THE DREAM OF ANUSHIRVAAN
"The noble and pure in heart observe in dreams,
All things to come as clear as fire reflected in water."
Anushirvaan, wearied by the morning levee and the evening polo, retired earlier than usual to bed. Drawing his silken curtains to screen him from the women of his harem, he sank wearily unto his turquoise-studded bed, with the white silk mattresses padded with swan's down from Maazandaraan.
Beside his bed, on a jewelled table, stood a golden gazelle, and concealed within this was the book of The Eternal Wisdom of Hushang, a beautifully written manuscript of four hundred pages. This book was Anushirvaan's favourite, even more highly valued by him than his imperial crown. That night too, as on every other night, he read a few pages from it before going to sleep.
Now the lamps were extinguished, only a few candles burning in their turquoise candle-sticks. The imperial palace slept with him. Complete silence reigned everywhere. The moon wrapped the world in its soft light.
In the gardens the watchmen and sentries slowly patrolled, their shadows sharp on the white marble walls. The white lilies and gilly-flowers also slept, their scent pervading the scene like the gentle breath of a dove. The willows, poplars and box-trees stood motionless, as though weighed down by the light of the moon; beneath them all was shrouded in darkness, except for the small points of light that penetrated the awning of the leaves and played on the ground as on the surface of a pool. The runnels of the garden, paved with azure tiles, carried the water away swiftly and silently with a gentle murmur, quieter even than the breathing of a child.
Anushirvaan lay at rest on his elegant bed. Just as by day the imperial Kayaanian crown hung suspended above his head, so now one might have said that his soul stood there like a living crown. From time to time little wrinkles appeared on his brow to interrupt the calm and regular movement of his breathing, and muttered words fell from his lips.
Suddenly a noise like the crash of a war-drum burst upon that nocturnal silence. The ground rocked, and huge fragments of masonry and marble hurled down from the walls of the palace. The shouts of the guards and the echo of running feet added to the turmoil. In every window of the palace lights appeared, and within the women of the harem, still in their night attire, ran trembling and terrified to Anushirvaan's room.
Anushirvaan awoke with a start, raised himself on his elbow and listened.
"Its collapsed! The great arch has collapsed!"
Cries of amazement came from every side.
Anushirvaan left his room and strode through the gardens towards the great arch, followed by his women and servants. On the way, his beloved Christian wife, Euphemia, clad in her fabulous blue silk night gown, the "Cloud of Fortune", with its embroidery of simulated clouds, tried to bar his path. Clasping her hands, she fell on her knees before him.
"Beloved Emperor, do not go near the arch. It will fall and crush you."
Anushirvaan thrust past her without speaking. Following the lantern held before him, he reached the foot of the palace wall, and observed that fourteen bays had fallen. After a while he went beneath the arch itself and, gazing upwards, saw the huge cleft that had appeared on the roof, a cleft like the curve of a sword stretching from one end of the great hall to the other, its jaws wide open like a crocodile's. Behind him his courtiers stared too, their faces anxious, their lips sealed, and evil omens surging in their hearts.
The stars flickered out like candles and disappeared. The pale moon was drowned in the white dawn.
Anushirvaan's wise counsellor, Bozurgmehr, picked his way through the ruins, and bowed low before his sovereign.
"May the world never lose its mighty King!"
he said with every mark of respect.
"My wise Bozurgmehr," said Anushirvaan, "do you see? What a night was this? Two great wonders were witnessed, the first that you are here in my palace, and the second that only I saw in my dream. Let me tell you of it. I saw the sun rise in the darkness of the night. It came from the direction of the Hijaz, and mounted a forty-rung ladder into the sky until it reached to Saturn itself. Its rays lit up every corner of the earth, except for my palace which remained shrouded in darkness. And while I was consumed with terror at this sight, the thundering crash of my great arch startled me from my sleep."
"Auspicious Emperor" replied Bozurgmehr solemnly, "this dream bodes no good for the land of Iran."
"I too am of that opinion," said the Emperor. "The more so since the collapse of my palace is no more the sequel to it, revealed to me awake."
"Indeed, Your Majesty, it must be as you suppose; what you witnessed in your dream was the harbinger of what you found on awakening."
"What then is the meaning of the sun in the Hijaz?"
"It portends the rise of a man from among the Arabs, a man whose power will be greater than a king's, and whose knowledge will be greater than a scholar's. His spiritual illumination stems from his knowledge of God. His words will shine throughout the earth, and he will set the beliefs of his forebears atremble like the leaves of a tree. He will extinguish the mighty faith of Zoroaster, which first saw the light in the imperial court of Iran."
"But what of of the collapse of the arch?"
"Your Majesty, the collapse of the arch is a voice crying that this great and good man has emerged from his mother's womb. We must wait, for in forty years we shall hear of him again."
All fell silent for a while.
Bozurgmehr continued to gaze at the ground, and then spoke in slow and solemn tones.
"Mighty Emperor, do not grieve, for the pre-ordained order of the universe cannot be changed. What is to come will come without fail. Fate is a sharp-clawed dragon that no man, however wise and courageous, may escape ..."
(From: Payambar: The Messenger by Zeinolabedin Rahnema, translated from Persian by L. P. Elwell-Sutton)