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Matthew Arnold (1822–88).  The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840–1867.  1909.
 
Poems; A New Edition. 1853
Sohrab and Rustum. An Episode
 
[First published 1853. Reprinted 1854, ’57.]

AND 1 the first grey of morning fill’d the east,
And the fog rose out of the Oxus stream.
But all the Tartar camp along the stream
Was hush’d, and still the men were plunged in sleep:
Sohrab alone, he slept not: all night long        5
He had lain wakeful, tossing on his bed;
But when the grey dawn stole into his tent,
He rose, and clad himself, and girt his sword,
And took his horseman’s cloak, and left his tent,
And went abroad into the cold wet fog,        10
Through the dim camp to Peran-Wisa’s tent.
  Through the black Tartar tents he pass’d, which stood
Clustering like bee-hives on the low flat strand
Of Oxus, where the summer floods o’erflow
When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere:        15
Through the black tents he pass’d, o’erflow
And to a hillock came, a little back
From the stream’s brink, the spot where first a boat,
Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land.
The men of former times had crown’d the top        20
With a clay fort: but that was fall’n; and now
The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa’s tent,
A dome of laths, and o’er it felts were spread.
And Sohrab came there, and went in, and stood
Upon the thick-pil’d carpets in the tent,        25
And found the old man sleeping on his bed
Of rugs and felts, and near him lay his arms.
And Peran-Wisa heard him, though the step
Was dull’d; for he slept light, an old man’s sleep;
And he rose quickly on one arm, and said:—        30
  ‘Who art thou? for it is not yet clear dawn.
Speak! is there news, or any night alarm?’
  But Sohrab came to the bedside, and said:—
‘Thou know’st me, Peran-Wisa: it is I.
The sun is not yet risen, and the foe        35
Sleep; but I sleep not; all night long I lie
Tossing and wakeful, and I come to thee.
For so did King Afrasiab bid me seek
Thy counsel, and to heed thee as thy son,
In Samarcand, before the army march’d;        40
And I will tell thee what my heart desires.
Thou know’st 2 if, since from Ader-baijan first
I came among the Tartars, and bore arms,
I have still serv’d Afrasiab well, and shown,
At my boy’s years, the courage of a man.        45
This too thou know’st, that, while I still bear on
The conquering Tartar ensigns through the world,
And beat the Persians back on every field,
I seek one man, one man, and one alone—
Rustum, my father; who, I hop’d, should great,        50
Should one day great, upon some well-fought field,
His not unworthy, not inglorious son.
So I long hop’d, but him I never find.
Come then, hear now, and grant me what I ask.
Let the two armies rest to-day: but I        55
Will challenge forth the bravest Persian lords
To meet me, man: if I prevail,
Rustum will surely hear it; if I fall—
Old man, the dead need no one, claim no kin.
Dim is the rumour of a common fight,        60
Where host meets host, and many names are sunk:
But of a single combat Fame speaks clear.’
  He spoke: and Peran-Wisa took the hand
Of the young man in his, and sigh’d, and said:—
  ‘O Sohrab, an unquiet heart is thine!        65
Canst thou not rest among the Tartar chiefs,
And share the battle’s common chance with us
Who love thee, but must press for ever first,
In single fight incurring single risk,
To find a father thou hast never seen?        70
That 3 were far best, my son, to stay with us
Unmurmuring; in our tents, while it is war,
And when ’tis truce, then in Afrasiab’s towns.
But, if this one desire indeed 4 rules all,
To seek out Rustum—seek him not through fight:        75
Seek him in peace, and carry to his arms,
O Sohrab, carry an unwounded son!
But far hence seek him, for he is not here.
For now it is not as when I was young,
When Rustum was in front of every fray:        80
But now he keeps apart, and sits at home,
In Seistan, with Zal, his father old.
Whether that his own mighty strength at last
Feels the abhorr’d approaches of old age;
Or in some quarrel with the Persian King.        85
There go:—Thou wilt not? Yet my heart forebodes
Danger or death awaits thee on this field.
Fain would I know thee safe and well, though lost
To us: fain therefore send thee hence, in peace
To seek thy father, not seek single fights        90
In vain:—but who can keep the lion’s cub
From ravening? and who govern Rustum’s son?
Go: I will grant thee what thy heart desires.’
  So said he, and dropp’d Sohrab’s hand, and left
His bed, and the warm rugs whereon he lay,        95
And o’er his chilly limbs his woollen coat
He pass’d, and tied his sandals on his feet,
And threw a white cloak round him, and he took
In his right hand a ruler’s staff, no sword;
And on his head he plac’d his sheep-skin cap,        100
Black, glossy, curl’d, the fleece of Kara-Kul;
And rais’d the curtain of his tent, and call’d
His herald to his side, and went abroad.
  The sun, by this, had risen, and clear’d the fog
From the broad Oxus and the glittering sands:        105
And from their tents the Tartar horsemen fil’d
Into the open plain; so Haman bade;
Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa rul’d
The host, and still was in his lusty prime.
From their black tents, long files of horse, they stream’d:        110
As when, some grey November morn, the files,
In marching order spread, of long-neck’d cranes
Stream over Casbin, and the southern slopes
Of Elburz, from the Aralian estuaries,
Or some frore Caspian reed-bed, southward bound        115
For the warm Persian sea-board: so they stream’d
The Tartars if the Oxus, the King’s guard,
First, with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears;
Large men, large steeds; who from Bokhara come
And Khiva, and ferment the milk of mares.        120
Next the more temperate Toorkmuns of the south,
The Tukas, and the lances of Salore,
And those from Attruck and the Caspian sands;
Light men, and on light steeds, who only drink
The acrid milk of camels, and their wells.        125
And then a swarm of wandering horse, who came
From far, and a more doubtful service own’d;
The Tartars of Ferghana, from the banks
Of the Jexartes, men with scanty beards
And close-set skull-cap; and those wilder hordes        130
Who roam o’er Kipchak and the northern waste,
Kalmuks and unkemp’d Kuzzaks, tribes who stray
Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes,
Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere.
These all fil’d out from camp into the plain.        135
And on the other side the Persians form’d:
First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seem’d,
The Ilyats of Khorassan: and behind
The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot,
Marshall’d battalions bright in burnish’d steel.        140
But Peran-Wisa with his herald came
Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front,
And with his staff kept back the foremost ranks.
And when Ferood, who led the Persians, saw
That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back,        145
He took his spear, and to the front he came,
And check’d his ranks, and fix’d them where they stood.
And the old Tartar came upon the sand
Betwixt the silent hosts, and spake, and said:—
  ‘Ferood, and ye, Persians and Tartars, hear!        150
Let there be truce between the hosts to-day.
But choose a champion from the Persian lords
To fight our champion Sohrab, man to man.’
  As, in the country, on a morn in June,
When the dew glistens on the pearled ears,        155
A shiver runs through the deep corn for joy—
So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa said,
A thrill through all the Tartar squadrons ran
Of pride and hope for Sohrab, whom they lov’d.
  But as a troop of pedlars, from Cabool,        160
Cross underneath the Indian Caucasus,
That vast sky-neighbouring mountain of milk snow;
Winding so high, that, as they mount, they pass
Long flocks of travelling birds dead on the snow,
Chok’d by the air, and scarce can they themselves        165
Slake their parch’d throats with sugar’d mulberries— 5
In single file they move, and stop their breath,
For fear they should dislodge the o’erhanging snows—
So the pale Persians held their breath with fear.
  And to Ferood his brother Chiefs came up        170
To counsel: Gudurz and Zoarrah came,
And Feraburz, who rul’d the Persian host
Second, and was the uncle of the King:
These came and counsell’d; and then Gudurz said:—
  ‘Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge up,        175
Yet champion have we none to match this youth.
He has the wild stag’s foot, the lion’s heart.
But Rustum came last night; aloof he sits
And sullen, and has pitch’d his tents apart:
Him will I seek, and carry to his ear        180
The Tartar challenge, and this young man’s name.
Haply he will forget his wrath, and fight.
Stand forth the while, and take their challenge up.’
  So spake he; and Ferood stood forth and said:—
‘Old man, be it agreed as thou hast said.        185
Let Sohrab arm, and we will find a man.’
  He spoke; and Peran-Wisa turn’d, and strode
Back through the opening squadrons to his tent.
But through the anxious Persians Gudurz ran,
And cross’d the camp which lay behind, and reach’d,        190
Out on the sands beyond it, Rustum’s tents.
Of scarlet cloth they were, and glittering gay,
Just pitch’d: the high pavilion in the midst
Was Rustum’s, and his men lay camp’d around.
And Gudurz enter’d Rustum’s tent, and found        195
Rustum: his morning meal was done, but still
The table stood beside him, charg’d with food;
A side of roasted sheep, and cakes of bread,
And dark green melons; and there Rustum sate
Listless, and held a falcon on his wrist,        200
And play’d with it; but Gudurz came and stood
Before him; and he look’d, and saw him stand;
And with a cry sprang up, and dropp’d the bird,
And greeted Gudurz with both hands, and said:—
  ‘Welcome! these eyes could see no better sight.        205
What news? but sit down first, and eat and drink.’
  But Gudurz stood in the tent door, and said:—
‘Not now: a time will come to eat and drink,
But not to-day: to-day has other needs.
The armies are drawn out, and stand at gaze:        210
For from the Tartars is a challenge brought
To pick a champion from the Persian lords
To fight their champion—and thou know’st his name—
Sohrab men call him, but his birth is hid.
O Rustum, like thy might is this young man’s!        215
He has the wild stag’s foot, the lion’s heart.
And he is young, and Iran’s Chiefs are old,
Or else too weak; and all eyes turn to thee.
Come down and help us, Rustum, or we lose.’
  He spoke: but Rustum answer’d with a smile:—        220
‘Go to! if Iran’s Chiefs are old, then I
Am older: if the young are weak, the King
Errs strangely: for the King, for Kai-Khosroo,
Himself is young, and honours younger men,
And lets the agèd moulder to their graves.        225
Rustum he loves no more, but loves the young—
The young may rise at Sohrab’s vaunts, not I.
For what care I, though all speak Sohrab’s fame?
For would that I myself had such a son,
And not that one slight helpless girl I have,        230
A son so fam’d, so brave, to send to war,
And I to tarry with the snow-hair’d Zal,
My father, whom the robber Afghans vex,
And clip his borders short, and drive his herds,
And he has none to guard his weak old age.        235
There would I go, and hang my armour up,
And with my great name fence that weak old man,
And spend the goodly treasures I have got,
And rest my age, and hear of Sohrab’s fame,
And leave to death the hosts of thankless kings,        240
And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no more.’
  He spoke, and smil’d; and Gudurz made reply:—
‘What then, O Rustum, will men say to this,
When Sohrab dares our bravest forth, and seeks
Thee most of all, and thou, whom most he seeks,        245
Hidest thy face? Take heed, lest men should say,
Like some old miser, Rustum hoards his fame,
And shuns to peril it with younger men.’
  And, greatly mov’d, then Rustum made reply:—
‘O Gudurz, wherefore dost thou say such words?        250
Thou knowest better words than this to say.
What is one more, one less, obscure or fam’d,
Valiant or craven, young or old, to me?
Are not they mortal, am not I myself?
But who for men of naught would do great deeds?        255
Come, thou shalt see how Rustum hoards his fame.
But I will fight unknown, and in plain arms;
Let not men say of Rustum, he was match’d
In single fight with any mortal man.’
  He spoke, and frown’d; and Gudurz turn’d, and ran        260
Back quickly through the camp in fear and joy,
Fear at his wrath, but joy that Rustum came.
But Rustum strode to his tent door, and call’d
His followers in, and bade them bring his arms,
And clad himself in steel: the arms he chose        265
Were plain, and on his shield was no device,
Only his helm was rich, inlaid with gold,
And from the fluted spine atop a plume
Of horsehair wav’d, a scarlet horsehair plume.
So arm’d he issued forth; and Ruksh, his horse,        270
Follow’d him, like a faithful hound, at heel,
Ruksh, whose renown was nois’d through all the earth,
The horse, whom Rustum on a foray once
Did in Bokhara by the river find
A colt beneath its dam, and drove him home,        275
And rear’d him; a bright bay, with lofty crest;
Dight with a saddle-cloth of broider’d green
Crusted with gold, and on the ground were work’d
All beasts of chase, all beasts which hunters know:
So follow’d, Rustum left his tents, and cross’d        280
The camp, and to the Persian host appear’d.
And all the Persians knew him, and with shouts
Hail’d; but the Tartars knew not who he was.
And dear as the wet diver to the eyes
Of his pale wife who waits and weeps on shore,        285
By sandy Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf,
Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night,
Having made up his tale of precious pearls,
Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands—
So dear to the pale Persians Rustum came.        290
  And Rustum to the Persian front advanc’d,
And Sohrab arm’d in Haman’s tent, and came.
And as afield the reapers cut a swathe
Down through the middle of a rich man’s corn,
And on each side are squares of standing corn,        295
And in the midst a stubble, short and bare;
So on each side were squares of men, with spears
Bristling, and in the midst, the open sand.
And Rustum came upon the sand, and cast
His eyes towards the Tartar tents, and saw        300
Sohrab come forth, and ey’d him as he came.
  As some rich woman, on a winter’s morn,
Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge
Who with numb blacken’d fingers makes her fire—
At cock-crow, on a starlit winter’s morn,        305
When the frost flowers the whiten’d window panes—
And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts
Of that poor drudge may be; so Rustum ey’d
The unknown adventurous Youth, who from afar
Came seeking Rustum, and defying forth        310
All the most valiant chiefs: long he perus’d
His spirited air, and wonder’d who he was.
For very young he seem’d, tenderly rear’d;
Like some young cypress, tall, and dark, and straight,
Which in a queen’s secluded garden throws        315
Its slight dark shadow on the moonlit turf,
By midnight, to a bubbling fountain’s sound—
So slender Sohrab seem’d, so softly rear’d.
And a deep pity enter’d Rustum’s soul
As he beheld him coming; and he stood,        320
And beckon’d to him with his hand, and said:—
  ‘O thou young man, the air of Heaven is soft,
And warm, and pleasant; but the grave is cold.
Heaven’s air is better than the cold dead grave.
Behold me: I am vast, and clad in iron,        325
And tried; and I have stood on many a field
Of blood, and I have fought with many a foe:
Never was that field lost, or that foe sav’d.
O Sohrab, wherefore wilt thou rush on death?
Be govern’d: quit the Tartar host, and come        330
To Iran, and be as my son to me,
And fight beneath my banner till I die.
There are no youths in Iran brave as thou.’
  So he spake, mildly: Sohrab heard his voice,
The mighty voice of Rustum; and he saw        335
His giant figure planted on the sand,
Sole, like some single tower, which a chief
Has builded on the waste in former years
Against the robbers; and he saw that head,
Streak’d with its first grey hairs: hope fill’d his soul;        340
And he ran forwards and embrac’d his knees,
And clasp’d his hand within his own and said:—
  ‘Oh, by thy father’s head! by thine own soul!
Art thou not Rustum? Speak! art thou not he?’
  But Rustum ey’d askance the kneeling youth,        345
And turn’d away, and spoke to his own soul:—
  ‘Ah me, I muse what this young fox may mean.
False, wily, boastful, are these Tartar boys.
For if I now confess this thing he asks,
And hide it not, but say—Rustum is here        350
He will not yield indeed, nor quit our foes,
But he will find some pretext not to fight,
And praise my fame, and proffer courteous gifts,
A belt or sword perhaps, and go his way.
And on a feast-tide, 6 in Afrasiab’s hall,        355
In Samarcand, he will arise and cry—
“I challeng’d once, when the two armies camp’d
Besides the Oxus, all the Persian lords
To cope with me in single fight; but they
Shrank; only Rustum dar’d: then he and I        360
Chang’d gifts, and went on equal terms away.”
So will he speak, perhaps, while men applaud.
Then were the chiefs of Iran sham’d through me.’
  And then he turn’d, and sternly spake aloud:—
‘Rise! wherefore dost thou vainly question thus        365
Of Rustum? I am here, whom thou hast call’d
By challenge forth: make good thy vaunt, or yield.
Is it with Rustum only thou wouldst fight?
Rash boy, men look on Rustum’s face and flee.
For well I know, that did great Rustum stand        370
Before thy face this day, and were reveal’d,
There would be then no talk of fighting more.
But being what I am, I tell thee this;
Do thou record it in thine inmost soul:
Either thou shalt renounce thy vaunt, and yield;        375
Or else thy bones shall strew this sand, till winds
Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer floods,
Oxus in summer wash them all away.’
  He spoke: and Sohrab answer’d, on his feet:—
‘Art thou so fierce? Thou wilt not fright me so.        380
I am no girl, to be made pale by words.
Yet this thou hast said well, did Rustum stand
Here on this field, there were no fighting then.
But Rustum is far hence, and we stand here.
Begin: thou art more vast, more dread than I,        385
And thou art prov’d, I know, and I am young—
But yet Success sways with the breath of Heaven.
And though thou thinkest that thou knowest sure
Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know.
For we are all, like swimmers in the sea,        390
Pois’d on the top of a huge wave of Fate,
Which hangs uncertain to which side to fall.
And whether it will heave us up to land,
Or whether it will roll us out to sea,
Back out to sea, to the deep waves of death,        395
We know not, and no search will make us know:
Only the event will teach us in its hour.’
  He spoke; and Rustum answer’d not, but hurl’d
His spear: down from the shoulder, down it came,
As on some partridge in the corn a hawk        400
That long has tower’d in the airy clouds
Drops like a plummet: Sohrab saw it come,
And sprang aside, quick as a flash: the spear
Hiss’d, and went quivering down into the sand,
Which it sent flying wide:—then Sohrab threw        405
In turn, and full struck Rustum’s shield: sharp rang,
The iron plates rang sharp, but turn’d the spear.
And Rustum seiz’d his club, which none but he
Could wield: an unlopp’d trunk it was, and huge,
Still rough; like those which men in treeless plains        410
To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers,
Hyphasis or Hydaspes, when, high up
By their dark springs, the wind in winter-time
Has made in Himalayan forests wrack,
And strewn the channels with torn boughs; so huge        415
The club which Rustum lifted now, and struck
One stroke; but again Sohrab sprang aside
Lithe as the glancing snake, and the club came
Thundering to earth, and leapt from Rustum’s hand.
And Rustum follow’d his own blow, and fell        420
To his knees, and with his fingers clutch’d the sand:
And now might Sohrab have unsheath’d his sword,
And pierc’d the mighty Rustum while he lay
Dizzy, and on his knees, and chok’d with sand:
But he look’d on, and smil’d, nor bar’d his sword,        425
But courteously drew back, and spoke, and said:—
  ‘Thou strik’st too hard: that club of thine will float
Upon the summer floods, and not my bones.
But rise, and be not wroth; not wroth am I:
No, when I see thee, wrath forsakes my soul.        430
Thou say’st, thou art not Rustum: be it so.
Who art thou then, that canst so touch my soul?
Boy as I am, I have seen battles too;
Have waded foremost in their bloody waves,
And heard their hollow roar of dying men;        435
But never was my heart thus touch’d before.
Are they from Heaven, these softenings of the heart?
O thou old warrior, let us yield to Heaven!
Come, plant we here in earth our angry spears,
And make a truce, and sit upon this sand,        440
And pledge each other in red wine, like friends,
And thou shalt talk to me of Rustum’s deeds.
There are enough foes in the Persian host
Whom I may meet, and strike, and feel no pang;
Champions enough Afrasiab has, whom thou        445
Mayst fight; fight them, when they confront thy spear.
But oh, let there be peace ’twixt thee and me!’
  He ceas’d: but while he spake, Rustum had risen,
And stood erect, trembling with rage: his club
He left to lie, but had regain’d his spear,        450
Whose fiery point now in his mail’d right-hand
Blaz’d bright and baleful, like that autumn Star,
The baleful sign of fevers: dust had soil’d
His stately crest, and dimm’d his glittering arms.
His breast heav’d; his lips foam’d; and twice his voice        455
Was chok’d with rage: at last these words broke way:—
  ‘Girl! nimble with thy feet, not with thy hands!
Curl’d minion, dancer, coiner of sweet words!
Fight; let me hear thy hateful voice no more!
Thou art not in Afrasiab’s gardens now        460
With Tartar girls, with whom thou art wont to dance;
But on the Oxus sands, and in the dance
Of battle, and with me, who make no play
Of war: I fight it out, and hand to hand.
Speak not to me of truce, and pledge, and wine!        465
Remember all thy valour: try thy feints
And cunning: all the pity I had is gone:
Because thou hast sham’d me before both the hosts
With thy light skipping tricks, and thy girl’s wiles.’
  He spoke; and Sohrab kindled at his taunts,        470
And he too drew his sword: at once they rush’d
Together, as two eagles on one prey
Come rushing down together from the clouds,
One from the east, one from the west: their shields
Dash’d with a clang together, and a din        475
Rose, such as that the sinewy woodcutters
Make often in the forest’s heart at morn,
Of hewing axes, crashing trees: such blows
Rustum and Sohrab on each other hail’d.
And you would say that sun and stars took part        480
In that unnatural conflict; for a cloud
Grew suddenly in Heaven, and dark’d the sun
Over the fighters’ heads; and a wind rose
Under their feet, and moaning swept the plain,
And in a sandy whirlwind wrapp’d the pair.        485
In gloom they twain were wrapp’d, and they alone;
For both the on-looking hosts on either hand
Stood in broad daylight, and the sky was pure,
And the sun sparkled on the Oxus stream.
But in the gloom they fought, with bloodshot eyes        490
And labouring breath; first Rustum struck the shield
Which Sohrab held stiff out: the steel-spik’d spear
Rent the tough plates, but fail’d to reach the skin,
And Rustum pluck’d it back with angry groan.
Then Sohrab with his sword smote Rustum’s helm,        495
Nor clove its steel quite through; but all the crest
He shore away, and that proud horsehair plume
Never till now defil’d, sunk to the dust;
And Rustum bow’d his head; but then the gloom
Grew blacker: thunder rumbled in the air,        500
And lightnings rent the cloud; and Ruksh, the horse,
Who stood at hand, utter’d a dreadful cry:
No horse’s cry was that, most like the roar
Of some pain’d desert lion, who all day
Has trail’d the hunter’s javelin in his side,        505
And comes at night to die upon the sand:—
The two hosts heard that cry, and quak’d for fear,
And Oxus curdled as it cross’d his stream.
But Sohrab heard, and quail’d not, but rush’d on,
And struck again; and again Rustum bow’d        510
His head; but this time all the blade, like glass,
Sprang in a thousand shivers on the helm,
And in his hand the hilt remain’d alone.
Then Rustum rais’d his head: his dreadful eyes
Glar’d, and he shook on high his menacing spear,        515
And shouted, Rustum! Sohrab heard that shout,
And shrank amaz’d: back he recoil’d one step,
And scann’d with blinking eyes the advancing Form:
And then he stood bewilder’d; and he dropp’d
His covering shield, and the spear pierc’d his side.        520
He reel’d, and staggering back, sunk to the ground.
And then the gloom dispers’d, and the wind fell,
And the bright sun broke forth, and melted all
The cloud; and the two armies saw the pair;
Saw Rustum standing, safe upon his feet,        525
And Sohrab, wounded, on the bloody sand.
  Then, with a bitter smile, Rustum began:—
‘Sohrab, thou thoughtest in thy mind to kill
A Persian lord this day, and strip his corpse,
And bear thy trophies to Afrasiab’s tent.        530
Or else that the great Rustum would come down
Himself to fight, and that thy wiles would move
His heart to take a gift, and let thee go.
And then that all the Tartar host would praise
Thy courage or thy craft, and spread thy fame,        535
To glad thy father in his weak old age.
Fool! thou art slain, and by an unknown man!
Dearer to the red jackals shalt thou be,
Than to thy friends, and to thy father old.’
  And, with a fearless mien, Sohrab replied:—        540
‘Unknown thou art; yet thy fierce vaunt is vain.
Thou dost not slay me, proud and boastful man!
No! Rustum slays me, and this filial heart.
For were I match’d with ten such men as thou,
And I were he who till to-day I was,        545
They should be lying here, I standing there.
But that belovèd name unnerv’d my arm—
That name, and something, I confess, in thee,
Which troubles all my heart, and made my shield
Fall; and thy spear transfix’d an unarm’d foe.        550
And now thou boastest, and insult’st my fate.
But hear thou this, fierce Man, tremble to hear!
The mighty Rustum shall avenge my death!
My father, whom I seek through all the world,
He shall avenge my death, and punish thee!’        555
  As when some hunter in the spring hath found
A breeding eagle sitting on her nest,
Upon the craggy isle of a hill lake,
And pierc’d her with an arrow as she rose,
And follow’d her to find her where she fell        560
Far off;—anon her mate comes winging back
From hunting, and a great way off descries
His huddling young left sole; at that, he checks
His pinion, and with short uneasy sweeps
Circles above his eyry, with loud screams        565
Chiding his mate back to her nest; but she
Lies dying, with the arrow in her side,
In some far stony gorge out of his ken,
A heap of fluttering feathers: never more
Shall the lake glass her, flying over it;        570
Never the black and dripping precipices
Echo her stormy scream as she sails by:—
As that poor bird flies home, nor knows his loss—
So Rustum knew not his own loss, but stood
Over his dying son, and knew him not.        575
  But with a cold, incredulous voice, he said:—
‘What prate is this of fathers and revenge?
The mighty Rustum never had a son.’
  And, with a failing voice, Sohrab replied:—
‘Ah yes, he had! and that lost son am I.        580
Surely the news will one day reach his ear,
Reach Rustum, where he sits, and tarries long,
Somewhere, I know not where, but far from here;
And pierce him like a stab, and make him leap
To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee.        585
Fierce Man, bethink thee, for an only son!
What will that grief, what will that vengeance be!
Oh, could I live, till I that grief had seen!
Yet him I pity not so much, but her,
My mother, who in Ader-baijan dwells        590
With that old King, her father, who grows grey
With age, and rules over the valiant Koords.
Her most I pity, who no more will see
Sohrab returning from the Tartar camp,
With spoils and honour, when the war is done.        595
But a dark rumour will be bruited up,
From tribe to tribe, until it reach her ear;
And then will that defenceless woman learn
That Sohrab will rejoice her sight no more;
But that in battle with a nameless foe,        600
By the far-distant Oxus, he is slain.’
  He spoke; and as he ceas’d he wept aloud,
Thinking of her he left, and his own death.
He spoke; but Rustum listen’d, plung’d in thought.
Nor did he yet believe it was his son        605
Who spoke, although he call’d back names he knew;
For he had had sure tidings that the babe,
Which was in Ader-baijan born to him,
Had been a puny girl, no boy at all:
So that sad mother sent him word, for fear        610
Rustum should take the boy, to train in arms;
And so he deem’d that either Sohrab took,
By a false boast, the style of Rustum’s son;
Or that men gave it him, to swell his fame.
So deem’d he; yet he listen’d, plung’d in thought;        615
And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide
Of the bright rocking Ocean sets to shore
At the full moon: tears gather’d in his eyes;
For he remember’d his own early youth,
And all its bounding rapture; as, at dawn,        620
The Shepherd from his mountain lodge descries
A far bright City, smitten by the sun,
Through many rolling clouds;—so Return saw
His youth; saw Sohrab’s mother, in her bloom;
And that old King, her father, who lov’d well        625
His wandering guest, and gave him his fair child
With joy; and all the pleasant life they led,
They three, in that long-distant summer-time—
The castle, and the dewy woods, and hunt
And hound, and morn on those delightful hills        630
In Ader-baijan. And he saw that Youth,
Of age and looks to be his own dear son,
Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand,
Like some rich hyacinth, which by the scythe
Of an unskilful gardener has been cut,        635
Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
On the mown, dying grass;—so Sohrab lay,
Lovely in death, upon the common sand.
And Rustum gaz’d on him with grief, and said:—        640
  ‘O Sohrab, thou indeed art such a son
Whom Rustum, wert thou his, might well have lov’d!
Yet here thou errest, Sohrab, or else men
Have told thee false;—thou art not Rustum’s son.
For Rustum had no son: one child he had—        645
But one—a girl: who with her mother now
Plies some light female task, nor dreams of us—
Of use dreams not, nor of wounds, nor war.’
  But Sohrab answer’d him in wrath; for now
The anguish of the deep-fix’d spear grew fierce,        650
And he desired to draw forth the steel,
And let the blood flow free, and so to die;
But first he would convince his stubborn foe—
And, rising sternly on one arm, he said:—
  ‘Man, who art thou who dost deny my words?        655
Truth sits upon the lips of dying men,
And Falsehood, while I liv’d, was far from mine.
I tell thee, prick’d upon this arm I bear
That seal which Rustum to my mother gave,
That she might prick it on the babe she bore.’        660
  He spoke: and all the blood left Rustum’s cheeks;
And his knees totter’d, and he smote his hand
Against his breast, his heavy mailed hand,
That the hard iron corslet clank’d aloud:
And to his heart he press’d the other hand,        665
And in a hollow voice he spake, and said:—
  ‘Sohrab, that were a proof which could not lie.
If thou shew this, then art thou Rustum’s son.’
  Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loos’d
His belt, and near the shoulder bar’d his arm,        670
And shew’d a sign in faint vermilion points
Prick’d: as a cunning workman, in Pekin,
Pricks with vermilion some clear porcelain vase,
An emperor’s gift—at early morn he paints,
And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp        675
Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands:—
So delicately prick’d the sign appear’d
On Sohrab’s arm, the sign of Rustum’s seal.
It was that Griffin, which of old rear’d Zal,
Rustum’s great father, whom they left to die,        680
A helpless babe, among the mountain rocks.
Him that kind Creature found, and rear’d, and lov’d—
Then Rustum took it for his glorious sign.
And Sohrab bar’d that figure on his arm,
And himself scann’d it long with mournful eyes,        685
And then he touch’d it with his hand and said:—
  ‘How say’st thou? Is that sign the proper sign
Of Rustum’s son, or of some other man’s?’
  He spoke: but Rustum gaz’d, and gaz’d, and stood
Speechless; and then he utter’d one sharp cry—        690
O Boy—thy Father!—and his voice chok’d there.
And then a dark cloud pass’d before his eyes,
And his head swam, and he sunk down to earth.
But Sohrab crawl’d to where he lay, and cast
His arms about his neck, and kiss’d his lips,        695
And with fond faltering fingers strok’d his cheeks,
Trying to call him back to life: and life
Came back to Rustum, and he op’d his eyes,
And they stood wide with horror; and he seiz’d
In both his hands the dust which lay around,        700
And threw it on his head, and smirch’d his hair,
His hair, and face, and beard, and glittering arms:
And strong convulsive groanings shook his breast,
And his sobs chok’d him; and he clutch’d his sword,
To draw it, and for ever let life out.        705
But Sohrab saw his thought, and held his hands,—
And with soothing voice he spoke, and said:—
  ‘Father, forbear: for I but meet to-day
The doom that at my birth was written down
In Heaven, and thou art Heaven’s unconscious hand.        710
Surely my heart cried out that it was thou,
When first I saw thee; and thy heart spoke too,
I know it: but Fate trod those promptings down
Under its iron heel; Fate, Fate engag’d
The strife, and hurl’d me on my father’s spear.        715
But let us speak no more of this: I find
My father; let me feel that I have found.
Come, sit beside me on this sand, and take
My head betwixt thy hands, and kiss my cheeks,
And wash them with thy tears, and say,My Son!        720
Quick! quick! for number’d are my sands of life,
And swift; for like the lightning to this field
I came, and like the wind I go away—
Sudden, and swift, and like a passing wind.
But it was writ in Heaven that this should be.’        725
  So said he: and his voice releas’d the heart
Of Rustum, and his tears broke forth; he cast
His arms round his son’s neck, and wept aloud,
And kiss’d him. And awe fell on both the hosts
When they saw Rustum’s grief: and Ruksh, the horse,        730
With his head bowing to the ground, and mane
Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mute woe
First to the one then to the other mov’d
His head, as if inquiring what their grief
Might mean; and from his dark, compassionate eyes,        735
The big warm tears roll’d down, and cak’d the sand.
But Rustum chid him with stern voice, and said:—
  ‘Ruksh, now thou grievest; but, O Ruksh, thy feet
Should then have rotted on thy nimble joints,
When first they bore thy Master to this field.’        740
  But Sohrab look’d upon the horse and said:—
‘Is this then Ruksh? How often, in past days,
My mother told me of thee, thou brave Steed!
My terrible father’s terrible horse; and said,
That I should one day find thy lord and thee.        745
Come, let me lay my hand upon thy mane.
O Ruksh, thou art more fortunate than I;
For thou hast gone where I shall never go,
And snuff’d the breezes of my father’s home.
And thou hast trod the sands of Seistan,        750
And seen the River of Helmund, and the Lake
Of Zirrah; and the aged Zal himself
Has often strok’d thy neck, and given thee food,
Corn in a golden platter soak’d with wine,
And said—“O Ruksh! bear Rustum well!"—but I        755
Have never known my grandsire’s furrow’d face,
Nor seen his lofty house in Seistan,
Nor slak’d my thirst at the clear Helmund stream:
But lodg’d among my father’s foes, and seen
Afrasiab’s cities only, Samarcand,        760
Bokhara, and lone Khiva in the waste,
And the black Toorkmun tents; and only drunk
The desert rivers, Moorghab and Tejend,
Kohik, and where the Kalmuks feed their sheep,
The northern Sir; and this great Oxus stream—        765
The yellow Oxus, by whose brink I die.’
  And, with a heavy groan, Rustum replied:—
‘Oh that its waves were flowing over me!
Oh that I saw its grains of yellow silt
Roll tumbling in the current o’er my head!’        770
  And, with a grave mild voice, Sohrab replied:—
‘Desire not that, my father; thou must live.
For some are born to do great deeds, and live,
As some are born to be obscur’d, and die.
Do thou the deeds I die too young to do,        775
And reap a second glory in thine age.
Thou art my father, and thy gain is mine.
But come: thou seest this great host of men
Which follow me; I pray thee, slay not these:
Let me entreat for them: What have they done?        780
They follow’d me, my hope, my fame, my star.
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace.
But me thou must bear hence, not send with them,
But carry me with thee to Seistan,
And place me on a bed, and mourn for me,        785
Thou, and the snow-hair’d Zal, and all thy friends.
And thou must lay me in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound above my bones,
And plant a far-seen pillar over all:
That so the passing horseman on the waste        790
May see my tomb a great way off, and say—
Sohrab, the mighty Rustum’s son, lies there,
Whom his great father did in ignorance kill
And I be not forgotten in my grave.’
  And, with a mournful voice, Rustum replied:—        795
‘Fear not; as thou hast said, Sohrab, my son,
So shall it be: for I will burn my tents,
And quit the host, and bear thee hence with me,
And carry thee away to Seistan,
And place thee on a bed, and mourn for thee,        800
With the snow-headed Zal, and all my friends
And I will lay thee in that lovely earth,
And heap a stately mound above thy bones,
And plant a far-seen pillar over all:
And men shall not forget thee in thy grave.        805
And I will spare thy host: yea, let them go:
Let them all cross the Oxus back in peace.
What should I do with slaying any more?
For would that all whom I have ever slain
Might be once more alive; my bitterest foes,        810
And they who were call’d champions in their time,
And through whose death I won that fame I have;
And I were nothing but a common man,
A poor, mean soldier, and without renown,
So thou mightest live too, my Son, my Son!        815
Or rather would that I, even I myself,
Might now be lying on this bloody sand,
Near death, and by an ignorant stroke of thine,
Not thou of mine; and I might die, not thou;
And I, not thou, be borne to Seistan;        820
And Zal might weep above my grave, not thine;
And say—O son, I weep thee not too sore,
For willingly, I know, thou met’st thine end.
But now in blood and battles was my youth,
And full of blood and battles is my age;        825
And I shall never end this life of blood.’
  Then, at the point of death, Sohrab replied:—
‘A life of blood indeed, thou dreadful Man!
But thou shalt yet have peace; only not now:
Not yet: but thou shalt have it on that day,        830
When thou shalt sail in a high-masted Ship,
Thou and the other peers of Kai-Khosroo,
Returning home over the salt blue sea,
From laying thy dear Master in his grave.’
  And Rustum gaz’d on Sohrab’s face, and said:—        835
‘Soon be that day, my Son, and deep that sea!
Till then, if Fate so wills, let me endure.’
  He spoke; and Sohrab smil’d on him, and took
The spear, and drew it from his side, and eas’d
His wound’s imperious anguish: but the blood        840
Came welling from the open gash, and life
Flow’d with the stream: all down his cold white side
The crimson torrent ran, 7 dim now, and soil’d,
Like the soil’d tissue of white violets
Left, freshly gather’d, on their native bank,        845
By romping children, whom their nurses call
From the hot fields at noon: his head droop’d low,
His limbs grew slack; motionless, white, he lay—
White, with eyes closed; only when heavy gasps,
Deep, heavy gasps, quivering through all his frame,        850
Convuls’d him back to life, he open’d them,
And fix’d them feebly on his father’s face:
Till now all strength was ebb’d, and from his limbs
Unwillingly the spirit fled away,
Regretting the warm mansion which it left,        855
And youth and bloom, and this delightful world.
  So, on the bloody sand, Sohrab lay dead.
And the great Rustum drew his horseman’s cloak
Down o’er his face, and sate by his dead son.
As those black granite pillars, once high-rear’d        860
By Jemshid in Persepolis, to bear
His house, now, mid their broken flights of steps,
Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side—
So in the sand lay Rustum by his son.
  And night came down over the solemn waste,        865
And the two gazing hosts, and that sole pair,
And darken’d all; and a cold fog, with night,
Crept from the Oxus. Soon a hum arose,
As of a great assembly loos’d, and fires
Began to twinkle through the fog: for now        870
Both armies mov’d to camp, and took their meal:
The Persians took it on the open sands
Southward; the Tartars by the river marge:
And Rustum and his son were left alone.
  But the majestic River floated on,        875
Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
Into the frosty starlight, and there mov’d,
Rejoicing, through the hush’s Chorasmian waste,
Under the solitary moon: he flow’d
Right for the Polar Star, past Orgunjè,        880
Brimming, and bright, and large: then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcell’d Oxus strains along
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles—        885
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
In his high mountain cradle in Pamere,
A foil’d circuitous wanderer:—till at last
The long’d-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
His luminous home of waters opens, bright        890
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bath’d stars
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.
 
Note 1. SOHRAB AND RUSTUM.
  The story of Sohrab and Rustum is told in Sir John Malcolm’s History of Persia, as follows:—
  ‘The young Sohrab was the fruit of one of Rustum’s early amours. He had left his mother, and sought fame under the banners of Afrasiab, whose armies he commanded, and soon obtained a renown beyond that of all contemporary heroes but his father. He had carried death and dismay into the ranks of the Persians, and had terrified the boldest warriors of that country, before Rustum encountered him, which at last that hero resolved to do, under a feigned name. They met three times. The first time they parted by mutual consent, though Sohrab had the advantage. The second, the youth obtained a victory, but granted life to his unknown father. The third was fatal to Sohrab, who, when writhing in the pangs of death, warned his conqueror to shun the vengeance that is inspired by parental woes, and bade him dread the rage of the mighty Rustum, who must soon learn that he had slain his son Sohrab. These words, we are told, were as death to the aged hero; and when he recovered from a trance, he called in despair for proofs of what Sohrab had said. The afflicted and dying youth tore open his mail, and showed his father a seal which his mother had placed on his arm when she discovered to him the secret of his birth, and bade him seek his father. The sight of his own signet rendered Rustum quite frantic: he cursed himself, attempted to put an end to his existence, and was only prevented by the efforts of his expiring son. After Sohrab’s death, he burnt his tents, and all his goods, and carried the corpse to Seistan, where it was interred. The army of Turan was, agreeably to the last request of Sohrab, permitted to cross the Oxus unmolested. It was commanded by Haman: and Zoarrah attended, on the part of Rustum, to see that this engagement was respected by the Persians. To reconcile us to the improbability of this tale we are informed that Rustum could have no idea his son was in existence. The mother of Sohrab had written to him her child was a daughter, fearing to lose her darling infant if she revealed the truth; and Rustum, as before stated, fought under a feigned name, an usage not uncommon in the chivalrous combats of those days.’
  M. Sainte-Beuve, also, that most delightful of critics, in a notice of an edition of Ferdousi’s great poem by M. Mohl now in course of publication at Paris, containing the original text and a prose translation, gives an analysis of this episode, with extracts from M. Mohl’s translation, which I will quote at length: commencing from the point where Rustum leaves Tehmimeh, the future mother of Sohrab, before the birth of her child; having given her an onyx with instructions to let the child wear it in her hair, if a girl, and on his arm, if a boy. Of M. Mohl’s book itself I have not been able to obtain sight.
  ‘Là-dessus Roustem part au matin, monté sur son cheval Raksch; il s’en retourne vers l Iran, et, durant des années, il n’a plus que de vagues nouvelles de la belle Tehmimeh et du fils qui lui est né; car c’est un fils et non une fille. Ce fils est beau et au visage brillant; on l’appelle Sohrab. “Quand il eut un mois, il était comme un enfant d’un an; quand il eut trois ans, il s’exerçait au jeu des armes, et à cinq ans il avait le cœur d’un lion. Quand il eut atteint l’àge de dix ans, personne dans son pays n’osait lutter contre lui.” Il se distinguait, à première vue, de tous les Tures d’alentour; il devenait manifeste qu’il était issu d’une autre race. L’enfant, sentant sa force, alla fièrement demander à sa mère le nom de son père, et, quand il le sut, il n’eut plus de cesse qu’il n’eût assemblé une armée pour aller combattre les Iraniens et se faire reconnaître du glorieux Roustem à ses exploits et à sa bravoure.
  ‘Sohrab choisit un cheval assez fort pour le porter, un cheval fort comme un éléphant; il assemble une armée et se met en marche, non pour combattre son père, mais pour combattre et détrôner le souverain dont Roustem est le feudataire, et afin de mettre la race vaillante de Roustem à la place de ce roi déjà fainéant. C’est ici que l’action commence à se nouer avec un art et une habileté qui appartiennet au poëte. La solution fatale est à la fois entrevue et retardée moyennant des gradations qui vont la rendre plus dramatique. Roustem, mandé en toute hàte par le roi effrayé, ne s’empresse point d’accourir. A cette nouvelle d’une armée de Tures commandée par un jeune homme si vaillant et si héroïque, il a l’idée d’abord que ce pourrait bien être son fils; mais non: ce rejeton de sa race est trop enfant, se dit-il, “et ses lèvres sentent encore le lait.” Roustem arrive pourtant; mais, mal accueilli par le roi, il entre dans une colère d’Achille, et il est tout prêt à s’en retourner dans sa tente. On ne le fléchit qu’en lui représentant que s’abstenir en une telle rencontre, ce serait paraître reculer devant le jeune héros. Cependant les armées sont en présence. Roustem, déguisé en Ture, s’introduit dans un château qu’occupe l’ennemi, pour juger de tout par lui-même. Il voit son fils assis à un festin; il l’admire, il le compare, pour la force et la beauté, à sa propre race; on dirait, à un moment, que le sang au-dedans va parler et lui crier: C’est lui! Le jeune Sohrab, de son côté, quand vient le matin, en présence de cette armée dont le camp se déploie devant lui, est avide de savoir si son noble père n’en est pas. Monté sur un lieu élevé, il se fait nommer par un prisonnier tous les chefs illustres dont il voit se dérouler les étendards. Le prisonnier les énumère avee complaisance et les lui nomme tous, tous excepté un seul, excepté celui, précisément, qui l’intéresse. Le prisonnier fait semblant de croire que Roustem n’est pas venu, car il craint que ce jeune orgueilleux, dans sa force indomptable, ne veuille se signaler en s’attaquant de préférence à ce chef illustre, et qu’il ne cause un grand malheur. Sohrab insiste et trouve étonnant qu’entre tant de chefs, lo vaillant Roustem, le premier de tous, ait manqué cette fois à l’appel; il presse de questions le prisonnier, qui lutte de ruse, et quis’ obstine, sur ce point, à lui cacher la vérité "Sans doute, réplique celui-ci, le héros sera allé dans le Zaboulistan, car c’est le temps des fètes dans les jardins de roses.“ A quoi Sohrab, sentant bouillonner son sang, répond: “Ne parle pas ainsi, car le front de Roustem se tourne toujours vers le combat.“ Mais Sohrab a beau vouloir forcer le secret, la fatalité l’emporte: “Comment veux-tu gouverner ce monde que gouverne Dieu?“ s’écrie le poëte. “C’est le Créateur qui a déterminé d’avance toutes choses. Le sort a écrit autrement que tu n’aurais voulu, et, comme il te méne, il faut que tu suives.“
  ‘Sohrab engage le combat; tout plie devant lui. Jamais nos vieux romans de chevalerie n’ont retenti de pareils coups d’épée. Les plus vaillants chefs reculent. Roustem est appelé; il arrive, il se trouve seul en présence de son fils, et le duel va s’entamer. La pitié, tout à coup, saisit le vieux chef, en voyant co jeune guerrier si fier et si beau:
  ‘“O jeune homme si tendre!” lui dit-il, “la terre est sèche et froide, l’air est doux et ehaud. Je suis vieux; j’ai vu maint champ de bataille, j’ai détruit mainte armée, et je n’ai jamais été battu … Mais j’ai pitiè de toi et ne voudrais pas t’arracher la vie. Ne reste pas avec les Tures; je ne connais personne dans l’Iran qui ait des épaules et des bras comme toi.”
  ‘En entendant ces paroles qui semblent sortir d’une ame amie, le cœur de Sohrab s’élance, il a un pressentiment soudain; il demande ingénument au guerrier s’il n’est pas celui qu’il cherche, s’il n’est pas l’illustre Roustem. Mais le vieux chef, qui ne veut pas donner à ce jouvenceau trop d’orgueil, répond avec ruse qu’il n’est pas Roustem, et le cœur de Sohrab se resserre aussitôt; le nuage qui venait de s’entr’ouvrir se referme, et la destinée se poursuit.
  ‘Le duel commence: il n’est pas sans vicissitudes et sans péripéties singulières; il dure deux jours. Dès le premier choc, les épées des combattants se brisent en éclats sous leurs coups: “Quels coups! on eût dit qu’ils amenaient la Résurrection!” Le combat continue à coups de massue; nous sommes en ploin âge héroïque. Le premier jour, le duel n’a pas de résultat. Après une lutte acharnée, les deux chefs s’éloignent, se donnant rendez-vous pour le lendemain. Roustem s’étonne d’avoir rencontré pour la première fois son égal, presque son maître, et de sentir son cœur défaillir sans savoir pourquoi. Le second jour, au moment de reprendre la lutte, Sohrab a un mouvement de tendresse, et la nature, près de succomber, fait en lui comme un suprême effort. En abordant le vieux chef, il s’adresse à lui le sourire sur les lèvres et comme s’ils avaient passé la nuit amicalement ensemble:
  ‘“Comment as-tu dormi?” lui demande-t-il, “comment t’es-tu levé ce matin? Pourquoi as-tu préparé ton cœur pour la lutte? Jette cette massue et cette épée de la vengeance, jette tout cet appareil d’un combat impie. Asseyons-nous tous deux à terre, et adoucissons avec ou vin nos regards courroucés. Faisons un traité en invoquant Dieu, et repentons-nous dans notre cœur de cette inimitié. Attends qu’un autre se présente pour le combat, et apprête avec moi une fete. Mon cœur te communiquera son amour, et je ferai couler de tes yeux des larmes de honte. Puisque tu es nè d’une noble race, fais-moi connaître ton origine; ne me cache pas ton nom, puisque tu vas me combattre: ne serais-tu pas Roustem?”
  ‘Roustem, par sentiment d’orgueil, et soupçonnant toujours une feinte de la part d’un jeune homme avide de gloire, dissimule une dernière fois, et, dès ce moment, le sort n’a plus de trêve. Toutes les ruses de Roustem (et j’en supprime encore) tournent contre lui; il finit par plonger un poignard dans la poitrine de son fils, et ne le reconnaît que dans l’instant suprême. Le jeune homme meurt avec résignation, avec douceur, en pensant à sa mère, à ses amis, en recommandant qu’on épargne après lui cette armée qu’il a engagée dans une entreprise téméraire:
  ‘“Pendant bien des jours, je leur ai donné de belles paroles, je leur ai donné l’espoir de tout obtenir; car comment pouvaisje savoir, ô héros illustre, que je périrais de la main de mon père?… Je voyais les signes que ma mère m’avait indiqués, mais je n’en eroyais pas mes yeux. Mon sort était écrit audessus dessus de ma tête, et je devais mourir de la main de mon père. Je suis venu comme la foudre, je m’en vais comme le vent; peut-être que je te retrouverai heureux dans le ciel!”
  ‘Ainsi parle en expirant cet autre Hippolyte, immolé ici de la main de Thésée.’
  A writer in the Christian Remembrancer (of the general tenour of whose remarks I have, assuredly, no right to complain) having made the discovery of this notice by M. Sainte-Beuve, has pointed out the passages in which I have made use of the extracts from M. Mohl’s translation which it contains; has observed, apparently with blame, that I ‘have not thought fit to offer a single syllable of acknowledgment to an author to whom I have been manifestly very largely indebted;’ has complained of being ‘under some embarrassment from not being sure how much of the treatment is Mr. Arnold’s own;’ and, finally, has suggested that ‘the whole work of M. Mohl may have been used throughout, and the study of antiquity carried so far as simply to reproduce an ancient poem as well as an ancient subject.’
  It would have been more charitable, perhaps, had the reviewer, before making this good natured suggestion, ascertained, by reference to M. Mohl’s work, how far it was confirmed by the fact.
  The reader, however, is now in possession of the whole of the sources from which I have drawn the story of Sohrab and Rustum, and can determine, if he pleases, the exact amount of my obligation to M. Mohl. But I hope that it will not in future be supposed, if I am silent as to the sources from which a poem has been derived, that I am trying to conceal obligations, or to claim an absolute originality for all parts of it. When any man endeavours to ‘remanier et réinventer à sa manière’ a great story, which, as M. Sainte-Beuve says of that of Sohrab and Ruslum, has ‘couru le monde’, it may be considered quite certain that he has not drawn all the details of his work out of his own head. The reader is not, I think, concerned to ask, from what sources these have been drawn; but only how the whole work, as it stands, affects him. Real plagiarism, such as the borrowing without acknowledgment of passages from other English poets—real dishonesty, such as the endeavouring to pass off the mere translation of a poem as an original work—are always certain enough to be discovered.
  I must not be led on, from defending the morality of my imitation, to defend at length its aesthetics; but I cannot forbear adding, that it would be a most unfortunate scruple which should restrain an author, treating matter of history or tradition, from placing, where he can, in the mouths of his personages the very words of the old chronicle, or romance, or poem (when the poem embodies, as that of Ferdousi, the tradition of a people); and which should lead him to substitute for these any ‘eigene grosse[n] Erfindungen’. For my part, I only regret that I could not meet with a translation from Ferdousi’s poem of the whole of the episode of Sohrab and Rustum: with a prose translation, that is: for in a verse translation no original work is any longer recognizable. I should certainly have made all the use I could of it. The use of the tradition, above everything else, gives to a work that naïvelé, that flavour of reality and truth, which is the very life of poetry. [Arnold.]
  [Note first inserted in 1854, omitted in 1857.] [back]
Note 2. know’st] knowest 1853, 1854. [back]
Note 3. 71–73 first inserted in 1854. [back]
Note 4. But, if this one desire indeed] Or, if indeed this one desire 1853. [back]
Note 5. sugar’d mulberries: Arnold says in a letter that his authority for this statement was Burnes (James Burnes, 1801–62, author of Narrative of a Visit to Scinde, 1830). [back]
Note 6. feast-tide] feast day 1853, 1854. [back]
Note 7. ran] pour’d 1853. [back]
 
 
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