Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Persia: Thus


By Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)

(From The Poet Ferdusi)
Translated by E. A. Bowring

SHAH MAHOMET full well had dined,

And his soul to be merry is fully inclined.

In the garden at twilight, on purple seat

He sits by the fountain. Its splashing sounds sweet.

With looks respectful his servants stand:

His favorite Ansari ’s amongst the band.

From marble vases a fiery gush

Of luxuriant flowers appears to rush.

Like Odalisques with graceful arms

Stand fanning themselves the slender palms.

The cypresses stand with branches unfurled,

As if dreaming of heaven, forgetting the world.

But sudden to strains of the lute erelong

Is heard a gentle mysterious song.

The Shah sprang up, as if sorely perplexed:

“Who wrote of this song the charming text?”

Ansari, from whom he sought to know it,

Replied: “’T is the work of Ferdusi the poet.”

“Ferdusi!” exclaimed the prince in dismay,—

“Where is he? How fares the poet, O, say!”

Ansari gave answer: “In poverty great

He has lived full long in a mournful state

“At Thus, the native town of the bard,

Where he in his garden works full hard.”

Shah Mahomet paused, and presently said:

“Ansari, a thought has come into my head.

“To my stables make haste, and with hands unthrifty

Take a hundred mules, and camels fifty.

“And lade them all with every treasure

That fills the heart of a mortal with pleasure,

“With splendid articles, rich and rare,

With costly dresses and furniture fair

“Of sandalwood and ivory white,

With gold and silver tissues dight;

“With precious-handled goblets and pots,

And leopard-skins, all covered with spots,

“With carpets and shawls and the richest brocade

That in my kingdom has ever been made.

“And don’t forget to pack with the rest

Some glittering arms, and of housings the best,

“As well as drinks of every kind

And eatables such as in pots we find,

“And almond cakes and sweetmeats Egyptian,

And gingerbread of every description,

“And also add a dozen steeds

As swift as arrows, of Arab breeds,

“And likewise a dozen slaves, black as coals,

With bodies of steel, and sturdy souls.

“Ansari, when all these things thou hast got,

Thou must start on thy journey, and linger not.

“Thou must take them all with my kind regard

To Thus, to Ferdusi, the mighty bard.”

Ansari fulfilled his lord’s behest,

And loaded the camels and mules with the best

And costliest presents, the value of which

Was enough to make a whole province quite rich.

In propria persona he left at last

The palace, when some three days had past,

And with a general’s banner red

In front of the caravan he sped.

At the end of a week to Thus came they;

The town at the foot of the mountain lay.

The caravan the western gate

With shouts and noises entered straight.

The trumpets sounded, the loud drums beat,

And songs of triumph rang through the street.

“La Illa Il Allah!” with joyous shout

The camel-drivers were calling out.

But through the east gate at the farther end

Of Thus, at that moment chanced to wend

The funeral train so full of gloom,

That the dead Ferdusi bore to his tomb.