Rostam and Akvam Div

935 – 1020


Kei Khosro sat in a garden bright
With all the beauties of balmy Spring:
And many a warrior armor-dight
With a stout kamand and an arm of might
Supported Persia’s King

With trembling mien and a pallid cheek,
A breathless hind to the presence ran;
And on bended knee, in posture meek,
With faltering tongue that scarce could speak
His story thus begun:

“Alackaday! for the news I bear
Will like to follies of Fancy sound:
Thy steeds were stabled and stalled with care,
When a Wild Ass sprang from its forest lair
With a swift resistless bound,”

“A monster fell, of a dusky hue,
And eyes that flashed with hellish glow;
Many it maimed and some it slew,
The back to the forest again it flew,
As an arrow leaves the bow.”

Kei Khosro’s rage was a sight to see:
“Now curses light on the foul fiend’s head!
Full rich and rare will his guerdon be
Whose stalwart arm will bring to me
Monster, alive or dead!”

But the mail-clad warriors kept their ground,
And their bronzed cheeks were blanched with fear;
With scorn Shah on the cowards frowned,-
“One champion bold may yet be found
While Rostam wields a spear!”

No tarrying made son of Zal,
Small reck had he of the fiercest fray;
But promptly came at the monarch’s call,
And swore that monster fiend would fall
Ere closed the coming day.

Swift Raksh’s sides he spurred,
And speedily gained the darksome wood;
Nor was trial for long deferred,-
But soon a hideous roar was heard,
Had chilled a baser blood.

Then darting out like a flashing flame,
Traverse his path the Wild Ass fled;
And the hero then with unerring aim
Hurled his stout kamand, but as erst it came,
Unscathed monster fled.

Then darting out like a flashing flame,
Traverse his path the Wild Ass fled;
And the hero then with unerring aim
Hurled his stout kamand, but as erst it came,
Unscathed monster fled.

“Now God in heaven!” bold Rostam cried,-
“Thy chosen champion deign to save!
Not all in vain will my steel be tried,
Though he who my powers has thus defied
By none but Akvan Div.”

Then steadily chasing his fiendish foe,
He thrust with hanger, he smote with brand:
But ever avoiding the deadly blow
It vanished away like the scenes that show
On Balkh’s delusive sand.

For full three wearisome nights and days
Stoutly he battled with warlike skill;
But Demon such magical shifts essays
That leaving his courser at large to graze,
He rests him on a hill.

But scare can slumber his eyelids close,
Ere Akvan Div from afar espies;
And never disturbing his foe’s repose
The earth from under the mound hr throws,
And off with the summits flies.

“Now, daring mortal!” Demon cried,-
“Whither wouldst have me catty thee?
Will I cast thee forth on mountain side,
Where lions roar and reptiles glide,
Or hurl thee into the sea?”

“O bear me off to the mountain side,
Where lions roar and serpents creep!
For I fear not the creatures that spring or glide;
But where is the arm that can stem the tide,
Or still the raging deep?”

Loud laughed the fiend as his load he threw
Far plunging into the roaring flood:
And louder laughed Rostam as out he flew,
For he fain had chosen the sea, but knew
The fiend’s malignant mood.

Soon all the monsters that float or swim,
With ravening jaws down on him bore:
But he hewed and hacked them limb from limb,
And the wave pellucid grew thick and dim
With streaks of crimson gore.

With thankful bosom he gains the strand,
And seeketh his courser near and far,
Till he hears him neigh, and he sees him stand
Among the herds of a Tatar band,
The steeds of Isfandiar.

But Rostam’s name was a sound of dread,
And the Tatar heard it has caused to quake;
The herd was there, but the hinds had fled,-
So all the horses he captive led
For good Kei Khosro’s sake.

Then loud again through the forest rings
The fiendish laugh and the taunting cry:
But his kamand quickly the hero flings,
And around Demon it coils and clings,
As a cobweb wraps a fly.

Kei Khosro sat in his garden fair,
Mourning his Champion lost and dead,
When a shout of victory rent the air,
And Rostam placed before his chair
A Demon Giant’s head.

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