Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Warrior Sām Describes his Victory over a Dragon
By Firdawsī (c. 940–1020)
From the ‘Shāh-Nāmah’: Version by James Atkinson

I AM thy servant, and twice sixty years
Have seen thy prowess. Mounted on my steed,
Wielding my battle-axe, o’erthrowing heroes,
Who equals Sām, the warrior? I destroyed
The mighty monster, whose devouring jaws        5
Unpeopled half the land, and spread dismay
From town to town. The world was full of horror;
No bird was seen in air, no beast of prey
In plain or forest; from the stream he drew
The crocodile; the eagle from the sky.        10
The country had no habitant alive,
And when I found no human being left,
I cast away all fear, and girt my loins,
And in the name of God went boldly forth,
Armed for the strife. I saw him towering rise,        15
Huge as a mountain, with his hideous hair
Dragging upon the ground; his long black tongue
Shut up the path; his eyes two lakes of blood;
And seeing me, so horrible his roar,
The earth shook with affright, and from his mouth        20
A flood of poison issued. Like a lion
Forward I sprang, and in a moment drove
A diamond-pointed arrow through his tongue,
Fixing him to the ground. Another went
Down his deep throat, and dreadfully he writhed.        25
A third passed through his middle. Then I raised
My battle-axe, cow-headed; and with one
Tremendous blow dislodged his venomous brain,
And deluged all around with blood and poison.
There lay the monster dead, and soon the world        30
Regained its peace and comfort. Now I’m old;
The vigor of my youth is past and gone;
And it becomes me to resign my station
To Zāl, my gallant son.
Translation of Arthur George and Edmond Warner

“THE DRAGON seemed a lofty mountain
And trailed upon the ground its hairlike lassos.
Its tongue was like a tree-trunk charred; its jaws
Were open and were lying in my path.
Its eyes were like two cisterns full of blood.
It bellowed when it saw me, and came on        40
In fury, seeming all afire, O Shah!
Within.—The world ’gan swim before mine eyes,
A black reek went up to the murky clouds,
Earth’s surface shook beneath the bellowing,
The venom seemed to be a sea of Chín.        45
  Then like a gallant warrior I roared
Against that dragon, as a lion roareth,
And tarried not, but fitted to my bow
A poplar arrow, tipped with adamant,
And shot it at the dragon’s jaws, to pin        50
The tongue against the throat. The tongue lolled pinned;
The dragon was astound.
                            Again I shot,
Again I pierced the mouth;—the creature writhed.
  I shot a third shaft right adown its jaws;
Its heart’s blood spouted seething.
                            When it closed
And pressed me hard, I took mine ox-head mace,
And, in the strength of God, the Lord of all,
Urged on mine elephantine steed and smote
The dragon’s head. Thou wouldst have said that heaven
Rained mountains down thereon.
                        I smashed the skull,
As it had been a mighty elephant’s.
And venom poured forth like the river Nile.
So struck I that the dragon rose no more,
While earth was leveled to the hills with brains,
Kashaf was flowing like a stream of gall,        65
And all was peace.”

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