plan is laid out on a scale worthy of its contents, and its execution isequally worthy of its planning. One might almost say that with itneo-Persian literature begins its history. There were poets in Persiabefore the writer of the "Shh Nmeh"--Rudagi, the blind (died 954),
Zandshi (950), Chusravani (tenth century). There were great poets duringhis own day. But Firdusi ranks far above them all; and at the verybeginning sets up so high a standard that all who come after him musttry to live up to it, or else they will sink into oblivion.The times in which Firdusi lived were marked by strange revolutions. TheArabs, filled with the daring which Mohammed had breathed into them, hadindeed conquered Persia. In A.D. 657, when Merv fell, and the lastSassanian king, Yezdegird III, met his end, these Arabs became nominallysupreme. Persia had been conquered--but not the Persian spirit. Eventhough Turkish speech reigned supreme at court and the Arabic scriptbecame universal, the temper of the old Arsacides and Sassanians stilllived on. It is true that Ormuzd was replaced by Allah, and Ahriman bySatan. But the Persian had a glorious past of his own; and in this theconquered was far above the conqueror. This past was kept alive in themyth-loving mind of this Aryan people; in the songs of its poets and inthe lays of its minstrels. In this way there was, in a measure, acontinuous opposition of Persian to Arab, despite the mingling of thetwo in Islam; and the opposition of Persian Shiites to the Sunnites ofthe rest of the Mohammedan world at this very day is a curious survivalof racial antipathy. The fall of the only real Arab Mohammedandynasty--that of the Umayyid caliphs at Damascus--the rise of theseparate and often opposing dynasties in Spain, Sicily, Egypt, andTunis, served to strengthen the Persians in their desire to keep alivetheir historical individuality and their ancient traditions.Firdusi was not the first, as he was not the only one, to collect theold epic materials of Persia. In the Avesta itself, with its ancienttraditions, much can be found. More than this was handed down andbandied about from mouth to mouth. Some of it had even found its wayinto the Kalam of the Scribe; to-wit, the "Zarer, or Memorials of theWarriors" (A.D. 500), the "History of King Ardeshir" (A.D. 600), theChronicles of the Persian Kings. If we are to trust Baisonghur's prefaceto the "Shh Nmeh," there were various efforts made from time to time
to put together a complete story of the nation's history, by Farruchani,Ramin, and especially by the Dihkan Danishwar (A.D. 651). The work ofthis Danishwar, the "Chodainameh" (Book of Kings), deserves to bespecially singled out. It was written, not in neo-Persian and Arabicscript, but in what scholars call middle-Persian and in what is known asthe Pahlavi writing. It was from this "Chodainameh" that Abu Mansur,lord of Tus, had a "Shh Nmeh" of his own prepared in the neo-Persian.
And then, to complete the tale, in 980 a certain Zoroastrian whose namewas Dakiki versified a thousand lines of this neo-Persian Book of Kings.In this very city of Tus, Abul Kasim Mansur (or Ahmed) Firdusi was born,A.D. 935. One loves to think that perhaps he got his name from thePersian-Arabic word for garden; for, verily, it was he that gatheredinto one garden all the beautiful flowers which had blossomed in thefancy of his people. As he has draped the figures in his great epic, sohas an admiring posterity draped his own person. His fortune has beeninterwoven with the fame of that Mahmud of Ghazna (998-1030), the firstto bear the proud title of "Sultan," the first to carry Mohammed and theprophets into India. The Round Table of Mahmud cannot be altogether afigment of the imagination. With such poets as Farruchi, Unsuri,