Rostam & Sohrab by Arnold, Mathew(1822-88)

1     AND the first grey of morning fill'd the east,
2     And the fog rose out of the Oxus stream.
3     But all the Tartar camp along the stream
4     Was hush'd, and still the men were plunged in sleep;
5     Sohrab alone, he slept not; all night long
6     He had lain wakeful, tossing on his bed;
7     But when the grey dawn stole into his tent,
8     He rose, and clad himself, and girt his sword,
9     And took his horseman's cloak, and left his tent,
10   And went abroad into the cold wet fog,
11   Through the dim camp to Peran-Wisa's tent.

12       Through the black Tartar tents he pass'd, which stood
13   Clustering like bee-hives on the low flat strand
14   Of Oxus, where the summer-floods o'erflow
15   When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere;
16   Through the black tents he pass'd, o'er that low strand,
17   And to a hillock came, a little back
18   From the stream's brink--the spot where first a boat,
19   Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land.
20   The men of former times had crown'd the top
21   With a clay fort; but that was fall'n, and now
22   The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa's tent,
23   A dome of laths, and o'er it felts were spread.
24   And Sohrab came there, and went in, and stood
25   Upon the thick piled carpets in the tent,
26   And found the old man sleeping on his bed
27   Of rugs and felts, and near him lay his arms.
28   And Peran-Wisa heard him, though the step
29   Was dull'd; for he slept light, an old man's sleep;
30   And he rose quickly on one arm, and said:--

31       "Who art thou? for it is not yet clear dawn.
32   Speak! is there news, or any night alarm?"

33       But Sohrab came to the bedside, and said:--
34   "Thou know'st me, Peran-Wisa! it is I.
35   The sun is not yet risen, and the foe
36   Sleep; but I sleep not; all night long I lie
37   Tossing and wakeful, and I come to thee.
38   For so did King Afrasiab bid me seek
39   Thy counsel and to heed thee as thy son,
40   In Samarcand, before the army march'd;
41   And I will tell thee what my heart desires.
42   Thou know'st if, since from Ader-baijan first
43   I came among the Tartars and bore arms,
44   I have still served Afrasiab well, and shown,
45   At my boy's years, the courage of a man.
46   This too thou know'st, that while I still bear on
47   The conquering Tartar ensigns through the world,
48   And beat the Persians back on every field,
49   I seek one man, one man, and one alone--
50   Rustum, my father; who I hoped should greet,
51   Should one day greet, upon some well fought field,
52   His not unworthy, not inglorious son.
53   So I long hoped, but him I never find.
54   Come then, hear now, and grant me what I ask.
55   Let the two armies rest to-day; but I
56   Will challenge forth the bravest Persian lords
57   To meet me, man to man; if I prevail,
58   Rustum will surely hear it; if I fall--
59   Old man, the dead need no one, claim no kin.
60     Dim is the rumour of a common fight,
61   Where host meets host, and many names are sunk;
62   But of a single combat fame speaks clear."

63       He spoke; and Peran-Wisa took the hand
64   Of the young man in his, and sigh'd, and said:--

65       O Sohrab, an unquiet heart is thine!
66   Canst thou not rest among the Tartar chiefs,
67   And share the battle's common chance with us
68   Who love thee, but must press for ever first,
69   In single fight incurring single risk,
70   To find a father thou hast never seen?
71   That were far best, my son, to stay with us
72   Unmurmuring; in our tents, while it is war,
73   And when 'tis truce, then in Afrasiab's towns.
74   But, if this one desire indeed rules all,
75   To seek out Rustum--seek him not through fight!
76   Seek him in peace, and carry to his arms,
77   O Sohrab, carry an unwounded son!
78   But far hence seek him, for he is not here.
79   For now it is not as when I was young,
80   When Rustum was in front of every fray;
81   But now he keeps apart, and sits at home,
82   In Seistan, with Zal, his father old.
83   Whether that his own mighty strength at last
84   Feels the abhorr'd approaches of old age,
85   Or in some quarrel with the Persian King.
86   There go!--Thou wilt not? Yet my heart forebodes
87   Danger or death awaits thee on this field.
88   Fain would I know thee safe and well, though lost
89   To us; fain therefore send thee hence, in peace
90   To seek thy father, not seek single fights
91   In vain;--but who can keep the lion's cub
92   From ravening, and who govern Rustum's son?
93   Go, I will grant thee what thy heart desires."

94       So said he, and dropp'd Sohrab's hand, and left
95   His bed, and the warm rugs whereon he lay;
96   And o'er his chilly limbs his woollen coat
97   He pass'd, and tied his sandals on his feet,
98   And threw a white cloak round him, and he took
99   In his right hand a ruler's staff, no sword;
100 And on his head he set his sheep-skin cap,
101 Black, glossy, curl'd, the fleece of Kara-Kul;
102 And raised the curtain of his tent, and call'd
103 His herald to his side, and went abroad.

104     The sun by this had risen, and clear'd the fog
105 From the broad Oxus and the glittering sands.
106 And from their tents the Tartar horsemen filed
107 Into the open plain; so Haman bade--
108 Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa ruled
109 The host, and still was in his lusty prime.
110 From their black tents, long files of horse, they stream'd;
111 As when some grey November morn the files,
112 In marching order spread, of long-neck'd cranes
113 Stream over Casbin and the southern slopes
114 Of Elburz, from the Aralian estuaries,
115 Or some frore Caspian reed-bed, southward bound
116 For the warm Persian sea-board--so they stream'd.
117 The Tartars of the Oxus, the King's guard,
118 First, with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears;
119 Large men, large steeds; who from Bokhara come
120 And Khiva, and ferment the milk of mares.
121 Next, the more temperate Toorkmuns of the south,
122 The Tukas, and the lances of Salore,
123 And those from Attruck and the Caspian sands;
124 Light men and on light steeds, who only drink
125 The acrid milk of camels, and their wells.
126 And then a swarm of wandering horse, who came
127 From far, and a more doubtful service own'd;
128 The Tartars of Ferghana, from the banks
129 Of the Jaxartes, men with scanty beards
130 And close-set skull-caps; and those wilder hordes
131 Who roam o'er Kipchak and the northern waste,
132 Kalmucks and unkempt Kuzzaks, tribes who stray
133 Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes,
134 Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere;
135 These all filed out from camp into the plain.
136 And on the other side the Persians form'd;--
137 First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seem'd,
138 The Ilyats of Khorassan, and behind,
139 The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot,
140 Marshall'd battalions bright in burnish'd steel.
141 But Peran-Wisa with his herald came,
142 Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front,
143 And with his staff kept back the foremost ranks.
144 And when Ferood, who led the Persians, saw
145 That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back,
146 He took his spear, and to the front he came,
147 And check'd his ranks, and fix'd them where they stood.
148 And the old Tartar came upon the sand
149 Betwixt the silent hosts, and spake, and said:--

150     "Ferood, and ye, Persians and Tartars, hear!
151 Let there be truce between the hosts to-day.
152 But choose a champion from the Persian lords
153 To fight our champion Sohrab, man to man."

154     As, in the country, on a morn in June,
155 When the dew glistens on the pearled ears,
156 A shiver runs through the deep corn for joy--
157 So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa said,
158 A thrill through all the Tartar squadrons ran
159 Of pride and hope for Sohrab, whom they loved.

160     But as a troop of pedlars, from Cabool,
161 Cross underneath the Indian Caucasus,
162 That vast sky-neighbouring mountain of milk snow;
163 Crossing so high, that, as they mount, they pass
164 Long flocks of travelling birds dead on the snow,
165 Choked by the air, and scarce can they themselves
166 Slake their parch'd throats with sugar'd mulberries--
167 In single file they move, and stop their breath,
168 For fear they should dislodge the o'er hanging snows--
169 So the pale Persians held their breath with fear.

170     And to Ferood his brother chiefs came up
171 To counsel; Gudurz and Zoarrah came
172 And Feraburz, who ruled the Persian host
173 Second, and was the uncle of the King
174 These came and counsell'd, and then Gudurz said:--

175     "Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge up,
176 Yet champion have we none to match this youth.
177 He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart.
178 But Rustum came last night; aloof he sits
179 And sullen, and has pitch'd his tents apart.
180 Him will I seek, and carry to his ear
181 The Tartar challenge, and this young man's name.
182 Haply he will forget his wrath, and fight.
183 Stand forth the while, and take their challenge up."

184     So spake he; and Ferood stood forth and cried.--
185 "Old man, be it agreed as thou hast said!
186 Let Sohrab arm, and we will find a man."

187     He spake: and Peran-Wisa turn'd, and strode
188 Back through the opening squadrons to his tent.
189 But through the anxious Persians Gudurz ran,
190 And cross'd the camp which lay behind, and reach'd,
191 Out on the sands beyond it, Rustum's tents.
192 Of scarlet cloth they were, and glittering gay
193 Just pitch'd; the high pavilion in the midst
194 Was Rustum's, and his men lay camp'd around.
195 And Gudurz enter'd Rustum's tent, and found
196 Rustum; his morning meal was done, but still
197 The table stood before him, charged with food--
198 A side of roasted sheep, and cakes of bread,
199 And dark green melons; and there Rustum sate
200 Listless, and held a falcon on his wrist,
201 And play'd with it; but Gudurz came and stood
202 Before him; and he look'd, and saw him stand,
203 And with a cry sprang up and dropp'd the bird,
204 And greeted Gudurz with both hands, and said:--

205     "Welcome! these eyes could see no better sight.
206 What news? but sit down first, and eat and drink."

207     But Gudurz stood in the tent-door, and said:--
208 "Not now! a time will come to eat and drink,
209 But not to-day; to-day has other needs.
210 The armies are drawn out, and stand at gaze;
211 For from the Tartars is a challenge brought
212 To pick a champion from the Persian lords
213 To fight their champion--and thou know'st his name--
214 Sohrab men call him, but his birth is kid.
215 O Rustum, like thy might is this young man's!
216 He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart;
217 And he is young, and Iran's chiefs are old,
218 Or else too weak; and all eyes turn to thee.
219 Come down and help us, Rustum, or we lose!''

220     He spoke; but Rustum answer'd with a smile:--
221 "Go to! if Iran's chiefs are old, then I
222 Am older; if the young are weak, the King
223 Errs strangely; for the King, for Kai Khosroo,
224 Himself is young, and honours younger men,
225 And lets the aged moulder to their graves.
226 Rustum he loves no more, but loves the young--
227 The young may rise at Sohrab's vaunts, not I.
228 For what care I, though all speak Sohrab's fame?
229 For would that I myself had such a son,
230 And not that one slight helpless girl I have--
231 A son so famed, so brave, to send to war,
232 And I to tarry with the snow-hair'd Zal,
233 My father, whom the robber Afghans vex,
234 And clip his borders short, and drive his herds,
235 And he has none to guard his weak old age.
236 There would I go, and hang my armour up,
237 And with my great name fence that weak old man,
238 And spend the goodly treasures I have got,
239 And rest my age, and hear of Sohrab's fame,
240 And leave to death the hosts of thankless kings,
241 And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no more.''

242     He spoke, and smiled; and Gudurz made reply:---
243 "What then, O Rustum, will men say to this,
244 When Sohrab dares our bravest forth, and seeks
245 Thee most of all, and thou, whom most he seeks,
246 Hidest thy face? Take heed lest men should say:
247 Like some old miser, Rustum hoards his fame,
248 And shuns to peril it with younger men."

249     And, greatly moved, then Rustum made reply:--
250 "O Gudurz, wherefore dost thou say such words?
251 Thou knowest better words than this to say.
252 What is one more, one less, obscure or famed,
253 Valiant or craven, young or old, to me?
254 Are not they mortal, am not I myself?
255 But who for men of nought would do great deeds?
256 Come, thou shalt see how Rustum hoards his fame!
257 But I will fight unknown, and in plain arms;
258 Let not men say of Rustum, he was match'd
259 In single fight with any mortal man."

260     He spoke, and frown'd; and Gudurz turn'd, and ran
261 Back quickly through the camp in fear and joy--
262 Fear at his wrath, but joy that Rustum came.
263 But Rustum strode to his tent-door, and call'd
264 His followers in, and bade them bring his arms,
265 And clad himself in steel; the arms he chose
266 Were plain, and on his shield was no device,
267 Only his helm was rich, inlaid with gold,
268 And, from the fluted spine atop, a plume
269 Of horsehair waved, a scarlet horsehair plume.
270 So arm'd, he issued forth; and Ruksh, his horse,
271 Follow'd him like a faithful hound at heel--
272 Ruksh, whose renown was noised through all the earth,
273 The horse, whom Rustum on a foray once
274 Did in Bokhara by the river find
275 A colt beneath its dam, and drove him home,
276 And rear'd him; a bright bay, with lofty crest,
277 Dight with a saddle-cloth of broider'd green
278 Crusted with gold, and on the ground were work'd
279 All beasts of chase, all beasts which hunters know.
280 So follow'd, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd
281 The camp, and to the Persian host appear'd.
282 And all the Persians knew him, and with shouts
283 Hail'd; but the Tartars knew not who he was.
284 And dear as the wet diver to the eyes
285 Of his pale wife who waits and weeps on shore,
286 By sandy Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf,
287 Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night,
288 Having made up his tale of precious pearls,
289 Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands--
290 So dear to the pale Persians Rustum came.

291     And Rustum to the Persian front advanced,
292 And Sohrab arm'd in Haman's tent, and came.
293 And as afield the reapers cut a swath
294 Down through the middle of a rich man's corn,
295 And on each side are squares of standing corn,
296 And in the midst a stubble, short and bare--
297 So on each side were squares of men, with spears
298 Bristling, and in the midst, the open sand.
299 And Rustum came upon the sand, and cast
300 His eyes toward the Tartar tents, and saw
301 Sohrab come forth, and eyed him as he came.

302     As some rich woman, on a winter's morn,
303 Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge
304 Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire--
305 At cock-crow, on a starlit winter's morn,
306 When the frost flowers the whiten'd window-panes--
307 And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts
308 Of that poor drudge may be; so Rustum eyed
309 The unknown adventurous youth, who from afar
310 Came seeking Rustum, and defying forth
311 All the most valiant chiefs; long he perused
312 His spirited air, and wonder'd who he was.
313 For very young he seem'd, tenderly rear'd;
314 Like some young cypress, tall, and dark, and straight,
315 Which in a queen's secluded garden throws
316 Its slight dark shadow on the moonlit turf,
317 By midnight, to a bubbling fountain's sound--
318 So slender Sohrab seem'd, so softly rear'd.
319 And a deep pity enter'd Rustum's soul
320 As he beheld him coming; and he stood,
321 And beckon'd to him with his hand, and said:--

322     "O thou young man, the air of Heaven is soft,
323 And warm, and pleasant; but the grave is cold!
324 Heaven's air is better than the cold dead grave.
325 Behold me! I am vast, and clad in iron,
326 And tried; and I have stood on many a field
327 Of blood, and I have fought with many a foe--
328 Never was that field lost, or that foe saved.
329 O Sohrab, wherefore wilt thou rush on death?
330 Be govern'd! quit the Tartar host, and come
331 To Iran, and be as my son to me,
332 And fight beneath my banner till I die!
333 There are no youths in Iran brave as thou."

334     So he spake, mildly; Sohrab heard his voice,
335 The mighty voice of Rustum, and he saw
336 His giant figure planted on the sand,
337 Sole, like some single tower, which a chief
338 Hath builded on the waste in former years
339 Against the robbers; and he saw that head,
340 Streak'd with its first grey hairs;--hope filled his soul,
341 And he ran forward and embraced his knees
342 And clasp'd his hand within his own, and said:--

343     "O, by thy father's head! by thine own soul!
344 Art thou not Rustum? speak! art thou not he?"

345     But Rustum eyed askance the kneeling youth,
346 And turn'd away, and spake to his own soul:--

347     "Ah me, I muse what this young fox may mean!
348 False, wily, boastful, are these Tartar boys.
349 For if I now confess this thing he asks,
350 And hide it not, but say: Rustum is here!
351 He will not yield indeed, nor quit our foes,
352 But he will find some pretext not to fight,
353 And praise my fame, and proffer courteous gifts,
354 A belt or sword perhaps, and go his way.
355 And on a feast-tide, in Afrasiab's hall,
356 In Samarcand, he will arise and cry:
357 `I challenged once, when the two armies camp'd
358 Beside the Oxus, all the Persian lords
359 To cope with me in single fight; but they
360 Shrank, only Rustum dared; then he and I
361 Changed gifts, and went on equal terms away.'
362 So will he speak, perhaps, while men applaud;
363 Then were the chiefs of Iran shamed through me."

364     And then he turn'd, and sternly spake aloud:--
365 'Rise! wherefore dost thou vainly question thus
366 Of Rustum? I am here, whom thou hast call'd
367 By challenge forth; make good thy vaunt, or yield!
368 Is it with Rustum only thou wouldst fight?
369 Rash boy, men look on Rustum's face and flee
370 For well I know, that did great Rustum stand
371 Before thy face this day, and were reveal'd,
372 There would be then no talk of fighting more.
373 But being what I am, I tell thee this--
374 Do thou record it in thine inmost soul:
375 Either thou shalt renounce thy vaunt and yield,
376 Or else thy bones shall strew this sand, till winds
377 Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer-floods,
378 Oxus in summer wash them all away."

379     He spoke; and Sohrab answer'd, on his feet:--
380 "Art thou so fierce? Thou wilt not fright me so!
381 I am no girl, to be made pale by words.
382 Yet this thou hast said well, did Rustum stand
383 Here on this field, there were no fighting then.
384 But Rustum is far hence, and we stand here.
385 Begin! thou art more vast, more dread than I,
386 And thou art proved, I know, and I am young--
387 But yet success sways with the breath of Heaven.
388 And though thou thinkest that thou knowest sure
389 Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know.
390 For we are all, like swimmers in the sea,
391 Poised on the top of a huge wave of fate,
392 Which hangs uncertain to which side to fall.
393 And whether it will heave us up to land,
394 Or whether it will roll us out to sea,
395 Back out to sea, to the deep waves of death,
396 We know not, and no search will make us know;
397 Only the event will teach us in its hour."

398     He spoke, and Rustum answer'd not, but hurl'd
399 His spear; down from the shoulder, down it came,
400 As on some partridge in the corn a hawk,
401 That long has tower'd in the airy clouds,
402 Drops like a plummet; Sohrab saw it come,
403 And sprang aside, quick as a flash; the spear
404 Hiss'd, and went quivering down into the sand,
405 Which it sent flying wide;--then Sohrab threw
406 In turn, and full struck Rustum's shield; sharp rang,
407 The iron plates rang sharp, but turn'd the spear.
408 And Rustum seized his club, which none but he
409 Could wield; an unlopp'd trunk it was, and huge,
410 Still rough--like those which men in treeless plains
411 To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers,
412 Hyphasis or Hydaspes, when, high up
413 By their dark springs, the wind in winter-time
414 Hath made in Himalayan forests wrack,
415 And strewn the channels with torn boughs--so huge
416 The club which Rustum lifted now, and struck
417 One stroke; but again Sohrab sprang aside,
418 Lithe as the glancing snake, and the club came
419 Thundering to earth, and leapt from Rustum's hand.
420 And Rustum follow'd his own blow, and fell
421 To his knees, and with his fingers clutch'd the sand;
422 And now might Sohrab have unsheathed his sword,
423 And pierced the mighty Rustum while he lay
424 Dizzy, and on his knees, and choked with sand;
425 But he look'd on, and smiled, nor bared his sword,
426 But courteously drew back, and spoke, and said:--

427     "Thou strik'st too hard! that club of thine will float
428 Upon the summer-floods, and not my bones.
429 But rise, and be not wroth! not wroth am I;
430 No, when I see thee, wrath forsakes my soul.
431 Thou say'st, thou art not Rustum; be it so!
432 Who art thou then, that canst so touch my soul?
433 Boy as I am, I have seen battles too--
434 Have waded foremost in their bloody waves,
435 And heard their hollow roar of dying men;
436 But never was my heart thus touch'd before.
437 Are they from Heaven, these softenings of the heart?
438 O thou old warrior, let us yield to Heaven!
439 Come, plant we here in earth our angry spears,
440 And make a truce, and sit upon this sand,
441 And pledge each other in red wine, like friends,
442 And thou shalt talk to me of Rustum's deeds.
443 There are enough foes in the Persian host,
444 Whom I may meet, and strike, and feel no pang;
445 Champions enough Afrasiab has, whom thou
446 Mayst fight; fight them, when they confront thy spear!
447 But oh, let there be peace 'twixt thee and me!" 

448     He ceased, but while he spake, Rustum had risen,
449 And stood erect, trembling with rage; his club
450 He left to lie, but had regain'd his spear,
451 Whose fiery point now in his mail'd right-hand
452 Blazed bright and baleful, like that autumn-star,
453 The baleful sign of fevers; dust had soil'd
454 His stately crest, and dimm'd his glittering arms.
455 His breast heaved, his lips foam'd, and twice his voice
456 Was choked with rage; at last these words broke way.--

457     "Girl! nimble with thy feet, not with thy hands!
458 Curl'd minion, dancer, coiner of sweet words!
459 Fight, let me hear thy hateful voice no more!
460 Thou art not in Afrasiab's gardens now
461 With Tartar girls, with whom thou art wont to dance;
462 But on the Oxus-sands, and in the dance
463 Of battle, and with me, who make no play
464 Of war; I fight it out, and hand to hand.
465 Speak not to me of truce, and pledge, and wine!
466 Remember all thy valour; try thy feints
467 And cunning! all the pity I had is gone;
468 Because thou hast shamed me before both the hosts
469 With thy light skipping tricks, and thy girl's wiles."

470     He spoke, and Sohrab kindled at his taunts,
471 And he too drew his sword; at once they rush'd
472 Together, as two eagles on one prey
473 Come rushing down together from the clouds,
474 One from the east, one from the west; their shields
475 Dash'd with a clang together, and a din
476 Rose, such as that the sinewy woodcutters
477 Make often in the forest's heart at morn,
478 Of hewing axes, crashing trees--such blows
479 Rustum and Sohrab on each other hail'd.
480 And you would say that sun and stars took part
481 In that unnatural conflict; for a cloud
482 Grew suddenly in Heaven, and dark'd the sun
483 Over the fighters' heads; and a wind rose
484 Under their feet, and moaning swept the plain,
485 And in a sandy whirlwind wrapp'd the pair.
486 In gloom they twain were wrapp'd, and they alone;
487 For both the on-looking hosts on either hand
488 Stood in broad daylight, and the sky was pure,
489 And the sun sparkled on the Oxus stream.
490 But in the gloom they fought, with bloodshot eyes
491 And labouring breath; first Rustum struck the shield
492 Which Sohrab held stiff out; the steel-spiked spear
493 Rent the tough plates, but fail'd to reach the skin,
494 And Rustum pluck'd it back with angry groan.
495 Then Sohrab with his sword smote Rustum's helm,
496 Nor clove its steel quite through; but all the crest
497 He shore away, and that proud horsehair plume,
498 Never till now defiled, sank to the dust;
499 And Rustum bow'd his head; but then the gloom
500 Grew blacker, thunder rumbled in the air,
501 And lightnings rent the cloud; and Ruksh, the horse,
502 Who stood at hand, utter'd a dreadful cry;--
503 No horse's cry was that, most like the roar
504 Of some pain'd desert-lion, who all day
505 Hath trail'd the hunter's javelin in his side,
506 And comes at night to die upon the sand.
507 The two hosts heard that cry, and quaked for fear,
508 And Oxus curdled as it cross'd his stream.
509 But Sohrab heard, and quail'd not, but rush'd on,
510 And struck again; and again Rustum bow'd
511 His head; but this time all the blade, like glass,
512 Sprang in a thousand shivers on the helm,
513 And in the hand the hilt remain'd alone.
514 Then Rustum raised his head; his dreadful eyes
515 Glared, and he shook on high his menacing spear,
516 And shouted: Rustum!--Sohrab heard that shout,
517 And shrank amazed; back he recoil'd one step,
518 And scann'd with blinking eyes the advancing form,
519 And then he stood bewilder'd; and he dropp'd
520 His covering shield, and the spear pierced his side.
521 He reel'd, and staggering back, sank to the ground;
522 And then the gloom dispersed, and the wind fell,
523 And the bright sun broke forth, and melted all
524 The cloud; and the two armies saw the pair--
525 Saw Rustum standing, safe upon his feet,
526 And Sohrab, wounded, on the bloody sand.

527     Then, with a bitter smile, Rustum began:--
528 "Sohrab, thou thoughtest in thy mind to kill
529 A Persian lord this day, and strip his corpse
530 And bear thy trophies to Afrasiab's tent.
531 Or else that the great Rustum would come down
532 Himself to fight, and that thy wiles would move
533 His heart to take a gift, and let thee go.
534 And then that all the Tartar host would praise
535 Thy courage or thy craft, and spread thy fame,
536 To glad thy father in his weak old age.
537 Fool, thou art slain, and by an unknown man!
538 Dearer to the red jackals shalt thou be
539 Than to thy friends, and to thy father old."

540     And, with a fearless mien, Sohrab replied:--
541 "Unknown thou art; yet thy fierce vaunt is vain.
542 Thou dost not slay me, proud and boastful man!
543 No! Rustum slays me, and this filial heart.
544 For were I match'd with ten such men as thee,
545 And I were that which till to-day I was,
546 They should be lying here, I standing there.
547 But that belov{`e}d name unnerved my arm--
548 That name, and something, I confess, in thee,
549 Which troubles all my heart, and made my shield
550 Fall; and thy spear transfix'd an unarm'd foe.
551 And now thou boastest, and insult'st my fate.
552 But hear thou this, fierce man, tremble to hear:
553 The mighty Rustum shall avenge my death!
554 My father, whom I seek through all the world,
555 He shall avenge my death, and punish thee!"

556     As when some hunter in the spring hath found
557 A breeding eagle sitting on her nest,
558 Upon the craggy isle of a hill-lake,
559 And pierced her with an arrow as she rose,
560 And follow'd her to find her where she fell
561 Far off;--anon her mate comes winging back
562 From hunting, and a great way off descries
563 His huddling young left sole; at that, he checks
564 His pinion, and with short uneasy sweeps
565 Circles above his eyry, with loud screams
566 Chiding his mate back to her nest; but she
567 Lies dying, with the arrow in her side,
568 In some far stony gorge out of his ken,
569 A heap of fluttering feathers--never more
570 Shall the lake glass her, flying over it;
571 Never the black and dripping precipices
572 Echo her stormy scream as she sails by--
573 As that poor bird flies home, nor knows his loss,
574 So Rustum knew not his own loss, but stood
575 Over his dying son, and knew him not.

576     But, with a cold, incredulous voice, he said:--
577 "What prate is this of fathers and revenge?
578 The mighty Rustum never had a son."

579     And, with a failing voice, Sohrab replied:--
580 "Ah yes, he had! and that lost son am I.
581 Surely the news will one day reach his ear,
582 Reach Rustum, where he sits, and tarries long,
583 Somewhere, I know not where, but far from here;
584 And pierce him like a stab, and make him leap
585 To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee.
586 Fierce man, bethink thee, for an only son!
587 What will that grief, what will that vengeance be?
588 Oh, could I live, till I that grief had seen!
589 Yet him I pity not so much, but her,
590 My mother, who in Ader-baijan dwells
591 With that old king, her father, who grows grey
592 With age, and rules over the valiant Koords.
593 Her most I pity, who no more will see
594 Sohrab returning from the Tartar camp,
595 With spoils and honour, when the war is done.
596 But a dark rumour will be bruited up,
597 From tribe to tribe, until it reach her ear;
598 And then will that defenceless woman learn
599 That Sohrab will rejoice her sight no more,
600 But that in battle with a nameless foe,
601 By the far-distant Oxus, he is slain."

602     He spoke; and as he ceased, he wept aloud,
603 Thinking of her he left, and his own death.
604 He spoke; but Rustum listen'd, plunged in thought.
605 Nor did he yet believe it was his son
606 Who spoke, although he call'd back names he knew;
607 For he had had sure tidings that the babe,
608 Which was in Ader-baijan born to him,
609 Had been a puny girl, no boy at all--
610 So that sad mother sent him word, for fear
611 Rustum should seek the boy, to train in arms.
612 And so he deem'd that either Sohrab took,
613 By a false boast, the style of Rustum's son;
614 Or that men gave it him, to swell his fame.
615 So deem'd he; yet he listen'd, plunged in thought
616 And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide
617 Of the bright rocking Ocean sets to shore
618 At the full moon; tears gather'd in his eyes;
619 For he remember'd his own early youth,
620 And all its bounding rapture; as, at dawn,
621 The shepherd from his mountain-lodge descries
622 A far, bright city, smitten by the sun,
623 Through many rolling clouds---so Rustum saw
624 His youth; saw Sohrab's mother, in her bloom;
625 And that old king, her father, who loved well
626 His wandering guest, and gave him his fair child
627 With joy; and all the pleasant life they led,
628 They three, in that long-distant summer-time--
629 The castle, and the dewy woods, and hunt
630 And hound, and morn on those delightful hills
631 In Ader-baijan. And he saw that Youth,
632 Of age and looks to be his own dear son,
633 Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand,
634 Like some rich hyacinth which by the scythe
635 Of an unskilful gardener has been cut,
636 Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
637 And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
638 On the mown, dying grass--so Sohrab lay,
639 Lovely in death, upon the common sand.
640 And Rustum gazed on him with grief, and said:--

641     "O Sohrab, thou indeed art such a son
642 Whom Rustum, wert thou his, might well have loved!
643 Yet here thou errest, Sohrab, or else men
644 Have told thee false--thou art not Rustum's son.
645 For Rustum had no son; one child he had--
646 But one--a girl; who with her mother now
647 Plies some light female task, nor dreams of us--
648 Of us she dreams not, nor of wounds, nor war."

649     But Sohrab answer'd him in wrath: for now
650 The anguish of the deep-fix'd spear grew fierce,
651 And he desired to draw forth the steel,
652 And let the blood flow free, and so to die--
653 But first he would convince his stubborn foe;
654 And, rising sternly on one arm, he said:--

655     "Man, who art thou who dost deny my words?
656 Truth sits upon the lips of dying men,
657 And falsehood, while I lived, was far from mine.
658 I tell thee, prick'd upon this arm I bear
659 That seal which Rustum to my mother gave,
660 That she might prick it on the babe she bore."

661     He spoke; and all the blood left Rustum's cheeks,
662 And his knees totter'd, and he smote his hand
663 Against his breast, his heavy mailed hand,
664 That the hard iron corslet clank'd aloud;
665 And to his heart he press'd the other hand,
666 And in a hollow voice he spake, and said:--

667     Sohrab, that were a proof which could not lie!
668 If thou show this, then art thou Rustum's son."

669     Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loosed
670 His belt, and near the shoulder bared his arm,
671 And show'd a sign in faint vermilion points
672 Prick'd; as a cunning workman, in Pekin,
673 Pricks with vermilion some clear porcelain vase,
674 An emperor's gift--at early morn he paints,
675 And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp
676 Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands--
677 So delicately prick'd the sign appear'd
678 On Sohrab's arm, the sign of Rustum's seal.
679 It was that griffin, which of old rear'd Zal,
680 Rustum's great father, whom they left to die,
681 A helpless babe, among the mountain-rocks;
682 Him that kind creature found, and rear'd, and loved--
683 Then Rustum took it for his glorious sign.
684 And Sohrab bared that image on his arm,
685 And himself scann'd it long with mournful eyes,
686 And then he touch'd it with his hand and said:--

687     "How say'st thou? Is that sign the proper sign
688 Of Rustum's son, or of some other man's?"

689     He spoke; but Rustum gazed, and gazed, and stood
690 Speechless; and then he utter'd one sharp cry:
691 O boy--thy father!--and his voice choked there.
692 And then a dark cloud pass'd before his eyes,
693 And his head swam, and he sank down to earth.
694 But Sohrab crawl'd to where he lay, and cast
695 His arms about his neck, and kiss'd his lips,
696 And with fond faltering fingers stroked his cheeks,
697 Trying to call him back to life; and life
698 Came back to Rustum, and he oped his eyes,
699 And they stood wide with horror; and he seized
700 In both his hands the dust which lay around,
701 And threw it on his head, and smirch'd his hair,--
702 His hair, and face, and beard, and glittering arms;
703 And strong convulsive groanings shook his breast,
704 And his sobs choked him; and he clutch'd his sword,
705 To draw it, and for ever let life out.
706 But Sohrab saw his thoughts, and held his hands
707 And with a soothing voice he spake, and said:--

708     "Father, forbear! for I but meet to-day
709 The doom which at my birth was written down
710 In Heaven, and thou art Heaven's unconscious hand.
711 Surely my heart cried out that it was thou,
712 When first I saw thee; and thy heart spoke too,
713 I know it! but fate trod those promptings down
714 Under its iron heel; fate, fate engaged
715 The strife, and hurl'd me on my father's spear.
716 But let us speak no more of this! I find
717 My father; let me feel that I have found!
718 Come, sit beside me on this sand, and take
719 My head betwixt thy hands, and kiss my cheeks,
720 And wash them with thy tears, and say: My son!
721 Quick! quick! for number'd are my sands of life
722 And swift; for like the lightning to this field
723 I came, and like the wind I go away--
724 Sudden, and swift, and like a passing wind.
725 But it was writ in Heaven that this should be."

726     So said he, and his voice released the heart
727 Of Rustum, and his tears broke forth; he cast
728 His arms round his son's neck, and wept aloud,
729 And kiss'd him. And awe fell on both the hosts,
730 When they saw Rustum's grief; and Ruksh, the horse,
731 With his head bowing to the ground and mane
732 Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mute woe
733 First to the one then to the other moved
734 His head, as if enquiring what their grief
735 Might mean; and from his dark, compassionate eyes,
736 The big warm tears roll'd down, and caked the sand.
737 But Rustum chid him with stern voice, and said:--

738     "Ruksh, now thou grievest; but, O Ruksh, thy feet
739 Should first have rotted on their nimble joints,
740 Or ere they brought thy master to this field!"

741     But Sohrab look'd upon the horse and said;--
742 "Is this, then, Ruksh? How often, in past days
743 My mother told me of thee, thou brave steed,
744 My terrible father's terrible horse! and said,
745 That I should one day find thy lord and thee.
746 Come, let me lay my hand upon thy mane!
747 O Ruksh, thou art more fortunate than I;
748 For thou has gone where I shall never go,
749 And snuff'd the breezes of my father's home.
750 And thou hast trod the sands of Seistan
751 And seen the River of Helmund, and the Lake
752 Of Zirrah; and the aged Zal himself
753 Has often stroked thy neck, and given thee food,
754 Corn in a golden platter soak'd with wine,
755 And said; O Ruksh! bear Rustrum well!--but I
756 Have never known my grandsire's furrow'd face,
757 Nor seen his lofty house in Seistan,
758 Nor slaked my thirst at the clear Helmund stream;
759 But lodged among my father's foes, and seen
760 Afrasiab's cities only, Samarcand,
761 Bokhara, and lone Khiva in the waste,
762 And the black Toorkmun tents; and only drunk
763 The desert rivers, Moorghab and Tejend,
764 Kohik, and where the Kalmuks feed their sheep,
765 The northern Sir; and this great Oxus stream,
766 The yellow Oxus, by whose brink I die."

767     Then, with a heavy groan, Rustum bewail'd:--
768 "Oh, that its waves were flowing over me!
769 Oh, that I saw its grains of yellow silt
770 Roll, tumbling in the current o'er my head!"

771     But, with a grave mild voice, Sohrab replied:--
772 "Desire not that, my father! thou must live.
773 For some are born to do great deeds, and live,
774 As some are born to be obscured, and die.
775 Do thou the deeds I die too young to do,
776 And reap a second glory in thine age;
777 Thou art my father, and thy gain is mine.
778 But come! thou seest this great host of men
779 Which follow me; I pray thee, slay not these!
780 Let me entreat for them; what have they done?
781 They follow'd me, my hope, my fame, my star.
782 Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace.
783 But me thou must bear hence, not send with them,
784 But carry me with thee to Seistan,
785 And place me on a bed, and mourn for me,
786 Thou, and the snow-hair'd Zal, and all thy friends.
787 And thou must lay me in that lovely earth,
788 And heap a stately mound above my bones,
789 And plant a far-seen pillar over all.
790 That so the passing horseman on the waste
791 May see my tomb a great way off, and cry:
792 Sohral!, the mighty Rustum's son, lies there,
793 Whom his great father did in ignorance kill!
794 And I be not forgotten in my grave."

795     And, with a mournful voice, Rustum replied:--
796 "Fear not! as thou hast said, Sohrab, my son,
797 So shall it be; for I will burn my tents,
798 And quit the host, and bear thee hence with me,
799 And carry thee away to Seistan,
800 And place thee on a bed, and mourn for thee,
801 With the snow-headed Zal, and all my friends.
802 And I will lay thee in the lovely earth,
803 And heap a stately mound above thy bones,
804 And plant a far-seen pillar over all,
805 And men shall not forget thee in thy grave.
806 And I will spare thy host; yea, let them go!
807 Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace!
808 What should I do with slaying any more?
809 For would that all whom I have ever slain
810 Might be once more alive; my bitterest foes
811 And they who were call'd champions in their time,
812 And through whose death I won that fame I have--
813 And I were nothing but a common man,
814 A poor, mean soldier, and without renown,
815 So thou mightest live too, my son, my son!
816 Or rather would that I, even I myself,
817 Might now be lying on this bloody sand,
818 Near death, and by an ignorant stroke of thine,
819 Not thou of mine! and I might die, not thou;
820 And I, not thou, be borne to Seistan;
821 And Zal might weep above my grave, not thine;
822 And say: O son, I weep thee not too sore,
823 For willingly, I know, thou met'st thine end!
824 But now in blood and battles was my youth,
825 And full of blood and battles is my age,
826 And I shall never end this life of blood."

827     Then, at the point of death, Sohrab replied.--
828 "A life of blood indeed, thou dreadful man!
829 But thou shalt yet have peace; only not now,
830 Not yet! but thou shalt have it on that day,
831 When thou shalt sail in a high-masted ship,
832 Thou and the other peers of Kai Khosroo,
833 Returning home over the salt blue sea,
834 From laying thy dear master in his grave."

835     And Rustum gazed in Sohrab's face, and said.--
836 "Soon be that day, my son, and deep that sea!
837 Till then, if fate so wills, let me endure."

838     He spoke; and Sohrab smiled on him, and took
839 The spear, and drew it from his side, and eased
840 His wound's imperious anguish; but the blood
841 Came welling from the open gash, and life
842 Flow'd with the stream;--all down his cold white side
843 The crimson torrent ran, dim now and soil'd,
844 Like the soil'd tissue of white violets
845 Left, freshly gather'd, on their native bank,
846 By children whom their nurses call with haste
847 Indoors from the sun's eye; his head droop'd low,
848 His limbs grew slack; motionless, white, he lay--
849 White, with eyes closed; only when heavy gasps,
850 Deep heavy gasps quivering through all his frame,
851 Convulsed him back to life, he open'd them,
852 And fix'd them feebly on his father's face;
853 Till now all strength was ebb'd, and from his limbs
854 Unwillingly the spirit fled away,
855 Regretting the warm mansion which it left,
856 And youth, and bloom, and this delightful world.

857     So, on the bloody sand, Sohrab lay dead;
858 And the great Rustum drew his horseman's cloak
859 Down o'er his face, and sate by his dead son.
860 As those black granite pillars, once high-rear'd
861 By Jemshid in Persepolis, to bear
862 His house, now 'mid their broken flights of steps
863 Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side--
864 So in the sand lay Rustum by his son.

865     And night came down over the solemn waste,
866 And the two gazing hosts, and that sole pair,
867 And darken'd all; and a cold fog, with night,
868 Crept from the Oxus. Soon a hum arose,
869 As of a great assembly loosed, and fires
870 Began to twinkle through the fog; for now
871 Both armies moved to camp, and took their meal;
872 The Persians took it on the open sands
873 Southward, the Tartars by the river marge;
874 And Rustum and his son were left alone.

875     But the majestic river floated on,
876 Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
877 Into the frosty starlight, and there moved,
878 Rejoicing, through the hush'd Chorasmian waste,
879 Under the solitary moon;--he flow'd
880 Right for the polar star, past Orgunj{`e},
881 Brimming, and bright, and large; then sands begin
882 To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
883 And split his currents; that for many a league
884 The shorn and parcell'd Oxus strains along
885 Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles--
886 Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
887 In his high mountain-cradle in Pamere,
888 A foil'd circuitous wanderer--till at last
889 The long'd-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
890 His luminous home of waters opens, bright
891 And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars
892 Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.