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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Death of Dara [Darius]

By Firdawsī (c. 940–1020)

From the ‘Shāh-Nāmah’: Translation of Samuel Robinson

THE VIZIERS came to Iskandar [Alexander the Great] and said:

“O King, crowned with victories and knowledge,

We have just slain thine enemy.

Come to an end is his diadem and the throne of princes.”

When Janusyar had thus spoken, Iskandar said to Mahyar:—

“The enemy ye have cast down—where is he? Show me the nearest road thither.”

They went before him, and the King of the Greeks followed,

His heart and his eyes filled with tears of blood.

When he came near he saw that the face of Dara

Was pale as the flower of the fenugreek,

And his breast clotted with gore.

Having commanded that they should quit their horses

And keep guard over the two ministers,

Swift as the wind Iskandar dismounted from his charger,

And placed on his thigh the head of the wounded man.

He looked to see whether Dara was still in a condition to speak,

Passed both his hands over his face,

Withdrew the royal diadem from his head,

Unclasped the warlike breastplate from his breast,

And rained down a flood of tears from his eyes when he saw the wounded body,

And the physician far away.

“May it go well with thee,” he exclaimed,

“And let the heart of the malevolent tremble!

Raise thyself and seat thyself on this golden cushion,

And if thou hast strength enough, place thyself in the saddle.

I will bring physicians from Greece and India;

I will shed tears of blood for thy sufferings;

I will restore to thee thy kingdom and thy throne,

And we will depart as soon as thou art better.

When yester-evening the old men told me what had happened,

My heart swelled with blood, my lips uttered cries.

We are of one branch, one root, one body-garment:

Why, through our ambition, should we extirpate our race?”

When Dara heard, with a weak voice he replied:—

“May wisdom be thy companion forever!

I believe that from thy God, the just, the holy,

Thou wilt receive a recompense for these thy words.

But for what thou hast said, that Persia shall be mine,

Thine be the throne and the crown of the brave,—

Nearer to me is death than a throne;

My fortune is turned upside down; my throne is at an end.

Such is the determination of the lofty sphere;

Its delights are sorrows, and its profit is ruin.

Take heed that thou say not, in the pride of thy valor,

‘I have been superior to this renowned army.’

Know that good and evil are alike from God,

And give him the praise that thyself art still alive.

I am myself a sufficient example of this,

And my history is a commentary upon it for every one.

For what greatness was mine, and sovereignty, and treasure!

And to no one hath suffering ever come through me.

What arms and armies, too, were mine!

And what quantities of horses, and thrones, and diadems!

What children and relatives—

Relatives whose hearts were stamped with my mark.

The earth and the age were as slaves before me.

So was it as long as fortune was my friend;

But now I am severed from all my happiness,

And am fallen into the hands of murderers.

I am in despair about my children and my kinsmen;

The world is become black, and my eyes are darkened.

No one of my relatives cometh to my assistance;

I have no hope but in the great Provider, and that is enough.

Behold me, wounded and stretched upon the ground!

Fate hath ensnared me in the net of destruction.

This is the way of the changeful sphere

With every one, whether he be king or warrior.

In the end all greatness passeth away;

It is a chase in which man is the quarry and Death is the hunter.”

Iskandar rained tears of anguish from his eyes over the wounded King,

As he lay stretched on the ground.

When Dara perceived that the grief was from his heart,

And saw the torrent of tears which flowed from his pale cheek,

He said to him:—“All this is of no avail.

From the fire no portion is mine but the smoke;

This is my gift from the All-giver,

And all that remaineth of my once brilliant fortune.

Now give me thine ear from first to last;

Receive what I say, and execute it with judgment.”

Iskandar replied:—“It is for thee to command;

Say what thou wilt, thou hast my promise.”

Rapidly Dara unbound his tongue;

Point by point he gave instructions about everything:—

“First, illustrious prince, fear thou God, the righteous Maker,

Who made heaven and earth and time; who created the weak and the strong:

Watch over my children, and my kindred, and my beloved veiled women;

Ask of me in marriage my chaste daughter, and make her happy in thy palace;

To whom her mother gave the name of Roshank,

And in her made the world contented and joyful.

Thou wilt never from my child hear a word of chiding,

Nor will her worst enemy utter a calumny against her.

As she is the daughter of a line of kings,

So in prudence she is the crown of women.

Perhaps she will bring thee an illustrious son,

Who will revive the name of Isfandyar,

Will stir up the fire of Zoroaster,

Take in his hand the Zendavesta;

Will observe the auguries and feast of Sadah, and that of the New Year,

Renew the splendor of the fire-temples of Hormuzd,

The Sun, the Moon, and Mithra;

Will wash his face and his soul in the waters of wisdom,

Re-establish the customs of Lohrasp,

Restore the Kaianian rites of Gushtasp;

Will treat the great as great and the little as little,

Rekindle religion, and be fortunate.”

Iskandar answered:—“O good-hearted and righteous King,

I accept thy injunctions and thy testament;

I will remain in this country only to execute them.

I will perform thy excellent intentions;

I will make thy intelligence my guide.”

The master of the world seized the hand of Iskandar,

And wept and lamented bitterly;

He placed the palm of it on his lips, and said to him:—“Be God thy refuge!

I leave thee my throne, and return to the dust;

My soul I leave to God the holy.”

He spoke, and his soul quitted his body,

And all who were about him wept bitterly.

Iskandar rent all his garments,

And scattered dust on the crown of the Kaianians.

He built a tomb for him agreeably to the customs of his country,

And suitable to his faith and the splendor of his rank.

They washed the blood from his body with precious rose-water,

Since the time of the eternal sleep had arrived.

They wrapped it in brocade of Rūm,

Its surface covered with jewels on a ground of gold.

They hid it under a coating of camphor,

And after that no one saw the face of Dara any more.

In the tomb they placed for him a dais of gold,

And on his head a crown of musk.

They laid him in a coffin of gold,

And rained over him from their eyelids a shower of blood.

When they raised the coffin from the ground,

They bore it, turn by turn;

Iskandar went before it on foot,

And the grandees followed behind, shedding tears of anguish.

So they proceeded to the sepulchre of Dara,

And placed the coffin on the dais, performing all the ceremony due to kings;

And when they had completed the magnificent monument,

They erected gibbets before it, and executed the murderers.