Avt'handil's Departure From P'hridon to Seek Nestan-Daredjan
1023
THE knight speaks as he goes on his way like the full
moon; there is the thought of T'hinat'hin to gladden his
heart. He says: "I am far from thee; alas! the falseness of
the cursed passing world! Thou hast the healing balsam for
my wound.
1024
"WHY doth the ardour of grief for the heroes continually
burn me ? Why is my heart of rock and cliff become a hard
rock? Even three lances cannot show a bruise on me. Thou
art the cause that this world is thus envenomed for me."
1025
AVT'HANDIL fares on alone to the seashore with the
four slaves, with all his might he seeks balm for Tariel;
weeping by day and night he pours forth pools of tears; all
the world seems to him as straw, even as straw in weight.
1026
WHEREVER he sees travellers walking by the shore he
addresses them, he asks tidings of that sun. He roamed a
hundred days. He went up a hill; camels loaded with stuff
appeared; merchants distressed stood in perplexity on the
shore.
1027
A COUNTLESS caravan was there on the seashore, they
were distressed, they were gloomy, they could neither stand
nor go forward. The knight greeted them; they hailed him
with praise. He asked: "Merchants, who are ye ?" They
began to converse.
1028
USAM was the chief of the caravan, a wise man. He uttered
respectfully a perfect eulogy, he invoked blessings on
Avt'handil and praised his manners; he said: "0 sun,
thou art come as our life and comforter. Dismount; we will
tell thee our story and business!"
1029
HE dismounted. They said: "We are Bagdad merchants,
holders of the faith of Mohammed; we never drink new
wines; we haste to trade in the city of the Sea-King; we are
rich in wholesale goods, we have no cut pieces of stuff.
1030
"HERE on the seashore we found a man lying senseless;
we succoured him till he could speak clearly with his tongue.
We asked him: 'Who art thou, stranger? What business
dost thou follow after ?' He said to us: 'If ye go on they
will slay you. It is well that I still live!'
1031
"HE said: 'From Egypt we set out with a caravan and a
guard, we embarked upon the sea laden with many kinds of
stuff, there pirates in ships with sharp iron-pointed wooden
rams slew us. All was lost; I know not how I came hither."
1032
"0 LION and sun, this is the reason of our standing here. If we return, our loss will be a hundredfold; if we embark. alas! they may slay us, we have no strength for battle. We cannot stay, we cannot go, the power to maintain ourselves is gone from us."
1033
THE knight said : "Whoever grieves is nought, and strives
in vain; whatever conies from above, we cannot avoid its
coming. I am surety for your blood, I take upon myself
what you shall shed; whoever fights with you, my sword will
wear itself out on your foes."
1034
THEY of the caravan were filled with great joy; they
said: "He is some knight, some hero, not timid like us, he
has self-confidence, let us be calm in heart." They
embarked, they went on board ship, they set out from the
coast.
1035
WITH pleasant weather they journeyed without hardship;
their conveyer, Avt'handil, leads them with brave heart. A
pirate ship appeared with an exceedingly long flag; that ship
had an iron-shod ploughshare with beam of wood for
shattering ships.
1036
THE pirates yelled and came on, they shouted and
trumpeted; the caravan was afraid of the multitude of
those warriors. The knight spoke: "Fear not their hardihood;
either I slay them all or this is the day of my death.
1037
"NOUGHT undecreed can they do to me, even if all the
hosts on earth engage me; if it be decreed, I shall not
survive, the spears are ready for me, neither strongholds nor
friends, not even brothers, can save me; who knows this
is stout-hearted like me.
1038
"YOU merchants are cowards, unskilled in war. Lest they
slay you with the arrow from afar, shut the doors behind
you. Behold me alone how I fight, how I use my lion-like
arms; see how I make the blood of the corsair's crew flow."
1039
WITH gesture like a swift tiger he clad his form in
armour; in one hand he held an iron mace. He stood forth
with dauntless heart in the front of the ship, and as he slew
onlookers with his gaze, so he slew foes with his sword.
1040
THOSE warriors yelled; their voices were uninterrupted.
They thrust the beam upon which was the ploughshare.
The knight stood fearless at the head of the ship, he
trembled not; he struck with the mace, he broke the beam,
the lion's arm swerved not.
1041
THE beam was destroyed, and Avt'handil remained with
ship unshattered. Those warriors feared, they sought a way
to shelter, they could not contrive it in time; he leaped on
his foes, threshing them down round about him; there was
not left there living man unbacked by him.
1042
WITH intrepid heart he slew those warriors like goats;
some he threw down on the ship, some he cast into the sea;
he threw one upon another, eight upon nine and nine upon
eight; those who were left were hidden among the corpses,
they stifled their cries.
1043
AS much as his heart desired was he victorious in the
fight with them. Some humbly adjured him: "Slay us not,
by thy faith!" Those he slew not, he enslaved them,
whoever survived his wounds. Truly saith the Apostle:
"Fear makes love."
1044
0 MAN! boast not of thy strength, brag not drunken
like! Might is of none avail if the power of the Lord aid
thee not. A tiny spark overcomes, and burns up great trees,
If God protect thee, it cuts alike well whether thou strike
with a log or a sword.
1045
THERE Avt'handil saw their great treasures. He grappled
twin-like ship to ship. He called the caravan. Usam was merry when he saw, he rejoiced, he lamented not, he spoke a eulogy in his praise, he gave form to great imaginings.
1046
PRAISERS ofAvl'handil need even a thousand tongues;
even they could not tell how fair he appeared after the
fight. The caravan shouted, saying: "Lord, thanks to Thee!
The sun has shed down on us his beams; the dark night has
broken into day for us."
1047
THEY came up to him, they kissed his head, face, feet,
hand; they spoke praise unstinted to the fair, the
praiseworthy; the sight of him maddens the wise man as
well as the fool! "We all are saved by thee in so hard a
mischance."
1048
THE knight said: "Thanks to God, the Creator, Maker of
all, by whom the heavenly powers decree what is to be done
here; 'tis they that do all deeds hidden and some revealed.
It is necessary to everyone to believe; a wise man has faith
in the future.
1049
"GOD hath deigned to spare your blood, so many souls!
I, alas! vain earth, what am I ? Of myself, what can I do ?
Now I have slain your foes, I have fulfilled what I spoke;
I have brought you the ship complete with its wealth as a
gift."
1050
PLEASANT it is when a good knight has won the battle,
when he has surpassed his comrades who were with him.
They congratulated him, they praised him, in this state they
were ashamed. The wound becomes him well, but little
was he hurt.
1051
THAT day they looked at that ship of the corsairs, they
put not off till the morrow. How could they count the
quantity of treasure lying there! They conveyed it to
their ship, they completely emptied the pirate ship; they
smashed i.t up and burned some of it; the wood they
bartered not for the drachma.
1052
USAM conveyed to Avt'handil a message from the
merchants: "We are strengthened by thee; we know our
baseness. Whatever we have is thine, of this there can be
no doubt; whatever thou givest us, let it be ours, we have
made an assembly here."
1053
THE knight announced: "0 brothers, but now ye heard it:
the stream which flowed from your eyes has been perceived
by God, He hath saved you alive. What am I? What joy,
alas! have I given you ? What could I do with whatever
you gave me ? I have myself and my horse!
1054
"AS much treasure as I desired to amass I had of mine
own, countless priceless coverlets of silk. What use could I
make of yours? What do I want? I am but your companion.
Moreover, I have some other dangerous business.
1055
"NOW, of this countless treasure I have found here, take
what you each wish; I shall be a claimant against none.
One thing I entreat: grant my request, one not to be
mistrusted; I have a certain matter to be kept hidden
within you.
1056
"TILL the time comes, speak not of me as if I were not
your master. Say, 'He is our chief,' call me not knight.
I will clothe myself as a merchant, I will begin chaffering;
keep the secret, by the brotherhood between us."
1057
THIS thing very greatly rejoiced the caravan; they came
and saluted him, saying: "It is our hope-the very request
we should have made to you, you yourself have made to
us—that we may serve him whose face we acknowledge as
the face of the sun."
1058
THENCE they departed and travelled on, they wasted no
time; they met fair weather, they sailed ever pleasantly;
they delighted in Avt'handil, they sang his praises; they
presented him with a pearl of the tint of the knight's
teeth.