Iran

No One Knows the Secret Heaven Holds

This is a guest post by حکیم ابوالقاسم فردوسی توسی ( Ferdowsi)

No One Knows the Secret Heaven Holds

Fear of Feraydoun fixed itself
firmly in Zahhak’s head, harrowing
his thoughts, bending his back beneath
its weight, wrenching his words from everything
but the fate foretold by Zirak. Zahhak
sat on his ivory throne, his turquoise
crown upon his royal brow,
and he called to his court from throughout his kingdom,
the prince of each province to promise him loyalty.
“You are wise men,” he said to them,
“and you’ve heard the world hides from me
the enemy in whose hands my fate waits.
He may appear unworthy of fearing,
but I won’t assume he’s weak. I want,
therefore, to raise the fiercest army,
my demons marching beside your men,
for me to leave into battle against him.
Approve, therefore, this proclamation. Confirm
that as your commander I’ve sown nothing
but seeds of righteousness and spoken only truth.
Sign here so all can see
pursuit of justice is my sole concern.”

Trembling with fear, the assembled men,
knowing they couldn’t say no and live,
signed their names to Zahhak’s lies,
when a man demanding justice marched
into the palace. The princes made a place
for him to sit. “At whose hands,”
the serpent king asked, “have you suffered
so much that you dare to seek me out?”
Stunned to be hearing the king himself,
hitting his head with his fists, the man
called out, “I am Kaveh! I have come,
your highness, to protest injustice thrust
to the hilt like a knife many times
into my heart. If what I’ve heard here
is true, if you pursue only justice,
grant me relief from this great grief
rooted in my soul. Show the righteousness
you claim as yours, and raise your good name
to the heavens! The hurt blackening
my days, your majesty, comes mostly
from you! You say you will not stand
for the smallest offense committed against me,
but you never hesitate to harm my sons.
Of my eighteen young ones only one
is left. Allow him to live, I beg you.
Keep my soul, my king, from the cruel
and endless torture I would endure
if you feed your serpents his flesh. Tell me,
what have I done to deserve his death?!

“And if I’m innocent, don’t build my guilt
from false accusations. This misfortune fills
my mind with misery, murders the hope
children should be when you reach old age!
Injustice has a middle and a limit,
and so it has logic. Charge me, and judge me,
if you have charges to bring, or don’t butcher my child!
I’m a simple blacksmith, innocent
of any wrong against you, yet you,
breathing fire, burn my life!
A dragon-king is still a king,
obliged to provide justice. Sire,
your kingdom stretches across the seven climes.
Why should this fate fall here to me?
Explain yourself! Plead your case
before us now. Bring some sense
to why my son, from among
all your subjects, must satisfy those serpents
with his brains. Submit your words to the world
and let the world judge your worth!”

Zahhak sat back, gasping,
wordless, eyes wide with wonder,
fearing Kaveh’s furious courage.
Scheming to win the blacksmith’s support,
he ordered the boy restored to his father,
lavished Kaveh with kindness,
and commanded him to commit his name
to the praise the declaration proclaimed.
The blacksmith read from beginning to end
and turned to the elders assembled there:
“You’ve made yourselves this Devil’s minions,
divorced in your hearts from heaven! It’s hell
you look to now, bowing to this beast.”

He rose, enraged, to his full height,
tore the proclamation to pieces
he stomped into the ground, then stormed
with his son out into the street.

The gathered nobles sought to soothe
what they assumed was Zahhak’s wounded
pride, “O great and powerful prince
of princes! King of kings! The cool
breeze dares not blow above you
on the day you muster your men for battle.
Yet this foul-mouthed Kaveh calls you out,
as if his status equaled to yours,
grinding our covenant into the ground,
rejecting your right as ruler
to his obedient submission. Swollen with scorn,
his head and heart fury-filled,
he’s gone to forge with Feraydoun
an alliance against you. We won’t accept this!”

“Listen to this,” Zahhak insisted.
“See how strange things sometimes are:
As soon as Kaveh spoke, there seemed
to rise between us a mountain of iron,
and when he hit his head with his hand,
the apparition shattered, foreshadowing
what only time will tell. No one
knows the secrets Heaven holds.”

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