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What girl Now reads in her bosom as clear As Rebekah read, when she sate At eve by the palm-shaded well ? 1 Who guards in her breast As deep, as pellucid a spring Of feeling, as tranquil, as sure?

Freshening its current and spotted with foam
As it draws to the Ocean, may strike 81
Peace to the soul of the man on its breast:

As the pale waste widens around him
As the banks fade dimmer away
As the stars come out, and the night-wind
Brings up the stream
Murmurs and scents of the infinite Sea.

40

SOHRAB AND RUSTUM

AN EPISODE

What Bard, At the height of his vision, can deem Of God, of the world, of the soul, With a plainness as near, As flashing as Moses felt, When he lay in the night by his flock On the starlit Arabian waste? 2 Can rise and obey The beck of the Spirit like him?

This tract which the River of Time

50 Now flows through with us, is the Plain. Gone is the calm of its earlier shore. Border'd by cities and hoarse With a thousand cries is its stream. And we on its breast, our minds Are confused as the cries which we hear, Changing and shot as the sights which we

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And the first grey of morning fill'd the cast,
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
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, 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: 3 Through the black tents he pass'd, o'er that

low strand, 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 With a clay fort : but that was fall’n; and

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Haply, the River of Time,
As it grows, as the towns on its marge
Fling their wavering lights
On a wider, statelier stream
May acquire, if not the calm
Of its early mountainous shore,

Yet a solemn peace of its own.

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

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And the width of the waters, the hush Of the grey expanse where he floats,

stood
Upon the thick-pil'd carpets in the tent,
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

1 the great river now called Amu Daria, flowing between Afghanistan and Bokhara and emptying into the Aral Sea ? leader of the Tartars plateau of Pamir (16,000 ft. high), where the Oxus has its source

3 the

* cf. Genesis xxiv 2 cf. Exodus iii

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Was dull'd; for he slept light, an old man's sleep;

29 And he rose quickly on one arm, and said :

“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 Sleep; but I sleep not; all night long I lie Tossing and wakeful, and I come to thee. For so did King Afrasiab 1 bid me seek Thy counsel, and to heed thee as thy son, In Samarcand, before the army march’d; And I will tell thee what my heart desires. 41 Thou know'st 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. 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 - 49 Rustum, my father; who, I hop'd, should

greet, Should one day greet, 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 Will challenge forth the bravest Persian lords To meet me, man to 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 ! Canst thou not rest among the Tartar chiefs, And share the battle's common chance with us Who love thee, but must press forever first, In single fight incurring single risk, To find a father thou hast never seen? 70 Or, if indeed this one desire rules all, To seek out Rustum - seek him not through

fight: 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:
But now he keeps apart, and sits at home,
In Seîstan,' with Zal, his father old.
Whether that his own mighty strength at last
Feels the abhorr'd approaches of old age; 81
Or in some quarrel with the Persian King.
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 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

91 His bed, and the warm rugs whereon he lay, 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 placed his sheep-skin cap, Black, glossy, curld, the fleece of Kara-Kul;? And rais'd the curtain of his tent, and callid 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: And from their tents the Tartar horsemen fild 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: 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 5 Caspian reed-bed, southward

100

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la district in southwestern Afghanistan, bordering on Persia ? a district of Bokhara noted for sheep, near the city of Bokhara 3 Kasbin, a city south of the Caspian Sea and the Elburz Mountains 4 belonging to the Aral Sea frozen

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For the warm Persian sea-board: so they “Ferood, and ye, Persians and Tartars, stream'd.

hear! The Tartars of the Oxus, the King's guard, Let there be truce between the hosts to-day. First, with black sheep-skin caps and with But choose a champion from the Persian lords long spears ;

To fight our champion Sohrab, man to man.' Large men, large steeds; who from Bokhara As, in the country, on a morn in June, 151 come

When the dew glistens on the pearlèd ears, And Khiva, and ferment the milk of mares. A shiver runs through the deep corn for Next the more temperate Toorkmuns? of the joy – south,

So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa said, The Tukas, 3 and the lances of Salore,

119

A thrill through all the Tartar squadrons ran And those from Attruck 4 and the Caspian Of pride and hope for Sohrab, whom they sands;

lov'd: Light men, and on light steeds, who only drink But as a troop of peddlers, from Cabool,2 The acrid milk of camels, and their wells. Cross underneath the Indian Caucasus,3 And then a swarm of wandering horse, who That vast sky-neighboring mountain of milk

Snow;

159 From far, and a more doubtful service own'd; Winding so high, that, as they mount, they The Tartars of Ferghana, from the banks

pass Of the Jaxartes, men with scanty beards Long flocks of travelling birds dead on the And close-set skull-caps; and those wilder snow, hordes

Chok'd by the air, and scarce can they themWho roam o'er Kipchak and the northern selves waste,

Slake their parch'd throats with sugar'd mulKalmuks and unkemp'd Kuzzaks, tribes who berries stray

In single file they move, and stop their breath, Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes, For fear they should dislodge the o'erhanging Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere. 131 These all fil'd out from camp into the plain. So the pale Persians held their breath with

And on the other side the Persians form'd: fear. First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they And to Ferood his brother Chiefs came up seemid,

To counsel : Gudurz and Zoarrah came, The Ilyats of Khorassan:7 and behind, And Feraburz, who ruld the Persian host The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot, Second, and was the uncle of the King: 170 Marshal'd battalions bright in burnished steel. These came and counsellid; and then Gudurz But Peran-Wisa with his herald came,

said : Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front, “Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge And with his staff kept back the foremost ир, ranks.

Yet champion have we none to match this And when Ferood, who led the Persians, saw youth. That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back, 142 He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart. He took his spear, and to the front he came, But Rustum came last night; aloof he sits And check'd his ranks, and fix'd them where And sullen, and has pitched his tents apart: they stood.

Him will I seek, and carry to his ear And the old Tartar came upon the sand The Tartar challenge, and this young man's Betwixt the silent hosts, and spake, and said :

Haply he will forget his wrath, and fight. 179

Stand forth the while, and take their chal1 to make kumiss, an intoxicating drink lenge up.” 2 Turcomans 3 the Tekke-Turcomans from Merv So spake he; and Ferood stood forth and 4 the river Atrek, which nows into the Caspian said: Sea (at the southeast corner) now the Syr “Old man, be it agreed as thou hast said. Daria, which rises in northern Pamir and flows into the Aral Sea 6 Cossacks ? a desert district grain, not Indian corn ? Kabul 3 the Hinduin northeastern Persia

Kush Mountains

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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, 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 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, 197 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. 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: 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 ! 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: “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. 222 Rustum je 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, 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, 230 And clip his borders short, and drive his herds, And he has none to guard his weak old age. 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, And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no more."

238 He spoke, and smiled; 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, 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? Thou knowest better words than this to say. What is one more, one less, obscure or famd, Valiant or craven, young or old, to me? Are not they mortal, am not I myself? But who for men of nought would do great

deeds? Come, thou shall 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,

257 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

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1 Zal was at this time old, but according to tradition he was born with snow-white hair, on which account his father cast him out on the Elburz Mountains, where he was miraculously preserved by a griffin, cf. ll. 676-9.

His followers in, and bade them bring his arms,
And clad himself in steel: the arms he chose
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,

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 270 Did in Bokhara by the river find

A colt beneath its dam, and drove him home, 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:

281

So follow'd, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd
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,
By sandy Bahrein,' in the Persian Gulf,
Plunging all day into the blue waves, at night,
Having made up his tale2 of precious pearls,
Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands
So dear to the pale Persians Rustum came.
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

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Down through the middle of a rich man's corn,
And on each side are squares of standing corn,
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
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

300 Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire

At cock-crow on a starlit winter's morn, When the frost flowers the whiten'd windowpanes

1 an island famous for pearl-fisheries 2 required number

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,

331
The mighty voice of Rustum; and he saw
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;

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! 340 Art thou not Rustum? Speak! art thou not he?"

But Rustum ey'd askance the kneeling youth,

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,

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