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• How oft my heart has throbb’d with strong desire,
And fondly claim'd thee for my valiant sire.'”

Atkinson's Sohráb, a Poem, &c.

The simplicity of Ferdusi's style is entirely lost in these pompous lines; but we have wished, by this and the former example from the rival translator, to let the reader judge for himself of the respective merits of these versions of the early part of the Shah-námeh. We will now proceed to lay before him a slight sketch, accompanied with extracts, of the remaining portion of this extraordinary poem, which have not hitherto been presented to the public. Let us begin with the conclusion of the story we have just quoted, which Mr. Atkinson has unaccountably omitted. After the death of Sohráb, and the due performance of the funeral rites by his afflicted father, the poet introduces the mother as lamenting, in passionate strains, over the untimely fate of her son, embracing his armour, and exhibiting all the signs of frantic grief. In the midst of this description, the translator's edition breaks off abruptly, possibly because he thought that a tragedy (and Sir William Jones had planned a tragedy on this story) should conclude before the interest is gone by, and that the mother's despair made a good final scene. But Ferdusi, who was not writing a play, though there is great dramatic effect in this tale, thought otherwise, and brought it down to a regular conclusion. In the following passage, the history is taken up where Mr. Atkinson left off'; and we may observe, from the mode in which this and other poems in the Shah-númeh begin and end, that the poet did not consider his work as an uninterrupted poem, which would deprive him of all right to be considered, according to the critics, as an epic poet, but as a series of poems on different events in the history of Persia.

“ Then the fond mother, shunning light and air,
In secret wept, and tore her golden hair;
Fled the dear scenes where Sohráb's youth had past,
The house of feasting whence he parted last,
With sable trappings, hung the lofty walls,
And mourn'd him day and night within her halls.

A year she mourn'd; then, swift as wishes spring,
Her soul to meet her Sohráb's soul took wing.
Reader, prepare thy soul, nor doubt this truth,
("Tis Bahrám tells it that the giddy youth
Who roams to day, with heart as light as air,
Will feel to-morrow all a father's care.'
Make not thy resting-place with feeble man,
Nor dare Futurity's dark deeds to scan;

But know, whatever good or ill betides,
The rolling wheel of Fate, 'tis God who guides;
Fix not thy wishes on this house of clay,
But seek a mansion in eternal day.
Here cease my song!—but first, the prophet's name
A thousand blessings from my voice shall claim."


These lines are an instance of that perpetual disposition to moralize, which is a characteristic of the oriental poets, and which would lead us to suppose the eastern nations to be remarkable for their strict attention to morality, if we did not know their failing in this respect, from other and more certain

The death of Sohrab, by the hands of his father, forms the most interesting episode in the poem, but there is, as in the Iliad, a continual variety of adventures attributed, by turns, to the several heroes of the wars between the Tartars and Persians. One of these heroes is Pajan, who has been called the Paris of Ferdusi. In one of his excursions on the borders of the hostile territory, he espied, at a distance, Manízheh, the daughter of Afrasiab, whose beauty tempted him to brave all dangers, and possess himself of so lovely an object. He had, however, reason to repent of the adventure, for he was made prisoner by the Turks, and confined in a dismal prison, till released by the valour of Rustem. His first view of the damsel, who caused him to suffer this perilous misfortune, is described with all the enthusiasm of a youthful lover, in his address to the companions of his excursion, when they come in sight of the spot where the princess sported in the midst of her attendant maidens.

“See, where yon plain, in various colours bright,
Tempts the young hero to the foray-fight,
Where many a grove, and many a garden, grace
The wide domain of Tourán's ancient race.
In waves of silk the glossy corn-fields flow,
Musk scents the air, and waters roll below;
The lily droops beneath its ample flower,
The rose breathes incense through her native bower ;
Proud stalks the pheasant through the leafy glade,
The dove coos softly from the cypress' shade;
Long may this earthly paradise remain
To glad our vision-long as Time shall reign.
Now up the hills, and now along the vales,
Stray the fair damsels of the Tartar dales;
Manízheh there, first daughter of the throne,
Bright as the sun, with radiance all her own:



Sitárah here, Afrasiab's second pride,
Circled by blooming maids on every side,
O'er the bright flowers a brighter glory sheds,
The rose and lily hide their vanquish'd heads.
See there, the wandering nymphs among the trees,
With cypress forms, and locks that scent the breeze ;
Lips bathed in wine, and eyes in balmy sleep,
And cheeks where roses endless vigils keep.
Oh! could we venture, for a single day,
To dare all dangers where those damsels stray,
We'd bear away some maid, of peerless charms,
A glorious prize for royal Khosrú's arms."

It has struck us, that there is a strong resemblance to Ferdusi's style, in the works of one of the most delightful of the European masters of the lyre, Ariosto: it is most remarkable, in the romantic and solitary adventures of the knights and heroes of these two poets, and, as in the instance just mentioned, in the perilous expeditions in which they engage in pursuit of the fair dames of the enemy's camp: Ariosto’s oriental imagination made him choose a subject in which he might give full play to his native genius; and, at the time he wrote, the eastern muse, after travelling through Spain, was making the tour of southern Europe in disguise. There is in the Orlando a description of the “ terrestrial paradise,” more warm and Asiaticin its colouring than what we have extracted from Ferdusi. We will give the reader that part of the painting which includes the same objects that Ferdusi drew.

“ Cantan fra i rami gli angeletti vaghi
Azzurri e bianchi e verdi e rossi e gialli,
Murmuranti ruscelli, e cheti laghi
Di limpidezza vincono i cristalli.
Una dolce aura che ti par che vaghi
A un modo sempre, e dal suo stil non falli,
Facea si l'aria tremolar d'intorno,
Che non potea nojar calor del giorno.

E quella ai fiori ai pomi e a la
Gli odor' diversi depredando giva;
E di tutti faceva una mistura,
Che di soavità l'alma nutriva.”

Orl. Fur. xxxiv. 50, 51.


We have already seen, that Ferdusi gloried in being a disciple of Mahomet, but the religion of his poem is that of the


Fire Worshippers, which was the faith of the Persians at the time of the invasion of the Arabs. There is a simplicity and sublimity about it, which make it peculiarly suitable to poetry; and though it can form no part of what is called the machinery of an epic poem, yet there is a wild grandeur in the adoration of God in his glorious emblem, the rising Sun, the dispenser of light and life, as consonant to the majesty of Ferdusi’s vast subject, as it is to the fine climate and country where it was adopted. It was in the reign of Kishtasp, whom the Greeks called Darius Hystaspes, that Zerdusht, or Zeratusht, whom we know by the name of Zoroaster, published his works, which inculcated, we are told, “the doctrine of two Principles, and recommended the worship of the good Principle under the allegory of Light, which he opposed to the bad, whose emblem was Darkness. “ The king,” it is added, was much inclined to this doctrine, and raised a number of temples to the Sun, the fountain of Light; which the people, as usual, conceiving in a gross and literal sense, began to adore the effect instead of the cause, and the figure instead of the archetype. The priests took the hint, and the Sun, or Mithra, became really to them,

our alchemists absurdly consider it, a powerful elixir, which transformed their base metals into gold.” The Mussulman bigots cursed the Persian idolaters; but Ferdusi saw the advantage of introducing into his work the genuine religion of his forefathers, which was still secretly professed by many of his contemporaries, and was sufficiently obsolete to create a romantic interest in its former flourishing state.

Ferdusi describes the arrival of Zoroaster at the court of King Kishtasp, and the favour which his religion found in that monarch's eyes, under the figure of the rapid growth of a vast tree before the royal palace. We have preserved in the translation the singular transition that there is, in the original, from the allegorical representative of the prophet, to the prophet himself. As years on years

successive roll away,
A mighty tree springs up to meet the day;
In the king's court it rears its stately head,
Deep is its root, and wide its branches spread ;
Wisdom from every leaf its balm distils,
That balm, the healer of all human ills :
Its name is Zeratusht. He comes to quell,
With steps auspicious, all the powers of hell ;
From Ahriman to wrest his iron rod,
And win the world's dominion back to God.
'I come, O king! a legate from the sky,
To point the road that leads to God most High.

Thus saith the Lord, My prophet's word obey,
View all my works in heaven and earth—and say,
Whose band could work such wonders, or whose word,
But mine—who reign, the all-creating Lord.'”

The king is converted, and, with all the zeal of a proselyte, busies himself to introduce the new faith as the religion of the state. He wisely begins the work of reform with his nobles ; and so powerful was the influence of Zoroaster, or so weak the popular prejudices in favour of idolatry, that the worship of fire was quickly established throughout Persia. Our poet closes his account of this internal revolution, with the historical tradition of the first erection of a fire-temple. The figure employed in the former passage as typical of the prophet, seems in the following extract to apply, with greater precision, to the religion of which he was the founder.

“ As year by year the rapid seasons flew,
So step by step the mighty cedar grew;
High in mid air its boughs extending ran,
Its ample waist no warrior's noose* could span.
The tree divine, the monarch saw amaz’d,
And first a temple to its honor rais'd;
Twice twenty cubits rose the fabric's height,
Twice twenty cubits square the fabric's site;
Of massive gold, he rear'd the splendid walls,
Transparent amber paved the golden halls."

Kishtasp had a valiant son, named Isfendiar, whose actions are greatly extolled by the Persian poets. This is not the place to enter into any historical disquisition, and we shall therefore merely state, that this son, who did not live to occupy the throne of his father, is very generally supposed to have been the prince who is named Xerxes by the western historians, and who invaded Greece. Imperfect as the annals of Persia are known to be, it is most singular, that no trace of this remarkable event is to be found in any one of their chronicles. They do, it is true, commemorate his victories in the west; but when they name his conquests, they only appear to have extended to Arabia, Syria, and Egypt, and these he is said to have reduced

• The kamand, or noose, is used by all Ferdusi's heroes ; and, though it sounds more unpoetical to us even than the bow-string, which in Asia excites sometimes ideas as unpleasant as the noose of a halter does with us, it was, in their day, an indispensable weapon, and thrown over the enemy's head to seize him in battle.


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