Kings 02 Feridoun

HomeIranPoetryFerdowsi Epic of Kings - Zimmern

The Epic of Kings
By Ferdowsi
Written 1010 A.C.E.
Translated by Helen Zimmern


Five hundred years did Feridoun rule the world, and might and virtue increased
in the land, and all his days he did that which was good. And he roamed
throughout the kingdom to seek out that which was open and that which was
hid, and wrong was righted at his hands. With kindness did he curb the
sway of evil. He ordered the world like to a paradise, he planted the cypress
and the rose where the wild herb had sprouted.
Now after many years were passed there were born to him three sons,
whose mother was of the house of Jemshid. And the sons were fair of mien,
tall and strong, yet their names were not known to men, for Feridoun had
not tested their hearts. But when he beheld that they were come to years
of strength he called them about his throne and bade them search out the
King of Yemen, who had three daughters, fair as the moon, that they should
woo them unto themselves. And the sons of Feridoun did according to the
command of their father. They set forth unto Yemen, and there went with
them a host countless as the stars. And when they were come to Yemen, the
King came forth to greet them, and his train was like to the plumage of
a pheasant. Then the sons of Feridoun gained the hands of the daughters
of Serv, King of Yemen, and departed with them to their own land. And Serv
gave to his new sons much treasure laid upon the backs of camels, and umbrellas
too did he give unto them in sign of kingship.
Now it came about that when Feridoun learned that his sons were
returning, he went forth to meet them and prove their hearts. So he took
upon him the form of a dragon that foamed at the mouth with fury, and from
whose jaws sprang mighty flames. And when his sons were come near unto
the mountain pass, he came upon them suddenly, like to a whirlwind, and
raised a cloud of dust about the place with his writhings, and his roaring
filled the air with noise. Then he threw himself upon the eldest born,
and the prince laid down his spear and said, "A wise and prudent man striveth
not with dragons." And he turned his back and fled before the monster,
and left him to fall upon his brothers. Then the dragon sprang upon the
second, and he said, "An it be that I must fight, what matter if it be
a furious lion or a knight full of valour?" So he took his bow and stretched
it. But the youngest came towards him, and seeing the dragon, said, "Thou
reptile, flee from our presence, and strut not in the path of lions. For
if thou hast heard the name of Feridoun, beware how thou doest thus, for
we are his sons, armed with spears and ready for the fight. Quit therefore,
I counsel thee, thine evil path, lest I plant upon thy head the crown of
Then the glorious Feridoun, when he had thus made trial of their
hearts, vanished from their sight. But presently he came again with the
face of their father, and many warriors, elephants, and cymbals were in
his train. And Feridoun bore in his hand the cow-headed mace, and the Kawanee,
the apron of Kawah, the kingly standard, was waved above his head. Now
when the sons saw their father, they alighted from their steeds and ran
to greet him, and kissed the ground before his feet. And the cymbals were
clashed, and the trumpets brayed, and sounds of rejoicing were heard around.
Then Feridoun raised his sons and kissed their foreheads, and gave unto
them honour according to their due. And when they were come to the royal
house he prayed to God that He would bless his offspring, and calling them
about him, he seated them upon thrones of splendour. Then he opened his
mouth and said unto them-
"O my sons, listen unto the words that I shall speak. The raging
dragon whose breath was danger was but your father, who sought to test
your hearts, and having learned them gave way with joy. But now will I
give to you names such as are fitting unto men. The first-born shall be
called Silim (may thy desires be accomplished in the world!) for thou soughtest
to save thyself from the clutches of the dragon, nor didst thou hesitate
in the hour of flight. A man who fleeth neither before an elephant nor
a lion, call him rather foolhardy than brave. And the second, who from
the beginning showed his courage, which was ardent as a flame, I will call
him Tur, the courageous, whom even a mad elephant cannot daunt. But the
youngest is a man prudent and brave, who knoweth both how to haste and
how to tarry; he chose the midway between the flame and the ground, as
it beseemeth a man of counsel, and he hath proven himself brave, prudent,
and bold. Irij shall he be called, that the gate of power may be his goal,
for first did he show gentleness, but his bravery sprang forth at the hour
of danger."
When Feridoun had thus opened his lips he called for the book wherein
are written the stars, and he searched for the planets of his sons. And
he found that Jupiter reigned in the sign of the Archer in the house of
Silim, and the sun in the Lion in that of Tur, but in the house of Irij
there reigned the moon in the Scorpion. And when he saw this he was sorrowful,
for he knew that for Irij were grief and bale held in store. Then having
read the secrets of Fate, Feridoun parted the world and gave the three
parts unto his sons in suzerainty. Roum and Khaver, which are the lands
of the setting sun, did he give unto Silim. Turan and Turkestan did he
give unto Tur, and made him master of the Turks and of China, but unto
Irij he gave Iran, with the throne of might and the crown of
For many years had the sons of Feridoun sat upon their golden thrones
in happiness and peace, but evil was hidden in the bosom of Fate. For Feridoun
had grown old, and his strength inclined to the grave. And as his life
waned, the evil passions of his sons waxed stronger. The heart of Silim
was changed, and his desires turned towards evil; his soul also was steeped
in greed. And he pondered in his spirit the parting of the lands, and he
revolted thereat in his thoughts, because that the youngest bore the crown
of supremacy. Then he bade a messenger mount him upon a dromedary swift
of foot, and bear this saying unto Tur-
"O King of Turan, thy brother greeteth thee, and may thy days be
long in the land. Tell unto me, I pray thee, for thou hast might and wisdom,
should we remain thus ever satisfied, for surely unto us, not unto Irij,
pertaineth the throne of Iran, but now is our brother set above our heads,
and should we not strive against the injustice of our father?
Now. when Tur had listened to these words, his head was filled
with wind, and he spake unto the messenger and said-
"Say unto your master, O my brother, full of courage, since our
father deceived us when we were young and void of guile, with his own hands
hath he planted a tree whence must issue fruit of blood and leaves that
are poison. Let us therefore meet and take counsel together how we may
rid us of our evil fate."
When Silim heard this he set forth from Roum, and Tur also quitted
China, and they met to counsel together how they should act. Then they
sent a messenger unto Feridoun the glorious, and they
"O King, aged and great, fearest thou not to go home unto thy God?
for evil hast thou done, and injustice dost thou leave behind thee. Thy
realm hast thou allotted with iniquity, and thine eldest born hast thou
treated with disfavour. But we thy sons entreat thee that ere it be too
late thou listen to our voice. Command thou Irij to step down from the
throne of Iran, and hide him in some corner of the earth, that he be weak
and forgotten like ourselves. Yet if thou doest not our bidding, we will
bring forth riders from Turkestan and Khaver filled with vengeance, and
will utterly destroy Irij and the land of Iran."
When Feridoun had listened to these hard words he was angered,
and straightway said-
"Speak unto these men, senseless and impure, these sons of Ahriman,
perverse of heart, and say unto them, Feridoun rejoiceth that ye have laid
bare before him your hearts, for now he knoweth what manner of men ye are.
And he answereth unto you that he hath parted his realm with equity. Many
counsellors did he seek, and night and day did they ponder it, and gave
unto each that which seemed best in their sight. And he now speaketh unto
you a word that he doth bid you treasure in your hearts, As ye sow, so
also shall ye reap, for there is for us another, an eternal home. And this
is the rede sent unto you by an aged man, that he who betrayeth his brother
for greed is not worthy to be sprung from a noble race. So pray unto God
that He turn your hearts from evil."
When the messenger had heard these words he departed. Then Feridoun
called Irij before him and warned him against the craft of his brethren,
and bade him prepare an army and go forth to meet them. But Irij, when
he had heard of the evil thoughts of his brothers, was moved, and
"Not so, O my father, suffer that I go forth alone and speak unto
my brethren, that I may still the anger that they feel against me. And
I will entreat them that they put not their trust in the glory of this
world, and will recall unto them the name of Jemshid, and how that his
end was evil because that he was uplifted in his heart."
Then Feridoun answered and said, "Go forth, my son, if such be
thy desire. The wish of thy brethren is even unto war, but thou seekest
the paths of peace. Yet I pray thee take with thee worthy knights, and
return unto me with speed, for my life is rooted in thy
And he gave him a letter signed with his royal seal that he should
bear it unto the kings of Roum and China. And Feridoun wrote how that he
was old, and desired neither gold nor treasures, save only that his sons
should be united. And he commended unto them his youngest born, who was
descended from his throne and come forth to meet them with peace in his
Now when Irij was come to the spot where his brethren were encamped,
the army saw him and was filled with wonder at his beauty and at his kingly
form, and they murmured among themselves, saying, "Surely this one alone
is worthy to bear the sceptre." But when Silim and Tur heard this murmur
their anger was deepened, and they retreated into their tents, and all
night long did they hold counsel how they might do hurt unto their
Now when the curtain that hid the sun was lifted, the brethren
went forth unto the tents of Irij. And Irij would have greeted them, but
they suffered him not, but straightway began to question him, and heap
reproaches upon his head. And Tur said-
"Why hast thou uplifted thyself above us, and is it meet that thy
elders bow down before thee?"
When Irij heard their words, he answered, "O Kings greedy of power,
I say unto you, if ye desire happiness, strive after peace. I covet neither
the royal crown nor the hosts of Iran; power that endeth in discord is
an honour that leadeth to tears. And I will step down from the throne of
Iran if it shall foster peace between us, for I crave not the possession
of the world if ye are afflicted by the sight. For I am humble of heart,
and my faith bids me be kind."
Now Tur heard these words, but they softened not his spirit, for
he knew only that which is evil, and wist not that Irij spoke truly. And
he took up the chair whereon he sat and threw it at his brother in his
anger. Then Irij called for mercy at his hands, saying-
"O King, hast thou no fear of God, no pity for thy father? I pray
thee destroy me not, lest God ask vengeance for my blood. Let it not be
spoken that thou who hast life takest that gift from others. Do not this
evil. Crush not even the tiny ant that beareth a grain of corn, for she
hath life, and sweet life is a boon. I will vanish from thy sight, I will
live in solitude and secrecy, so thou grant that I may yet behold the
But these words angered Tur only the more, and he drew from his
boot a dagger that was poisoned and sharp, and he thrust it into the breast
of Irij, the kingly cedar. And the young lord of the world paled and was
dead. Then Tur cut the head from the trunk, and filled it with musk and
ambergris, and sent it unto the old man his father, who had parted the
world, saying-
"Behold the head of thy darling, give unto him now the crown and
the throne."
And when they had done this evil deed the brethren furled their
tents, and turned them back again unto the lands of Roum and
Now Feridoun held his eyes fastened upon the road whither Irij
was gone, and his heart yearned after him. And when he heard that the time
of his return was come, he bade a host go forth to meet him, and he himself
went in the wake. Now when they were gone but a little way they beheld
a mighty cloud of dust upon the sky. And the cloud neared, and there came
thence a dromedary whereon was seated a knight clad in the garb of woe.
And he bare in his arms a casket of gold, and in the casket were rich stuffs
of silk, and in the stuffs was wrapped the head of Irij. And when Feridoun
beheld the face of the messenger his heart was smote with fear, but when
he saw the head of his son he fell from his horse with sorrow. Then a cry
of wailing rent the air, and the army shouted for grief, and the flags
were torn, and the drums broken, and the elephants and cymbals hung with
the colours of mourning, because that Irij was gone from the world. And
Feridoun returned on foot unto the city, and all the nobles went with him,
and they retraced their steps in the dust. Now when they were come to the
garden of Irij, Feridoun faltered in his sorrow, and he pressed the head
of the young King, his son, unto his breast. And he cast black earth upon
his throne, and tore his hair, and shed tears, and his cries mounted even
unto the seventh sphere. And he spake in his grief and
"O Master of the world, that metest out justice, look down, I pray
thee, upon this innocent whom his brethren have foully murdered! Sear their
hearts that joy cannot enter, and grant unto me my prayer. Suffer that
I may live until a hero, a warrior mighty to avenge, be sprung from the
seed of Irij. Then when I shall have beheld his face I will go hence as
it beseemeth me and the earth shall cover my body."
Thus wept Feridoun in the bitterness of his soul, neither would
he take comfort day and night, nor quit the garden of his son. And the
earth was his couch and the dust his bed, and he watered the ground with
his tears. And he rested in this spot till that the grass was grown above
his bosom, and his eyes were blinded with weeping. Yet his tongue did not
cease from plaining and his heart from sorrow. And he cried
"O Irij, O my son, my son, never prince died a death like thine!
Thy head was severed by Ahriman, thy body torn by lions."
Thus mourned Feridoun, and the voice of lamentation was
Then it came about that after many years had passed Feridoun bethought
him of the daughter of Irij, and how that men said she was fair. And he
sought for her in the house of the women; and when he learned that she
was fair indeed, he desired that a husband be found for her, and he wedded
her unto Pescheng, who was a hero of the race of Jemshid. And there was
born unto them a son fair and strong, worthy the throne. And when he was
yet but a tender babe they brought him to Feridoun and
"O Lord of earth, let thy soul rejoice, behold this
Then the lips of Feridoun were wreathed with smiles, and he took up
the infant in his arms and cried unto God, saying-
"O God, grant that my sight be restored unto me, that I may behold
the face of this babe."
And as he prayed his eyes were opened, and his sight rested upon
his son. Then Feridoun gave thanks unto God. And he called down blessings
upon the child, and prayed that the day might be blessed also, and the
heart of his enemies be torn with anguish. And he named him Minuchihr,
saying, "A branch worthy of a noble stock hath borne fruit." And the child
was reared in the house of Feridoun, and he suffered not that ill came
near unto him, and though the years passed above his head the stars brought
him no evil. And when he was of a ripe age Feridoun gave to Minuchihr a
throne of gold, and a mace, and a crown of jewels, and the key to all his
treasures. Then he commanded his nobles that they should do him reverence
and salute him king. And there were gathered about the throne Karun, the
son of Kawah, and Serv, King of Yemen, and Guerschasp the victorious, and
many other mighty princes more than tongue can name. But the young Shah
outshone them in strength and beauty, and joy was once more in the
But tidings of the splendour that surrounded Feridoun pierced even
unto the lands of Roum and China, and the kings thereof were troubled and
downcast in their hearts. Then they conferred how they should regain the
favour of the Shah, for they feared Minuchihr when he should be come unto
years of might. So they sent a messenger unto Feridoun bearing rich gifts,
and bade him speak unto their father and say-
"O Shah, live for ever I bear a message from the humblest of thy
slaves, who are bowed unto the earth with contrition, wherefore they have
not ventured into thy presence. And they pray that thou pardon their evil
deed, for their hearts are good, and they did it not of themselves, but
because it was written that they should do this wrong, and that which is
written in the stars surely it is accomplished. And therefore, O King,
their eyes are filled with tears, and they pray thee incline unto them
thine ear. And as a sign of thy grace send unto them Minuchihr thy son,
for their hearts yearn to look upon his face and do him
Now when Feridoun had listened to the words of his sons, he knitted
his brows in anger, for he knew that they sought only to beguile him. And
he said unto the messenger-
"Go, say unto your masters that their false-hearted words shall
avail them nothing. And ask them if they be not shamed to utter white words
with tongues of blackness. I have heard their message, hear now the answer
that I send. Ye say unto me that ye desire the love of Minuchihr, and I
ask of you, What did ye for Irij? And now that ye are delivered of him
ye seek the blood of his son. Verily I say unto you, never shall ye look
upon his face save when he leadeth a mighty army. Then shall be watered
with blood the leaves and fruits of the tree sprung from the vengeance
that is due. For unto this day hath vengeance slumbered, since it became
me not to stretch forth mine hand in battle upon my sons; but now is there
sprung a branch from the tree which the enemy uprooted, and he shall come
as a raging lion, girt with the vengeance of his sire. And I say unto you,
take back the treasures ye have sent me, for think ye that for coloured
toys I will abandon my vengeance, and efface for baubles the blood that
ye have spilled, or sell for gold the head of mine offspring? And say yet
again that while the father of Irij lives he will not abandon his intent.
And now that thou hast listened unto my message, lay it up in thy heart
and make haste from hence."
When the messenger had heard these words he departed with speed.
And when he was come unto Silim and Tur he told them thereof, and how he
had seen Minuchihr sitting upon a throne of gold, and how for strength
he was like unto Tahumers, who had bound the Deevs. And he told how heroes
bearing names that filled the world with wonder stood round about him,
Kawah the smith, and Karun his son, and Serv, the King of Yemen, and next
in might unto the Shah was Saum, the son of Neriman, the unvanquished in
fight, and Guerschasp the victorious, his treasurer. Then he spake of the
treasures that filled the house of Feridoun, and of the army great in number,
so that the men of Roum and China could not stand against them. And he
told how their hearts were filled with hatred of the Kings because of
The Kings, when they heard this and the message of their father,
trembled for fear. And Tur said unto Silim-
"Henceforth we must forego pleasure, for it behoveth us to hasten,
and not tarry till the teeth of this young lion be sharpened, and he be
waxed tall and strong."
Then they made ready their armies, and the number of their men
was past the counting. Helmet was joined to helmet, and spear to spear,
and jewels, baggage, and elephants without number went with them, and you
would have said it was a host that none could understand. And they marched
from Turan into Iran, and the two Kings rode before them, their hearts
filled with hate. But the star of these evil ones was sinking. For Feridoun,
when he learned that an army had crossed the Jihun, called unto him Minuchihr
his son, and bade him place himself at the head of the warriors. And the
host of the Shah was mighty to behold, great and strong, and it covered
the land like unto a cloud of locusts. And they marched from Temmische
unto the desert, and Minuchihr commanded them with might. And on his right
rode Karun the Avenger, and on his left Saum, the son of Neriman, and above
their heads waved the flag of Kawah, and their armour glistened in the
sun. Like as a lion breaketh forth from the jungle to seize upon his prey,
so did this army rush forth to avenge the death of Irij. And the head of
Minuchihr rose above the rest like to the moon or the sun when it shineth
above the mountains. And he exhorted them in words of fire that they rest
not, neither weary, until they should have broken the power of these sons
of Ahriman.
Now Tur and Silim, when they saw that the Iranians were come out
against them, set in order their army. And when the day had torn asunder
the folds of night, the two armies met in battle, and the fight waged strong
until the setting of the sun. And the earth was a sea of blood, and the
feet of the elephants were like to pillars of coral. And when the sun was
sunk to his rest, Tur and Silim consulted how they might seize upon Minuchihr
by fraud, for they saw that his arm was strong and his courage undaunted.
So Tur set forth at the head of a small band to surprise him in his tents.
But Minuchihr was aware of his evil plans, and sprang upon him. And when
Tur would have fled Minuchihr followed after him and struck a lance into
his back. And when he had killed him he cut his head from his trunk, and
the body did he give unto the wild beasts, but the head he sent to Feridoun.
And he wrote to him and sent him greeting, and told him all that was come
about, and how he should neither rest nor tarry until the death of Irij
be avenged.
Now Silim, when he learned the fate of his brother, was sore afraid,
and cast about him for an ally. And there came unto him Kakoui, of the
seed of Zohak. But Minuchihr wrestled with him for a morning's space and
overcame him also, though the Deev was strong and powerful in fight. Then
Silim was cast down yet more, and he sought to hide him by the sea-shore.
But Minuchihr cut off his path and overtook him, and with his own hand
he slew him, and cut his head from his trunk. And he raised the head upon
his lance. And when the army of Silim saw this they fled into the hills,
and vanished like cattle whom the snow hath driven from their pasture.
Then they took counsel and chose out a man from among their midst, one
that was prudent and gentle of speech. And they bade him go before the
Shah and say-
"Have mercy upon us, O Shah, for neither hate nor vengeance drove
us forth against thee, but only this, that we obeyed the wills of our lords.
But we ourselves are peaceful men, tillers of the earth and keepers of
cattle, and we pray thee that thou let us return in safety whence we are
come. And we acknowledge thee our Shah, and we pray thee make thy servants
acquainted with thy desires."
When Minuchihr had heard these words he spake and
"My desire is not after these men, neither is my longing after blood
but mercy. Let every man lay down his arms and go his ways, and let peace
be in the land, and joy wait upon your feet."
When the men heard this they praised the Shah, and called down
blessings upon his head. And they came before him, every man bearing his
armour and the weapons of battle. And they laid them at his feet, and of
weapons there was reared a mighty mountain, and the blue steel glistened
in the sun. Then Minuchihr dismissed them graciously. And when the army
was dispersed he sent a messenger unto Feridoun bearing the head of Silim
and a writing. And when he had ordered all things he set out at the head
of his warriors unto the city of Feridoun. And his grandsire came forth
to meet him, and there came with him many elephants swathed in gold, and
warriors arrayed in rich attire, and a large multitude clad in garments
of bright hue. And flags waved above them, and trumpets brayed, and cymbals
clashed, and sounds of rejoicing filled the air. But when Minuchihr saw
that his grandsire came towards him, he got from his horse and ran to meet
him, and fell at his feet and craved his blessing. And Feridoun blessed
Minuchihr and raised him from the dust. And he bade him sit again upon
his horse and took his hand, and they entered the city in triumph. And
when they were come to the King's house, Feridoun seated Minuchihr upon
a throne of gold. Then he called unto him Saum, the son of Neriman, and
"I pray thee bring up this youth and nourish him for the kingdom,
and aid him with thy might and mind."
And he took the hand of Minuchihr and put it into that of Saum,
and said-
"Thanks be unto God the merciful, who hath listened unto my voice,
and granted the desires of His servant. For now shall I go hence, and the
world will I cumber no more."
Then when he had given gifts unto his servants he withdrew into
solitude, and gazed without cease upon the heads of his sons, neither refrained
he from bewailing their evil fate, and the sorrow they had brought upon
him. And daily he grew fainter, and at last the light of his life expired,
and Feridoun vanished from the earth, but his name remained behind him.
And Minuchihr mourned for his grandsire with weeping and lamentation, and
raised above him a stately tomb. But when the seven days of mourning were
ended, he put upon his head the crown of the Kaianides, and girt his loins
with a red sash of might. And the nation called him Shah, and he was beloved
in the land.