Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Omar Khayyam

Rubaiyat of Omar KhayyamRating:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Khayyam struck me as a man with a love-hate relationship with the old vino, which sort of implies that perhaps he wasn’t the strictest Muslim. I wonder if that was a such terrible thing 900 years ago when he was alive.

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,
Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape,
Bearing a vessel on his Shoulder; and
He bid me taste of it; and ’twas—the Grape!

The fleeting nature of life, the finality and permanence of death, the need to embrace life’s joys today (i.e. carpe diem), are the main themes. Others include the dichotomies of life and death, happiness and sorrow, good and evil, heaven and hell. Spring and summer versus winter. Pride and remorse. Misers and spendthrifts. Today and tomorrow. Uninhibited and reserved. Impulsive and cautious.

Ah, fill the Cup:—what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn TO-MORROW and dead YESTERDAY,
Why fret about them if TO-DAY be sweet!

Oscar Wilde’s beautiful story The Nightingale and the Rose seems to have been inspired by Persian poetry – they’re apparently common symbols in Persian literature.

“Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life’s Liquor in its Cup be dry.”

Ah! my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears-

I was perusing my options for Middle East classics for The Dead Writers Society’s Around the World challenge when I spotted this one. I liked what I saw from reviews and immediately downloaded a free copy.

Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

There seem to be a dozen translations to choose from and all are wildly different from each other, so choosing the right one for you is important. I’m glad I had the Edward FitzGerald translation. It contained a First (75 quatrains) and Fifth edition (101 quatrains) but I mostly concentrated on the First as that one, the shorter of the two. I’ve got to admit that I didn’t understand every line of the poem but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment.

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to IT for help—for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

View this review on Goodreads
View all my reviews on Goodreads

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