The Tears of Khorassan

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The Tears of Khorassan  (1785) 
by Anvari, translated by William Kirkpatrick

Transcriber's Notes

  • This translation of the 12th century elegy by Anvari from Persian to English was transcribed by Arthur Nelson in 2016 from The Asiatick Miscellany (vol 1; tr William Kirkpatrick; dat 1785; pub Daniel Stuart; loc Calcutta) in which it appeared as The Tears of Khorassan.
  • For commentary and further reading the transcriber recommends A Literary History of Persia (EG Browne, 1908) and Classical Persian Literature (AJ Arberry, 1958).
  • The translator's preface, annotations, and accompanying original Persian text have been omitted.
  • Printer's errors, original orthography, and original spelling have been retained.
  • The original enumeration of the stanzas in roman numerals has been retained.
  • The original line indents in the 3rd and 6th lines of each stanza have been removed.
  • Occurrences of the long s (ſ) have been replaced with the short (s).
  • Typographical ligatures have been removed.


Waft, gentle gale, oh waft to Samercand,
When next thou visitest that blissful land,
The plaint of Khorassania plung'd in woe:
Bear to Turania's King our piteous scroll,
Whose opening breathes forth all the anguish'd soul,
And close denotes whate'er the tortur'd know.


Whose red-ting'd folds rich patriot blood enclose,
The mortal fine impos'd by ruthless foes,
And mishap'd letters prove our trembling fears:
Whose every word reveals a pungent grief,
Whose every line implores a prompt relief,
While every page is moistened with our tears.


Soon as loud Fame our wretched fate shall sound,
The ear of Pity shall receive a wound,
And feel th' extreme of intellectual pain:
Soon as our dismal tale shall meet the view,
The melting orbs shall catch a purple hue,
And sanguine drops the mournful verse distain.


Ah why, till now, was our sad state unknown
To him, who from the high Tartarian throne,
Subjected keeps the nether earth in awe?
But no—there's nought from him can be conceal'd,
To whom the planetary world's reveal'd,
And each decree of fate, and every law.


Human events are to fix'd dates referr'd,
Nor can their birth be hasten'd or deferr'd;
Nor we, till Heaven allows, enjoy repose:
But lo! the day is come, the destin'd spring,
Charg'd with bright glory to Turania's king,
With peace to us, and ruin to our foes.


The day is come, by pitying Heaven decreed,
When the new Cyrus his dread bands shall lead,
Vindictive, groaning kingdoms to sustain:
What though Turania's bounds his sway confine?
The glorious deeds of his illustrious line
Evince his right to universal reign.


Earth still shall with his endless praise resound,
Whom Sanjar to the scepter'd powers around,
Avow'd his son, and to a throne preferr'd:
Oh let him, then, as generous thoughts inspire,
And filial love, avenge his injur'd fire,
And hurl his thunders midst the Ghuzian herd.


Hail sweet Turania! happy region hail!
Where Justice rules, and where no fears assail
Thy numerous swains, or vex thy fruitful land:
Ah sure, who makes thy bliss his chearful care,
Shall mourn Irania, desolate and bare,
And wishing her thy peace, that peace command.


Oh thou! who hast the Kisrian age restor'd,
In whom Heaven's justice is by men ador'd,
And every grace of Munochere appears:
Oh Prince, in whom great Cyrus is renew'd!
With power and worth like Feridoon endu'd!
May'st thou attain Kyomerth's hallow'd years!


Ah! with benignity incline thine ear,
A piteous tale of misery to hear,
Nor to our woes the starting tear deny:
But as the dismal sounds shall pierce thy soul,
Oh yield thee to Compassion's soft controul,
And as she prompts, quick to our succour fly.


Thee, thus great champion of our sacred law,
Whose virtue and whose zeal inspire with awe,
Whom vice or frailty to sin provoke:
Thee thus Irania's groaning sons address,
Whom inward fires consume, and foes oppress,
And thus thy mercy and thy aid invoke.


Say dost thou know what wild confusion reigns
Throughout Irania's desolated plains,
And how her sons are drown'd in seas of tears?
Say dost thou know, of all her ancient boast,
And glorious sights that spread her fame the most,
No trace or mournful vestige now appears?


Here upstart slaves, to fame and worth unknown,
Rear their proud crests, and in imperious tone,
Command, whom distant nations still revere:
Here Avarice scoffs at virtue in distress,
And spurns whose bounty grateful thousands bless—
Oh hard reverse! and fate, too—too severe.


View where sage elders, prostrate at the door
Of some low wretch, in vain relief implore;
In vain their anguish and their wrongs disclose:
Behold the sons of rank debauchery bind
Yon holy anchorite, by Heaven resign'd,
A prey to dungeons and to sharpest woes.


Is there, where Ruin reigns in dreadful state,
Whom fortune smiles on, or whom joys await?—
'Tis yonder corse descending to the tomb:
Is there a spotless female to be found,
Where deeds of diabolic lust abound?—
'Tis yonder infant issuing from the womb.


The mosque no more admits the pious race;
Constrain'd, they yield to beasts the holy place,
A stable now, where dome nor porch is found:
Nor can the savage foe proclaim his reign,
For Khorassania's criers all are slain,
And all her pulpits levell'd with the ground.


Does some fond mother on a sudden view,
Among the victims of this murd'rous crew,
A darling son, her waning age's joy?
Since here the grief is fatal that is known,
Fear checks the rising tear and labouring groan,
Nor dares the matron ask how died her boy.


'Hold'—thou exclaim'st—'oh rigid tyrant hold!
What though yon wretch was purchas'd by thy gold,
Thy title's to his labour, not his health:'—
Alas! no slave that wretch, but one in whom
A thousand graces and fair virtues bloom,
By yon harsh tyrant spoil'd of countless wealth.


Such the disdain with which these miscreants treat
Each true believer whom they chance to meet,
As Pagan ne'er from zealous priest receiv'd:
In China, or in Greece, where Heathens reign,
A sure asylum Mussulmans obtain,
But vainly seek it where their faith's believ'd.


Oh thou of purest mind and noblest race!
By him who gave that crown thy brow to grace;
Who gave, t' adorn the minted ore, thy name:
By him—by Heav'ns just king, we thee conjure,
To loose our chains—our painful wounds to cure;—
So shall a grateful world thy praise proclaim.


Auspicious fate now calls thee to the field,
And now invites thee in our cause to wield
The tyrant's bane—the retributive sword:
Oh speed thee, then, and free a groaning land
From dire Oppression's and fell Rapine's band;—
So shalt thou be, while time endures, ador'd.


When late the savage foe thy anger mov'd,
They war's least evils from thy battles prov'd,—
Spoil'd of their wealth—their wives and sons enslav'd:
But now, provok'd the contest to resume,
Thy vengeful arm shall deal their final doom,
Nor one of all the cursed race be sav'd.


For sav'd Irania falls;—the barbarous crew
Regain their strength—their ravages renew,
And rule resistless till the end of time:
Kind angels shield thee from the rigid fate;
Oh far-fam'd kingdom! lov'd Irania! late
Fair Eden's envy, and earth's sweetest clime.


But ah! how chang'd the scene!—how dismal change!
Now o'er thy plains Oppression's blood-hounds range,
And realise whate'er of hell is feign'd:
Hence to where Justice keeps her earthly seat;
To thee, Turania, all who can retreat—
Ah wretched he by cruel want detain'd!


Pity, ah pity, then, who oft in vain
Seek suppliant, drooping nature to sustain,
A scanty portion of the coarsest corn:
Alas! how alter'd since with sensual air,
And pamper'd pride, we loath'd the sweetest fare,
And turn'd from costly delicates with scorn.


Pity, ah pity, then, whom, dead to joy,
No soothing thoughts engage, nor cause employ,
But night and day their hapless fate to mourn:
Pity who, forc'd by sullen Fortune's frown,
Have chang'd for bed of straw their couch of down;
Oh sad transition, and estate forlorn!


Pity us, then, though lost to martial fame,
Though fled to honour, and though sunk our name,
Nor yet despise us, though an abject race:
For ah! there was a time, as records tell,
When Persia's sons did in each grace excel,
Nor knew what bondage was, nor what disgrace.


'Tis thine to range, like Macedonia's prince,
The suffering globe, heaven's justice to evince;
For pitying heaven bestow'd thee in his room:
'Tis thine, oh King, the bold design to form;
'Tis thine to fight, while angels rule the storm,
And Victory waits to deck thee with her plume.


When thou, great Prince, array'd for war, shalt move,
The barbarous foe shall wildest terrors prove,
And mourn, prophetic, future thousands slain:
But when with awful voice thou call'st to arms,
(The dreadful sound exciting fresh alarms),
All shall for mercy cry, but cry in vain.


Oh thou, with glory crown'd! to whom belongs
The sword of justice, and the cure of wrongs,
Earth's mighty guardian, thou! by Heaven ordain'd:
To Persia, ah! thy fostering care extend,
Nor yet her name with perish'd nations blend,
Though all her plains be waste, and all her blood be drain'd.


The genial influence of the sun in spring
To thee belongs, and is thy type, oh King!
While Persia prospects of pil'd ruins yields:
Then emulate the generous planet's praise,
Which sheds alike its bright impartial rays,
On desolated towns and fruitful fields.


Thy care benign, like heaven-distilled showers,
Can raise the harvest, and can paint the bowers,
As bless'd Turania's verdant glories show
But since, great Prince, the balmy dew still feeds
Alike the barren heath, and flowery meads,
Let hapless Persia too thy bounty know


Since thine the task, impos'd by Almighty fate,
To aid the wretched, and to awe the great,
'Tis duty bids thee in our cause to arm:
Yet say, ah why should Persia's groaning land,
That like Turania owns thy just command,
Less urge thy love to shadow her from harm?


Oh wouldst thou in this great design engage,
The barbarous Ghuz, to shun thy generous rage,
Should vanish scar'd, nor more our peace molest:
Then when, ah when, from sad Irania's bounds,
Shall the soft gale convey the joyful sounds
Of conquests gain'd, and tyranny repress'd?


View, prompt with thee to yield the wish'd relief,
The king of sages, and earth's pious chief;
True honour's model, and true faith's firm stay!
In arts and manners hail'd by all supreme;
Whom men religion's luminary deem,
And whom the sphere and every orb obey.


Cheer'd by thy smile, as wisdom cheers the mind,
His captive heart is to thy will resign'd,
Nor loves the moon with a more ardent flame:
Oh may th' Eternal bless his every deed,
Who longs with thee to share the victor's meed,
To aid thy battle, and promote thy fame!


Hail, shade of God! hail Burhan much rever'd!
Through whom the wretched are to Heaven endear'd,
As through the Prophet all who own his law:
The glorious toil begun, whence peace shall grow,
Pleas'd, thou shalt rush vindictive on the foe,
And led by Sanjar's son spread mortal awe.


Oh taught by Sanjar (good and pious chief)!
To reach to Misery's sons the prompt relief,
To rule with justice, and fair truth to prize!
Oft hast thou seen, near the Siljokian throne,
Whom honour and whom virtue call their own,
Far-fam'd Kummaul! not least among the wise.


Well dost thou know to him was still reveal'd
Each royal purpose; nor from him conceal'd
Whate'er of evil or of good befel:
Bright shine his merits as the radiant sun;
And what his counsels, what his actions won,
Irania's matchless glories once could tell.


Him Khorassania's bleeding sons depute
To paint their wrongs—their wrongs, oh how acute!—
To thee, great master of the eastern sphere!
Then lift attentive to his tale of woe;
Ah lift as he describes the blood-stain'd foe,
Each past misfortune, and each future fear.


Nor thou, oh gracious King, our suffering known,
Shalt try to check the sympathetic groan,
Or deem the strange and horrid story feign'd:
For though the sage to aid our cause advise,
Thine he designs the glory and the prize—
The wretched succour'd, and an empire gain'd.


Oh shouldst thou rescue from this ruthless crew
The groaning world, how great will be thy due!
On earth success, in heaven eternal joy:
And sure when thou shalt read these plaintive strains,
And learn how fierce our foes—how sharp our pains,
Thoul't pant thy sword against them to employ.


Oh King, whom nature's rarest talents grace!
Supreme in learning, as supreme in place,
But chief thy skill in Poesy's sweetest arts:
View not th' unpolish'd line with rigid ken,
Nor faults betray'd in Omak's verse condemn,
But mourn whose errors flow from anguish'd hearts.


While yonder heaven-revoking orb shall shine,
And o'er the earth diffuse its rays divine,
The gloom dispel, and animate the day:
Mayst thou, just prince, great Cyrus of the age!
With power tyrannic prosp'rous war still wage,
And still enjoy the fruits of universal sway.

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.