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84 They saw a certain stranger knight; he sat weeping on the bank of the stream, he held his black horse by the rein, he looked like a lion and a hero; his bridle, armour and saddle were thickly bedight with pearls; the rose (of his cheek) was frozen in tears that welled up from his woe-stricken heart.

85 His form was clad in a long coat over which was thrown a panther's skin, his head, too, was covered with a cap of panther's skins; in his hand he held a whip thicker

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than a man's arm. They looked and liked to look at that wondrous sight.

86 A slave went forth to speak to the knight of the woestricken heart, who, weeping with downcast head, seems not a spectacle for jesting; from a channel of jet (his eyelashes) rains a crystal shower. When (the slave) approached, he could by no means bring himself to speak a word (to Tariel).

87 The slave was much perturbed; he dared not address him. A long time he gazed in wonder till his heart was strengthened; then he said: "(The king) commands thee (to attend him)." He (the slave) came near, (and) greeted him gently; he (Tariel) wept on and heard not, he knew not that (the slave) was there.

88 He heard not a word of the slave, nor what he said; he was wholly unconscious of the shouting of the soldiers, he was sobbing strangely, his heart burnt up with fires; tears were mingled with blood, and flowed forth as from floodgates.

89 Elsewhither his mind was wafted, by the weight of his head! Once again the slave uttered the king's message, but (Tariel) ceased not from weeping and heard him not, nor was the rose-bouquet (of speech) plucked from his lips.

90 Since he answered not, the slave went back and said to Rosten: "I have told him what you said, but he will not listen. Mine eyes were dazzled as by the sun; my heart was sorely troubled. I could not make him hear a word though I have tarried there so long."

91 The king wondered, he was wroth, he was vexed in heart against him. He sent the twelve slaves standing before him; he commanded: "Take weapons of war in your hands; go and bring hither him who sits yonder."

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92 The slaves went forth, they drew nigh to him, their armour clanked. Then indeed the knight started up, he wept still more woefully; he raised his eyes and looked round, he saw the band of warriors. But once he said, "Woe is me!" and spoke no word more.

93 He passed his hands over his eyes, he wiped away the hot tears, he made fast his sabre and quiver, and braced his strong arms. He mounted his horse--why should he heed the words of slaves? He wended his way elsewhither, and healed not their troubles.

94 The slaves stretched forth their hands to seize that knight; he fell upon them--alas! even their enemies would have pitied them; he beat one against another, he slew them without raising (on high) his hand, some with his whip he smote, cleaving them down to the breast.

95 Wrathful was the king, and annoyed; he shouted to the slaves. The youth looked not back nor heeded his pursuers till they were upon him; as many as overtook him he made to look like dead men, he threw down man on man; Rosten lamented thereat.

96 The king and Avt’handil mounted to follow the youth. Proud and haughty, his form swayed to and fro, his steed was like Merani, the sun shone brightly on the field; he perceived that the king pursued him.

97 When he saw that the king was come, he struck his horse with his whip; in that very moment he was lost, our eyes see him not; he seemed to have sunk into an abyss or flown to heaven; they sought, but could find no trace of his course.

98 His footprints they sought, and marvelled to find no trace. Thus, leaving no vestige, the man passed away like a Devi. The soldiers mourned for their dead; they hastened to bind up the wounded. The king said: "I have seen cause for loss of joy."

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99 He said: "God is weary of the happiness I have had hitherto, therefore He turns my pleasure into the gall of bitterness; He has wounded me unto death, none can cure me. Such, by His grace, is His will and desire."

100 Thus he spoke, and returned; he went frowning away. They summoned not to the lists; groan was mingled with groan. Each ceased from the chase wherever he was following it. Some said: "He is right!" others said: "O God!" (?)

101 The king went into his bedchamber sad and frowning. Avt’handil watched like a son that none save himself should follow; all went away, the household dispersed; merriment ceased, the castanet and the sweet harp.

102 T’hinat’hin heard of her father's great sadness. She rose and came to the door; she with whom the sun strove asked the chamberlain: "Sleeps he or wakes he?" He answered: "He sits brooding; his colour has suffered a change.

103 "Avt’handil alone is present; he sits in a chair before, him. They have seen a certain stranger knight; this is the cause of his melancholy." T’hinat’hin said: "I will now depart; it is not time for me to go in. When he asks for me, say: 'She was here but now.'"

104 Time passed; he inquired: "What doth the maiden, my solace and jewel, my water of life?" The chamberlain replied: "She came, pale-faced, but now; she learned of your sadness and went away, but she is ready to come to your presence."

105 He said: "Go, call her; how can I bear absence from her! Say unto her: 'Why didst thou turn back, O life of thy father? Come, drive away my grief,

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heal my wounded heart. I will tell thee wherefore my joy fled.'"

106 T’hinat’hin rose and came; she did as her father wished. The light of her face is like the splendour of the moon. Her father set her by his side, and, kissing her tenderly, gently, said: "Why tamest thou not to me? wert thou waiting till I sent for thee?"

107 The maiden said: "O king, who, however venturesome, would dare to approach you aware that you were frowning? This sadness of yours upsets even the lights of heaven. Let a man seek to solve the difficulty; this, I think, would be better than grieving."

108 He answered: "O my child, however much this sad affair grieves me, thy sight and life cause me joy. My grief is dissipated as if I had taken an electuary. I believe that when thou knowest thou too wilt justify my sighing and groaning.

109 "I met a certain beautiful, wondrous youth; his ray enlightened the firmament and the bounds of the earth. I could not find out why he was afflicted, nor for whom he wept. He came not to see me; I was irritated and quarrelled with him.

110 "When he saw me, he mounted his horse and wiped the tears from his eyes. I cried out that he must be seized; he utterly destroyed my men; like an evil spirit, he was lost to me, he saluted me not like a man. Even now I know not whether he was real or a vision.

111 "His (God's) tender mercies at length have become thus bitter to me; I have forgotten the past days of my joy. Every one will make me sad and comfort me no more. However long my days may be, I can no more rejoice."

112 The maid replied: "Deign to hearken to my uttered words. O king, why repine at God or fate! Why

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accuse of bitterness the All-seeing, who is tender to all! And why should the Creator of good make evil:

113 "If this knight was indeed (a man) of flesh wandering over the earth, others must have seen him; they will appear to instruct you. If not, it is a devil who has appeared to you to disturb your joys. Refrain from sadness. Why art thou become cheerless?

114 "This is my advice: Thou art king, ruler over kings; wide is your boundary, boundless is your power; send everywhere men with news of this story; soon shall you know whether this youth be a mortal or not."

115 He commanded men and sent them forth even to the four corners of the heavens, saying: "Go, spare yourselves no pains; search, hunt for that youth, let nothing hinder you; send a letter whither ye cannot go nor attain."

116 The men went, they wandered about for a year; they looked, they sought that youth, they inquired again and again. They could find none of God's creatures who had seen him. Wearied in vain, they returned, dissatisfied with themselves.

117 The slaves said: "O king, we have wandered over the lands, yet could we not find that youth, so we could not rejoice; we could meet no living man who had seen him; we have not been able to serve you, now devise some other plan."

118 The king replied: "My daughter, my child, spoke truth. I have seen a hideous, unclean spirit; he has been sent as my foe, flying down from heaven. Grief is fled from. me; I care nothing for all that."

119 Thus he spoke, and sporting was increased with, rejoicing; they called the minstrel and the acrobat! wherever they were found, many gifts were distributed, he

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summoned all to the throne-room. What other did God create with generosity like unto his!

120 Avt’handil sat alone in his chamber, clad only in an under-garment; he was singing and making merry, before him stood a harp. To him came T’hinat’hin's black slave, and said: "She of the aloe form, the moonfaced one, sends for thee."

121 Avt’handil was glad to hear this joyful news. He rose and donned his best and brightest coat. He rejoiced to meet the rose; they had never yet met alone. Pleasant is it to gaze on beauty, and be near one beloved.

122 Proudly and boldly Avt’handil came to her; he was ashamed of none. He will see her for whom the tear of woe full oft had flowed. The peerless one sat mournful, she shone like lightning, her rays eclipsed the moon.

123 Her fair form was clad in unlined ermine, she wore negligently veils whose price it were hard to tell; but her black, heart-piercing eyelashes and the thick, long tresses which embraced her white throat were her real adornments.

124 Pensive she sat in her red veil; she quietly greeted Avt’handil, and gently bade him be seated. The slave placed a seat; he sat down modestly and respectfully. Face to face he gazed on her, full of great joy.

125 The knight said: "How indeed can I speak to one so dread! If the moon meet the sun it is consumed, it fades away. I am no longer at leisure to think; I fear for myself. Tell me, then, why you are sad and what will relieve you."

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126 The maiden replied with elegant words, not ill-chosen, saying: "Although thou hast hitherto remained far from me, yet I wonder thou shouldst be timid even for a moment. But first I must tell thee of the malady which afflicts me, as a plague.

127 "Dost thou remember, when thou and Rostan killed game in the plain, how ye saw a certain stranger youth who wiped his tears away? Since then I have been a prey to thoughts of him. I beg thee to search for him, to seek him even to the bounds of the earth (within the bounds of the sky).

128 "Although I have been unable to hold converse with thee hitherto, yet from afar have I perceived thy love for me; I know that without pause the hail has fallen from thine eyes upon thy cheek. Thou art made prisoner by love; thy heart is taken captive.

129 "This service of mine which I bid thee do befits thee for these two reasons: First, thou art a knight, among all flesh there is none like unto thee; secondly, thou art in love with me, this is true and no slander. Go, seek that brother-in-arms, be he near or far.

130 "Thereby shalt thou strengthen my love for thee; by delivering me from my sadness, thou shalt cripple the foul demon; plant the violet of hope in my heart, strew roses; then come, O lion, I shall meet thee like a sun; meet thou me.

131 "Seek three years him whom thou hast to seek; if thou find him, come gaily telling thy victory. If thou find him not, I shall believe he was a vision. Thou shalt meet the rosebud unwithered, unfaded.

132 "I swear if I wed any husband but thee, even should the sun become man, incarnate for my sake, may I be cut off for ever from Paradise, may I be swallowed up in Hell; love for thee would slay me, piercing my heart with a knife!"

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133 The knight replied: "O sun, who causest the jet 1 to blink, what have I said to thee, and what have I done to make thee suspect me? I awaited death; thou hast renewed my will to live. I shall certainly obey thee like a slave in service."

134 Again he spoke: "O sun, since God has created thee a sun, so that the heavenly planets obey thee wherever they may be, I have heard from you than which has overwhelmed me with grace; my rose shall not wither, thy ray shines generously upon it."

135 Once more they made an oath together, they promised each other, they confirmed it and discoursed much, with many a word; what grief they had borne until now became easy. Their white teeth flashed white lightning as if transparent.

136 They sat together, they made merry, they talked simply of a hundred things, they spoke with their crystal and ruby (faces) and jet (eyes). The knight said: "Those who gaze upon thee become mad; my heart is burned to ashes by the fire that comes from thee."

137 The youth went away, but he could not bear parting from her; he looked back, his eyes were dazed, crystal hails down and freezes the rose, his graceful form was trembling; he had heart for heart, he had lent (his) to love.

138 He said to himself: "O sun, separation from thee is thus early manifested on the rose; my crystal and ruby have faded, I am become yellower than amber. What

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shall I do, then, when I cannot see thee for a long time? This shall be my law: death for the beloved is fitting.

139 He lay down on his bed, he weeps, it is difficult for him to wipe away the tears, he shivered and swayed, like an aspen in the wind; when he fell into a slumber he dreamed his beloved was near, he starts, he cries out loud, his suffering increases twentyfold.

140 Separation from his beloved made him jealous. Tears like pearls were shed upon the rose, making it tender. When day dawned he apparelled himself, fair to look upon; he mounted his horse, set out, and came to court for an audience.

141 He sent a chamberlain into the hall of audience with a message from him to the king, saying: "O king, I venture to tell you what I have thought: all the face of the earth is subjected to you by your sword; now, if it be better, I shall make known these tidings to all the vicinage.

142 "I will go, I shall travel, I shall wage war, I shall go the rounds of the marches, I shall, by piercing the heart of your enemies, announce T’hinat’hin's accession; I shall cause the obedient to rejoice, the disobedient will I make to weep, I shall send you gifts incessantly, I shall not be sparing of greeting."

143 The king expressed his great gratitude; he said: "O lion, stretching thine arm in battle irks thee not. Behold, this thy counsel is matched by thy valour. Thou mayst go, but what shall I do if it happen that thou tarry long?"

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144 The knight came in; he did homage, and spoke some words of thanks: "O monarch, I wonder that you should deign to praise me. Now God will perchance lighten for me the darkness of separation, and let me see again in joy your joyful face."

145 The king hung upon his neck and kissed him like a son; like unto them have none been, neither upbringer nor upbrought. The knight rose and went away, to him their day seemed separated; Rostan, wise and soft-hearted, wept for him.

146 Avt’handil set out, a brave knight marching boldly; twenty days he journeyed, many a day he made one with the night. She is the joy of the world, she is treasure and due; he puts not away the thought of T’hinat’hin, of her for whom the flame burns.

147 Whenever he came there was rejoicing in the kingdom, nobles met him, they gave generous gifts; the sun-faced had not wasted time in his rapid journey. A dawning joy met them that came into his presence.

148 He had a strong city to strike terror in the marches; outside was a rock, I tell thee, with an unmortared wall. The knight spent there three days in the pleasant chase; he appointed his pupil, Shermadin, as vizier.

149 This is the slave Shermadin mentioned above, brought up with (Avt’handil), faithful and self-sacrificing to him. He knew not hitherto of the fire which burned the knight; now he (Avt’handil) revealed the hopeful words of the sun (T’hinat’hin).

150 He said: "Lo, Shermadin, for this I am ashamed before thee; thou knowest all my affairs and hast given heed to them; but hitherto thou hast not known what tears I have shed; in her from whom I had suffering I now find joy.

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151 "I am slain by love and longing for T’hinat’hin; from the narcissus (eyes) hot tears moistened the frosted rose; I could not till now show my hidden woe, now has she bidden me hope, therefore thou seest me joyful.

152 "She said to me: 'Learn news of that lost knight, then come, I shall fulfil thy heart's desire; I want no husband save thee, a planted tree falls to my lot.' She gave me the balm of my heart, until that moment bound captive.

153 "First, I am a knight; I wish to go forth to serve my lady. Faithfulness to kings is fitting, vassal must act as vassal; then, she has extinguished the fire, my heart is no longer consumed to soot; a man must not bend before misfortune, but meet it like a man.

154 "Of all lords and vassals thou and I are most friendly; therefore I entreat thee to hear this from mine own mouth; in my stead I appoint thee lord and chief over mine armies, I could not entrust this matter to others.

155 "Lead forth the soldiers to battle, rule the nobles, send messengers to court telling the state of affairs, write letters in my stead, present priceless gifts; why should it be known that I am not here? (thou must not let my absence be perceived).

156 "Represent me in military duties and in the hunting-field, wait here for me three years, keep my secret; perchance indeed I shall return, my aloe-tree shall not fade; but if I come not back, mourn me, weep for me, utter sighs.

157 "Tell the king forthwith--it is not a desirable

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deed--announce my death to him, be as if thou art drunk; say to him: 'For him is come to pass the thing which none escape.' Give to the poor my treasure--gold, silver and copper.

158 "Thus shalt thou help me after the best fashion, by this thou shalt aid me most; do not forget me soon, think of me often, take good thought of provision for me, pray for my soul. Remember my childhood; let thy heart be motherly towards me."

159 When the slave heard this he wondered, he was alarmed, from his eyes the hot tears poured like pearls. He said: "How can the heart deprived of thee rejoice? I know thou wilt not stay; so I cannot hinder thee in this matter.

160 "Why didst thou say thou wouldst appoint me in thy stead? How can I undertake the lordship, how can I imitate thee or resemble thee? It were better that the earth cradled me too than that I should have to think that thou art alone; rather let us both steal forth, I will accompany thee, take me with thee."

161 The knight replied: "Hearken unto me, I tell thee truth without beating about the bush: when a lover would roam the fields, alone he must wander; a pearl falls to the lot of none without buying and bargaining. An evil and treacherous man should be pierced with a lance.

162 "To whom could I tell my secret? save thee, none is worthy. To whom can I entrust the lordship save thee, who else can do it well? Fortify the marches that the enemy may not encamp near! Perchance I shall return, if God make me not to be wholly lost.

163 "Hazard kills equally be it one or a hundred. Loneliness can matter naught if the group (? grouping)

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of the heavenly powers (? planets) protect me. If I come not hither in three years, then will it beseem thee to mourn and wear funeral garb. I will give thee a letter, whoever is my courtier must obey thee."


23:1 black eyes.

Next: III. Avt’handil's Letter to His Vassals