FIRDITSI, Ftunowsr (Ttss), ABU'L-KASIM MANstrn, the greatest epic poet of Persia, was b. between 304-328 II., or 916-940 A.D., at Shadab or Ilizvan, near Tus in Khoras san. Whether the name F. (from firdus, garden, paradise) was given to him because his father (Fachreddin Abmad) was a gardener, or on account of the "paradise of poetry" which he had created, is matter of controversy. All that is known of his early life is, that when a boy he was very industrious, and also that "he loved to sit for days alone on the bank of a river." At the age of between thirty and forty, he went to Gazneh, where Mahmud de Gaznewide, a great admirer and patron of poetry and the generally, then resided. Erelong, F. had an opportunity of displaying both his talent and his extraordinary knowledge of ancient Persian history and legendary lore before the sultan himself, who was so pleased with an episode (the story of Sijavush) written by him at his majesty's order, that he at once paid him a gold dirhem for each couplet, and shortly afterwards sent him a great number of fragmentary ancient chron icles and histories of Persia, that he might versify them, and thus carry out the task once attempted by Dakiki—viz., to write a poetical history of the Persian kings from the creation of the world to the end of the Sassanide dynasty (636 A.n.)—the reward to be a dirhem a line. F. spent thirty years over the work, and produced the famous Book of Kings (Shah Nameh), consisting of 60,000 double lines. Without goin,g so far as many critics have gone, we may fairly rank it among the greatest epics of all nations : the Iliad, the lfahabhdrata, the Nibelungen. Truth and fiction, history and fairy lore, all the most gorgeous imagery of the east and its quaintest conceits, together with the homeliest and most touching descriptions, of human joy and human sorrow, of valor and of love, the poet has formed into one glowing song. Though abounding—in strict adherence to its sources—in impossibilities and anachronisms (such as Alexander the great being a Christian, Ki-Khosroo holding the Zend Avesta in his hands—some hundred and twenty years before it was brought to light—Abraham being Zerdusht, etc.), it yet contains not a little that is of real historical value, quite apart from its being the most faithful mirror of its own times. See SHAH NAMElf. But while F. was "weaving his poetical carpet," his enemies bad not been idle. Unable to attack his genius and his honesty, they attacked his religious opinions; and the sultan, influenced by bigotry and avarice, sent the poet, instead of 60,000 dirhems of gold, so many dirhems of silver. F. was at a public bath when the messenger arrived with the money, and on discovering
that it was silver, and not gold, Mahmud had sent him, he divided the amount into three portions, and gave one to the attendant at the bath, another to the messenger, and the third to a man who brought him a glass of sherbet. He then burned several thousand verses which he had written in praise of the sultan, as sequel to the Shah Nameh, and composed one of the bitterest satires against him, which lie handed over, well sealed, to the king's favorite slave, to give it Co him when he might be seized with one of his fits of despondency, as it contained a beautiful panegyric on him. Dreading the sul tan's rage, he fled precipitately, first to Tus; persecuted here, he next went to Bagdad, where Kadir Billah, the caliph, received him with all honor. But the unrelenting auger of Mahmud followed him thither, and he removed to Tabaristan, which again he had to leave, to seek another place of refuge. After eleven years of restless wanderings, he was at last allowed to return to his native place, a broken, wretched old man. Mahmud is said to have repented his cruelty at last, and to have sent a caravan loaded with the costliest goods to F., to entreat his forgiveness, and induce him to become once more the star of his court. But while the king's messengers entered one gate of the city, F.'s bier was carried out to his last abode by the other, 1020 A.D. (411 ii.). His only daughter—au only on p1 liis had, died long before him at the age of 37 years refused the sultan's present, and certain buildings were erected instead, in honor of the dead poet.
The great popularity which the Shah, Noma has always enjoyed in the east, is to a certain amount also the cause of the uncritical state of the texts. Every transcriber shaped and molded certain passages, or even episodes, according to his own fancy, so that not two out of the innumerable copies are quite alike. Nor are the 60,000 couplets extant in any one instance, the utmost number, including all the most palpable interpo lations, never exceeding 56,600. The first complete edition of the text, with a glossary and introduction, was published by Turner Macan (Calcutta, 1829, 4 vols.). Another edition, with a French translation, was published by Yfohl (Paris, 1840, etc.). Cham pion published some English extracts in 1788. F. also wrote another poem, rum' and Zuteikha, which has been edited by Morley, and a Divan, or collection of poems. Many European orientalists have written on F.; among others, Hammer, Wahl, G8rres, Schack, Ruckert, Morley, Ouseley, Atkinson, Nasarianz, etc.