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First published 1913 


Sohrab and Rustum is usually read at an age when students 
may be expected to study not merely the substance of a poem 
but also its form, including- both structure and style, and its 
imaginative colouring. Considerahl_atten.tion has therefore 
been bestowed in the introduction and notes upon the literary 
characteristics of the poem, and an attempt has bcenjtnade to 
encourage its study in the light of general literary principles. 

With a view to the requirements of Indian students some 
information has been given which the English student would 
know, or could find out for himself. Much of this has, how- 
ever, been set apart in a Glossary. 

July 1913. DACCA COLLEGE. 






i. Types of Epic Poetry ix 

2. Epic Qualities of Sohrab and Rustum xii 

3.' The Story of Sohrab and Rustum - ... xvi 

4. Arnold's Treatment of the Story - xviii 

5. Other Versions of the Story xx 

6. Arnold's Literary Principles xxi 

7. General Characteristics of Style - ... xxvii 

8. Structure of the Plot xxviii 

9. The Similes xxx 

10. Repetitions and Archaisms xxxv 

ii. The Metre xxxv 



NOTES - 31 





MAP 53 



POETRY may roughly be divided into two kinds : (a) 
Subjective poetry in which the poet expresses his own 
feelings and thoughts, *.g., Lyric poetry, (b) Objective 
poetry in which the poet represents things that exist, or 
events that happen, outside himself. Descriptive poetry 
tries to represent in words the perceptible qualities of 
natural objects. Narrative poetry finds its material in 
external events ; it relates actions. 

The most important form of narrative poetry is the 
Epic. 4ppic is the name given to that " species of poetic . . 
composition, represented typically by the Iliad and 
Odyssey, which celebrates in the form of a continuous 
narrative the achievements of one or more heroic per- 
sonages of history or tradition i'. (New English Dic- 
tionary) Its name, derived from the Greek Epos, ' a 
word,-' indicates that it is to be distinguished from Lyric 
as something said or told and not sung. 

There are two distinct types of epic (i) the primitive 
epic, or epic of growth, and (2) the imitative or artificial 

Amongst the earliest forms of poetry were rough hymns 
in praise of tribal gods or heroes, sung by the clan in 
chorus to the accompaniment of a simple dance. 1 These 
would be gradually supplemented and finally almost 

1 Probably similar in structure to the Vedic hymns, though doubtless 
more crude. The Rig- Veda illustrates the gradual growth of the narra- 
tive element ; for instance, ' when Indra is extolled or invoked, a 
reference is not infrequently made to the achievements of the God, 
his wrestling with the thunder-storm, or some similar deed '. 
Jireczek, Deutsche Hcldensagc, trans. Bentinck Smith. (Dent & Co.) 



displaced by recitals of the deeds of the heroes ; first by 
mere allusion, later by actual narration of their exploits. 
The songs became legendary rather than hymnic ; the 
narrative element increased while the choral or lyric 
element decreased. 

As writing was not yet invented these lays would be 
memorised and handed on by one professional minstrel to 
another. Many would gather about the figure of some 
great national hero, including some that were not origi- 
nally connected with him. The legendary material thus 
provided and preserved by oral tradition would be worked 
up into a complex narrative whole and given a definite 
structural unity by some great bard. ' Detached lays of 
an episodic character mark the first step '. * It would be 
the work of minstrels, priests, and poets, as the national 
spirit grew conscious of itself to shape all these materials 
into a definite body of tradition. This is the rule of 
development first scattered stories, then the union of 
these into a national legend '. l 

This artistic whole might then be supplemented, 
modified, polished, more imaginatively coloured by one 
or more later bards before finally it was committed to 
writing in a later age. 

This is the true epic, or as it may be called to distinguish 
it from a later development, the primitive epic or epic 
of growth. 

Examples are the Old English epic, Beowulf, the 
German Nibelungenlied, the Sanskrit Mahdbhdrata and 
Rdmdyana (although these have much didactic interpo- 
lation). The greatest of all are the Homeric Iliad and 
Odyssey ; but it is slightly misleading to apply the term 
4 primitive ' to these epics, which show a high artistic 
unity of structure, as well as a fineness in detail, that could 
only have been the work of a great poetic genius. 

1 Butcher & Lang, The Odyssey of Homer. (Macmillan & Co.) 


is not large in scale. Matthew Arnold said of the epic in 
general that * it treats of one great complex action in a 
grand style, and with fulness of detail '. His poem, 
however, treats only of one event, and therefore is only an 
epic incident, or as he called it, an episode. It might also 
be called an epic in miniature. 

Again, it is not national ; the heroes are oriental, but 
the poet is English. The events are those of an age over 
two thousand years before Arnold's century. It is then a 
literary revival, and belongs to the artificial or imitative 
type of epic. Its material is taken from an epos which 
Arnold came to know, not by tradition, but by rending 

In his general method of treatment too Matthew Arnold 
is imitative ; he deliberately took Homer as his model, 
not merely in structure, but in the details of style, espe- 
cially similes ; and he frequently copies even particular 
images and expressions. (Cf. notes on lines ill and 735 
for examples.) For evidence of the influence of Milton 
(apart from the similes and repetitions) see the notes on 
lines 114, 115, and 277. It is also to be noted that Arnold 
makes use of many words that are now obsolete or not in 
ordinary use in order to give an archaic appearance. For 
a list of these, see p. xxxv. 

One further limitation must be made : Arnold's poem 
does not bear what Shelley called ' a defined and intelli- 
gible relation to the knowledge and sentiment and religion 
of the age in which he lived'. Save in an incidental 
way there is in his characters no reflection of the life 
and forms of thought of his own time ; in the few places 
where modern ideas break through they are distinctly 
obtruded and are out of harmony with the general tone 
of the poem. 



The Tartars (or Turanians) and Persians were, as usual, 
at war. At the time of this episode (c. 600 B.C.) the King 
of Iran (or Persia) was Kai-Kaus, who, according to 
Firdausi, was a foolish and luxurious tyrant. The chief 
command of his armies was given to a great hero, Rustum, 
renowned for his strength and warlike valour. 

Rustum had married Tahmineh, daughter of the 
Turanian king of Samengan in Ader-baijan, but soon left 
her for the active life of war. A son was born, Sohrab, 
who grew up with remarkable strength and skill in arms. 
When he learnt of the glorious deeds of his great father 
Sohrab was fired with an overmastering desire to find 
Rustum and emulate his feats. Accordingly he set forth 
to war against Kai-Kaus and conquer Iran for his father 
Then together they would overrun Turan as well. 

Afrasiab, King of the Turanians, and therefore a natural 
enemy of Persia, helped him with an army and treasure, 
thinking that Rustum, the bulwark of Persia, might thus 
be destroyed by the younger hero, and that when Persia 
was helpless they could easily put Sohrab out of the way, 
and he himself would be master both of Iran and of Turan. 
Haman the commander of the Tartar army was instructed 
by Afrasiab to prevent Sohrab from discovering the 
identity of Rustum, and Rustum from knowing that 
Sohrab was his son ; l 

' For this bold youth must not his father know 
Each must confront the other as his foe ... 
Unknown the youth shall Rustum's force withstand, 
And soon o'erwhelm the bulwark of the land '. 

The Turanians marched on Persia, and Sohrab defeated 
and took prisoner a famous warrior Hujir, and captured 

1 Rustum had been told by Tahmineh that their issue was a daughter, 
because she was afraid lest her son should be taken away to be trained 

in war. 


the strong frontier fortress. The report of Sohrab's deeds 
was carried to the Persian king, and he in alarm sent to 
call Rustum to his aid. After feasting the envoys lavishly 
Rustum at length appeared, but when Kaus, enraged at 
the delay, threatened him with impalement, he taunted 
the king with his folly and weakness, and departed in 
anger. The warrior Gudurz however was sent to appease 
him, and a reconciliation was effected. 

Rustum went to spy out the Tartar camp, and on his 
return described the appearance of Sohrab : 

In stature perfect, as the cypress tree, 
No Tartar ever boasted such a presence . . , 
Seeing his form, thou woulds't at once declare 
That he is Sam, the warrior ; so majestic 
In mien and action. 

Sohrab challenged Kaus to single combat, but the king 
discreetly declined ; and Rustum at length was prevailed 
upon to take up the challenge, insisting however on 
fighting under a feigned name, ' a usage ', says Malcolm, 
* not uncommon in the chivalrous combats of those days '. 

Rustum on the first day feeling pity for Sohrab's youth 
proposed that they should part in friendship, and Sohrab 
thinking that the noble mien of his opponent could belong 
to none but his glorious father asked if he were not 
Rustum. Rustum, however, denied this. After fighting 
with spear, sword, mace, bow and arrow, and wrestling, 
they parted for the night, the advantage being with 

Sohrab was assured by Haman that his antagonist was 
not Rustum, but an instinctive feeling of affection rose in 
his heart, and on the second day he renewed Rustum's 
proposal that they should sit together in peace. Rustum 
refused in anger, and in the wrestling that followed was 
worsted, but saved his life by an appeal to the chivalry 


of Sohrab, claiming the benefit of an alleged Persian 
custom that required the victor in a first contest to spare 
his antagonist for a second trial ; ' a chief may fight till 
he is twice overthrown '. 

On the third day Rustum gained the advantage in 
wrestling and immediately stabbed Sohrab with his dagger. 
When Sohrab declared that Rustum, his father, would 
avenge his death, the aged hero recognised his mistake, 
which was proved by the amulet that he had given 
Tahmineh to bind on the arm of any son that might be 
bora Consumed with remorse, Rustum flung himself on 
the ground and covered his head with dust. 

According to Sohrab's wishes the armies departed in 
peace, and he was buried in Seistan with his ancestors. 

Tahmineh was distracted with grief and set fire to her 
palace, meaning to perish in the flames, but was prevented 
by her attendants. She refused all consolation, taking only 
a melancholy joy in cherishing her son's horse, arms, and 

Till one long year had passed then welcome death 
Released her from the heavy load of life, 
The pressure of unmitigated woe. 

This is, in rough outline, the story of Sohrab as it is 
given in the Shah Nameh, or JBooLuoLJiings, the great 
epic written by the Persian poet Firdausi in the tenth 
century, A.D. And this is, in the main, the version that 
Matthew Arnold followed in his poem. 


The most important points of divergence' in detail 
between stories given by Arnold and by Firdausi are men- 
tioned in the notes. See notes on lines 29, 85 (and 223), 
I 5, 347-63, 5 20 > a*" 1 659. 


Arnold's change was, in general, one of compression ; 
and undoubtedly he has succeeded in making the incidents 
much more impressive to modern readers, in proportion 
as they are less long drawn out. For instance the three 
days of fighting have been reduced to one ; in fact the 
whole action is contained within dawn and sunset of one 
day. This concentration of interest in the crisis of the 
poem removes the tedium of the story as it is told in 
strictly chronological order, and certainly leads to a 
gain in effectiveness. 

His interest however was more in the situation than in 
the action, in representing the feelings and thoughts of 
Sohrab and Rustum rather than their deeds. In Firdausi 
the conversation after the fatal blow is relatively un- 
important, but in Arnold's poem this receives consider- 
able attention. 

As might have been expected of one in whose poems 
introspection or psychological analysis is so prominent a 
factor, he bestowed much more care on the motivation of 
the action ; see lines 243-59 and345-63. He notes the 
finer shades of character (lines 380-97, 427-47) ; and the 
subtler workings of the mind when under stress of various 
feelings and emotions anger, suspicion, affection, hope, 
despair, grief (lines 457-69, 345-63, 589-60, 694-7, 340-4, 
698-705, 616-40). 

It is significant that what most readers would pick out 
as the finest part of Sohrab and Rustum is the concluding 
passage with its sublime contrast, which has many 
parallels in Arnold's lyrical poems, between all the turmoil, 
the futile hurry, and the weariness of the busy world of 
men, and the calm self-dependence of nature. And 
this, too, in face of his own theory that actions form 
the true subject matter of poetry. The truth is that 
the subjective attitude was so dominant in Arnold's 
mental life that he could not prevent the intrusion of his 


own thoughts even in a deliberately objective poem. 
(C/. note to line 824.) He followed the bent of his own 
genius, and in his poem the story is, for better or worse, 


This story of a mortal conflict between father and son 
has its analogues in the legends of several other Aryan 

A similar incident is found in several versions in old 
Celtic literature, e.g., the Irish Aided Conlaoich (Death of 
Conlaech). The Irish hero Cuchulain had been in Scotland, 
or rather Skye, learning feats of arms from the Amazon 
Scathach, and after his return a son was born to him by 
her daughter Aiffe, whom he had left behind. He had left 
a ring to be given to the child, with injunctions never to 
reveal his name or parentage to a stranger. Some years 
later the youth Conlaech sought his father in Ireland. 
They met unknown, and Conlaech, after refusing to tell 
his name, was killed (though only by one trick of arms that 
he did not know) by his father in single combat. All too 
late Cuchulain saw the ring and recognised his horrible 
deed, and his affection for his son breaks out in a pathetic 

One of the earliest relics of German literature is the 
Ostrogothic Hildebrandslied. Hildebrand, the aged 
instructor in arms of Dietrich (Theodoric), had accom- 
panied his master into exile amongst the Huns. Years 
later he led a Hunnish army into Italy. He was opposed 
on the frontier by his son Hadubrand. Not knowing each 
other they determined on a single combat. The older 
man asked his opponent's name and parentage, and on 
being told ' Hadubrand, son of Hildebrand ', vowed that 


he was his father, and offered him bracelets of gold. But 
Hudubrand refused these in scorn, thinking that this was 
only some cunning trick to avoid the fight, or to entice 
him nearer the reach of Hildebrand's spear ; for he had 
heard that his father had died in battle. Hildebrand could 
not endure these taunts, and knowing that both armies 
would scorn him as a coward, he cried out in despair 
against the fate that doomed him, when he returned after 
thirty years' wandering, either to slay or to be slain by 
his own son. They engaged in mortal combat, fighting 
first with spears, then with swords, and (as we learn from 
other sources for the poem is a fragment) Hildebrand 
slew his son. 


In Sohrab and Rustum, in Tristram and Iseult, and in 
Balder Dead Arnold goes to the past for his subject- 
matter. In his method of treatment too he followed the 
models of classical Greek literature. Both in his choice 
of subject-matter and in his method of treatment he 
was following a deliberate theory. This theory was stated 
in the Author's Preface to the poems of 1853. 

He asks * What are the situations, from the representa- 
tion of which f no poetical enjoyment can be derived P 
They are (those in which the suffering finds no vent in 
action ; in which a continuous state of mental distress is 
prolonged, unrelieved by incident, hope, or resistance ;' 
in which there is everything to be endured, nothing 
to be done. When they occur in actual life, they are 
painful, not tragic; the representation of them in poetry 
is painful also'. 

Because it belonged to this class of situations, painful 
without relief, and dealt with thought rather than action, 


he excluded from the edition of 1853 his previously written 
poem, Empedocles on Etna. 1 

Some critics, however, believe that c the Poet who would 
really fix the public attention must leave the exhausted past, 
and draw his subjects from matters of present import '. 
This view Arnold considers to be false. He asks * What 
are the eternal objects of Poetry, among all nations, and 
at all times ? They are actions ; human actions ; posses- 
sing an inherent interest in themselves, and which are 
to be communicated in an interesting manner by the art 
of the Poet '. 

* The Poet, then, has in the first place to select an ex- 
cellent action ; and what actions are the most excellent ? 
Those, certainly, which most powerfully appeal to the 
great primary human affections ; to those elementary 
feelings which subsist permanently in the race, and which 
are independent of time. These feelings are permanent 
and the same ; that which interests them is permanent 
and the same also. The modernness or antiquity of an 
action, therefore, has nothing to do with its fitness for 
poetical representation ; this depends upon its inherent 
qualities. To the elementary part of our nature, to our 
passions, that which is great and passionate is eternally 
interesting ; and interesting solely in proportion to its 
greatness and to its passion. 

* Achilles, Prometheus, Clytemnestra, Dido what 
modern poem presents personages as interesting, even to 

1 In it he had intended to delineate the feelings of one of the last of 
the Greek religious philosophers who had lived on into a time when the 
habits of Greek thought and feeling had begun to change and modern 
habits of thought and feeling were showing themselves. ( What 
those who are familiar only with the great monuments of early 
Greek genius suppose to be its exclusive characteristics, have dis- 
appeared ; the calm, the cheerfulness, the disinterested objectivity 
have disappeared ; the dialogue of the mind with itself has commenced ; 
modern problems have presented themselves ; we hear already the 
doubts, we witness the discouragement, of Hamlet and of Faust '. 


us moderns, as these personages of an " exhausted 
past " '. We have the domestic epic dealing with the 
details of modern life which pass daily under our eyes ; 
we have poems representing modern personages in contact 
with the problems of modern life, moral, intellectual, and 
social ; these works have been produced by poets the 
most distinguished of their nation and time ; yet I 
fearlessly assert that Hermann and Dorothea, Childe 
Harold, The Excursion, leave the reader cold in com- 
parison with the effect produced upon him by the latter 
books of the Iliad, by the Oresteia, or by the episode of 
Dido. And why is this ? Simply because in the three 
latter cases the action is greater, the personages nobler, the 
situations more intense : and this is the true basis of the 
interest in a poetical work, and this alone. 

* It may be urged, however, that past actions may be 
interesting in themselves, but that they are not to be 
adopted by the modern Poet, because it is impossible for 
him to have them clearly present to his own mind, and he 
cannot therefore feel them deeply, nor represent them 
forcibly. But this is not necessarily the case. The 
externals of a past action, indeed, he cannot know with 
the precision of a contemporary ; but his business is with 
its essentials. The outward man of (Edipus or of Macbeth, 
the houses in which they lived, the ceremonies of their 
courts, he cannot accurately figure to himself ; but neither 
do they essentially concern him. His business is with their 
inward man ; with their feelings and behaviour in certain 
tragic situations, which engage their passions as men ; 
these have in them nothing local and casual ; they are as 
accessible to the modern Poet as to a contemporary. 

'The date of an action, then, signifies nothing: the 
action itself, its selection and construction, this is what is 
all important. This the Greeks understood far more clearly 
than we do. The radical difference between their poetical 


theory and ours consists, as it appears to me, in this : 
that, with them, the poetical character of the action in 
itself, and the conduct of it, was the first consideration ; 
with us, attention is fixed mainly on the value of the sepa- 
rate thoughts and images which occur in the treatment of 
an action. They regarded the whole ; we regard the 
parts. With them the action predominated over the 
expression of it ; with us, the expression predominates 
over the action. 1 'Not that they failed in expression, or 
were inattentive to it ; on the contrary, they are the 
highest models of expression, the unapproached masters 
of the grand style : but their expression is so excellent 
because it is so admirably kept in its right degree of 
prominence ; because it is so simple and so well subordi- 
nated ; because it draws its force directly from the 
pregnancy of the matter which it conveys.' 

Having, then, decided on his material, Arnold will, in 
order to learn the essentials of poetic art, sit at the feet of 
the Greeks. They are * the best models of instruction for 
the individual writer '. ' Clearness of arrangement, 
rigour of development, simplicity of style . . . these may 
be learned best from the ancients, who although infinitely 
less suggestive than Shakespeare, are thus, to the artist, 
more instructive.' 2 

1 Arnold does not wish the Poet to limit himself in his choice of 
subjects to the period of Greek and Roman antiquity. * I only 
counsel him to choose for his subject great actions, without regarding 
to what time they belong. Nor do I deny that the poetic faculty can 
and does manifest itself in treating the most trifling action. But it is 
a pity that power should be wasted ; and that the Poet should be 
compelled to impart interest and force to his subject, instead of 
receiving them from it, and thereby doubling his impressiveness .' 
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* Compare what he says elsewhere : * In a sincere endeavour to 
learn and practise amid the confusion of our times what is sound and 
true in poetic art, I seemed to myself to find the only sure guidance, 
the only solid footing among the ancients '. And in the advertise- 
ment to the edition of 1854 : ' Again, with respect to the study of the 


Matthew Arnold's theory is not to be accepted in its 
entirety. He seems to assume that excellence of subject- 
matter will necessarily produce excellence in treatment. 
' All depends on the subject ; choose a fitting action, 
penetrate yourself with the feeling of its situation ; this 
done, everything else will follow.' 

The story of Sohrab and Rustum is, as Arnold said in a 
letter, * a very noble and excellent one ', and full of the 
deep and simple elements of human feeling ; and he 
certainly did penetrate himself with the feeling of its 
situation. This is a necessary preliminary, but it is not 
everything ; for it is evident that an excellent subject 
may be treated worthily or unworthily. Sohrab and 
Rustum might easily have been a less fine poem ; Leigh 
Hunt's Story of Rimini is not to be compared with the 
episode in the Inferno of Dante, nor with the drama by 
Stephen Phillips ; but the inferiority is not due princi- 
pally to want of feeling for the situation. 

Some of Arnold's other deliberate sayings are hardly 
consonant with his dictum that all depends on the subject. 
' The noble and profound application of ideas to life ', 
which he considers * the most essential part of poetic 
greatness ', must take place ' under the conditions 
immutably fixed by the laws of poetic beauty and poetic 
truth '. Again, ' to the style and manner of the best 
poetry their special character, their accent, is given by 
their diction, and, even yet more, by their movement '. 

The ideal that Arnold had before him in writing Sohrab 
and Rustum was that of ' the grand style '. As an example 

classical writers of antiquity, it has been said that we should emulate 
rather than imitate them. I make no objection ; all I say is, let us 
study them . . . '. They will help to cure modern literature of its 
besetting sin fantasticism. ' Sanity that is the great virtue of the 
ancient literature : the want of that is the great defect of the modern, 
in spite of all its variety and power. It is impossible to read carefully 
the great ancients, without losing something of our caprice and 
eccentricity ; and to emulate them we must at least read them*. 


of what he means by the grand style he quotes Milton, 
Paradise Lost, I., 591. 

His form had not yet lost 
All her original brightness, nor appeared 
Less than Archangel ruined, and the excess 
Of glory obscured. 

It arises, he says, ' when a noble nature, poetically gifted, 
treats with simplicity or with severity a serious subject '. 
Perhaps a better definition is that given by Mr. John 
Bailey in a paper read before the English Association. 
* The Grand Style arises in poetry when a great subject is 
treated by the action of the imagination with severity or 
with a noble simplicity '. He instances Pindar. * His 
subjects are not by themselves great subjects ; they are 
the mere victories of aristocratic athletes or chariot 
owners ; but, and this is the important point, he seldom 
fails so to treat them that they become great, by bringing 
them into relation with things of inherent poetic greatness, 
the august beginnings of an ancient and noble house, the 
connexion of the human and the divine, the eternal 
majesty of law and right. By the greatness of his nature 
and the power of his style he carries the minds of his 
readers far away above his patron's personal achieve- 
ments, fulfilling and exalting their imagination with the 
vision of high things of everlasting truth and import.' 

It may safely be said, then, that all does not depend on 
the subject ; but that there are at least three essentials : 

(1) Choice of a fitting action, an excellent subject ; 

(2) ' high imaginative conception of the subject ' ; 

(3) ' the compelling power of style '. 



'What distinguishes the artist from the mere amateur', 
says Goethe, ' is Architectonic} in the highest sense ; that 
power of execution which creates, forms, and constitutes : 
not the profoundness of single thoughts, not the richness 
of imagery, not the abundance of illustration '. (Author's 

From what Arnold has said in his preface about the 
poetic art we shall expect Sohrab and Rustum not to be a 
poem that exists * merely for the sake of single lines and 
passages ', but one that depends rather on the c total 
impression '. It is great because of his c skill in discerning 
and firmly conceiving an excellent action, from his power 
of intensely feeling a situation, of intimately associating 
himself with a character ' qualities which Arnold him- 
self notices in Shakespeare. In it his style has all * the 
severe and scrupulous self-restraint of the ancients ', and 
their ' conscientious rejection of superfluities 9 . 

Its chief merits, then, are the clearness, sympathy, and 
power with which the scene and action are visualised ; 
and the restraint and dignity of the style its directness 
and simplicity, and the absence of florid ornamentation. 
Sohrab and Rustum shows in a considerable degree what 
Arnold pointed out as the principal qualities of Homeric 
style rapidity in movement, plainness and directness in 
expression, directness and simplicity of thought, nobility 
of manner. His language is characterised by purity, 
lucidity, and precision ; and it very rarely fails in finish 
and grace. 

To sum up in the words of Henry James, * Splendour, 
music, passion, breadth of movement and rhythm, we 
find in him in no great abundance ; what we do find is 
high distinction of feeling, a temperance, a kind of modesty 


of expression, which is at the same time an artistic resource 
and a remarkable faculty for touching the chords which 
connect our feelings with the things that others have done 
and spoken '. 


The simplest order of events for a narrative is the order 
of time, the order in which the events occurred. This, 
however, is apt to result in a very straggling tale. The 
epic poet does not usually give his story in strict chrono- 
logical sequence, beginning from the earliest event, the 
birth of the hero, but plunges into the heart of the story, 
leaving any necessary but less interesting information to 
be given incidentally, either by allusions in the speeches 
of one or other character, or by deliberate episodes. 'He 
does not commence a poem on ' The Trojan War ' with 
the birth of Helen ; but hurries on to the crisis and 
plunges the reader into the middle of events just as if he 
knew all about them'. (Horace, De Arte Poetica, 146-9.)' 
Thus the beginning is made more vivid and striking, and 
the reader's interest is secured at once. 1 

In actual fact the traditions on which the story of the 
true epic was founded were familiar to the hearers. 
Matthew Arnold, however, dealt with stories that were not 
quite so well known, and found it necessary to give this 
information to the reader by giving in an ' Argument ' a 
short sketch of the plot ; see his quotations from Sir John 

1 Homer's Iliad begins in the tenth year of the siege of Troy, with 
the anger of Achilles at being deprived of the captive maiden Briseis. 
Virgil's JEneid opens with the arrival of the Trojans at Carthage ; 
then JEnezs relates his previous history. The story of the fall of Troy 
occupies Books II. and III. Paradise Lost opens with a picture of 
Satan and the fallen angels lying doomed upon the. burning lake of 
Hell. Disregarding some allusions, it is not until Books V. and VI. 
that the preceding events are told. 


Malcolm for Sohrab and Rustum, from the Edda for 
Balder Dead, and from Dunlop for Tristram and Iseult. 

The events of Sohrab and Rustum are told in their 
chronological order in the quotation from Malcolm's 
History of Persia. The poem, however, opens with the 
dawn of the fatal day, and Sohrab's desire for a single 
combat. The Persian chiefs, on being challenged, persuade 
Rustum to represent them ; he goes forth to battle, 
insisting, however, on fighting unknown. 
It is to be noted that in the poem 

(i) such of Sohrab's previous history as is necessary 
for the explanation of the catastrophe is conveyed in his 
speech with Peran-Wisa ; 

(ii) Rustum's ignorance of the fact that he had a son 
is conveyed in the regret expressed in lines 229-30, 

Would that I myself had such a son, 

And not that one slight helpless girl I have ; 

in his disbelief in Sohrab's statement that his father 

Rustum would avenge his death, 

And with a cold incredulous voice he said : 
* What prate is this of fathers and revenge ? 
The mighty Rustum never had a son '. 

and lastly in the poet's interpolated explanation, 
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 
Rustum should seek the boy, to train in arms. 1 

(iii) the burial of Sohrab in Seistan, and the cessation 
of hostilities between the two armies is not narrated as a 
fact, but as Sohrab's request and Rustum's promise. 

1 Arnold wishing to concentrate attention on the crisis makes these 
explanations very brief ; he delays the action only so long as suffices 
to give sufficient information to enable readers to understand the plot. 


After Rustum's promise Sohrab is satisfied and gives 
up his life. This ends the action of the poem, night comes 
down, and we leave Rustum alone with his son. 

As those black granite pillars, once high-rear'd 
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 with his son. 

And then Arnold, who had learnt from his Greek models 
the value of ending upon a quiet and subdued note, closes 
with the sublime picture of the majestic river flowing 
calmly on its course serenely regardless of the tragedy 
that has just been played out on its banks a picture 
embodying once more his favourite contrast between the 
peaceful independence of nature and the pathetic futility 
and feverish anxieties of the life of men. 

Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring, 
Man's fitful uproar mingling with his toil, 
Still do thy sleepless ministers move on, 
Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting ; 
Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil, 
Labourers that shall not fail when man is gone. 


If we judge from their practice, poets seem to have 
considered the simile to be a form of decoration peculiarly 
appropriate for epic poetry. 

In its simple form the simile is a figure of speech in 
which a comparison is made between two objects, scenes, 
or occurrences, which are similar in some prominent 
respect, although perhaps dissimilar in others. Its primary 


function is to explain and illustrate by reference to some- 
thing more familiar. 

All the blade, like glass, 

Sprang in a thousand shivers. (//. 5 1 1-2) 

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, 
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. (//. 293-8) 

And Ruksh the horse uttered a dreadful cry ; 

No horse's cry was that, most like the roar 

Of some pain'd desert lion, who all day 

Hath traiPd the hunter's javelin in his side, 

And comes at night to die upon the sand. (//. 501-6) 

In lines 616-7 

And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide 
Of the bright rocking ocean sets to shore. 

The latter part is obviously necessary in order to explain 
the meaning of the metaphorical phrase * set to grief '. 
In poetry, however, it is usually intended to make a scene 
more vivid and impressive. 

for like the lightning to this field 
I came, and like the wind I go away 
Sudden, and swift, and like a passing wind. (//. 722-4) 

As Johnson said, * A simile, to be perfect, must both 
illustrate and ennoble the subject ; must show it to the 
understanding in a clearer view, and display it to the 
fancy with greater dignity ; but either of these qualities 
may be sufficient to recommend it ' 

Even in quite simple comparisons like the following 
from the Iliad. Book IV.. whose appropriateness none will 


doubt, it is evident that the imagery has a beauty and 
fascination of its own, independent of the- aptness and 
striking nature of the comparison. 

* As when on the echoing beach the sea-wave 
lifteth up itself in close array before the driving of 
the west wind ; out on the deep doth it first raise its 
head, and then, breaketh upon the land and belloweth 
aloud and goeth with arching crest about the pro- 
montories, and speweth the foaming brine afar ; 
even so in close array moved the battalions of the 
Danaans without pause to battle '. 

Homer then notes how all the Greek host advanced in 

' But for the Trojans, like sheep beyond number that 
stand in the courtyard of a man of great substance, 
to be milked of their white milk, and bleat without 
ceasing to hear their lamb's cry, even so arose the 
clamour of the Trojans through the wide host'. 

Many other examples make it clear that in Homer trie 
decorative or pictorial motive very often has outweighed 
the explanatory or illustrative. 

Matthew Arnold, following Homer and Milton 
frequently carries this tendency to an extreme. Like 
Milton, as well as Homer, ' he does not confine himself 
within the limits of rigorous comparison ', but elaborates 
the image independently of the points of similarity and 
introduces circumstances that are quite irrelevant to the 
comparison and serve only to fill the imagination ; 
evidently agreeing with Johnson's dictum l that * in 
heroicks that may be admitted which ennobles though it 
does not illustrate '. 

1 Boilcau, too, was of the opinion * that it is not at all necessary in 
poetry that the points of comparison should correspond exactly, but 
a general similarity is sufficient '. 


Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loosed 
His belt, and near the shoulder bared his arm, 
And show'd a sign in faint vermilion points 
Prick'd ; as a cunning workman in Pekin, 
Pricks with vermilion some clear poicdain vase, 
An emperor's gift at early morn he paints, 
And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp 
Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands 
So delicately prick'd the sign appeared 
On Sohrab's arm, the sign of Rustum's seal. (//. 669-78) 

Here lines 674-6, although they indubitably have a 
pictorial value of their own, play no part in the comparison. 
So, too, in the simile in lines 302-9, the two lines (305-6) 
speaking of the frosted window-panes are irrelevant to the 
comparison, although they certainly serve to make the 
picture more complete and lifelike. Again, in /. 317, the 
bubbling fountain has strictly nothing to do with Sohrab's 

Occasionally the resemblance is often of the very 
slightest or the most superficially, but it is developed 
beyond the point strictly necessary for comparison, 
simply for the sake of giving a vivid and beautiful picture. 

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 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. (//. 284-90) 

Here the situations are similar only in the most general 
way, the fear lest someone should not come and the sub- 
sequent joy at his arrival ; they are different as regards 
the causes of fear and in all other respects. By this 
simile the situation is not elucidated, yet the feeling of 


suspense is enhanced. So in the simile of the eagle 
(//. 556-75) the comparison is still less exact, since ignor- 
ance of their loss is the only point of similarity, but the 
pathos and tragic irony of the situation is certainly 

Often, however, the imagery that is irrelevant 'for thfe 
strict purposes of comparison is not quite otiose' for if it 
make the picture more realistic and lively the comparison 
will be not only so much the more impressive, but probably 
clearer. As Jebb says, * if A is to be made clearer by 
means of B, B itself must be clearly seen ; and therefore 
Homer takes care that B shall never remain abstract or 
shadowy ; he invests it with enough of detail to place a 
concrete image before the mind. . . . The object which 
furnishes the simile must be made distinct before the 
simile itself can be effective '. (Homer , p. 28.) 

Amongst the finest similes of Sohrab and Rustum I 
would place the two in lines 154-69, where the imagery is 
not only apt for the comparison and without superfluity, 
but has a beauty and striking effectiveness of its own, 
which is enhanced by the felicity and noble directness of 
expression that is characteristic of Arnold at his best. 

Furthermore, they fill a natural pause in the story, 
when the action is, as it were held in suspense. Here, 
therefore, as in lines 291-318, the similes are altogether in 
place. But whether a simile expanded to the length of 
six lines is fitly introduced into the description of a club- 
stroke (//. 408-16) is very doubtful ; it distinctly delays the 
movement, which, in this place at least, ought to be rapid. 
As Jebb pointed out, (Homer, p. 26) * the Homeric simile 
is not a mere ornament. It serves to introduce something 
which Homer desires to render exceptionally impressive 
some moment, it may be, of peculiarly intense action 
some sight, or sound, full of wonder, or terror, or pity in 
a word, something great \ 



The principal repetitions in Sohrab and Rustum are in 
lines n, 12, and 16 ; 49, 50-1, 75-6, 177 and 216, 269, 

*79> 335> 377, 4> 4 6 6l2 and 6l 5> 647-8, 784-94 and 
799-805. Repetition of some phrase of his own coinage is 
a favourite practice of Arnold in his prose writings; 
' sweetness and light ' and ' high seriousness ' are only 
two of many examples. 

The principal archaisms are : frore (/. 115), sate (/. 199 
and frequently), helm (264), atop (268), dight and 
broider'd (277), tale (288), wrack (414), shore (497), anon 
(561), oped (698), betwixt (719), writ (725). 


Matthew Arnold's two narrative poems, Sohrab and 
Rustum and Balder Dead, and parts of Tristram and 
Iseult, are written in blank verse. 

In English speech some sounds are made more promi- 
nent than others, /.., they are accented or stressed. It is 
upon stress or accent that the rhythm of English verse 
mainly depends ; the words are so arranged that the 
accented syllables occur at equal intervals of time. In 
other words, verse may be divided into measures or feet, 
each of which occupies, approximately at least, the same 
period of time ; and the beginning or end of each foot is 
marked by a syllable more strongly stressed than the others 
in that foot. 

He sp6ke ; | and Soh | rab smiPd | on him, | and 
took | the spear | and drew | it from j his side, j and 
edsed | his wound's | imper | ious ing | uish : 

Here it is the last syllable of each foot that receives the 


Furthermore, this rhythmical series is divided into 
larger metrical units verses or lines which also occupy 
equal lengths of time ; each contains the same number of 
the smaller rhythmical units, or feet. In Sohrab and 
Rustum each line contains five beats, and therefore is a 
line of five feet, or pentameter line. 

He spoke ; j and Soh | rab smiPd | on him, [ and took 
The spear | and drew | it from | his side, | and eased 
His wound's | imper | ious ang | uish . . . 

The feet are alike in two respects : 
(i) they are equal in duration ; 

(ii) the heaviest accent falls on the last syllable of the 
foot, or, in other words, the rhythm is rising rhythm. 

They may, however, differ in other respects : 

(i) So long as the time-length remains practically 
constant there may be one, two, or three syllables in the 
foot. Usually there are two, and the two-syllabled foot 
may be regarded as the normal. When there are three 
syllables they are pronounced more rapidly so that they 
occupy the same time as a two-syllabled foot. When there 
is only one syllable it is pronounced slowly. 

Examples of trisyllabic feet are : 

Glared, and he shook on high his men | acing spear 
Near death, and by an ig | norant stroke | of thine. 
A foil'd circvi | itous wan | derer : till | at list 
His Ivim j inous home | of w&ters opens, bright. 1 

1 In Arnold's verse the trisyllabic feet not combined with mono- 
syllabic feet may frequently be pronounced as dissyllabic because two 
vowel sounds come together, or are separated onty by a liquid /, r, or 
ft, as ign'rant) wanderer, luminous ; i.e., the vowel is slurred or elided. 
This procedure, however, as Professor Saintsbury points out, destroys 
the beauty of the verse. It is also quite unnecessary j for all that is 
essential is that the three syllables should be equivalent to the normal 
two in the length of time that they occupy. Furthermore, there are in 
Arnold, and more frequently in other poets, trisyllabic feet that cannot 
be reduced to dissyllabic feet by elision, e.g., the first here quoted. 


Monosyllabic feet, except in conjunction with trisyllabic, 
are rare in Matthew Arnold. That is to say, he did not 
vary his pentameter verse by lines with only nine syllables. 
But lines of nine syllables are found in other poets : 

Stdy | the king hath thrown his warder down. 

(Richard II). 
Boot | less home and weather beaten track. 

(Henry IV . ; quoted by Mayor.) 

And lines of seven syllables instead of eight are found in 
Arnold's Tristram 

In | Tyntagel's palace proud. 
Where | those lifeless lovers be ; 
Swing | ing with it ; in the light 
Fldps | the ghostlike tapestry. 

Trisyllabic and monosyllabic feet are usually found in 

At my boy's | A years, | the courage of a man : (/. 45) 
But Sohrab came | to the bed | A side, | and said. (/-33) 
Of the young | man | in his, and sigh'd, and said : 

(/. 6 4 ) 

A C6rn | in a gold | en platter soak'd with wine. (/. 754) 
Glared, | and he shook | on high his men | acing spear. 

(i- 515) 

These lines can be scanned in no other way if the scansion 
is to represent the rhythm. Two stressed syllables cannot 
be pronounced together without a perceptible pause being 

This way of scanning such lines is largely due to the convention in 
vogue before Coleridge's time, that the line should be regular in the 
number of syllables. Even Milton, in Paradise Lost and Paradise 
Regained, seems to have followed this idea : for it seems likely that 
in almost all his verses which have more than ten syllables he would, 
in theory, have justified the trisyllabic foot on the principle of slurring 
or elision. Of two vowels coming together, or separated only by 
/, r, , the first was elided : ' in glor | y above | ', ' pill | ar of fire | .' 
For other examples see Bridges, Prosody of Milton. 


made between them. So * a younger man ' takes no 
longer to pronounce than ' a young man ' because the 
time occupied by the unstressed syllable -er was occupied 
by a pause. In a monosyllabic foot the time of the normal 
two syllables is filled up, partly by the stressed syllable, 
on which the voice lingers, and partly by the preceding 
pause, which is called a compensatory pause. 

Of the young | man | 

In the two lines last quoted (754 and 515) some proso- 
dists, e.g., Bridges and Mayor, would say that the stress 
was * inverted ', and that for the first iamb a trochee was 
substituted. This explanation, however, ignores (a) the 
pause before corn and glared, and (b) the fact that this 
scansion would make the line appear unrhythmical, 
whereas it is not. The voice rests on corn and glared, and 
hurries over the next two syllables in each case, so that 
the accents still occur at equal intervals of time. 

A two-syllabled foot in rising rhythm, i.e., one composed 
of an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable, is called 
an iamb. When this is the dominant foot the verse is 
called iambic verse. The name blank verse should strictly 
belong to any verse that is not rimed, but in practice it is 
confined to unrimed iambic pentameters. 

A three-syllabled foot in rising rhythm, i.e., one com- 
posed of two unstressed followed by a stressed syllable, is 
called an anapaest. 

(ii) The ictus or metrical stress is not always of equal 
weight. In the line 

Might now be lying on this bloody sand 

the stress on on is not as heavy as that on now, ly-, blood, 
or sand. All that is necessary is that it should be heavier 
than that on the preceding syllable. It frequently happens 
that a light ictus in one foot is compensated by a slightly 
heavier one in the adjoining foot. 


(iii) Besides the pause (compensatory pause) which, 
occurring between two accented syllables, helps to fill up 
the time of a foot, there are two other kinds of which the 
prosodist must take account (a) the metrical pause, 
marking the end of each metrical unit or line ; (b) the 
sense pause, marking the end of a phrase or clause. The 
sense pause, of course, is present also in prose, and in 
verse may occur at any part of the line. Its position is 
frequently, but not necessarily, marked by punctuation. 
When a clause or sentences comes to an end at the end of a 
line, then there is a heavy pause ; when, however, the 
line comes to an end in the middle of a phrase the pause is 
so light that it may almost be neglected. In the latter 
case the sense and rhythm seem to overflow or tun on into 
the next line 

Clustering like beehives on the low flat strand 
OfOxus, . . . 

a little back 

From the stream's brink . . . 
The men of former times had crowned the top 
With a clay fort ; but that was fall'n, and now 
The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa's tent, 
And Sohrab came there, and went in, and stood 
Upon the thick piled 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 
Was dull'd; (w. 13-29.) 

Here seven lines out of seventeen have no sense pause at 
the end. Contrast the movement of these lines with that 
of lines 74-82, where each line has a sense pause at the end, 
or with lines 541-6 quoted below. 

There is usually a sense pause within each line, a pause 
that must be made in reading naturally. It is most 


frequently found near the middle ; after the fourth, fifth, 
or sixth syllable; but it is sometimes earlier or later. Not 
infrequently there are two pauses : 

though the step 
Was dull'd ; for he slept light, an old man's sleep. 

Notice the contrast in the position of the pauses in the 
following two passages. 

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 matched | with ten such men as thee, 
And I were that | which till to-day I was, 
They should be lying here, || I standing there. 

(//. 541-6.) 

Then, || with weak hasty fingers, || Sohrab loosed 
His belt, || and near the shoulder bared his arm, 
And showed a sign | in faint vermilion points 
Prick'd ; || as a cunning workman, || in Pekin, 
Pricks with vermilion . . . (//. 669-73.) 

By all these means a variety of movement is attained 
without the verse being made unrhythmical. The ictus 
always recurs at the same interval, thus preserving 
uniformity of time amid the variety of pause, speed, 
number of syllables, and weight of accent. 

That Arnold was not without skill in verse is evident 
from the conclusion of Sohrab, and other lines ; but his 
ear was far from certain, and the rhythmical movement 
of his verse is not infrequently awkward and halting. 
Some examples of his less successful lines are : 

Because thou hast shamed me before both the hosts* 

First, with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears. 

(/. 118) 


To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee. (/. 585) 
So thou mightest live too, my son, my son ! (/. 815) 

His verse was, perhaps deliberately, cast in a more austere 
mould than was fashionable in his time, but he was hardly 
gifted by nature with that ' divine fluidity of movement ' 
which he so much admired in Chaucer. 




* 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 Afrosiab, whose armies he com- 
manded, 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 re- 
solved 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, attempting 
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, per- 
mitted to cross the Oxus unmolested. ... 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.' SIR JOHN MALCOLM'S 
History of Persia. 


SOHRAB interviews Peran-Wisa, the Tartar general, and asks for an 
opportunity for a single combat with one of the Persian chiefs, so that 
perhaps his fame may reach the ears of Rustum, his father, whom he is 
seeking (lines 1-62). Peran-Wisa, after hesitation, goes forth as the 
armies (described in 104-40) were gathering, and challenged the Persian 
leaders (63-153). Reception of the challenge by either army described 
similes (154-69). The Persians after consultation accept the 

challenge (170-86). 

Rustum, the champion of the Persians and their one hope, at first 
refuses to fight, but is eventually roused by taunts (187-259). He dons 
his armour, and comes forth (259-90). Sohrab advances to meet him, 
Rustum, moved to pity by his youth and beauty, attempts to dissuade 
Sohrab from the duel (291-333). Sohrab, moved by a sudden intuition, 
asks his opponent if he is not Rustum ; but the old hero, suspecting some 
wily deceit, denies this (334-78). Sohrab is undaunted by Rustum's 
boasts, since he believes that the result is in the hands of destiny (379-97). 

The fight : first stage ending in Sohrab's favour (397-426). Rustum 
refuses the truce proposed by Sohrab (427-69). Second stage of the 
fight : Sohrab when unarmed and bewildered by the shout of Rustum, 
is mortally wounded (470-526). 

Sohrab, in reply to Rustum's ungenerous taunts, replies that it was 
the name of Rustum, and not his opponent's strength, that caused his 
defeat, and that Rustum, his father, will avenge his death (527-55). 
[Simile of the eagle (556-75).] Rustum, who had been told that his child 
was a girl, is at first incredulous, is soon troubled by doubts, for Sohrab 
recalled familiar names, and was in age and looks just what his own son 
would have been (575-652), and is finally convinced by the seal which 
he had given to his wife for their child (653-88). Then, struck with horror 
at his deed, he desires to take his life (689-705), but is prevented by 
Sohrab, who is stoically resigned to the ruling of fate (706-25). 

The armies are struck with awe, and even Rustum's charger weeps in 
sympathy (726-40). Sohrab recalls how he has never in life had the 
good fortune that Ruksh has enjoyed, viz., that of living in Seistan, his 
father's home (741-70), and requests Rustum to allow the armies to 
depart in peace, and to carry his body to Seistan for burial (771-94). 
Rustum promises this, and looks forward to the day when his life of 
fighting will be ended (795-837). 

Sohrab dies (838-56). Rustum watches by his son's body (857-64), 
and with nightfall the armies depart to their camps (865-74). Tne poem 
ends with a peaceful picture of the Oxus flowing steadily on, undisturbed 
by the terrible conflict in the world of men, to its goal in the Aral Sea. 

Sohrab and Rustum 

AND the first grey of morning filPd the east, 

And the fog rose out of 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_ 

Hejiad lain wakeful, tossing on his bed ; 

But when the grey dawn stole into his tent, 

He rose, and clad himself, andeirt his.sword, 

And took his horseman's clSaK^ncfleft his tent. 

And went abroad into the cold wet fog, 

Through the dim camp to Peran-Wjsa's 

Through the black Tartar tents he pass'd, which stood 
UuJ>?ring like bee-hives on the low flat strand < ^kj* v< - 
Of Oxus, where the summer floods o'erflow 
When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere : 
Through the black tents he pass'd, o'er that low strand, 
And to a hillock came. ^lftle back 
From th^fWe^^Dnnl^trie spot where first a boat, 
Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land. 
The men of former times had crown'd the top ao 

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, 
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 dulPd ; for he slept light, an oilman's sleep ; 


30 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 <^v*~*~~^ 
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, 

40 In Samarcand, before the army march'd ; 
And I will tell thee what my heart desires. 
Thou knowest if, since from Ader-baijan first * 
I came among the Tartars, ancTEore 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, 
[ seek one man, one man, and one alone 

50 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. 

60 Dim is the rumour of ja^common fight, 

tVhere host meets hosf^andTmanyliames are sunk : 
Bii_CLLfLsingle combatfTame speaks clear 3 A 
He spoke : and Peran-Wisa took the liand 
Of the young man in his, and sigh'd, and said : 


* 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 for ever first, 
In single fight incurring single risk, 

To find a father thou hast never seen ? 70 

That 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 rules all, 
To seek out Rustum seek him not through fight : 
Seek him in peace, and carry to his arms, 
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 injron^pf 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. 
There go : Thou wilt not ? Yet my heart forbodes 
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 V-^put who can keep the lion's cub 
From ravening ? and who govern Rustum's son ? J 
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, 
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 ; 


ioo And on his head he placed his sheep-skin cap, 
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 : 
And from their tents the Tartar horsemen fiPd 
Into the open plain ; so Haman bade ; 
Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa rul'd 
The host, and still was in his lusty prime. 

1 10 From their black tents, long files of horse, they streamed ; 
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 Elbvirz, from the Aralian estuaries, 
Or some frore Caspian reed-bed, southward bound 
For the warm Persian sea-board : so they streamed. 
The Tartars of the Oxus, the King's guard, 
First with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears ; 
Large men, large steeds ; who from Bokhara come 

1 20 And Khiva, and ferment the milk of mares. 

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 acid milk of camels, and their wells. 

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 Jaxartes, men with scanty beards 

130 And close-set skull-caps ; and those wilder hordes 
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. 


_'hese all fil'd out from camp into the plain. 

And on the other side the Persians form'd : 

First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seem'd, 

The Ilyats of Khorassan : and beMnc 

The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot, 

Marshall'd battalions bright in burnish'd steel. 1 40 

But Peran-Wisa with his herald came 

Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front, 

And with his staff kept back the foremost ranks, 

And wheri Ferood, who led the Persians, saw 

That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back, 

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 ! 1 50 

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, 
A shiver runs through the deep corn for joy 
So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa sa'd, 
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, 1 60 

Gross 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 
Slake their parch'd throats with sugar'd mulberries 
[n single file they move, and stop their breath, 
For fear they should dislodge the o'erhanging snows* 
io the pale Persians held their breath with fear. 


170 And to Ferood his brother Chiefs came up 
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 : 

c Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge up, 
Yet champion have we none to match this youth. 
He has the wildl .ta_g's foot, the lion's heart. 
BuTRustum came last night ; aloof lie sits 
And sullen, and has pitch'd his tents apart : 

1 80 Him will I seek, and carry to his ear 

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. 
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, 

190 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 

200 Listless, and held a falcon on his wrist, 

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 dropped 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 : 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 his. 
Q Rustum, like thy might is this young man's ! 
Hejias 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 azo 

1 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 aged moulder to their graves. 
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 I 
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. 
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, 


240 And leave to death the host of thankless kings, 

And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no more '. 

He spoke, and snuTd ; and Gudurz made reply : 
' What then, 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^ J^stum-hoards his fame. 
And shuns to peril it with younger men ' 
" r An3, greatly m6Vc then Rustum made reply : 

250 Gudurz, wherefore dost thou say such words ? 
Thou knowest better words than this to say. 
What is one more, one less, obscure or f am'd, . 
Valiant or craven, young or old, to me ? 
^re not they mortal, am not I myself \ 
But who for men of nought would do great deeds ? 
u>me, 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 '. 

*oo He spoke, and frown'd ; and Gudurz turn'd, and ran 
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 calPd 
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. 

270 So arm'd he issued forth ; and Ruksh, his horse, 
EcJlow'd him, like a faithful hound, at heel, 
RukshJ 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, 

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 followed, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd a8o 

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. 

pnd dear as the wet diver to the eyes 

uf his pale wife who waits and weeps on shore, 

By sandy Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf, 

Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night, 

Having made up his tale of precious pea rl 

Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands? 

So dear to the pale Persians Rustum caruc. 290 

And Rustum to the Persian front advanc'd, 
And Sohrab arm'd in Raman'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, 
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 
tHis eyes towards the Tartar tents, and saw 300 

jSohrab 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, 
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 xouth, who from afar 


3 10 Came seeking Rustum, and defying forth 
All the most valiant chiefs : long he perus'd 
His spirited air, and wonder'd who he was. 
Jf or 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 
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 

3 20 As he beheld him coming ; and he stood, 

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, 
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 ? 

330 Be govern'd : quit the Tartar host, and come 
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 
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, 

3 40 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 ! 
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, 

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, in Afrasiab's hall, 
In Samarcand, he will arise and cry 
" I challeng'd once, when the two armies camp'd 
Beside 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 

Changed 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 
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 reveaPd, 
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 ; 
Or else thy' bones shall strew "this md, tjil winds 
Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer floods, 
Qxus in summer wash them all away '. 

He spoke : and Sohrab answer' d, on his feet : 


380 'Art thou so fierce? Thou wilt not fright me so. 
I anfno girl, to be made pale by words. 
iTet 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, 
And thou art prov'd, I know, and I am young 
But yet Success sways with the breath of Heaven. 
And though thou thlnkest that thou knowest sure 
Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know. 

396' For we are all, like swimmers in the sea, 
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 deatii, 
We know not, and no search will make us %iow : 
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, 

400 As on some partridge in the corn a hawk 
That long has tower' d in the airy clouds 
Drops like a plummet : Sohrab saw it come, 
And sprang aside, quick as a Hash : the spear 
Hiss'd, and went quivering down into the sand 
Which it sent flying wide : then Sohrab thre\* 
In turn, and full struck Rustum's shield : sharp rang, 
The iron plates rang sharp, but turned the spear. 
And Rustum seiz'd his club, which none but he 
Could wield : an unlopp'd trunk it was, and huge, 

410 Still rough ; like those which men in treeless plains 
To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers, 
Hyphasis or Hydaspes, when, high up 
jBy their dark springs, the wind in winter-time 
'Has made in Himalayan forests wrack, 


And strewn the channels with torn boughs ; so huge 

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 smiPd, nor bar'd his sword, 

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 ; 
But never was my heart thus touch'd before. 
Are they from Heaven, these softenings of the heart ? 
Ojthou old warrior, let us yield to Heaven ! 
Come, pjgnt 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 
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 


450 He left to lie, but had regained his spear, 

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 

^ag chok'd with rage : at last these words broke way : 

Girl ! nimble with thy feet, not with thy hands ! 
Curf ; d minion, dancer, coiner of sweet words f) 
ftght ; let me hear thy hateful voice no more ! 

460 Thou art not in Afrasiab's gardens now 

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 ! 
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 '. 

470 He spoke ; and Sohrab kindled at his taunts, 
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 ain, 
Rose, such as that of th^siticiVy woodcutters 
Make often in the, forests heart at morn, 
Of hewing axes, crasnih^f treed : such blows 

ft. Rustum and Sohrab on each other hail'd. 

48 < And you would say that sun and stars took part 
In that unnatural conflict X 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. 

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, 

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 ciy was that, most like the roar 

Of some paih'd desert lion, who all day 

Has trail'd the hunter's javelin in his sidi 

And comes at night to die upon the sand : 

The two hosts heard that cry, aifd 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, 

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 


520 His covering shield, and the spear pierc'd his side. 
He reel'd, and staggering back, sunk to the ground. 
And then the gloom dispersed, 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, 
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, 

530 And bear thy trophies to Afrasiab's tent. 

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, 
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 '. 

540 And with a fearless mien Sohrab replied : 

' 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, 
They should be lying here, I standing there. 
But that beloved name unnerv'd my arm 
That name, and something, I confess, in thee, 
Which troubles all my heart, and made my shield 

550 Fall; and thy spear transfixed an unarmed foe. 
And now thou boastest, and insult'st my fate. 
But hear thou this, fierce Man, tremble to hear ! 
The mifthty Rustum shall avenge my death_! 
My father, whom I seek through all the world, 


He shall avenge mydoaih^^ pjmiali the? ' ! 

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 followed her to find out 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 
Chiding his mate back to her nest j(but she 
Lies dying, with the arrow in her side, 
In some far stony gorge out of his ken, 
A heap of fluttering feathers^ ftever 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. 

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 regcji his ear, 
Reach Rustum, where he sits, and tarries long, 
Somewhere, I know not where, but far froni here ; . 
And pierce him like-ff stab, and make kfm leap 
To arms, and cry for vengeance upon thee. 
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, 


590 My mother, who in Ader-baijan dwells 

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 r 
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 ; 

600 But that in battle with a nameless foe, 
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 listened, plung'd in thought. 
Nor did he yet believe it was his son 
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 : 

6 10 So that sad mother sent him word, for fear 

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 listened, plung'd in thought ; 

And his soul set to grief, as the vast tide 

Oi the bright rocking Ocean sets to shore 

At the full moon : tears gathered in his eyes ; 

For he remembered his own early youth, 

620 And all its bounding rapture ; as, at dawn, 

The Shepherd from his mountain Io4ge descries 
A far bright City, smitten by the sun, 
Through many rolling clouds ; so Rustum saw 
His youthN saw Sohrab's mother, in her bloom : 


And that old King, her father, who lov'd well 

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 looksro 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, 

Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed, 

And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom, 

On the mown, dying grass j-^-so Sohrab lay, 

Lovely in death, upon the common sand. 

And Rustum gaz'd on him with grief, and said : 640 

6 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 
But one a girl : who with her mother now 
Plies some light female task, nor dreams of us 
Of us she 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 ? 
j^fruth sits upon the lips of dying men, 
And falsehood, while ITiv'd, was far from mine, 
I tell thee, prick'd upon this arm I bear 
That seal which Rustum to my mother gave, 


660 That she might prick it on the babe she bore '. 

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 ttiailed hand. 
That the hard iron corselet clank'd ajaud-: 
And to his heart he press'd the other hand, 
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 '. 
v Then, with weak hasty fingers, Sohrab loos'd 

670 His belt, and near the shoulder bar'd his arm, 
^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 giftat early morn he paints, ~~ 
And all day long, and, when night comes, the lamp 
Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands : 
|3o delicately prick' d the sign appear'd 
Dn Sohrab's arm, the sign of Rustum's seal, 
It was that Griffin, which of old rear'd^Zal, 

58o "Rustum's great father, whom they left to die. 
A helpless babe, among the mountain rocks, j 
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, 
And then he touch'd it with his hand and said : 
' How say'st thou F Is that sign the proper sign 
Qf Rustum's son, or of some other man's ' ? 
He spoke : but Rustum gaz'd, and gaz'd, and stood 

690 Speechless ; and then he utter'd one sharp cry 
.0 Soy thy Eatkfj: /and his voice choked there. 
And then a dark cloud pass'd before his eyes, 
And his head swam, and he sank down to earth. 
But Sohrab crawl'd to where he lay, and cast 


His arms about his neck, and kiss'd his lips, 

And with fond faltering fingers stroked 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 ssiz'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 gUttering arms : 

And strong convulsivefgr^aiiings SHOOK lis breast, 

And his sobs chok'd him ; and he clutch'd his sword, 

To draw it, and for ever let life out. 

BV> Sohrab saw his thought, and helQ his hands, 

Anct with a soothing voice he spoke, and said" 

( Father, forbSar i ' for I but meet to-day 
The doom that at my birth was written dow._ 
In Heaven, and thou art Heaven's HJKOiiscious hand ft 9 

Surely my heart cried out that it was thou, * 

When first I saw the^ ; and thy heart spoke too, 
1 know it : brtFate t'rctt those promptings down 
Under its irongLcfel- / Kte, Fate engaged 
jfhe strife and hurl'd me on my father^ spear, 
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 I 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 HeaVeri that" this sfibutcrae '. 

So said he : and his voice releas'd the heart 
Of Rustum, and his tears broke forth ; he cast 
His arms around his son's neck, and wept aloud, 
And kiss'd him. And awe fell on both the hosts 


730 When they saw Rustum's grief : and Ruksh, the horse, 
With his head bowing to the ground, and mane\ 
Sweeping the dust, came near, and in mut* wn " 
First to the one then to the other mov'd 
His head, as if enquiring what their grief 
Might mean ; and from his dark, compassitaVate eyes, 
The big warm tears roll'd down, an$ cak'd the sand. 
But Rustum chid him with qteVn voice, and said : 

' Ruksh, now thou griefvesit ; but, Ruksh, thv feet 
Should then have rotted on their nimble joints, 

740 When first they bore thy Master to this field '. 
But Sohrab look'd upon the horse and said : 
* Is this then Ruksh ? How often, in past dayq. 
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. 
Come, let me lay my hand upon thy mane. 
Ruksh, thou art more fortunate than I ; 
For thou hast gone where I shall never go, 
And snufPd the breezes of my father's home. ) 

7 50 And "thou hast trod the sands of Seistan, 

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" Ruksh ! bear Rustum well " Ibut I 

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 

760 Afrasiab's cities only, Samarcand, 
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 
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 J 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, 
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, 
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 horsemen 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 : 
* 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, 


800 And place thee on a bed, and mourn for thee, 
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. 
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 

8 10 Might be once more alive ; my bitterest foes, 

And they who were calPd 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 ! 
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 ; 

820 And I, not thou, be borne to Seistan ; 

And Zal might weep above my grave, not thine ; 
And say O son, I weep thee not too sore, 
For willingly, I know^thpumefst thine end. 
But now in blood and battles was my youth, 
And full of blood and battles is my age 
And I shall never end this life of blood 
Then, at the point of death, Sohrab^repned : 
A life of blood indeed, thou dreadful Man ! 
But thou shalt yet have peace ; only not now ; 

83^ Not yet : but thou shalt have it on that day, 
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 : 
' Soon be that day, my Son, and deep that sea ! 
Till then, if Fate so wills, let me endure '. 

He spoke ; and Sohrab smiPd 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 
Flowed with the stream : all down his cold white side 
The crimson torrent ran, dim now, and soil'd, 
Like the soil'd tissue of white violets 
Left, freshly gather'd, on their native bank, 
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 clos'd ; 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, 
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 
HisJiouse, now,, mid their broken flights of steps, 
ijleprpne, enormous, down the mountain side 
So in the sand lay Rustum by his son.,) 

And night came down over the solemn waste, 
And the twd 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 


870 Began to twinkle through the fog : for now 

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, 
Out of the mist and hum of that low land, 
Into the frosty starlight, and there mov'd, 
Rejoicing, through the hush'd Chorasmian waste, 
Under the solitary moon : Jje flow'd 

880 Right for the Polar Staivpast Orgunjc, 

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 parcelled Oxus strains along 
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles 
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had 
In his high mountain cradle in Pamere, 
A oil!d circuitous wanderer V- till at last 
The long'd-for dash of waves is heard, and wide 

890 His luminous home of waters opens, bright 

\nd tranquil, from whose floor the new-bath'd stars 
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea. 


I. And. The story, being ostensibly only an Episode in a larger series 
of events, commences with and as if to connect itself with the part 
preceding it in the whole narrative. 

4. plunged In sleep. Their sound sleep is contrasted with Sohrab's 
watchfulness. In this metaphor, sleep is regarded as a river in which the 
men were deeply plunged. The contrast is emphasised by the super- 
fluous 'he*. 

II, 12, 16. Notice the repetition of the word 'through', and of 
the same idea in slightly different words. 

15. The Oxus rises in the Pamir, and so, when in summer the snows 
are melting, the river is flooded. 

25. thick piled, not ' heaped in abundance,' but ' with a thick pile '. 
The pile or nap of a carpet is formed by the short vertical fibres. 

29. In the Shah Nameh Peran-Wisa hardly figures at all till after the 
death of Sohrab. It is hardly likely therefore that at this time he would 
be an old man. 

37. Repetition ; cf. /. 6. 

38. So, ' thus, as I am doing '. 

39. as thy son, ' as if I were thy son '. The word as is in itself am- 
biguous ; it is used quite differently in the phrase ' to heed thee as my 
father ', i ,*., as if you were my father. 

42-3. It was in Ader-baijan, a province in the N.W. of Persia, that 
Sohrab lived with his mother Temineh, daughter of the King of Samengan. 
At a very early age, being famous in feats of arms, he took service in the 
Tartar army. 

45. Antithesis. 

49. Repetition for emphasis ; the next two lines give another example 
of epic repetition (' should . . greet '). 

52. not unworthy, not Inglorious, the rhetorical figure of litotes, a 
deliberate understatement ; cf.'a. citizen of no mean city ', i.e., of a 
great city ; ' he is no fool ', i .*., he is the reverse of a fool. 

56. challenge forth, elliptical for ' challenge to come forth '. 

60. common = general ; ' no one can easily win distinction in a 
general engagement ', for all are occupied with their own fights. 

61. many names are sunk, metaphorical for 'are lost', as a boat is 
lost when it sinks at sea. 


62. fame speaks clear. Fame is personified. 

63. He spoke, imitation of the classical construction, 'he finished 
speaking '. 

67. Share the battle's common chance ; either share the dangers, the 
chance of death, or the chance of distinction and glory. In view of line 
69 probably the former. 

71. were, subjunctive = ' would be '. The indicative ' it is far best ' 
is not used here because the speaker knows that Sohrab will not stay ; 
the possibility will not be realised in fact. 

82. Seistan ; here a trisyllabic word Sa-is-stan, as in /. 750, 757, 799. 
The modern pronunciation makes it ordinarily disyllabic, Sistan. 

83. whether that . . . or In some quarrel. These are alternative 
reasons for Rustum's retirement, but the parallelism is obscured by the 
form of expression ; in prose correlatives should be followed by similar 
words or phrases ; 'either because he feels the advances of old age, or 
because he has quarrelled . . . f . 

85. the Persian King. The events related in the poem took place in 
the reign of Kai Kapis (probably the Cyaxares known to Greek historians). 
Arnold, however, in /. 223, names him as Kai Khosroo (probably the 
Cyrus of Herodotus), who was a grandson of Kai Kao^Ts. 

86-7. forbodes, insert ' that '. 
87. this field, field of battle. 

88-91. There are several ellipses. ' I should be glad to feel sure that 
you were safe . . . gladly therefore would I send thee hence to seek' 
Rustum by peaceful means, and not to seek duels that are useless '. 

91-2. Rhetorical question equivalent to negative assertion. The two 
questions in juxtaposition contain an implied comparison ; Sohrab has 
the impetuosity and pugnacity that one might expect from the son of 
Rustum, who was like a lion amongst men. 

104. by this, 'by this time*. 

Ill et seg. The simile of the cranes may have been suggested by 
Homer, //. ii., 459-63. * And as the many tribes of feathered birds, 
wild geese or cranes or long-necked swans, on the Asian mead by Kay- 
strios' stream, fly hither and thither joying in their plumage, and with 
loud cries settle ever onwards^ and the mead resounds ; even so poured 
forth the many tribes of warriors from ships and huts into the Skaman- 
drian plain'. 

Cranes always preserve an orderly formation in their flight. 

114. the Arallan estuaries, i.*., the estuaries (the wide parts near the 
mouths) of the rivers that flow into the Aral Sea, viz., the Oxus and 

For the series of proper names in these and the following thirty lines 
*/. Milton, Paradise Los:, i. 576-87, Paradise Regained, ii. 350-65. 


Arnold's names have neither the sonorousness nor the imaginative value 
of Milton's (set Macaulay, Essay on Milton^ 24) ^ but they have the 
advantage of being more appropriate from the point of view of local 
colouring. On the local colouring of the poem Arnold spent much care, 
as witness the geographical names here and in lines 750-66, the details 
in //. 96-101, and the similes generally. Of the similes, Arnold said, 4 I 
took a great deal of trouble to orientalise them (the Bahrein diver was 
originally an ordinary fisher) because I thought they looked strange, 

spaces of Central Asia, and the wild freedom of the Tartar life 

115. ffrore, an archaism for 'frozen* ; the perfect participle of the 
O.E. verb frtosan, to freeze, was froren. Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost) ii. 

120. This fermented milk is called koumiss. 

122. the lances, *.., the lancers, or men who carry lances. By the 
figure of metonvmy, the name of the instrument stands for the name of 
the user of the instrument, because of the close association between the 
two. Cf. ' The pen is mightier than the sword ', which means that 
writers have greater power than soldiers ; so also ' the press ' means 
the men who use the printing-press, especially the editorial staff of a 

127. a more doubtful service ; their allegiance to King Afrasiab was 
not very steady. 

130. skull-caps; caps fitting closely to the head. 

138. Ilyats. This word in itself means no more than 'tribes ', but 
seems to have been applied particularly to the tribes of Khorassan. 

142. threading. The usual phrase would be 'threading his way 
through '. The metaphor implies that it was not easy ; ' making his 
way through with some difficulty, as one passes a thread through the 
eye of a needle '. 

150. According to Firdausi it is Sohrab himself who does this challeng- 
ing, and in the first instance he challenges Kai-Kaus. 

156. This representation of external nature as capable of human 
emotion was called by Ruskin a Pathetic Fallacy. He might have said 
that corn could not in actual fact have any feeling of joy, although it 
may falsely appear to be joyful to an imaginative mind under the 
influence of the emotion of joy. In connection with Kingsley's line, 

1 The cruel, crawling foam/ 

he observes, ' The foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl. The state of 
mind which attributes to it these characteristics of a living creature, is 
one in which the reason is unhinged by grief '. But it may be said that 
to endow these things ' with animation and soul is not necessarily to 


falsify, may rather be to see more to the very root of them *. T 
a truth of imagination as well as a truth of science. This figure is 
a special form of personification. 

161. the Indian Caucasus, the Hindu Kush range of mountains. 

162. milk snow. Milk is here used as an adjective ; ' snow of 
whiteness '. This gives a much more vivid picture than the plain 
'white', which only conveys an abstract idea. 

165. chok'd by the air ; a bold use of the word to signify the sto 
of breathing, not, as usual, because the throat or windpipe was bl 
by some solid or liquid, but because in high altitudes the air is so 

166. It is said that travellers, when crossing high passes, comi 
cat sugared mulberries in order to lessen the difficulty of breathii 

167. stop their breath, hold their breath lest by the vibration < 
air they should start an avalanche. The prohibition of shoutinj 
common precaution in Alpine climbing. 

169. pale, with fear. 

177. take up the challenge = accept. Probably the phrase c 
from the mediaeval custom of throwing down a glove into the lists 
challenge in a tournament ; whoever wished to accept the chal 
would pick up the glove. 

Arnold prided himself on what he called the ' literalness ' o 
poetry. This does not mean that he avoided metaphor, althoug] 
metaphors, in contrast with the similes, are not remarkable for 
frequency ; but his metaphors certainly are rarely far-fetched, v 
or obscure in any way. 

178. aloof he sits, ' apart or at a distance '. R us turn had quarr 
with the King and would take no part in the fighting. Compan 
withdrawal of Achilles from active participation in the siege of Tr< 
wrath against Agamemnon. For aloof, see Glossary. 

183. the while, 'meanwhile*. 

188. through the opening squadrons ; they stood aside to make 
for Peran-Wisa. Note Arnold's care over details. Previously, as h< 
advancing from rear to front, they had not made way because they c 
not have seen him, but now, after he had made his challenge before tl 
all eyes were upon him. 

210. stand at gaze, expectant. Gazing is looking intently at someti 
and the phrase at gaze is used of deer in the attitude of gazing 
expecting something to appear. 

217. Antithesis. 

Iran, ;*.*., Persia ; Iran was the mythological founder of the Pe 
race, as Tur was of the Turanian. 


221. Go to ! an imperative frequently used in Shakespeare expressing 
impatience or remonstrance. 

223. Kal-Khosroo. Arnold has made a mistake here. The events 
occurred in the reign of Kai-Kaus, the grandfather and predecessor of 
Kai-Khosroes. See note to line 85. 

229. See Introduction, 8, for the significance of these lines in the 
structure of the plot. Cf. 609. 

232. snow-halr'd Zal. Zal was, according to tradition, born with 
white hair ; hence the name, which means Aged. This % was regarded as 
an ill omen, and he was exposed on the Elburz mountains, where, how- 
ever, he was rescued and nurtured by a griffin (v. line 679). In memory 
of this he made a griffin part of the heraldic device on his shield. 

233. Seistan was on the S.W. border of Afghanistan. 

237-41. Notice the effect of these successive lines beginning on the 
same word. This is a frequent device with Tennyson, who, however, 
uses much more emphatic words. Compare the lines where Galahad 
relates how he saw the Holy Grail : 

Fainter by day, but always in the night 

Blood-red, and sliding down the blacken'd Marsh 

Blood-red, and on the naked mountain top 

Blood-red, and in the sleeping mere below 


Cf. lines 440-2, 516-9, 802-6. 

237. 'And with m | great name | A fence | that weak | old man'. 
fence, ' defend '. 

243-8. Rustum is moved only by a taunt, viz., that he is content to 
rest on his laurels, and is even afraid to risk losing his fame by^ a defeat. 
In the Shah Nam eh the wily Gudurz suggests that Rustum is afraid ; 
but there is nothing like the subtlety of this taunt. 

257. In plain arms. Rustum would not wear his customary armour, 
which was decorated (viz., on the shield, with a figure of the griffin 
which rescued him when he was exposed in childhood) ; thus he would 
not be recognised. 

267. helm, archaic for ' helmet '. 

268. spine, a metal spike. 

269. Epic repetition. 

270. Ruksh, or Rakush, ' whose name, being interpreted, meaneth the 
lightning '. ^ According to the Shah Nameh, the young Rustum had been 
provided with the huge mace of Zal's father, the great Sam, and asked 
for a steed of corresponding power. None of the many excellent horses 
of Zal would satisfy him, but at last he saw a fine mare followed by a 
colt with chest and shoulders of remarkable power, ( whose bright and 


glossy coat was dappled o'er like blossoms of the rose upon a saffron 
lawn '. The mare had killed all who attempted to capture the colt, but 
Rustum succeeded in noosing the Ruksh and killing the mare. The 
animal was difficult to break, but once mounted ' the rose-coloured steed 
bore him along like unto the wind '. 

271. at heel, ' close behind '. 

275. a colt, in apposition with whom. 

277. dight, archaic for ' adorned, arrayed ' ; cf. Milton, // Penseroso, 
| storied windows richly dight '. Bight, from O.E. dihtan, should be the 
infinitive form, the participle being dight ed. 

278. ground, a term in heraldry practically equivalent to ' back- 
ground '. From the primary meaning of ground as ' that which supports, 
*.*., a foundation or base ', naturally comes the secondary meaning of 
'background, i.e., the ^ basis on which some work is carried out', and 
with reference to textile materials that part of the cloth which is of 
uniform colour and on which the figures are worked. 

288. tale, ' number ' (that which is counted, or told). Cf. Macaulay 
H or at in s i 

And now hath every city 
Sent up her tale of men. 

(O.E. /<*/, ' a number ' ; ' a narrative ' was /j/.) 

The members who count when divisions are taken in the House of 
Commons are still called ' tellers '. 

290. pale, with suspense. 

It is noticeable how by these three similes Arnold, in true Homeric 
fashion, holds the action in suspense at a critical moment, and one where 
the minds of the actors are in suspense. ' The Bahrein diver was 
originally an ordinary fisher ' (see note to /. 114), but Arnold determined 
to orientalise his similes lest they should cause incongruity if Western 
in tone. 

293. swath, a line or row of grass or grain mown and thrown together 
by the sweeps of a scythe ; or the passage so cut. (O.E., swad or swadu, 
a track. Skeat suggests that the earliest meaning may have been a 
' slice '. There is another swathe from O.E. swadu, a band or bandage.) 

296. stubble, the lower ends of stalks of corn left standing in the 
ground after the crop has been cut. 

304. blackened with the fuel. 

305. at cock-crow, at dawn. 

306. flowers. ' To flower ' is usually an intransitive verb ' to burst 
out into flower '.^ Here it is transitive, ' makes flowers on . . . '. This 
phenomenon, which is, of course, familiar to Western readers, is caused 
by the moisture in the atmosphere of a warm room being condensed on 
the cold glass window panes. When the external temperature is below 


freezing point this condensed moisture is frozen on the window panes in 
various beautiful designs, many of which resemble flowers. 

Whiten* d, a proleptic use ; the adjective is applied in anticipation 
before it is strictly true. The panes are only whitened when the moisture 
has been frozen. Cf. Keats, Isabella : 

So these two brothers with their murdered man 
Rode past fair Florence. 

!*.;., the man whom they were about to murder. The action is vividly 
imagined as already done. See also line 789. 

310. defying forth, elliptic, ' defying and challenging to come forth ' 

314. like some young cypress. This comparison is frequent in the 
Shah Nameh, t.g., Rustum's description of Sohrab, ' In stature perfect, 
as the cypress tree ' ; and, again, Sudaveh speaking to Saiiwush praises 
1 That cypress form replete with grace '. ^ (Atkinson's translation, pp. 
1 32 and 146.) Elsewhere, *.., in the description of Tahmineh, the same 
phrase is used. The cypress in Greek, and so in English, poetry is tra- 
ditionally associated with sorrow and death ; but in Asia it is symbolic 
of joy and gladness. 

328. Never was thai field lost. ' Field ' by metonymy for the fight 
that was fought upon it. 

330. Be governed, /.*,, by prudence. 

331. 'To Ir | an A | and be* | as my s6n [ tome 1 '. 

The second ictus or metrical stress is only an imaginary beat, falling 
during the pause after Iran. The superiority of this scansion over ' To 
Ir | an and | be as | my s6n | to me* ' is obvious, since in the latter 
and and as cannot take an accent, whereas be ought to be accented. 

336. planted. The use of this word suggests the solid strength of 
Rust urn ; he stood 4 firmly as a mighty tree or a tower. 

337. Sole, alone ; cf. I. 563, and Thyrsis, 192, ' and me thou leavcst 
here Sole in these fields ! ' Notice the emphasis given by the metrical 
movement ; sole is a monosyllabic foot (with pause before and after) on 
which the voice must linger. 

345. askance, *.*., with suspicion ; literally, obliquely, out of the 
corner of the eye. 

347-63. Arnold is Careful to give a motive for Rustum's refusal ; no 
reason is given by Firdausi. 

347. I muse, poetic for ' I wonder ' ; cf. Macbeth, in., iv., 85. [Pro- 
bably from Lat. mussare, ' to mumble, be in uncertainty '.] 
fox, i.*., youth with the reputed qualities of the fox, viz., cunning. 
377-8. Epic repetition ; cf. 406-7, ' sharp rang . . . rang sharp'. 
379. on big feet. Note the full significance of these three words : 


Sohrab is no longer kneeling and suppliant, but has been roused by the 

383* were, ' would be ' ; subjunctive used conditionally. 

385. dreader ' dreadful '. The verb dread which now forms its pret. 
and participle by adding ed. was originally strong. 

387-97. This belief in an unchanging destiny is peculiarly in place in 
an Oriental poem. Its fatalistic tone will need no further comment for 
those who are familiar with the ideas of Karma and Kismet. Cf. lines 
708-15, 725, 773-4. 

394-5. Epic repetition. 

397. the event, ' the result, or issue ' ; cf. Hamlet, iv., iv., 41, * think- 
ing too precisely on the event '. 

399. ' His spear, J A d6wn | from the sh6uld | er d6wn | it came '. 
Notice the emphatic monosyllabic foot, which makes ' the sound ai 
echo to the sense '. 

400. The similitude is hardly exact. The likeness is at most only i 
the speed of the descent, and even in this respect is not remarkabl 

402. ' A Drdps | like a plum | met . . . '. Cf. 399 note. 

408. which none but he could wield. Since but is a preposition, stri< 
grammar requires him instead of he. The nominative is used also 1 
Macaulay : * Which none but he can wield '. ( Horatius.) 

416. and struck. This is a continuation from lines 408-9. 

428. Cf. 376-8. 

435. hollow roar. From the general meaning of 'without bod 
hollow, as applied to sound, comes to mean weak or not full-ton* 
Cf. I. 666, 'with a hollow voice he spake '. 

452. autumn star. Sirius, the dog-star, was in the ascendant duri 
the hottest part of summer (the Dog Days), and was in astrology c 
nected with fevers ; but it can hardly be called ' autumn star '. I 
noted for its brightness. 

457. Notice how the irregular metre expresses Rustum's chol 

' A Girl | ^ nim I ble with thy feet | A n6t | with thy hands '. a 
The principle ot the sound seeming an echo to the sense is skilf 
expressed and exemplified in Pope's Essay on Criticism : 

But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, 
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar : 
When Ajax strives some rock's huge weight to throw, 
The line too labours, and the words move slow. 

458. Curl'd minion, cf. Othello, i., ii., 68, 'the curled darlings oi 
nation'; the expression conveys the idea of effeminate eleg;