Firdowsi and Mahmud of Ghazna

Written by
Hakim Abu al-Qasim Firdowsi

Translated by
J. Champion

Think not, 0 King! thy sceptre or thy pow'r
One moment can arrest the destin'd hour;
Know, 'tis thy charge pre-eninently thine
To act with justice, moral and divine.
The ant has life, that culls the bearded grain,
Thou shall not dare to sorrow it with pain.
Didst thou not tremble, conscious that the muse
Wou'd eminently scorn thy sordid views?
Didst thou not fear the man, whose heav'nly strain,
Bounding o'er time, made monarchs rule again,
Had worth or judgment glimmer'd in your soul,
You had not basely ll my honour stole--
Had royal blood flow'd in your grov'ling veins,
A monarch's laurels had adorn'd my strains.
Or were your mother not ignobly base,
The slave of lust--thou first of all thy race--
A poet's merit had inspir'd thy mind.
By science tutor'd, and by worth refin'd--
Such as thou art, the vileness of thy birth
Precludes each generous sentiment of worth--
Nor Kingly origin, nor noble race,
Warms thy low heart, the offspring of disgrace--
Thy life poor wretch! 'twas Isfahan that gave,
Thy sire, a blacksmith, and thy dam a slave.
This lesson, let each moralist indite,
Ne'er strive to make an Ethiopian white--
Nor vainly think the bastard of a slave
Can emulate the feelings of the brave--
Can the base prostitute with virtue glow,
Or worth can her polluted lineage know?--
For thee, will nature from her order stray,
And give to night the sun's meridian ray?--
In smoothest streams my numbbers richly flow,
Now glide along, and now with rapture glow.
Lives there a poet in whose tuneful veins
Flow loftier thoughts in more poetic strains?
Tho' poor, tho' humble--still the voice of fame
Shall eternize Firdausi's laurell'd name--
Heroes have blaz'd, the meteor of an hour,
Oblivion menac'd to entomb their pow'r--
Till snatch'd from silence, from devouring time,
They reign for ever, in the verse sublime--
For thirty years I woo'd the tuneful Nine,
And Persia lives in my immortal line--
But when alas! I clos'd the grand design
(The royal word was pledg'd, that word divine--
To monarchs sacred) vainly did I deem
That honour and rewards wou'd grace my theme--
So base a gift thou meanly dar'd to send
(Stam'd for thy falsehood,,wither'd be thy end)!
Thy gift, gave it to my menial slave
(Him it might suit, from poverty might save).
Had clear reflection e'er illum'd thy mind,
The bard had never damn'd thee to mankind--
No low'ring clouds had hover'd o'er my day;
Serene and mild had pass'd my evening ray--
Had not thy birth, polluted as thy soul,
Strove, tho' in vain, my genius to control.
Mortals attend--no low-born tyrant trust,
The truly great are to the Muses just--
The tree, whose native juices are defil'd,
No foliage shades, for ever rank and wild--
Tho' richest essence spreads its sweets around,
Tho' nurs'd and water'd on Elysian ground--
For ever wou'd its wither'd blossoms die,
And Art in vain her utrmost efforts try--
Expect not, honour'd bards! tho' sweet your strain,
Plaudits, or trophies from the loose profane.
From tainted springs no lucid waters flow,
From the rank weed no roseate blossosm grow.
The slave of envy damns your tuneful lays,
Droops at your pow'rs, and sickens at your praise.

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