chapter  II
53 Pages


THE most trustworthy materials for the life of Firdausí are to be found in his own personal references, there being probably no poem of considerable length in which the writer keeps himself so much in evidence as Firdausí does in the Sháhnáma. Next in authority to his own statements we must place the account given of him by. Nizámí-i-’Arúdí of Samarkand in his work entitled “ Chahár Makála,” i.e. “ Four Discourses.” 1 They are on Secretaries, Poets, Astrologers, and Physicians respectively, and consist chiefly of anecdotes. One of these, in the “ Discourse on Poets,” gives the valuable account of Firdausí. Unfortunately it throws doubt on the authenticity of the extant version of one of his compositions-the Satire on Sultán Mahmud, only a few lines of which, if Nizámí is to be believed, can be regarded as Firdausí's own. They suffice, however, to indicate one good reason for the poet's difference with Mahmúd and the general line that he took in his literary revenge, though that Sultan, it is pretty evident, never even heard that the poet had written the Satire at all ! In addition to the above-mentioned sources of information there are two formal biographies of the poet. One, which dates about A.D. 1425, was compiled by order of Baisinghar Khan, the grandson of Tímúr the Lame, and is prefixed to the former's edition of the text of the Sháhnáma. It is apparently based on an older metrical life of which

it preserves some extracts, and is itself the basis of most of the biographical notices of the poet, including that in the Encyclopœdia Britannica. The other, which dates about A.D. 1486, is in Daulat Sháh's “ Lives of the Poets, ” and is preferred by the writer of the article “ Ferdoucy ” in the Biographie Universelle. Both are used by Mohl in the preface to his edition of the text and translation of the Sháhnáma, and both are full of mythical details.