Edward FitzGerald?s Rub?iy?t of Omar Khayy?m: A Famous Poem and Its Influence

Edward FitzGerald?s Rub?iy?t of Omar Khayy?m: A Famous Poem and Its Influence


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The book presents the text of Edward FitzGerald's three main versions of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, together with non-technical commentary on the origins, role and influence of the poem, including the story of its publication. The commentary also addresses the many spin-offs the poem has generated in the fields of art and music, as well as its message and its worldwide influence during the 150 years since its first appearance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780857287700
Publisher: Anthem Press
Publication date: 06/15/2011
Series: Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series
Edition description: First
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Bill Martin and Sandra Mason are independent researchers with a long-standing interest in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, particularly the interpretation of these quatrains by Edward FitzGerald. They were actively involved in creating exhibitions and other projects to celebrate the FitzGerald anniversaries in 2009 as a Year of the Rubaiyat.

Read an Excerpt

Edward FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

A Famous Poem and Its Influence

By William H. Martin, Sandra Mason

Wimbledon Publishing Company

Copyright © 2011 William H. Martin and Sandra Mason
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-85728-770-0


    First Edition (1859)

    Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
    Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
      And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
    The Sultán's Turret in a Noose of Light.


    Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
    I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
      "Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
    "Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."


    And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
    The Tavern shouted — "Open then the Door!
      "You know how little while we have to stay,
    "And, once departed, may return no more."


    Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
    The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
      Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
    Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.


    Irám indeed is gone with all its Rose,
    And Jamshýd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one knows;
      But still the Vine her ancient Ruby yields,
    And still a Garden by the Water blows.


    And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine
    High piping Péhlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine!
      "Red Wine!" — the Nightingale cries to the Rose
    That yellow Cheek of her's to'incarnadine.


    Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
    The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
      The Bird of Time has but a little way
    To fly — and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.


    And look — a thousand Blossoms with the Day
    Woke — and a thousand scatter'd into Clay:
       And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose
    Shall take Jamshýd and Kaikobád away.


    But come with old Khayyám, and leave the Lot
    Of Kaikobád and Kaikhosrú forgot:
      Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
    Or Hátim Tai cry Supper — heed them not.


    With me along some Strip of Herbage strown
    That just divides the desert from the sown,
      Where name of Slave and Sultán scarce is known,
    And pity Sultán Máhmúd on his Throne.


    Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
    A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou
      Beside me singing in the Wilderness —
    And Wilderness is Paradise enow.


    "How sweet is mortal Sovranty!" — think some:
    Others — "How blest the Paradise to come!"
      Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
    Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum!


    Look to the Rose that blows about us — "Lo,
    "Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow:
      "At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
    "Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."


    The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
    Turns Ashes — or it prospers; and anon,
      Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
    Lighting a little Hour or two — is gone.


    And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
    And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
        Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
    As, buried once, Men want dug up again.


    Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
    Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,
      How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp
    Abode his Hour or two, and went his way.


    They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
    The Courts where Jamshýd gloried and drank deep:
      And Bahrám, that great Hunter — the Wild Ass
    Stamps o'er his Head, and he lies fast asleep.


    I sometimes think that never blows so red
    The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
      That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
    Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.


    And this delightful Herb whose tender Green
    Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean —
      Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
    From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!


    Ah, my Belovéd, fill the Cup that clears
    To-day of past Regrets and future Fears —
      To-morrow? — Why, To-morrow I may be
    Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.


    Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
    That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
      Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
    And one by one crept silently to Rest.


    And we, that now make merry in the Room
    They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
      Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
    Descend, ourselves to make a Couch — for whom?


    Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
    Before we too into the Dust descend;
      Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie,
    Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and — sans End!


    Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
    And those that after a To-morrow stare,
      A Muezzín from the Tower of Darkness cries
    "Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!"


    Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
    Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust
      Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
    Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.


    Oh, come with old Khayyám, 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.


    Myself when young did eagerly frequent
    Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
      About it and about: but evermore
    Came out by the same Door as in I went.


    With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
    And with my own hand labour'd it to grow:
      And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd —
    "I came like Water, and like Wind I go."


    Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
    Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:
      And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
    I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.


    What, without asking, hither hurried whence?
    And, without asking, whither hurried hence!
      Another and another Cup to drown
    The Memory of this Impertinence!


    Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate
    I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
      And many Knots unravel'd by the Road;
    But not the Knot of Human Death and Fate.


    There was a Door to which I found no Key:
    There was a Veil past which I could not see:
      Some little Talk awhile of Me and Thee
    There seemed — and then no more of Thee and Me.


    Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
    Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide
      "Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
    And — "A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.


    Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn
    My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
      And Lip to Lip it murmur'd — "While you live
    "Drink! — for once dead you never shall return."


    I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
    Articulation answer'd, once did live,
      And merry-make; and the cold Lip I kiss'd
    How many Kisses might it take — and give!


    For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day,
    I watch'd the Potter thumping his wet Clay:
      And with its all obliterated Tongue
    It murmur'd — "Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"

    37 Ø

    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!


    One Moment in Annihilation's Waste,
    One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste —
      The Stars are setting and the Caravan
    Starts for the Dawn of Nothing — Oh, make haste!


    How long, how long, in infinite Pursuit
    Of This and That endeavour and dispute?
      Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
    Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.


    You know, my Friends, how long since in my House
    For a new Marriage I did make Carouse:
      Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
    And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.


    For "Is" and "Is-not" though with Rule and Line,
    And "Up-and-down" without, I could define,
      I yet in all I only cared to know,
    Was never deep in anything but — Wine.


    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 Grape that can with Logic absolute
    The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
      The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice
    Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute.


    The mighty Mahmúd, the victorious Lord,
    That all the misbelieving and black Horde
      Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul
    Scatters and slays with his enchanted Sword.

    45 Ø

    But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
    The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
      And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht,
    Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.


    For in and out, above, about, below,
    'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,
      Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
    Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.


    And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
    End in the Nothing all Things end in — Yes —
      Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
    Thou shalt be — Nothing — Thou shalt not be less.


    While the Rose blows along the River Brink,
    With old Khayyám the Ruby Vintage drink:
      And when the Angel with his darker Draught
    Draws up to Thee — take that, and do not shrink.


    'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
    Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
      Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
    And one by one back in the Closet lays.


    The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
    But Right or Left as strikes the Player goes;
      And He that toss'd Thee down into the Field,
    He knows about it all — He knows — He knows!


    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.


    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.


    With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man's knead,
    And then of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed:
      Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
    What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.


    I tell Thee this — When, starting from the Goal,
    Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal
        Of Heav'n Parwín and Mushtara they flung,
    In my predestin'd Plot of Dust and Soul


    The Vine had struck a Fibre; which about
    If clings my Being — let the Súfi flout;
      Of my Base Metal may be filed a Key,
    That shall unlock the Door he howls without.


    And this I know: whether the one True Light,
    Kindle to Love, or Wrathconsume me quite,
      One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught
    Better than in the Temple lost outright.


    Oh Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin
    Beset the Road I was to wander in,
      Thou wilt not with Predestination round
    Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?


    Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
    And who with Eden didst devise the Snake;
      For all the Sin where with the Face of Man
    Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give — and take!

* * *



    Listen again. One Evening at the Close
    Of Ramazán, ere the better Moon arose,
      In that old Potter's Shop I stood alone
    With the clay Population round in Rows.


    And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot
    Some could articulate, while others not:
      And suddenly one more impatient cried —
    "Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"


    Then said another — "Surely not in vain
    "My Substance from the common Earth was ta'en,
      "That He who subtly wrought me into Shape
    "Should stamp me back to common Earth again."


    Another said — "Why, ne'er a peevish Boy,
    "Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy;
      "Shall He that made the Vessel in pure Love
    "And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy!"


    None answer'd this; but after Silence spake
    A Vessel of a more ungainly Make:
      "They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
    "What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"


    Said one — "Folks of a surly Tapster tell,
    "And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell;
      "They talk of some strict Testing of us — Pish!
    "He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."


    Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
    "My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
      "But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
    "Methinks I might recover by-and-bye!"


    So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
    One spied the little Crescent all were seeking:
      And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother!
    "Hark to the Porter's Shoulder-knot a-creaking!"

    * * *


    Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
    And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
      And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
    So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.


    That ev'n my buried Ashes such a Snare
    Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air,
      As not a True Believer passing by
    But shall be overtaken unaware.


    Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
    Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong;
      Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup,
    And sold my Reputation for a Song.


    Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
    I swore — but was I sober when I swore?
      And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
    My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.


    And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel,
    And robb'd me of my Robe of Honour — well,
      I often wonder what the Vintners buy
    One half so precious as the Goods they sell.


    Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
    That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!
      The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
    Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!


    Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
    To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
      Would not we shatter it to bits — and then
    Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!


    Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane,
    The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again:
      How oft hereafter rising shall she look
    Through this same Garden after me — in vain!


    And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass
    Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
      And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot
    Where I made one — turn down an empty Glass!



Excerpted from Edward FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám by William H. Martin, Sandra Mason. Copyright © 2011 William H. Martin and Sandra Mason. Excerpted by permission of Wimbledon Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction; Acknowledgements; List of Illustrations; Part 1. Edward FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám; A Note on the Texts; First Edition (1859); Second Edition (1868); Fourth Edition (1879); Edward FitzGerald’s Notes; Edward FitzGerald’s Prefaces; Part 2. The Rubáiyát, Its Story and Its Influence; Omar Khayyám and his Rubáiyát; Edward FitzGerald and his Rubáiyát; The Poem Itself; How the Rubáiyát Became Popular; Worldwide Spread and Influence; Exploitation in Many Forms; Relevance to the Modern Day; Notes to Part 2; Part 3. Further Notes and References; The Texts Presented – Editors’ Notes; Quatrain Numbers in the Rubáiyát; Note References in the Rubáiyát; Glossary of Names and Terms; Further Reading and Online Resources; Index

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