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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 the pale waste widens around him
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM
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
And the first grey of morning fill'd the cast,
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
Haply, the River of Time,
Yet a solemn peace of its own.
The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa's tent,
And the width of the waters, the hush Of the grey expanse where he floats,
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
* cf. Genesis xxiv 2 cf. Exodus iii
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!
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
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
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,
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
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
Let Sohrab arm, and we will find a man."
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
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
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,
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:
So follow'd, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd
Down through the middle of a rich man's corn,
Bristling, and in the midst, the open sand.
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.
And he ran forwards and embrac'd his knees,
"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
False, wily, boastful, are these Tartar boys.