Woodcut illustration (leaf [i]1r, f. lxxj) of the defeat of Cyrus II by Tomyris, Queen of the Massagetae, hand-colored in red, green, yellow and black, from an incunable German translation by Heinrich Steinhöwel of Giovanni Boccaccio's De mulieribus claris, printed by Johannes Zainer at Ulm ca. 1474 (cf. ISTC ib00720000). One of 76 woodcut illustrations (1 on leaf [e]8v dated 1473), each 80 x 110 mm., depicting scenes from the life of the women chronicled (for a full list of subjects, cf. W.L. Schreiber, Handbuch der Holz- und Metallschnitte des XV. Jahrhunderts (Nendeln: Kraus Reprints, 1969), no. 3506). "Pour la première moitie le nom se trouve inscrit à côte de la tête de chaque femme, pour le reste il es ajouté entre les deux réglettes. Il n'y en a que trois, qui n'ont qu'un seul trait carré."--Schreiber. Established form: Zainer, Johannes, ‡d d. 1541?. Established form: Cyrus, ǂc King of Persia, ǂd d. 529 B.C.
A good hostess always offers her guest a drink
Did she know of the great silver jars
borne over the unceasing desert
in a train of wagons pulled by mules?
Did she know the Persian king would only
drink the clear sweet waters
of the river that rises
in the Zagros mountains,
passing west of Susa,
that gives its name to lustrous stones
of gold and green?
Did she suspect there were men,
soldiers, camp-followers, slaves,
who died of thirst in following him?
Did she wonder at the defeated king
who accompanied Cyrus the Invader,
was he an equal, offered the balm
Because she crossed the battlefield to see him
Stepped over the dying men,
stopping only to put her wine skin to their wounds
to catch the dribbles of their bubbling blood
It was full when she found him,
when she rolled his body over,
tipping his head to face the fading sky,
when she put the wine skin to his lips
and made him drink
Invading kings and their armies,
what do they ever want, except everything?
Jennifer Falkner is an award-winning short story writer from Ottawa, Canada. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, in Canada and internationally. You can find her at jkfalkner.com.
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