Sohrab and Rustum "Truth Sits Upon The Lips Of Dying Men"

Matthew Arnold

"Truth Sits Upon The Lips Of Dying Men"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Arnold, using an episode from the Persian epic Shah Namah, composed by the poet Firdausi around 1000 A.D., retells the story of the fight between Sohrab, a courageous warrior with the Tartars about 600 B.C., and Rustum, his father and an equally famous warrior with the Persians. When the Tartars and Persians confront each other, Sohrab, seeking his father, who does not know that he has a son, gains permission from his commander to challenge the greatest of the Persian warriors, hoping that that warrior will be his beloved father. Rustum accepts the challenge, but conceals his identity in plain armor. The two men fight savagely, and the nimble Sohrab seems on the point of winning the battle when the furious father blurts out, "Rustum!" Sohrab falls back, and Rustum plants his spear in the boy's side. When Sohrab says that his father will avenge his death, Rustum declares that no son was born to Rustum, only "a puny girl." When Sohrab proves his identity by showing a pricked seal on his shoulder, Rustum, overwhelmed by sorrow, admits his name and claims his son. Sohrab's last request is that he be buried in the land of his father and grandfather. In attempting to convince his father that a son was born to Rustum, Sohrab says:

"Man, who are thou who dost deny my words?
Truth sits upon the lips of dying men,
And falsehood, while I lived, was far from mine."