605"One day the king and I went forth to the chase; we climbed upon a cape jutting out into the sea. P’hridon said to me: 'I will tell thee how, when we were out riding for sport, I once saw a wonderful thing from this cape.'
606"I bade him speak, and P’hridon told me even this tale: 'One day I wished to hunt, I mounted this steed of mine. It seemed as if there were a duck in the sea, a falcon on the land; I stood here and watched the flight of the hawk thitherward.
607"'Now and then as I climbed uphill I gazed out to sea. I perceived a small thing far away on the sea, going so swiftly that nothing of its kind could equal it; I could not make it out; in my mind I marvelled at these two things.
608"'I said to myself: "What is it? To what can I liken it? Is it bird or beast?" It was a boat tented over with many-folded stuff; a steersman guided it. I fixed
mine eyes upon it, and there in a litter sat the moon; I would have given her the seventh heaven (as habitation).
609"'Two slaves as black as pitch crept out, they put ashore a maiden, I saw her thick-tressed hair, the lightning that flashed from her--to what colours can it be likened?--would illumine the earth (and) make the sunbeams of no account.
610"'Joy made me hasten, quiver, stagger. I loved that rose who appeared torn to mine eyes. I resolved to engage them, I said: "Let me go towards them; what creature can fly away from my black (steed)."
611"'I pressed my horse with my heel. There was a noise and rustling among the rushes. I could not reach her, however much I used the spur; they were gone. I came to the seashore and looked round, she appeared only as a last ray of the setting sun, she went farther away, she was gone from me, therefore was I consumed by flame.'
612"This I heard from P’hridon; heat was added to my fire. I threw myself down from my horse, I wholly abased myself; with mine own blood shed from my cheeks I anointed myself. Kill me! That anyone but I should have seen that tree!
613"This behaviour of mine astonished P’hridon, it seemed passing strange to him; but he was exceedingly pitiful to me, by weeping he placated me, like a son he soothed me, he pled with me, treated me with deference, and, pearl-like, hot tears sprang from his eyes.
614"'Alas! what have I, misguided, madly told thee?' I said: 'It matters not, grieve not for that! She was my moon; for her the fire consumes me hotly. Now will I tell thee my tale, since thou thyself wishest to have me as comrade.'
615"I told P’hridon all that had befallen me. He said to me: 'What have I, mistaken, shamed, said to thee? Thou mighty king of the Indians, wherefore art thou come to me? A royal seat and throne become thee, a whole palace.'
616"Again he said to me: 'To whom God gives for form a young cypress, from him He withdraws the spear, though at first He lacerate his heart therewith. He will grant us His mercy, He will thunder it from heaven, He will turn our sorrow to joy, He will never grieve us.'
617"We went back tearful; we sat down alone together in the palace. I said to P’hridon: 'Save thee, none is mine aid. God has not sent thy like to earth, and since I know thee what more do I want?
618"'Thou hadst no friend until the time when thou didst meet me; use now thy tongue and mind to counsel me in this: What can I do? What is the best thing to bring joy to her and me? If I can do nought I shall not tarry (i.e., survive) a moment.'
619"He said to me: 'What better fate could I have from God than this? Thou art come to be gracious to me, king, sovereign of India. Needs it that after this I should desire any gratitude? I stand before thee as a slave to obey thee slavishly.
620"'This city is the highway for ships coming from all parts, an emporium of much foreign news of all kinds. Here shall we hear of .the balm to assuage the fire which burns thee. God grant that these woes and pains pass away!
621"'We will send out sailors who have fared on the sea before; let them find for us that moon for whose sake grief is not lacking to us; until then be patient, so that thy mind torture thee not; grief will not last for aye, shall not joy overcome it!'
622"That very instant we called men, we settled the business; we commanded them: 'Go with ships,
sail over the sea, seek her out for us, fulfil the desire of her lover; undergo a thousand hardships for this, not merely seven or eight.'
623"He appointed men wherever there were havens for ships; he gave orders: 'Seek out everywhere, wheresoever you hear of her.' Waiting seemed to me a consolation, my pains became lightened; absent from her I felt joy, and for the sake of that day I am ashamed.
624"P’hridon set up a throne for me in the place for the overlord. He said to me: 'Hitherto have I erred, I could not comprehend what I should have understood; thou art the great king of the Indians; who can please thee? Wherewithal? How? Who is the man who would not be thy subject!'
625"Why should I lengthen (the story)? From all sides came the seekers of news, empty, and wearied of empty places; they had learned nothing at all, they knew not any news. As for me, afresh the undrying tear flowed still more from mine eyes.
626"I said to P’hridon: 'How this day seems horrible to me, I have God for my witness thereto; to speak thereof is hard for me; without thee night and day alike seem eventide to me; I am loosed from all joy, my heart is bound with grief.
627"'Now since I may no longer expect any news of her, I can no longer stay; give me leave, I seek thy permission.' When P’hridon heard this he wept, he watered the field with blood, and said: 'Brother, from this day vain is all my joy!'
628"Though they tried very hard, they could not hold me back; his armies came before me on bended knees, they embraced me, kissed me, wept and made me weep 'Go not away; let us suffer for thee as long as life is ours.'
629"I spoke thus: 'Parting from you is very hard for me also, but it is hardly possible for me to have joy without her. I cannot forsake my captive (Nestan), whom you yourselves pity greatly; let none of you hinder me, I will not stay nor be held back by any.'
630"Then P’hridon brought (and) gave me this horse of mine; he said: 'Behold! this steed is (given) to you, the sun-faced, the cypress; more I know thou desirest not, why should I despise thy gift? This will please thee by its breaking-in and its swiftness.'
631"P’hridon escorted me; as we went we both shed tears; there we kissed each other, with cries we parted, all the host lamented for me, truly, in their hearts, not with the tongue; our severing was like that of foster-parent and child.
632"Departed from P’hridon, I went on the quest, again I fared so that I missed nought on land or out at sea; but I met no man who had seen her, and my heart became wholly maddened, I was like a wild beast.
633"I said to myself: 'No longer shall I rove and sail in vain; perchance the company of beasts may make my heart forget grief.' I said seven or eight words to my slaves and to this Asmat’h: 'I know I have brought grief upon you; you have good reason to murmur against me.
634"'Now go and leave me, provide for yourselves, look no longer on the hot tears flowing from mine eyes.' When they heard such discourse they said to me: 'Alas! alas! let not our ears hear what thou sayest!
635"'Let us not see any master or lord apart from thee, may God not sunder us from your horse's footprints! We would gaze upon you, a fair and adorable spectacle.' Fate, forsooth, makes a man listless, however valiant he may be.
636"I could not send them away; I hearkened to the words of my slaves, but I forsook the haunts of human tribes, the retreats of goats and stags seemed a fitting abode for me; I roamed, I trod every plain below and hill above.
637"I found these manless caves, hollowed out by Devis. I combated them, I destroyed them, they could by no means prevail against me; they killed my slaves, ill had they buckled on their coats of mail. Fate made me gloomy; her showers again bespattered me.
638"Behold, brother! since that day am I here, and here I die. Mad I roam the fields; sometimes I weep and sometimes I faint. This maid will not abandon me; she too is burned by fire for her (Nestan's) sake. I have no other resource to try but death.
639"Since a beautiful panther is portrayed to me as her image, for this I love its skin, I keep it as a coat for myself; this woman sews it, sometimes she sighs, sometimes she groans. Since I cannot kill myself, in vain is my sword whetted.
640"The tongues of all the sages could not forth-tell her praise. Enduring life, I think upon my lost one. Since then I have consorted with the beasts, calling myself one of them; I am suitor for death, nought else I entreat of God."
641He beat his face, he rent it, he tore his cheeks of rose; the ruby turned to amber, the crystal was shattered. Avt’handil's tears flowed too; one by one they dripped from his lashes. Then the maid soothed him (Tariel); on bended knee she besought him.
642Tariel, calmed by Asmat’h, said to Avt’handil: "I have made everything pleasant for thee, I who never found pleasure for myself. I have told thee the tale of mine irksome life; now go and see thy sun (T’hinat’hin), thou whose time for meeting is nigh."
643Avt’handil said: "I cannot bear to part from thee; if I separate from thee tears indeed will flow from mine eyes. Verily I tell thee--be not wroth at this boldness--she for whose sake thou diest will not be comforted thereby.
644"When a physician--however praiseworthy he be--falls sick, he calls in another leech, another skilled in the pulse; him he tells what illness inflaming him with fire afflicts him. Another knows better what is useful; advice for one.
645"Listen to what I say to thee; I speak to thee as a sage and not as a madman; a hundred times must thou give heed, once sufficeth not. A man so furious of heart can do nought well. Now I desire to see her for whose sake hot fire consumes me.
646"I shall see her, I shall confirm her love for me, I shall tell her what I have learned; nought else have I to do. I beseech thee to assure me, for God and Heaven's sake, let us not abandon one another, make me swear and make thou an oath to me.
647"If thou promise me that thou wilt not go hence, I shall assure thee by an oath that for nought shall I forsake thee; I shall come again to see thee, I shall die for thee, for thee shall I rove. If God will, I shall make thee cease to weep thus for her for whom thou diest!"
648He answered: "How is it that thou, a stranger, so lovest me, a stranger? It is as hard for thee to part from me as for the nightingale from the rose. How can I forget thee, how can I cease to remember thee! God grant that I may again see thee, full-grown young aloe-tree.
649"If thy form remain a tree (for me), and thy face turn round to see me, (my) heart will not flee into the fields, it will become neither a deer's nor a goat's. If I lie to thee or cheat thee, may God judge me in wrath! Thy presence will charm away my sadness (and) dissolve it!"
650Hereupon they swore, the frank friends, those jacinths of amber hue, wise-worded (but) mad-minded. They loved each other; for ever would affection's flame burn their hearts. That night the fair comrades spent together.
651Avt’handil wept with him; fast fell the tears. When day dawned he went forth, kissed him and parted from him. Tariel was so grieved that he knew not what to do. Avt’handil wept, too, as he rode through the rushes.
652Asmat’h went down with Avt’handil, she conjured him with an oath, she kneeled, she wept, she raised her fingers in entreaty, she besought him to come back soon; as a violet, so she faded. He replied: "O sister, of what can I think save you!
653"Soon shall I come; I shall not forsake thee nor waste time at home. But let him not go elsewhere; let not that fair form wander. If I come not hither in two months I shall be doing a shameful thing; be assured that I am fallen into unceasing grief."