April 29, 1999 - Mage Publishers: Iran RPCV Jerome W. Clinton translates the story of Rostam and Esfandiyar

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: April 29, 1999 - Mage Publishers: Iran RPCV Jerome W. Clinton translates the story of Rostam and Esfandiyar

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 2:41 pm: Edit Post

Iran RPCV Jerome W. Clinton translates the story of Rostam and Esfandiyar

Iran RPCV Jerome W. Clinton translates the story of Rostam and Esfandiyar

In this story, Esfandiyar, the designated heir to the throne of Iran, has just returned in triumph from his campaign against the shah of Turan. He has slain Arjasp, Iran's greatest enemy, captured his family and treasury, and liberated his own sisters from their captivity. He expects that his father, Goshtasp, will now abdicate the throne of Iran in his favor as he had sworn to. Goshtasp, however, is not yet ready to honor his promise. Instead he sets his son yet another task as a condition of his abdication. He must bring Iran's greatest hero, Rostam, back to the court in chains. Rostam has neither come to the court of Iran to honor Goshtasp, nor has he sent him a letter declaring his loyalty. Esfandiyar recognizes this is simply a means to put his own life at risk, and says as much. Yet he cannot refuse his father's command.

The story of Rostam and Esfandiyar displays a surprisingly modern skepticism about the values we associate with Ferdowsi's epic. It expresses a profound ambivalence about the demands of heroism, and is sharply critical of a monarch who exploits the courage and loyalty of his heroes to further his own selfish ends.

Coleman Barks, translator of The Essential Rumi:"Jerome Clinton with his lively and supple blank verse line continues to lift Ferdowsi out of the 10th and 11th centuries and beautifully into the present."

Charles Melville, Univ. of Cambridge: "The story of Rostam and Esfandiyar tells a tale as old as Iran, of heroic action, ambition, pride, and the impossibility of breaking free from the wheeling spheres of Destiny. Clinton's translation of a difficult text is skillful, elegant, sensitive and exciting, and maintains the tension up to its unavoidable climax. It is quickly evident that we are in the presence of a great work of literature, admirably recreated for the modern English-speaking reader."
Table of Contents


The Family of Goshtâsp

The Family of Rostam


In the Dragon's Claws

Further Reading

Prologue (1­16)
Now is the time to drink delicious wine,
When fragrant scents float from the river's bank.
The earth is teeming and the heavens thunder.
Happy the man who cheers his heart with drink,
Who's rich in coins, and dainty foods, and well-
Filled cups; with sheep to slaughter for his guests.
I've none of these. Good luck to him who has.
May he be generous to those in need.
The garden's filled with roses; hyacinths
And tulips cover all the mountain slopes.
The nightingale laments throughout the glade
While the rosebud preens herself at his distress.
Since clouds are sending down their wind and rain,
I wonder why narcissus is so sad?
The nightingale wakes through the darkest night.
He laughs at wind and rain that set the rose
To trembling in fear. Snug in his perch
Within the rose, he sings his song. Meanwhile
The cloud roars like a lion, as though he were
The lover, not the rose. Winds tear his robe
To shreds. Fires flash within the thunderhead,
Fierce proofs of heaven's passion for the earth-
A love it offers here before the sun.
Who understands the nightingale's complaint?
Beneath the rose, what is it he laments?
Come, listen closely just at dawn, and hear
Him sing in Pahlavi* the tale of how
Esfandiyâr was slain by brave Rostam,
Whose only memory of him is grief.
Like the roars of evening thunder, Rostam's cries
Will pierce the lion's ears and rend his heart.
About the Author

FERDOWSI was born in Khorasan in a village near Tus, in 940. His great epic the Shahnameh, to which he devoted most of his adult life, was originally composed for the Samanid princes of Khorasan, who were the chief instigators of the revival of Persian cultural traditions after the Arab conquest of the seventh century. During Ferdowsi's lifetime this dynasty was conquered by the Ghaznavid Turks, and there are various stories in medieval texts describing the lack of interest shown by the new ruler of Khorasan, Mahmud of Ghazni, in Ferdowsi and his lifework. Ferdowsi is said to have died around 1020 in poverty and embittered by royal neglect, though confident of his and his poem's ultimate fame.

Jerome W. Clinton was born in San Jose, California, in 1937. He studied English and American literature at Stanford (A.B.) and at the University of Pennsylvania (M.A.), before two years in Iran with the Peace Corps redirected his interest to Persian. He received his Ph.D. in Persian and Arabic literature from the University of Michigan in 1972. Since then he has taught at the University of Minnesota and, since 1974, at Princeton University. Prior to moving to Princeton he directed the Tehran Center of the American Institute of Iranian Studies for two years.

He has translated The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam (Univ. of Washington, 1988) and co-authored a textbook, Modern Persian: Spoken and Written. He has also written a monograph of the eleventh-century Persian poet Manuchehri Damghani, as well as briefer studies and translations from modern and classical Persian.
Related Books

The following represent only those books currently in print. If there is a title you feel we have overlooked please let us know.

Scholarly works concerning the Shahnameh include Epic and Sedition by Dick Davis and Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings by Olga Davidson.

Other selections in translation include The Lion and the Throne and The Legend of Seyavash translated by Dick Davis and The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam by Jerome Clinton.

The only book-length biography of Ferdowsi is Ferdowsi: A Critical Biography by A. Shapur Shahbazi.

For the complete Shahnameh in Persian, there is a six-volume set in production, edited by Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh.

There are numerous out-of-print editions of translated Shahnamehs. The best way to find these is to search for them on one of the online book searches, such as Bookfinder or Alibris.
Related Links

There is a dearth of web sites on the Shahnameh or Ferdowsi, this is all we could find. If you know of others please let us know.

Selected Translation (Warning, read below!)
There does exist on the web an English prose translation of selected Shahnameh stories. The material at this site was apparently scanned in from Helen Zimmern's book, which was published in 1882 in England. Be warned that the language is, according to the translator, intentionally archaic. In the preface the translator says that she has attempted to render the words of Ferdowsi in the language of the age of Shakespeare and the English Bible. Unfortunately, this has resulted in language that borders on the ridiculous.

Shahnameh Learning League
According to their mission statement, the Shahnameh Learning League is "composed of individuals who are specifically interested in research and study of Shahnameh; the great literature of Ferdowsi."

Shahnameh Miniatures
There a few miniatures from Shahnameh manuscripts also on the web. Of course, the low-quality of the RGB images cannot compare what is available on the printed page.

Books of Kings
This is an audio CD from the musician ZaZa which was inspired by the Shahnameh.

Copyright 1999 Mage Publishers Inc.
Last Updated April 29, 1999

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Story Source: Mage Publishers

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Iran; Translations; Writing



By Sara F. on Sunday, June 22, 2003 - 5:50 pm: Edit Post

what is the table of contents for the Shahnameh???

By maggie (ts03-ip46.hevanet.com - on Monday, October 25, 2004 - 10:53 am: Edit Post

It is fare if clinton or like him become president of USA because he at least have honesty and good heart not fake heart likr Bush and or some minster of church that do not have good heart and or knowlege of forgiveness and decency that realize first civlazation and their teacher of humanity , respect and do ashare the country equally with all people not just baster or.....continue...

By hashemi ( on Friday, July 20, 2007 - 6:31 pm: Edit Post

ferdowsi said women are bad dogs. turks and arabs are enemy. he has been a sick man but poeter.
زن و اژدها هر دو در خاک به جهان پاک زین هر دو ناپاک به
که آن ترک بد طینت و ریمن است
عرب را به جایی رسیده است کار که بر یمانی کند آرزو تفو بر تو ای چرخ گردان تفو
acording to his poemes every nation exept persia are enemy.he has been like hitler

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