Shah-nama (The Epic of Kings)
Translated by Helen Zimmern 
The Shah-nama or The Epic of Kings is one of the definite classics of the world. It tells hero tales of ancient Persia. The contents and the poet's style in describing the events takes the reader back to the ancient times and makes he/she sense and feel the events. Firdausi worked for thirty years to finish this masterpiece. An important feature of this work is that during the period that Arabic language was known as the main language of science and literature, Firdausi used only Persian in his masterpiece. As Firdausi himself says "Persian language is revived by this work".
"....... The scene was now set
for the appearance on the stage of an actor of heroic stature, a poet of
supreme genius who should be a living embodiment of the rebirth of Persian
pride, of Persian self-respect, of Persian consciousness. That genius was
born in miracolous Tus, birthplace of so many famous men, about the year
940. The city was at that time the fief of Abu Mansur Tusi, ambitious and
reluctant subject of Nuh I and his son Mansur. It was in 957 that Abu
Mansur put on foot his project of a prose Shah-nama. Abu'l-Qasim
Mansur (Hasan? Ahmad?) ibn Hasan (Ahmad? Ali? Ishaq?) called Firdausi,
whose father was a prosperous landowner, grew up in circumstances of ease;
according to report he enjoyed the favour of Abu Mansur, and it seems that
he exercised himself early in epic. These essays were doubtless encouraged
by Abu Mansur; yet it was apparently only after the death of Daqiqi in
about 980 that Firdausi addressed himself in earnest to the labour which
was to occupy him some thirty years.
Had worth or judgement
glimmer'd in your soul,
After that Firdausi had to
run for shelter, which he found in his old age at the provincial court of
Tabaristan. There, some say, he composed the romantic idyll Yusuf and
Zulaikha, a Koranic theme to atone for so many years wasted on the
extolling of pagandom: in modern times this ascription ha been shrewdly
contested. Finally Ferdousi returned to his native Tus, to die there in
1020 or 1025. The story that Mahmud repented of his niggardliness and sent
, too late, a load of precious indigo to the poet - 'even as the camels
entered the Rudbar Gate, the corpse of Firdausi was borne forth from the
Gate of Razan'- this story (1) makes an ideally dramatic ending, but it is
difficult to reconcile with the publication of that satire.
( 2 ) J. A. Arberry - Classical Persian Literature - pp. 42-45 and following -George Allen & Unwin Ltd. - 1958.
also: Edward G. Browne - A Literary History of Persia - Volume 1, pp.
110-123. - Cambridge at the University Press - 1969.
Shah-nama (The Epic of Kings) --- Adapted from ASCII text to html format and with introduction and notes by Franco Dell'Oro.