THE CASTLE OF ANOUSH
THE CASTLE OF ANOUSH
“ANOUSH” in name, but full of bitterness in reality.
On one side of the road that leads from Tisbon to Ecbatana stands a steep, pointed crag. Its massive base rises from an extensive bed of rock, on which Nature has placed it as on a firm pedestal.
Not a handful of earth is to be found upon its denuded surface. Not a single plant grows on its hard, stony sides.
The burning rays of the southern sun have dried and baked it like an earthen vessel in the potter’s ever-burning fire. From time immemorial that rock has ever been so. It happened one day that Farhat, the great Persian sculptor, passed at the foot of the rock with his pickaxe on his shoulder. He was aroused suddenly from the deep meditation in which he had been lost by the sound of horns and trumpets. He stopped. Grey-hounds and hawk-bearers appeared, gay and thoughtless riders burst into sight like a storm, then passed away from sight like a storm.
The dim, shadowy outline of a face remained in his heart; that vision stole away his peace of mind. Every day at the same hour he was to be seen on the road waiting,–waiting with the tenderest feelings of his heart aroused. The beloved vision would appear, and after throwing a careless glance at him would pass by like a flash of lightning.
He lost his peace of mind, abandoned his Art, and wandered like one beside himself in the solitudes of the mountains.
Days passed, weeks passed, and months passed. One day he was sitting there waiting. She appeared. But this time there were neither greyhounds nor hawk-bearers with her. She was alone, with a number of her maidens. She urged her horse on and came up to Farhat.
“Hail, great Master,” she said. ” What has chained thee to these mountains–to the solitudes of these desert places I ever see thee here.”
“The joy of sometimes seeing a transcendently beautiful vision light up the solitudes of these desert places,” answered Farhat.
“Is thy love so great, then?” she asked, smiling.
“Who can help loving her that has not a peer amongst the immortals? Who can help loving her whose breath gives life, whose one glance confers eternal happiness? Do you think that the heart of him that is ever occupied with the stone and the chisel becomes so hardened that there is no room left in it for beauty?”
“I think not so. He that can give form and life to a shapeless stone, he that creates beautiful beings out of cold marble, cannot but love what is beautiful himself. But listen, Artist–to win the heart of the daughter of the Arian King requires great sacrifices.” “I know that great goddesses require great sacrifices.”
“I do not demand what is impossible–I only wish to try thy love. Look, Farhat, dost thou see yonder rock ” and she pointed to the sharp crag. ” Thou must create palaces for me out of that rock, so that I may look down from the summit with delight, and watch how the Tigris threads the beautiful plains of Assyria with its silvery curves, or how the tall palm-trees of Baghistan wave at the breathing of the gentle zephyrs. And in the heart of the rock thou must make storehouses for my treasures, and underneath there must be dwelling-places for my horses. When all this is ready I shall be thine.”
She spoke, and rode away.
Years passed away. The pickaxe and hammer of the Master worked untiringly at the unyielding rock. The ceaseless sounds of the heavy blows were to be heard day and night. The work was carried on successfully. Love strengthened the genius of the great Master, and the beauty of the Arian King’s daughter fired him with enthusiasm. He made chambers, he made state-rooms, he made halls decorated with pictures, and out of the solid rock he created a palace of marvellous beauty. He made the walls of the apartments live with pictures carved in relief. In one place he sculptured the battles that the old heroes and giants of Iran had fought with devils and evil spirits; in another the glory and greatness of the ancient kings of Iran, and festivals celebrating their victories and deeds of prowess. He drew on the stone the valiant acts of ancestral kings, their virtues, and the benefits that they scattered over the land of the Arians. He worked all these wonders for the one being to whom he had devoted all the passion of his love. He worked them all so that she might be continually reminded of the glorious past of Iran, that her heart might continually be rejoiced with the noble pride that she was the descendant of a great dynasty born of the gods, which had always done god-like deeds.
She came and saw it all.
“It is very beautiful,” she said, “but there is no water here–there are no trees. Make fountains for me that shall throw the water up higher than the clouds. Plant trees for me under whose shadow I may rest;–rest in thine arms!”
She spoke, and rode away.
He turned the courses of far distant streams and brought the water by underground channels to the very summit of the rock. He shaped the stone, dug out basins, and created silvery fountains. Day and night the never-ending supply of water rose out of the fountains, and dewed the surrounding plants with pearl-like drops. He levelled the surface of the rock, and covered it with earth brought from distant places. He planted trees and made lofty hanging gardens that looked as if they were growing in the air. Years passed. The trees grew and gave fruit, the flowers blossomed and filled the scented gardens with their gladdening perfumes. The birds came and filled the place with their happy songs. But she who was to have been the queen and pride of that beautiful paradise did not appear. One day the Master sat at the foot of the palace he had made, leaning his chin on his hand and looking sorrowfully down the road. A peasant came up singing, and sat down beside him to rest a little.
“Whence comest thou?” asked the Master. “Thou art fortunate in being so happy.”
“From Tisbon,” said the peasant. “And why should I not be happy when all the world is rejoicing?”
“What has happened?”
“Dost thou not know that in town the wedding has already been going on for seven days and seven nights? The wine is flowing in rivers, and there is no limit to the dainty fare. They are eating, drinking, and making merry. The whole town resounds with the strains of music, and the feet of the dancers are never weary. I also came in for my share of good things–I ate and drank as much as I could, and now I am taking home what will be enough for my wife and children for many weeks.”
“Whose wedding is it?”
“To whom is he married?”
The Master spoke no more. He only started as one struck by lightning, then remained motionless. Then he rose and walked with weak, trembling steps towards the palace he had created. He looked around, and for the last time raised his sorrowful eyes to all the work that was the result of passionate love and beautiful Art. Then he entered into his work-room. His tools were lying about. He took up a heavy hammer and came out on to the narrow ledge. “She deceived me!” he said, and threw the hammer up into the air. It turned over and over, then fell on to his head. His warm blood sprinkled the wonders that were the work of his hands.
Farhat did not obtain the desire of his heart, but the name of his beloved Anoush remained with that stone fortress, and it was called the Castle of Anoush.
That rock-hewn palace which was prepared to be the temple of love and everlasting happiness became a hell full of tears and unending suffering. It was there that the Kings of Persia imprisoned the Armenian Kings who fell captive into their hands.