Kings 07 Kaikaouscommittethmorefollies

HomeIranPoetryFerdowsi Epic of Kings - Zimmern

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

Kai Kaous Committeth More Follies

Whilom the fancy seized upon the Shah of Iran that he would visit his empire,
and look face to face upon his vassals, and exact their tribute. So he
passed from Turan into China, and from Mikran into Berberistan. And wheresoever
he passed men did homage before him, for the bull cannot wage battle with
the lion. But it could not remain thus for ever, and already there sprang
forth thorns in the garden of roses. For while the fortunes of the world
thus prospered, a chieftain raised the standard of revolt in Egypt, and
the people of the land turned them from the gates of submission unto Iran.
And there was joined unto them the King of Hamaveran, who desired to throw
off the yoke of Persia. But Kai Kaous, when the tidings thereof came unto
him, got ready his army and marched against the rebels. And when he came
before them, their army, that had seemed invincible, was routed, and the
King of Hamaveran was foremost to lay down his arms and ask pardon of his
Shah. And Kai Kaous granted his petition, and the King departed joyously
from out his presence. Then one of those who stood about the Shah said
unto him-
"Is it known to thee, O Shah, that this King hideth behind his
curtains a daughter of beauty? It would beseem my lord that he should take
this moon unto himself for wife."
And Kai Kaous answered, "Thy counsel is good, and I will therefore
send messengers unto her father, and demand of him that he give me his
daughter as tribute, and to cement the peace that hath been made between
When the King of Hamaveran heard this message his heart was filled
with gall, and his head was heavy with sorrow, and he murmured in his spirit
that Kai Kaous, who owned the world, should desire to take from him his
chiefest treasure. And he hid not his grief from the Shah in his answer,
but he wrote also that he knew it behoved him to do the thing that Kai
Kaous desired. Then in his distress he called before him Sudaveh his daughter,
whom he loved, and he told her all his troubles, and bade her counsel him
how he should act. For he said-
"If I lose thee, the light of my life is gone out. Yet how may
I stand against the Shah?"
And Sudaveh replied, "If there be no remedy, I counsel thee to
rejoice at that which cannot be changed."
Now when her father heard these words he knew that she was not
afflicted concerning that which was come about. So he sent for the envoy
of Kai Kaous and assented unto his demands, and they concluded an alliance
according to the forms of the land. Then when the King had poured gifts
before the messenger, and feasted him with wine, he sent forth an escort
to bear his daughter unto the tents of the Shah. And the young moon went
forth in a litter, and she was robed in garbs of splendour, and when Kai
Kaous beheld her loveliness he was struck dumb for very joy. Then he raised
Sudaveh unto the throne beside him, and named her worthy to be his spouse.
And they were glad in each other, and rejoiced; but all was not to be well
thus quickly.
For the King of Hamaveran was sore in his heart that the light
of his life was gone from him, and he cast about in his spirit how he should
regain her unto himself. And when she had been gone but seven days, he
sent forth a messenger unto Kai Kaous and entreated him that he would come
and feast within his gates, so that all the land might rejoice in their
When Sudaveh heard this message her mind misgave her, and she feared
evil. Wherefore she counselled the Shah that he should abstain from this
feast. But Kai Kaous would not listen unto the fears of Sudaveh, he would
not give ear unto her warning. Wherefore he went forth unto the city of
the King of Hamaveran, and made merry with him many days. And the King
caused gifts to be rained down upon Kai Kaous, and he flattered him, and
cozened his vanity, and he made much of his men, and he darkened their
wits with fair words and sweet wine. Then when he had lulled their fears,
and caused them to forget wherefore and why and all knowledge of misfortune,
he fell upon them and bound them with strong chains, and overthrew their
glories and their thrones. And Kai Kaous did he send unto a fortress whose
head touched the sky and whose foot was planted in the ocean. Then he sent
forth a strong band into the camp of Iran, and veiled women went with them,
and he charged them that they bring back Sudaveh unto his
Now when Sudaveh saw the men and the women that went with them
she guessed what was come about, and she cried aloud and tore her robes
in anguish. And when they had brought her before her father she reproved
him for his treachery, and she sware that none should part her from Kai
Kaous, even though he were hidden in a tomb. Then the King was angered
when he saw that her heart was taken from him and given to the Shah, and
he bade that she be flung into the same prison as her lord. And Sudaveh
was glad at his resolve, and she went into the dungeon with a light heart,
and she seated herself beside the Shah, and served him and comforted him,
and they bore the weight of captivity together.
After these things were come about, the Iranians, because that
their Shah was held captive, returned unto Iran much discomfited. And when
the news spread that the throne was empty many would have seized thereon.
And Afrasiyab, when he learned it, straightway forgot hunger and sleep,
and marched a strong army across the border. And he laid waste the land
of Iran, and men, women, and children fell into bondage at his hands, and
the world was darkened unto the kingdom of light. Then some arose and went
before the son of Zal to crave his help in this sore need, saying unto
"Be thou our shield against misfortune, and deliver us from affliction,
for the glory of the Kaianides is vanished, and the land which was a paradise
is one no more."
Now Rustem, when he heard the news, was grieved for the land, but
he was angered also against the Shah that he had thus once again run into
danger. Yet he told the messengers that he would seek to deliver Kai Kaous,
and that when he had done so he would remember the land of Iran. And forthwith
he sent a secret messenger unto Kai Kaous, a man subtle and wise, and caused
him to say unto the Shah-
"An army cometh forth from Iran to redeem thee. Rejoice, therefore,
and cast aside thy fears."
And he also sent a writing unto the King of Hamaveran, and the
writing was filled with threats, and spake only of maces and swords and
combat. And Rustem loaded the King with reproaches because of his treachery,
and he bade him prepare to meet Rustem the mighty.
When the King of Hamaveran had read this letter his head was troubled,
and he defied Rustem, and threatened him that if he came forth against
him he should meet at his hands the fate of the Shah. But Rustem only smiled
when he heard this answer, and he said-
"Surely this man is foolish, or Ahriman hath filled his mind with
Then he mounted Rakush, and made ready to go into Hamaveran, and
a vast train of warriors went after him. And the King of Hamaveran, when
he saw it sent forth his army against him. But the army were afraid when
they beheld Rustem and his might of mien, his mace, and his strong arms
and lion chest, and their hearts departed from out their bodies, and they
fled from before his sight, and returned them unto the King of
Now the King was seated in the midst of his counsellors, and when
he saw the army thus scattered before they had struck a blow, his heart
misgave him, and he craved counsel of his chiefs. Then they counselled
him that he should cast about him for allies. So the King of Hamaveran
sent messengers of entreaty unto the Kings of Egypt and Berberistan, and
they listened to his prayers, and sent out a great army unto his aid. And
they drew them up against Rustem, and the armies stretched for two leagues
in length, and you would have said the handful of Rustem could not withstand
their force. Yet Rustem bade his men be not discomfited, and rest their
hopes on God. Then he fell upon the armies of the Kings like to a flame
that darteth forth, and the ground was drenched with gore, and on all sides
rolled heads that were severed from their bodies; and wheresoever Rakush
and Rustem showed themselves, there was great havoc made in the ranks.
And ere the evening was come, the Kings of Egypt and Berberistan were his
captives; and when the sun was set, the King of Hamaveran knew that a day
of ill fortune was ended. So he sent forth to crave mercy at the hands
of the Pehliva. And Rustem listened to his voice, and said that he would
stay his hand if the King would restore unto him Kai Kaous, and the men
and treasures that were his. Then the King of Hamaveran granted the just
requests of Rustem. So Kai Kaous was led forth from his prison, and Sudaveh
came with him. And when they beheld him, the King of Hamaveran and his
allies declared their allegiance unto him, and they marched with him into
Iran to go out against Afrasiyab. And Sudaveh went with the army in a litter
clothed with fair stuffs, and encrusted with wood of aloes. And she was
veiled that none might behold her beauty, and she went with the men like
to the sun when he marcheth behind a cloud.
Now when Kai Kaous was come home again unto his land, he sent a
writing unto Afrasiyab. And he said-
"Quit, I command thee, the land of Iran, nor seek to enlarge thyself
at my cost. For knowest thou not that Iran is mine, and that the world
pertaineth unto me?"
But Afrasiyab answered, "The words which thou dost write are not
becoming unto a man such as thou, who didst covet Mazinderan and the countries
round about. If thou wert satisfied with Iran, wherefore didst thou venture
afield? And I say unto thee, Iran is mine, because of Tur my forefather,
and because I subdued it under my hand."
When Kai Kaous had heard these words he knew that Afrasiyab would
not yield save unto force. So he drew up his army into array, and they
marched out to meet the King of Turan. And Afrasiyab met them with a great
host, and the sound of drums and cymbals filled the air. And great was
the strife and bloody, but Rustem broke the force of Turan, and the fortunes
of its army were laid to rest upon the field of battle. And Afrasiyab,
when he beheld it, was discomfited, and his spirit boiled over like to
new wine that fermenteth. And he mourned over his army and the warriors
that he had trained, and he conjured those that remained to make yet another
onslaught, and he spake fair promises unto them if they would deliver unto
his hands Rustem, the Pehliva. And he said-
"Whoever shall bring him alive before me, I will give unto him
a kingdom and an umbrella, and the hand of my daughter in
And the Turks, when they heard these words, girded them yet again
for resistance. But it availed them nought, for the Iranians were mightier
than they, and they watered the earth with their blood until the ground
was like a rose. And the fortunes of the Turks were as a light put out,
and Afrasiyab fled before the face of Rustem, and the remnant of his army
went after him.
Then Kai Kaous seated himself once more upon his throne, and men
were glad that there was peace. And the Shah opened the doors of justice
and splendour, and all men did that which was right, and the wolf turned
him away from the lamb, and there was gladness through all the length of
Iran. And the Shah gave thanks unto Rustem that he had aided him yet again,
and he named him Jahani Pehliva, which being interpreted meaneth the champion
of the world, and he called him the source of his happiness. Then he busied
himself with building mighty towers and palaces, and the land of Iran was
made fair at his hands, and all was well once more within its
But Ahriman the wakeful was not pleased thereat, and he pondered
how he could once again arouse the ambition of the Shah. So he held counsel
with his Deevs how they might turn the heart of Kai Kaous from the right
path. And one among them said-
"Suffer that I go before the Shah, and I will do thy
And Ahriman suffered it. Then the Deev took upon him the form of a
youth, and in his hand he held a cluster of roses, and he presented them
unto the Shah, and he kissed the ground before his feet. And when Kai Kaous
had given him leave to speak he opened his mouth and
"O Shah, live for ever! though such is thy might and majesty that
the vault of heaven alone should be thy throne. All the world is submissive
before thee, and I can bethink me but of one thing that is lacking unto
thy glory."
Then Kai Kaous questioned him of this one thing, and the Deev
"It is that thou knowest not the nature of the sun and moon, nor
wherefore the planets roll, neither the secret causes that set them in
motion. Thou art master of all the earth, therefore shouldst thou not make
the heavens also obedient to thy will?"
When Kai Kaous heard these words of guile his mind was dimmed,
and he forgot that man cannot mount unto the skies, and he pondered without
ceasing how he could fly unto the stars and inquire into their secrets.
And he consulted many wise men in his trouble, but none could aid him.
But at last it came about that a certain man taught him how he could perchance
accomplish his designs. And Kai Kaous did according to his instructions.
He built him a framework of aloe-wood, and at the four corners thereof
he placed javelins upright, and on their points he put the flesh of goats.
Then he chose out four eagles strong of wing, and bound them unto the corners
of this chariot. And when it was done, Kai Kaous seated himself in the
midst thereof with much pomp. And the eagles, when they smelt the flesh,
desired after it, and they flapped their wings and raised themselves, and
raised the framework with them. And they struggled sore, but they could
not attain unto the meat; but ever as they struggled they bore aloft with
them Kai Kaous and the throne whereon he sat. And so long as their hunger
lasted, they strove after the prey. But at length their strength would
hold no longer, and they desisted from the attempt. And behold! as they
desisted the fabric fell back to earth, and the shock thereof was great.
And but for Ormuzd Kai Kaous would have perished in the presumption of
his spirit.
Now the eagles had borne the Shah even unto the desert of Cathay,
and there was no man to succour him, and he suffered from the pangs of
hunger, and there was nothing to assuage his longing, neither could his
thirst be stilled. And he was alone, and sorrowful and shamed in his soul
that he had yet again brought derision upon Iran. And he prayed to God
in his trouble, and entreated pardon for his sins.
While Kai Kaous thus strove with repentance, Rustem learned tidings
of him, and he set out with an army to seek him. And when he had found
him he gave rein unto his anger, and he rebuked him for his follies, and
he said-
"Hath the world seen the like of this man? Hath a more foolish
head sat upon the throne of Iran? Ye would say there were no brains within
this skull, or that not one of its thoughts was good. Kai Kaous is like
a thing that is possessed, and every wind beareth him away. Thrice hast
thou now fallen into mishap, and who can tell whether thy spirit hath yet
learned wisdom? And it will be a reproach unto Iran all her days that a
king puffed up with idle pride was seated upon her throne, a man who deemed
in his folly that he could mount unto the skies, and visit the sun and
moon, and count the stars one by one. I entreat of thee to bethink thee
of thy forefathers, and follow in their steps, and rule the land in equity,
neither rush after these mad adventures."
When Kai Kaous had listened to the bitter words spoken by Rustem,
he was bowed down in his spirit and ashamed before him in his soul. And
when at last he opened his mouth it was to utter words of humility. And
he said unto Rustem-
"Surely that which thou speakest, it is true."
Then he suffered himself to be led back unto his palace, and many days
and nights did he lie in the dust before God, and it was long before he
held him worthy to mount again upon his throne. But when he deemed that
God had forgiven him, he seated him upon it once again. In humility did
he mount it, and he filled it in wisdom. And henceforth he ruled the land
with justice, and he did that which was right in the sight of God, and
bathed his face with the waters of sincerity. And kings and rulers did
homage before him, and forgot the follies that he had done, and Kai Kaous
grew worthy of the throne of light. And Iran was exalted at his hands,
and power and prosperity increased within its borders.