The Death of Yazdagird


From the Shahnameh
There was a paladin, a Turk by race,
A man of influence and named Bizhan;
He dwelt within the coasts of Samarkand
Where he had many kin. Ill-starred Mahwi,
Becoming self-assertive, wrote to him:-
'Thou prosperous scion of the paladins!
A strife hath risen that will bring thee profit:
The Sháh is of all places here at Marv
And with no troops! His head and crown and state,
Wealth, throne, and host, are thine if thou wilt come.
Recall the vengeance owing to thy sires,
And give this unjust race its just reward.'
 
Bizhan, considering the letter, saw
That insolent Mahwi would win the world,
Then spake thus to his minister: 'Thou chief
Of upright men! what sayest thou to this?
If I lead forth a host to aid Mahwi
'Twill be my ruin here.'
 
The minister
Replied: 'O lion-hearted warrior!
'Twere shame to help Mahwi and then withdraw.
Command Barsám to set forth with a host
To aid upon this scene of strife. The sage
Will term thee daft to go and fight in person
At the insistence of this man of Súr.'
 
Bizhan replied: ''Tis well, I will not go
Myself.'
 
He therefore bade Barsám to lead
Ten thousand valiant cavaliers and swordsmen
To Marv with all the implements of war
If haply he might take the Sháh. That host
Went like a flying pheasant from Bukhárá
To Marv within one week. One night at cock-crow
The sound of tymbals went up from the plain.
How could the king of kings suspect Mahwi
Of Súr to be his enemy? Shouts rose.
A cavalier reached Yazdagird at dawn
To say: 'Mahwi said thus: 'A host of Turks
Hath come. What is the bidding of the Sháh?
The Khán and the Faghfúr of Chin command:
Earth is not able to support their host!''
 
The Sháh wroth donned his mail. The armies ranged.
He formed his troops to right and left, and all
Advanced to battle. Spear in hand he held
The center, and the whole world was bedimmed
With flying dust. He saw how lustily
The Turks engaged, unsheathed his sword, and came,
As 'twere an elephant before his troops.
Earth Nile-wise flowed. Like thundering cloud he charged,
But not a warrior supported him;
All turned their backs upon that man of name,
And left him mid the horsemen of the foe.
The world's king, when Mahwi withdrew, perceived
The practice hid till then-the intent and plan
To capture him-yet played the man in fight,
Displaying valour, strength, and warriorship,
Slew many at the centre, but at length
Fled in despair, with falchion of Kábul
In hand, pursued by many Turks. He sped
Like lightning mid night's gloom and spied a mill
On the canal of Zark. Alighting there
The world's king lay in hiding from his foes
Within the mill. The horsemen searched for him;
All Zark was hue and cry. The Sháh abandoned
His gold-trapped steed, his mare, and scimitar
With golden sheath. The Turks with loud shouts sought him,
Excited by that steed and equipage.
The Sháh within the mill-house lurked in hay.
With this false Hostel thus it ever is:
The ascent is lofty and profound the abyss.
With Yazdagird, while fortune slumbered not,
A throne enskied by heaven was his lot,
And now it was a mill! Excess of sweet
Bred bane for him and, if thou art discreet,
Affect not this world for its end is ill.
Whiles a tame serpent to the touch it still
At whiles will bite, and hot that bite will be.
Why then affect this cozening hostelry
While like a drum the signal to be gone
Thou hearest, bidding: 'Bind the baggage on.
And for sole throne the grave's floor look upon?'
 
With mouth untasting and with tearful eyes
The Sháh abode until the sun arose,
And then the miller oped the mill-house door.
He bore a truss of grass upon his back.
A low-born man was he, by name Khusrau,
Poor, foolish, unrespected, purposeless.
He lived upon the profits of his mill,
Which gave him full employment. He beheld
A warrior, like a lofty cypress, sitting
In dolour on the ground with kingly crown
Upon his head and with brocade of Rúm
Bright on his breast; his eyes a stag's, his chest
And neck a lion's; of beholding him
The eye ne'er tired. He was unique in form;
Wore golden boots; his sleeves were fringed with pearls
And gold. Khusrau looked, stood astound, and called
On God, then said: 'O man of sunlike mien!
Say in what sort thou camest to this mill?
Why didst thou take it for thy resting-place
Full as it is of wheat and dust and hay?
Who art thou with such form, such Grace and looks?
Sure, heaven never saw the like of thee!'
 
The Sháh replied: 'I am Iránian-born,
In f
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"The Death of Yazdagird" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 28 Feb. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/16296/the-death-of-yazdagird>.

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