DICK DAVIS was born in Portsmouth, England in 1945 and educated at Kings College, Cambridge (B.A. and M.A. in English Literature), and at the University of Manchester (Ph.D. in Medieval Persian Literature). He is currently professor of Persian at Ohio State University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
And now, o expert story-teller, make
A well-turned narrative for us; whenever
A poets words conform to wisdoms ways
His spirit brings us comfort (while the man
Whose thoughts are ugly finds his purposes
Spoilt by that ugliness, he crucifies
Himself and is a laughing-stock to those
Who understand; though no man sees his own faults,
You think your characters all spotless brilliance!)
But, if a works to last, first make it well
And then you must present it to the learned;
If they approve, its passed the test and on
It flows like water in the stream youve made.
Now make a story from the words the lord
Who gathered ancient legends1 has passed on,
See you recite the matter faithfully.
These stories have grown old, but now, through me,
Theyll live again, renewed, among the people
And if a long lifes granted me, if Im
To stay a while here in lifes pleasant vineyard,
A fruit-tree will remain when I am gone,
Displaying splendid fruit above the meadows.
A man whos lived to fifty-eight like me
Has seen innumerable wonders happen,
But his ambition stays as strong as ever,
And still he combs through almanacs or has
His fortune told to know whats going to be.
But wise men say, Whats old cannot grow young.
In all your eloquence be circumspect,
Seek fame throughout the world, and when youve gone
Its God who will decide if hell or heaven
Awaits you. But remember, as you sow
So shall you reap, and what you say will be
The words youll hear men speak of you; the man
Whos gently spoken never hears harsh words
Seek only justice in the world. Return
Now to the story which that lord collected;
Watch for the words the poet will recite.
the beginning of the story
A priest of Zoroaster2 said: One day,
At cock-crow, Tus and Giv, Gudarzs son,
Accompanied by a group of horsemen, left
Their kings court in good spirits to hunt wild asses
With hawks and cheetahs on the plain of Dagui.
They killed enough to last for forty days.
They werent that far from Turkish territory
The land was black with Turkish tentswhen in
The distance, near the border with Turan3
They saw a thicket; Tus and Giv rode on,
A few retainers following them; the two
Approached the place and circled it,
And, hidden in the bushes, there they found
A beautiful young girl; both laughed aloud
And hurried forward, for in all the world
She had no equal, in her loveliness
There was no fault. Giv spoke to her, You are
As heart-bewitching as the moon, how have
You made your way to this dense thicket here?
She said, Last night my father set on me
I ran away from home. Hed come back late,
The night was dark and he was tipsy from
Some marriage-feast; when he caught sight of me
While he was still a long way off, he drew
His glittering dagger, threatening that hed hack
My head off from my body there and then.
The warrior asked her next about her lineage;
She answered him precisely, I am from
The family of Garsivaz, we trace
Our line back to king Faridun himself.4
But how he urged, did you get here on foot,
Without a horse or guide? She said, My horse
Collapsed, exhausted, under me; Id brought
A quantity of gold and jewels, and Id
A gold crown on my headmen robbed me on
That hill-top over there, they beat me with
The scabbard of a sword. And when my father
Discovers what has happened he is certain
To send his horsemen chasing after me,
My mother too is sure to hurry here
She wouldnt want me to desert my homeland.
The warriors hearts were softened by her words,
But Tus the son of Nozar lost all shame
And said, I found her, since I got here first
Shes mine. Giv answered him, My noble lord,
Werent you with me and all the rest of us?
But Tus snapped, My horse got here first! Giv said,
Dont talk such rubbish! My horse led the field
Dont stoop to lying for a slave-girl; a man
Whos chivalrous is never quarrelsome.
Their argument grew so intense that they
Were ready to decapitate the girl;
Their angry wrangling only ended when
A warrior interposed, suggesting that
They take her to the king and there they both
Abide by his decision on the case.
Neither objected and they turned back to
The Persian court. But when Kavus beheld
The young girls face he laughed, then gnawed his lip;
He said to both the warriors, Well, I see
Youve lightened your long expeditions trials!
Now we can pass the day recounting how
Our warriors catch the sun with hunting cheetahs;
She is a deer, a beautiful young doe,.
Such prey is worthy of the best there is!
He asked her then, What family are you from?
Because your face seems like an angels face.
She said, My mothers from Khatun, and on
My fathers side we trace our lineage back
To Faridun. My fathers father is
The great commander Garsivaz, and in
The border marches his tents at the centre
Of our encampment. King Kavus replied,
And you were ready to abandon to
The winds this face, this hair, this family?
Youre worthy of a gold throne in my harem,
Ill make you first among the women there.
She said, I saw you, and before all others
I chose you for my own, my lord. The king
Dispatched this lovely idol to his quarters
And ordered that they seat her on a throne;
There she was dressed in cloth of gold, arrayed
With rubies, turquoise, lapis-lazuli,
And given every gift her state deserved;
She was herself a ruby, pure, uncut.