cloud; and Ruksh. the horse,
Who stood at hand, uttered a dreadful cry;—
No horse's cry was that, most like the roar
Of some pained desert-lion, who all day
Hath trailed the hunter's javelin in his side.
And comes at night to die upon the sand.
The two hosts heard that cry, and quaked for
And Oxus curdled as it crossed his stream.
But Sohrab heard, and quailed not, but rushed
And struck again; and again Rustum bowed 510
His head; but this time all the blade, like glass.
Sprang in a thousand shivers on the helm.
And in the hand the hilt remained alone.
Then Rustum raised his head; his dreadful
Glared, and he shook on high his menacing spear,
And shouted: Rustum!—Sohrab heard that shout,
And shrank amazed; back he recoiled one step. And scanned with blinking eyes the advancing
form; « And then he stood bewildered; and he dropped His covering shield, and the spear pierced his
side. 620 He reeled, and staggering back, sank to the
And then the gloom dispersed, and the wind fell,
And the bright sun broke forth, and melted all The cloud; and the two armies saw the pair— Saw Rustum standing, safe upon his feet, And Sohrab, wounded, on the bloody sand.
Then, with a bitter smile, Rustum began:— "Sohrab, thou thoughtest in thy mind to kill A Persian lord this day, and strip his corpse. And bear thy trophies to Afrasiab's tent. 530 Or else that the great Rustum would come down Himself to fight, and that thy wiles would move
Hia heart to take a gift, ami let thee go.
Anil then that all the Tartar host would praise
Thy courage or thy craft, and spread thy fame,
To glad thy father in his weak old age.
Fool, thou art slain, and by an unknown man!
Dearer to the red jackals shalt thou be
Than to thy friends, and to thy father old."
And, with a fearless mien, Sohrab re-
"Unknown thou art; yet thy fierce vaunt is
Thou dost not slay me, proud and boastful man!
No! Rustum slays me, and this filial heart.
For were 1 matched with ten such men as thee,
And I were that which till to day 1 was,
They should be lying here, I standing there.
But that beloved name unnerved my arm—
That name, and something, I confess, in thee,
Which troubles all my heart, and made my
Fall; and thy spear transfixed an unarmed
And now thou boastest, and insult'st my fate.
But hear thou this, fierce man, tremble to hear
The mighty Rustum shall avenge my death!
My father, whom I seek through all the world,
He shall avenge my death, and punish thee!"
As when some hunter in the spring hath
A breeding eagle sitting on her nest,
Upon the craggy isle of a hill-lake,
And pierced her with an arrow as she rose,
And followed her to find her where she fell 560
Far off;—anon her mate comes winging back
From hunting, and a great way off descries
His huddling young left sole; at that, he checks
His pinion, and with short uneasy sweeps
Circles above his eyry, with loud screams
Chiding his mate back to her nest; but she
Lies dying, with the arrow in her side,
In some far stony gorge out of his ken,
A heap of fluttering feathers—never more
Shall the lake glass her, flying over it; 570
Never the black and dripping precipices
Echo her stormy scream as she sails by—
As that poor bird flies home, nor knows his loss,
So Rustum knew not his own loss, but stood
Over his dying son, and knew him not.
But, with a cold incredulous voice, he said: — "What prate is this of fathers and revenge? The mighty Rustum never had a son."
And, with a failing voice, Sohrab replied:— 1' Ah yes, he had! and that lost son am I. 680 Surely the news will one day reach his ear, Reach Rustum, where he sits, and tarries long, Somewhere, I know not where, but far from here,
And pierce him like a stab, and make him leap
To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee.
Fierce man, bethink thee, for an only son!
What will that grief, what will that vengeance
Oh, could I live, till I that grief had seen!
Yet him I pity not so much, but her,
My mother, who in Ader-baijan dwells 590
With that old king, her father, who grows gray
With age, and rules over the valiant Koords.
Her most I pity, who no more will see
Sohrab returning from the Tartar camp,
With spoils and honour, when the war is done.
But a dark rumour will be bruited up,
From tribe to tribe, until it reach her ear;
And then will that defenceless woman learn
That Sohrab will rejoice her sight no more,
But that in battle with a nameless foe, 600
By the far-distant Oxus, he is slain."
He spoke; and as he ceased, he wept aloud,
Thinking of her he left, and his own death.
He spoke; but Rustum listened, plunged in
Nor did he yet believe it was his son
Who spoke, although he called back names he
For he had had sure tidings that the babe,
Which was in Ader-baijan born to him,
Had been a puny girl, no boy at all—
So that sad mother sent him word, for fear 610
Rustum should seek the boy, to train in arms.
And so he deemed that either Sohrab took,
By a false boast, the style of Rustum's son;
Or that men gave it him, to swell his fame.
So deemed he; yet he listened, plunged in
And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide
Of the bright rocking Ocean sets to shore
At the full moon; tears gathered in his eyes;
For he remembered his own early youth,
And all its bounding rapture; as, at dawn, 620
The shepherd from his mountain-lodge descries
A far, bright city, smitten by the sun,
Through many rolling clouds—so Rustum saw
His youth; saw Sohrab's mother, in her bloom;
And that old king, her father, who loved well
His wandering guest, and gave him his fair
With joy; and all the pleasant life they led,
They three, in that long-distant summer-time—
The castle, and the dewy woods, and hunt
And hound, and morn on those delightful hills
In Ader-baijan. And he saw that Youth, 631
Of age and looks to be his own dear son,
Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand,
Like some rich hyacinth which by the scythe
Of an unskilful gardener has been cut,
Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
On the mown, (lying grass—so Sohrab lay,
l.ovely iu death, upon the common sand.
And Rustum gazed on him with grief, and
said:— 6*0 "O Sohrab, thou indeed art such a son Whom Rustum, wert thou his, might well have
Yet here thou errest, Sohrab, or else men Have told thee false—thou art not Rustum's son.
For Rustum had no son; one child he had— But one—a girl; who with her mother now Plies some light female task, nor dreams of us—
Of us she dreams not, nor of wounds, nor war."
But Sohrab answered him in wrath; for now The anguish of the deep-fixed spear grew fierce, 650 And he desired to draw forth the steel. And let the blood flow free, and so to die— But first he would convince his stubborn foe; And, rising sternly on one arm, he said:—
'' Han, who art thou who dost deny my words f
Truth sits upon the lips of dying men,
And falsehood, while I lived, was far from
I tell thee, pricked upon this arm 1 bear
That seal which Rustum to my mother gave,
That she might prick it on the babe she bore."
He spoke; and all the blood left Rustum's
And his knees tottered, and lie smote his hand
Against his breast, his heavy mailed hand,
That the hard iron corslet clanked aloud;
And to his heart he pressed the other hand,
And in a hollow voice he spake, and said:—
"Sohrab, that were a proof which could not lie!
If thou show this, then art thou Rustum's ■on."
Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loosed His belt, and near the shoulder bared his arm, And showed a sign in faint vermilion points 671 Pricked; as a cunning workman, in Pekin. Pricks with vermilion some clear porcelain vase,
An emperor's gift—at early morn he paints, And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp
Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands—
So delicately pricked the sign appeared
On Sohrab's arm, the sign of Rustum's seal.
It was that griffin, which of old reared Zal,
Rustum's great father, whom they left to die,
A helpless babe, among the mountain-rocks; 681
Him that kind creature found, and reared, and loved—
Then Rustum took it for his glorious sign.
Aud Sohrab bared that image on his arm.
And himself scanned it long with mournful
And then he touched it with his hand and said:—
"How say'st thou f Is that sign the proper sign
Of Rustum's son, or of some other man's.''' Be spoke; but Rustum gazed, and gazed, and stood
Speechless; ami then he uttered one sharp cry: 690
0 boy—thy father!—and his voice choked there. And then a dark cloud passed before his eyes, Aud his head swam, and he sank down to earth. But Sohrab crawled to where he lay, and cast His arms about his neck, and kissed his lips, And with fond faltering fingers stroked his
Trying to call him back to life; and life
Came back to Rustum, and he oped his eyes,
And they stood wide with horror; and he seized
In both his hands the dust which lay around,
And threw it on his head, and smirched his
hair,— 701 His hair, and face, and beard, and glittering
And strong convulsive gToanings shook his breast,
And his sobs choked him; and he clutched his sword,
To draw it, and for ever let life out. But Sohrab saw hie thought, and held his hands,
And with a soothing voice he spake, and said:—
"Father, forbear! for I but meet to-day The doom which at my birth was written down In Heaven, and thou art Heaven's unconscious hand. 710 Surely my heart cried out that it was thou, When first I saw thee; and thy heart spoke too,
1 know it! but fate trod those promptings
Under its iron heel; fate, fate engaged
The strife, and hurled me on my father's spear.
But let us speak no more of this! I find
My father; let me feel that I have found!
Come, sit beside me on this sand, and take
My head betwixt thy hands, and kiss my cheeks.
And wash them with thy tears, and say: My
son! 710 Quick! quick! for numbered are mv sands of
And swift; for like the lightning to this field
I came, and like the wind I go away—
Sudden, and swift, and like a passing wind.
But it was writ in Heaven that this should be."
So said he, and his voice released the heart Of Rustum, and his tears broke forth; he cast His arms round his son 'a neck, and wept aloud. And kissed him. And awe fell on both the hosts,
When they saw Kustum's grief; and Ruksh, the
With his head bowing to the ground and inane
Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mute woe
First to the one, then to the other moved
His head, as if inquiring what their grief
Might mean; and from his dark, compassionate
The big warm tears rolled down, and caked the sand.*
But Bustum chid him with stern voice, and said:—
"Ruksh, now thou grievest; but, O Buksh, thy feet
Should first have rotted on their nimble joints, Or ere they brought thy master to this field!" But Sohrab looked upon the horse and
said:— 741 "Is this, then, Ruksh? How often, in past
My mother told me of thee, thou brave steed,
My terrible father's terrible horse! and said,
That I should one day find thy lord and thee.
Come, let me lay my hand upon thy mane!
O Ruksh, thou art more fortunate than I;
For thou hast gone where I shall never go,
And snuffed the breezes of my father's home,
And thou hast trod the sands of Seistan, 750
And seen the River of Helmund, and the Lake
Of Zirrah; and the aged Zal himself
Has often stroked thy neck, and given thee
Corn in a golden platter soaked with wine,
And said: O Ruksh! bear RuMum well!—but I
Have never known my grandsire's furrowed
Nor seen his lofty house in Seistan,
Nor slaked my thirst at the clear Helmund
But lodged among my father's foes, and seen
Afrasiab's cities only, Samnrcand, 760
Bokhara, and lone Khiva in the waste,
And the black Toorkmun tents; and only drunk
The desert rivers, Moorghab and Tejend,
Kohik, and where the Kalmuks feed their sheep,
The northern Sir; and this great Oxus stream,
The yellow Oxus, by whose brink I die."
* Compare the action or the horse of Achilles, Iliad, xix, end.
Then, with a heavy groan, Rustum bewailed:—
"Oh, that its waves were flowing over me!
Oh, that I saw its grains of yellow silt
Roll tumbling in the current o 'er my head!'' But, with a grave mild voice, Sohrab replied:— 771
"Desire not that, my father! thou must live.
For some are born to do great deeds, and live,
As some are born to be obscured, and die.
Do thou the deeds 1 die too young to do,
And reap a second glory in thine age;
Thou art my father, and thy gain is mine.
But come! thou seest this great host of men
Which follow me; I pray thee, slay not these!
Let me entreat for them; what have they done? "SO
They followed me, my hope, my fame, my star.
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace.
But me thou must bear hence, not send with them,
But carry me with thee to Seistan,
And place me on a bed, and mourn for me,
Thou, and the snow-haired Zal, and all thy
And thou must lay me in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound above my bones,
And plant a far-seen pillar over all.
That so the passing horseman on the waste "90
May see my tomb a great way off, and cry:
Sohrab, the mighty Rustum's son, lies there,
Whom his great father did in ignorance kill!
And I be not forgotten in my grave."
And, with a mournful voice, Rustum replied :—
"Fear not! as thou hast said, Sohrab, my son,
So shall it be; for 1 will burn my tents,
And quit the host, and bear thee hence with me,
And carry thee away to Seistan,
And place thee on a bed. and mourn for thee,
With the snow-headed Zal, and all my friends,
And I will lay thee in that lovely earth, 8*2
And heap a stately mound above thy bones,
And plant a far-seen pillar over all,
And men shall not forget thee in thy grave.
And I will spare thy host; yea, let them go!
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace!
What should I do with slaying any more?
For would that all that I have ever slain
Might be once more alive; my bitterest foes. 810
And they who were called_ champions in their
And through whose death I won that fame I have—
And I were nothing but a common mnn,
A poor, mean soldier, and without renown.
So thou mightest live too, my son, my son!
Or rather would that I, even J myself,