Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is the title that Edward FitzGerald gave to his 1859 translation from Persian to English of a selection of quatrains (rubāʿiyāt) attributed to Omar Khayyam (1048–1131), dubbed "the Astronomer-Poet of Persia".

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the Astronomer-Poet of Persia. Rendered into English Verse
Front cover of the first American edition (1878)
AuthorOmar Khayyam
TranslatorEdward FitzGerald
PublisherBernard Quaritch
Publication date
TextRubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the Astronomer-Poet of Persia. Rendered into English Verse at Wikisource
A collection of postcards with paintings of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Indian artist M. V. Dhurandhar.

Although commercially unsuccessful at first, FitzGerald's work was popularised from 1861 onward by Whitley Stokes, and the work came to be greatly admired by the Pre-Raphaelites in England. FitzGerald had a third edition printed in 1872, which increased interest in the work in the United States. By the 1880s, the book was extremely popular throughout the English-speaking world, to the extent that numerous "Omar Khayyam clubs" were formed and there was a "fin de siècle cult of the Rubaiyat".[1]

FitzGerald's work has been published in several hundred editions and has inspired similar translation efforts in English, Hindi and in many other languages.

Sources edit

Calligraphic manuscript page with three of FitzGerald's Rubaiyat written by William Morris, illustration by Edward Burne-Jones (1870s).
Illustration by Adelaide Hanscom (c. 1910).

The authenticity of the poetry attributed to Omar Khayyam is highly uncertain. Khayyam was famous during his lifetime not as a poet but as an astronomer and mathematician. The earliest reference to his having written poetry is found in his biography by al-Isfahani, written 43 years after his death. This view is reinforced by other medieval historians such as Shahrazuri (1201) and Al-Qifti (1255). Parts of the Rubaiyat appear as incidental quotations from Omar in early works of biography and in anthologies. These include works of Razi (ca. 1160–1210), Daya (1230), Juvayni (ca. 1226–1283), and Jajarmi (1340).[2]: 92 [3]: 434  Also, five quatrains assigned to Khayyam in somewhat later sources appear in Zahiri Samarqandi's Sindbad-Nameh (before 1160) without attribution.[4]: 34 

The number of quatrains attributed to him in more recent collections varies from about 1,200 (according to Saeed Nafisi) to more than 2,000. Sceptical scholars point out that the entire tradition may be pseudepigraphic.[4]: 11  The extant manuscripts containing collections attributed to Omar are dated much too late to enable a reconstruction of a body of authentic verses.

In the 1930s, Iranian scholars, notably Mohammad-Ali Foroughi, attempted to reconstruct a core of authentic verses from scattered quotes by authors of the 13th and 14th centuries, ignoring the younger manuscript tradition. After World War II, reconstruction efforts were significantly delayed by two clever forgeries. De Blois (2004) is pessimistic, suggesting that contemporary scholarship has not advanced beyond the situation of the 1930s, when Hans Heinrich Schaeder commented that the name of Omar Khayyam "is to be struck out from the history of Persian literature".[5]

A feature of the more recent collections is the lack of linguistic homogeneity and continuity of ideas. Sadegh Hedayat commented that "if a man had lived for a hundred years and had changed his religion, philosophy, and beliefs twice a day, he could scarcely have given expression to such a range of ideas".[4]: 34  Hedayat's final verdict was that 14 quatrains could be attributed to Khayyam with certainty.[6] Various tests have been employed to reduce the quatrains attributable to Omar to about 100.[3]: 434  Arthur Christensen states that "of more than 1,200 ruba'is known to be ascribed to Omar, only 121 could be regarded as reasonably authentic".[7]: 663  Foroughi accepts 178 quatrains as authentic, while Ali Dashti accepts 36 of them.[3]: 96 

FitzGerald's source was transcripts sent to him in 1856–57, by his friend and teacher Edward B. Cowell, of two manuscripts, a Bodleian manuscript with 158 quatrains[8] and a "Calcutta manuscript".

FitzGerald completed his first draft in 1857 and sent it to Fraser's Magazine in January 1858. He made a revised draft in January 1859, of which he privately printed 250 copies. This first edition became extremely sought after by the 1890s, when "more than two million copies ha[d] been sold in two hundred editions".[9]

Scepticism vs. Sufism debate edit

The extreme popularity of FitzGerald's work led to a prolonged debate on the correct interpretation of the philosophy behind the poems. FitzGerald emphasized the religious scepticism he found in Omar Khayyam.[10] In his preface to the Rubáiyát, he describes Omar's philosophy as Epicurean and claims that Omar was "hated and dreaded by the Sufis, whose practice he ridiculed and whose faith amounts to little more than his own when stripped of the Mysticism and formal recognition of Islamism under which Omar would not hide".[11] Richard Nelson Frye also emphasizes that Khayyam was despised by a number of prominent contemporary Sufis. These include figures such as Shams Tabrizi, Najm al-Din Daya, Al-Ghazali, and Attar, who "viewed Khayyam not as a fellow-mystic, but a free-thinking scientist".[7]: 663–664  The sceptic interpretation is supported by the medieval historian Al-Qifti (ca. 1172–1248), who in his The History of Learned Men reports that Omar's poems were only outwardly in the Sufi style but were written with an anti-religious agenda. He also mentions that Khayyam was indicted for impiety and went on a pilgrimage to avoid punishment.[12]

Critics of FitzGerald, on the other hand, have accused the translator of misrepresenting the mysticism of Sufi poetry by an overly literal interpretation. Thus, the view of Omar Khayyam as a Sufi was defended by Bjerregaard (1915).[13] Dougan (1991) likewise says that attributing hedonism to Omar is due to the failings of FitzGerald's translation, arguing that the poetry is to be understood as "deeply esoteric".[14] Idries Shah (1999) similarly says that FitzGerald misunderstood Omar's poetry.[15]

The Sufi interpretation is the view of a minority of scholars.[16] Henry Beveridge states that "the Sufis have unaccountably pressed this writer [Khayyam] into their service; they explain away some of his blasphemies by forced interpretations, and others they represent as innocent freedoms and reproaches".[17] Aminrazavi (2007) states that "Sufi interpretation of Khayyam is possible only by reading into his Rubaiyat extensively and by stretching the content to fit the classical Sufi doctrine".[2]: 128 

FitzGerald's "scepticist" reading of the poetry is still defended by modern scholars. Sadegh Hedayat (The Blind Owl, 1936) was the most notable modern proponent of Khayyam's philosophy as agnostic scepticism. In his introductory essay to his second edition of the Quatrains of the Philosopher Omar Khayyam (1922), Hedayat states that "while Khayyam believes in the transmutation and transformation of the human body, he does not believe in a separate soul; if we are lucky, our bodily particles would be used in the making of a jug of wine".[18] He concludes that "religion has proved incapable of surmounting his inherent fears; thus Khayyam finds himself alone and insecure in a universe about which his knowledge is nil". In his later work (Khayyam's Quatrains, 1935), Hedayat further maintains that Khayyam's usage of Sufic terminology such as "wine" is literal, and that "Khayyam took refuge in wine to ward off bitterness and to blunt the cutting edge of his thoughts."[6]

Editions edit

Illustration by Edmund Joseph Sullivan for Quatrain 11 of FitzGerald's First Version.
Illustration by Edmund Joseph Sullivan for Quatrain 12 of FitzGerald's First Version.
Illustration by Edmund Joseph Sullivan for Quatrain 51 of FitzGerald's First Version.

FitzGerald's text was published in five editions, with substantial revisions:

  • 1st edition – 1859 [75 quatrains]
  • 2nd edition – 1868 [110 quatrains]
  • 3rd edition – 1872 [101 quatrains]
    • 1878, "first American edition", reprint of the 3rd ed.
  • 4th edition – 1879 [101 quatrains]
  • 5th edition – 1889 [101 quatrains]

Of the five editions published, four were published under the authorial control of FitzGerald. The fifth edition, which contained only minor changes from the fourth, was edited posthumously on the basis of manuscript revisions FitzGerald had left.

Numerous later editions were published after 1889, notably an edition with illustrations by Willy Pogany first published in 1909 (George G. Harrap, London). It was issued in numerous revised editions. This edition combined FitzGerald's texts of the 1st and 4th editions and was subtitled "The First and Fourth Renderings in English Verse".

A bibliography of editions compiled in 1929 listed more than 300 separate editions.[19] Many more have been published since.[20]

Notable editions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries include: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. (1887, 1888, 1894); Doxey, At the Sign of the Lark (1898, 1900), illustrations by Florence Lundborg; The Macmillan Company (1899); Methuen (1900) with a commentary by H.M. Batson, and a biographical introduction by E.D. Ross; Little, Brown, and Company (1900), with the versions of E.H. Whinfield and Justin Huntly McCart; Bell (1901); Routledge (1904); Foulis (1905, 1909); Essex House Press (1905); Dodge Publishing Company (1905); Duckworth & Co. (1908); Hodder and Stoughton (1909), illustrations by Edmund Dulac; Tauchnitz (1910); East Anglian Daily Times (1909), Centenary celebrations souvenir; Warner (1913); The Roycrofters (1913); Hodder & Stoughton (1913), illustrations by René Bull; Dodge Publishing Company (1914), illustrations by Adelaide Hanscom. Sully and Kleinteich (1920).

Critical editions have been published by Decker (1997)[21] and by Arberry (2016).[22]

Character of translation edit

FitzGerald's translation is rhyming and metrical, and rather free. Many of the verses are paraphrased, and some of them cannot be confidently traced to his source material at all.[23] Michael Kearney claimed that FitzGerald described his work as "transmogrification".[24] To a large extent, the Rubaiyat can be considered original poetry by FitzGerald loosely based on Omar's quatrains rather than a "translation" in the narrow sense.

FitzGerald was open about the liberties he had taken with his source material:

My translation will interest you from its form, and also in many respects in its detail: very un-literal as it is. Many quatrains are mashed together: and something lost, I doubt, of Omar's simplicity, which is so much a virtue in him. (letter to E. B. Cowell, 9/3/58)

I suppose very few people have ever taken such Pains in Translation as I have: though certainly not to be literal. But at all Costs, a Thing must live: with a transfusion of one's own worse Life if one can't retain the Originals better. Better a live Sparrow than a stuffed Eagle. (letter to E. B. Cowell, 4/27/59)

For comparison, here are two versions of the same quatrain by FitzGerald, from the 1859 and 1889 editions:

Quatrain XI (1859)

Herewith 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.

Quatrain XII (1889)[25]

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

This quatrain has a close correspondence in two of the quatrains in the Bodleian Library ms., numbers 149 and 155. In the literal prose translation of Edward Heron-Allen (1898):[26]

No. 149

I desire a little ruby wine and a book of verses,
Just enough to keep me alive, and half a loaf is needful;
And then, that I and thou should sit in a desolate place
Is better than the kingdom of a sultan.

No. 155

If a loaf of wheaten-bread be forthcoming,
a gourd of wine, and a thigh-bone of mutton, and then,
if thou and I be sitting in the wilderness, —
that would be a joy to which no sultan can set bounds.

Other translations edit

English edit

Multilingual edition, published in 1955 by Tahrir Iran Co./Kashani Bros.

Two English editions by Edward Henry Whinfield (1836–1922) consisted of 253 quatrains in 1882 and 500 in 1883. This translation was fully revised and some cases fully translated anew by Ali Salami and published by Mehrandish Books.

Whinfield's translation is, if possible, even more free than FitzGerald's;[dubious ] Quatrain 84 (equivalent of FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above) reads:

In the sweet spring a grassy bank I sought
And thither wine and a fair Houri brought;
And, though the people called me graceless dog,
Gave not to Paradise another thought!

John Leslie Garner published an English translation of 152 quatrains in 1888. His was also a free, rhyming translation. Quatrain I. 20 (equivalent of FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):

Yes, Loved One, when the Laughing Spring is blowing,
With Thee beside me and the Cup o’erflowing,
I pass the day upon this Waving Meadow,
And dream the while, no thought on Heaven bestowing.

Justin Huntly McCarthy (1859–1936) (Member of Parliament for Newry) published prose translations of 466 quatrains in 1889.[27] Quatrain 177 (equivalent of FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):

In Spring time I love to sit in the meadow with a paramour
perfect as a Houri and goodly jar of wine, and though
I may be blamed for this, yet hold me lower
than a dog if ever I dream of Paradise.

Richard Le Gallienne (1866–1947) produced a paraphrase in 1897. Le Gallienne knew no Persian and based his paraphrase on earlier translations, exaggerating earlier translators' choices to make Khayyam appear more irreligious. For instance, he invents a verse in which Khayyam is made to say "the unbeliever knows his Koran best," and rewrites another to describe pious hypocrites as "a maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew," rather than the original Persian which emphasizes their ignorance of religion. Rather than a symbol for gnostic wisdom, wine becomes a straightforward image of libertinism for La Gallienne.[28] Some example quatrains follow:

Look not above, there is no answer there;
Pray not, for no one listens to your prayer;
Near is as near to God as any Far,
And Here is just the same deceit as There.
(#78, on p. 44)

"Did God set grapes a-growing, do you think,
And at the same time make it sin to drink?
Give thanks to Him who foreordained it thus—
Surely He loves to hear the glasses clink!"
(#91, p. 48)

Edward Heron-Allen (1861–1943) published a prose translation in 1898. He also wrote an introduction to an edition of the translation by Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo) into English from Nicolas's French translation. Below is Quatrain 17 translated by E. H. into English:[29]

This worn caravanserai which is called the world
Is the resting-place of the piebald horse of night and day;
It is a pavilion which has been abandoned by a hundred Jamshyds;
It is a palace that is the resting-place of a hundred Bahrams.

The English novelist and orientalist Jessie Cadell (1844–1884) consulted various manuscripts of the Rubaiyat with the intention of producing an authoritative edition. Her translation of 150 quatrains was published posthumously in 1899.[30]

A. J. Arberry in 1949 and 1952 produced translations of two putative thirteenth-century manuscripts recently acquired by the Chester Beatty Library and Cambridge University Library. However, it was soon established that, unbeknown to Arberry or the libraries, the manuscripts were recent forgeries.[31][32] While Arberry's work had been misguided, it was published in good faith.

The 1967 translation of the Rubáiyat by Robert Graves and Omar Ali-Shah created a scandal. The authors claimed it was based on a twelfth-century manuscript located in Afghanistan, where it was allegedly utilized as a Sufi teaching document. But the manuscript was never produced, and British experts in Persian literature were easily able to prove that the translation was in fact based on Edward Heron Allen's analysis of possible sources for FitzGerald's work.[32][2]: 155 

Quatrains 11 and 12 (the equivalent of FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):

Should our day's portion be one mancel loaf,
A haunch of mutton and a gourd of wine
Set for us two alone on the wide plain,
No Sultan's bounty could evoke such joy.

A gourd of red wine and a sheaf of poems —
A bare subsistence, half a loaf, not more —
Supplied us two alone in the free desert:
What Sultan could we envy on his throne?

John Charles Edward Bowen (1909–1989) was a British poet and translator of Persian poetry. He is best known for his translation of the Rubaiyat, titled A New Selection from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Bowen is also credited as being one of the first scholars to question Robert Graves' and Omar Ali-Shah's translation of the Rubaiyat.[33]

A modern version of 235 quatrains, claiming to be "as literal an English version of the Persian originals as readability and intelligibility permit", was published in 1979 by Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs. Their edition provides two versions of the thematic quatrain, the first (98) considered by the Persian writer Sadeq Hedayat to be a spurious attribution.[34]

I need a jug of wine and a book of poetry,
Half a loaf for a bite to eat,
Then you and I, seated in a deserted spot,
Will have more wealth than a Sultan's realm.

If chance supplied a loaf of white bread,
Two casks of wine and a leg of mutton,
In the corner of a garden with a tulip-cheeked girl,
There'd be enjoyment no Sultan could outdo.

In 1988, the Rubaiyat was translated by an Iranian for the first time.[35] Karim Emami's translation of the Rubaiyat was published under the title The Wine of Nishapour in Paris. The Wine of Nishapour is the collection of Khayyam's poetry by Shahrokh Golestan, including Golestan's pictures in front of each poem.[36] Example quatrain 160 (equivalent[dubious ] to FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his first edition, as above):

In spring if a houri-like sweetheart
Gives me a cup of wine on the edge of a green cornfield,
Though to the vulgar this would be blasphemy,
If I mentioned any other Paradise, I'd be worse than a dog.

In 1991, Ahmad Saidi (1904–1994) produced an English translation of 165 quatrains grouped into 10 themes. Born and raised in Iran, Saidi went to the United States in 1931 and attended college there. He served as the head of the Persian Publication Desk at the U.S. Office of War Information during World War II, inaugurated the Voice of America in Iran, and prepared an English-Persian military dictionary for the Department of Defense. His quatrains include the original Persian verses for reference alongside his English translations. His focus was to faithfully convey, with less poetic license, Khayyam's original religious, mystical, and historic Persian themes, through the verses as well as his extensive annotations. Two example quatrains follow:

Quatrain 16 (equivalent to FitzGerald's quatrain XII in his 5th edition, as above):

Ah, would there were a loaf of bread as fare,
A joint of lamb, a jug of vintage rare,
And you and I in wilderness encamped—
No Sultan's pleasure could with ours compare.

Quatrain 75:

The sphere upon which mortals come and go,
Has no end nor beginning that we know;
And none there is to tell us in plain truth:
Whence do we come and whither do we go.

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) published an English translation and other translations of 75 quatrains in 1996, with a glossary, spiritual interpretation and practical applications.[37]

In 2022 Akbar Golrang, born in Abadan in Iran in 1945, published his English translation of 123 rubaiyat.[38]

German edit

Adolf Friedrich von Schack (1815–1894) published a German translation in 1878.

Quatrain 151 (equivalent of FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):

Gönnt mir, mit dem Liebchen im Gartenrund
Zu weilen bei süßem Rebengetränke,
Und nennt mich schlimmer als einen Hund,
Wenn ferner an's Paradies ich denke!

Friedrich Martinus von Bodenstedt (1819–1892) published a German translation in 1881. The translation eventually consisted of 395 quatrains.

Quatrain IX, 59 (equivalent of FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):

Im Frühling mag ich gern im Grüne weilen
Und Einsamkeit mit einer Freundin teilen
Und einem Kruge Wein. Mag man mich schelten:
Ich lasse keinen andern Himmel gelten.

French edit

The first French translation, of 464 quatrains in prose, was made by J. B. Nicolas, chief interpreter at the French embassy in Persia in 1867.

Prose stanza (equivalent of FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):

Au printemps j’aime à m’asseoir au bord d’une prairie, avec une idole semblable à une houri et une cruche de vin, s’il y en a, et bien que tout cela soit généralement blâmé, je veux être pire qu’un chien si jamais je songe au paradis.

The best-known version in French is the free verse edition by Franz Toussaint (1879–1955) published in 1924. This translation consisting of 170 quatrains was done from the original Persian text, while most of the other French translations were themselves translations of FitzGerald's work. The Éditions d'art Henri Piazza published the book almost unchanged between 1924 and 1979. Toussaint's translation has served as the basis of subsequent translations into other languages, but Toussaint did not live to witness the influence his translation has had.

Quatrain XXV (equivalent of FitzGerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):

Au printemps, je vais quelquefois m’asseoir à la lisière d’un champ fleuri. Lorsqu’une belle jeune fille m’apporte une coupe de vin, je ne pense guère à mon salut. Si j’avais cette préoccupation, je vaudrais moins qu’un chien.

Russian edit

Many Russian-language translations have been undertaken, reflecting the popularity of the Rubaiyat in Russia since the late 19th century and the increasingly popular tradition of using it for the purposes of bibliomancy. The earliest verse translation (by Vasily Velichko) was published in 1891. The version by Osip Rumer published in 1914 is a translation of FitzGerald's version. Rumer later published a version of 304 rubaiyat translated directly from Persian. A lot of poetic translations (some based on verbatim translations into prose by others) were also written by German Plisetsky, Konstantin Bal'mont, Cecilia Banu, I. I. Tkhorzhevsky (ru), L. Pen'kovsky, and others.

Other languages edit

Influence edit

FitzGerald rendered Omar's name as "Omar the Tentmaker",[dubious ] and this name resonated in English-speaking popular culture for a while. Thus, Nathan Haskell Dole published a novel called Omar, the Tentmaker: A Romance of Old Persia in 1898. Omar the Tentmaker of Naishapur is a historical novel by John Smith Clarke, published in 1910. "Omar the Tentmaker" is a 1914 play in an oriental setting by Richard Walton Tully, adapted as a silent film in 1922. US General Omar Bradley was given the nickname "Omar the Tent-Maker" in World War II,[46] and the name has been recorded as a slang expression for "penis".[47] FitzGerald's translations also reintroduced Khayyam to Iranians, "who had long ignored the Neishapouri poet".[48]

Literature edit

  • The title of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novel Some Buried Caesar comes from one of the Tentmaker's quatrains (FitzGerald's XIX), for example.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois references Omar Khayyam, the Persian poet, astronomer, and mathematician, in "The Souls of Black Folk" as part of his exploration of the relationship between the African American community and mainstream American society.  In the chapter "Of the Passing of the First-Born," Du Bois reflects on the death of his infant son and uses the imagery of Khayyam's "Rubaiyat" to express his sense of grief and alienation.
  • Eugene O'Neill's drama Ah, Wilderness! derives its title from the first quoted quatrain above.
  • Agatha Christie used The Moving Finger as a story title, as did Stephen King. See also And Having Writ....
  • Lan Wright used Dawn's Left Hand as the title of a science fiction story serialized in New Worlds Science Fiction (January–March 1963).
  • The title of Allen Drury's science fiction novel The Throne of Saturn comes from a quatrain which appears as the book's epigraph.
  • The title of Nevil Shute Norway's novel The Chequer Board is taken from Stanza LXIX, and that stanza appears as the book's epigraph.
  • The titles of Mike Shupp's science fiction novels With Fate Conspire and Morning Of Creation, the first two books of the series The Destiny Makers, are taken from Stanzas LXXIII and LIII. These stanzas are quoted during the novels by the main character. The first quote in particular ties in with his mission as a time traveler trying to change past history to alter the outcome of a future war:
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!

Equally noteworthy are these works likewise influenced:

  • The satirist and short story writer Hector Hugh Munro took his pen name of 'Saki' from Edward FitzGerald's translation of the Rubaiyat.
  • The American author O. Henry humorously referred to a book by "Homer KM" with the character "Ruby Ott" in his short story "The Handbook of Hymen.[49] " O. Henry also quoted a quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in "The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball".
  • Oliver Herford released a parody of the Rubaiyat called "The Rubaiyat of a Persian Kitten" in 1904, which is notable for its charming illustrations of the kitten in question on his philosophical adventures.[50]
  • The artist/illustrator Edmund Dulac produced some much-beloved illustrations[51] for the Rubaiyat, 1909.
  • The play The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) by Seán O'Casey contains a reference to the Rubaiyat as the character Donal Davoren quotes "grasp this sorry scheme of things entire, and mould life nearer to the heart's desire".
  • The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges discusses The Rubaiyat and its history in an essay, "The Enigma of Edward FitzGerald" ("El enigma de Edward FitzGerald") in his book "Other Inquisitions" ("Otras Inquisiciones", 1952). He also references it in some of his poems, including "Rubaiyat" in "The Praise of the Shadow" ("Elogio de la Sombra", 1969), and "Chess" ("Ajedrez") in "The Maker" ("El Hacedor", 1960). Borges' father Jorge Guillermo Borges was the author of a Spanish translation of the FitzGerald version of The Rubaiyat.
  • Science fiction author Paul Marlowe's story "Resurrection and Life" featured a character who could only communicate using lines from the Rubaiyat.
  • Science fiction author Isaac Asimov quotes The Moving Finger in his time-travel novel The End of Eternity when a character discusses whether history could be changed.
  • Charles Schultz wrote a strip in which Lucy reads the Jug of Wine passage, and Linus asks "No blanket?".
  • Wendy Cope's poem "Strugnell's Rubiyat" is a close parody of the FitzGerald translation, relocated to modern day Tulse Hill.
  • One of the title pages of Principia Discordia (1965), a co-author of which went by the pen-name Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, features its own spin on the quatrain most quoted above:
A jug of wine,
A leg of lamb
And thou!
Beside me,
Whistling in
the darkness.[52]
And do you think that unto such as you
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew
God gave the secret, and denied it me?
Well, well—what matters it? Believe that, too!
  • The title of Daphne du Maurier's memoir Myself when Young is a quote from quatrain 27 of FitzGerald's translation:
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.
  • Rudyard Kipling composed the satirical poem The Rupaiyat of Omar Kal'vin, following the form of the original but with the content being primarily a complaint against an increase in income tax.
  • Working as a pornographic illustrator, The main character in Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human appends Rupaiyat verses to his illustrations.
  • The narrator in Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) tries to recall the opening Quatrain of The Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám when the landscape of Oregon "looks like some desert in Persia above [them]." The narrator quotes some more Quatrains that "keep rumbling through [his] head. ... something, something along some Strip of Herbage strown / That just divides the desert from the sown, / Where name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known, / And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne ..."[53] He tries to remember other parts saying to himself, "How did that go? I don't know. I don't even like the poem."[54]

Cinema edit

  • Filmmaker D.W. Griffith planned a film based on the poems as a follow-up to Intolerance in 1916. It was to star Miriam Cooper, but when she left the Griffith company the plans were dropped;[55] he would ultimately film Broken Blossoms instead.
  • Text from the Rubaiyat appeared in intertitles of the lost film A Lover's Oath (1925)
  • The lines "When Time lets slip a little perfect hour, O take it—for it will not come again." appear in the intertitles of Torrent, the 1926 film starring Greta Garbo and Ricardo Cortez.
  • Part of the quatrain beginning "The Moving Finger writes ... " was quoted in Algiers, the 1938 movie starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr.
  • A canto was quoted and used as an underlying theme of the 1945 screen adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray: "I sent my soul through the invisible, some letters of that after-life to spell, and by and by my soul did return, and answered, 'I myself am Heaven and Hell.'"
  • The Rubaiyat was quoted in the 1946 King Vidor Western film Duel in the Sun, which starred Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones: "Oh threats of hell and hopes of paradise! One thing at least is certain: This life flies. One thing is certain and the rest is Lies; The Flower that once is blown for ever dies."
  • The 1951 film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, starring James Mason and Ava Gardner, opens with an illuminated manuscript of the quatrain beginning "The moving finger writes...".
  • In the film The Music Man (based on the 1957 musical), town librarian Marian Paroo draws down the wrath of the mayor's wife for encouraging the woman's daughter to read a book of "dirty Persian poetry". Summarizing what she calls the "Ruby Hat of Omar Kayayayayay...I am appalled!!", the mayor's wife paraphrases FitzGerald's Quatrain XII from his 5th edition: "People lying out in the woods eating sandwiches, and drinking directly out of jugs with innocent young girls."
  • The film Omar Khayyam, also known as The Loves of Omar Khayyam, was released in 1957 by Paramount Pictures and includes excerpts from the Rubaiyat.
  • In Back to the Future the character Lorraine Baines, played by Lea Thompson, is holding a copy of the book in 1955 at the high school when her son Marty McFly is trying to introduce her to his father.
  • The Rubaiyat was quoted in the film 12 Monkeys (1995) around 11 minutes in.
  • In Adrian Lyne's Unfaithful a copy of the text in French is quoted in English: "Drink wine, this is life eternal //This, all that youth will give to you//It is the season for wine, roses//And drunken friends//Be happy for this moment//This moment is your life." The book is a gift given flirtatiously to Diane Lane's character by Olivier Martinez who plays rare book dealer Paul Martel in the film.

Music edit

  • The British composer Liza Lehmann set selections from FitzGerald's translation to music in the song cycle "In a Persian Garden" for four voices (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and piano in 1896.
  • The British composer Granville Bantock produced a choral setting of FitzGerald's translation 1906–1909.
  • The American composer Arthur Foote composed a five movement piano cycle, "Five Poems After Omar Khayyam", each piece inspired by a quatrain of Fitzgerald's translation. He later rewrote these pieces as an orchestral suite, "Four Character Pieces after the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám".
  • Using FitzGerald's translation, the Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness set a dozen of the quatrains to music. This work, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Op. 308, calls for narrator, orchestra, and solo accordion.
  • The Rubaiyat have also influenced Arabic music. In 1950 the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum recorded a song entitled "Rubaiyat Al-Khayyam".
  • The Comedian Harmonists in "Wochenend und Sonnenschein".
  • Woody Guthrie recorded an excerpt of the Rubaiyat set to music that was released on Hard Travelin' (The Asch Recordings Vol. 3).
  • The Human Instinct's album Pins In It (1971) opens with a track called "Pinzinet", the lyrics of which are based on the Rubaiyat.
  • Elektra Records released a compilation album named Rubáiyát in 1990 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Elektra Records record label.
  • Coldcut produced an album with a song called "Rubaiyat" on their album Let us Play! (1997). This song contains what appears to be some words from the English translation.[56]
  • Jazz-soul harpist Dorothy Ashby's 1970 album The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby quotes from several of the poem's verses.
  • The famed "skull and roses" poster for a Grateful Dead show at the Avalon Ballroom done by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse was adapted from Edmund J. Sullivan's illustrations for The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.[57]
  • The work influenced the 2004 concept album The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam by the Italian group Milagro acustico [it].[58]
  • The song "Beautiful Feeling" by Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, on 2004 album Ways and Means, includes the lyrics "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thee, lying on a blanket underneath that big old spreading tree." This song was used as the theme song in the 2004 Australian television drama, Fireflies.
  • The 1953 Robert Wright-George Forrest musical Kismet, adapted from a play by Edward Knoblock, contains a non-singing character, Omar (it is implied that he is the poet himself), who recites some of the couplets in the FitzGerald translation.
  • The record label Ruby Yacht gets its namesake, in part, from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
  • milo's album budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies features a couple of references to the Rubaiyat.
  • Adolphus Hailstork's a cappella choral work, "Seven Songs of the Rubaiyat" uses the Fitzgerald translation

Television edit

  • In “The Excelsior Acquisition” episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon Cooper quotes the Rubaiyat “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on” after expressing dismay towards Penny for causing him to have missed his opportunity to have gelato with Stan Lee. To which Penny replies, “Did he just somehow give me the finger?”
  • In one 6-episode story arc of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Bullwinkle finds the "Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam" in the town of Frostbite Falls (on the shores of Veronica Lake).
  • In the American television drama, Have Gun - Will Travel, the sixth episode of the sixth season is titled "The Bird of Time". The last lines are the main character, Paladin, quoting from Quatrain VII, "The Bird of Time has but a little way To flutter—and the Bird is on the Wing."
  • A copy of the Rubaiyat plays a role in an episode of the TV series New Amsterdam and is shown to be the inspiration for the name of one of the lead character's children, Omar York.
  • In the Australian 2014 television drama, Anzac Girls, Lieutenant Harry Moffitt reads from the Rubaiyat to his sweetheart, nurse Sister Alice Ross-King.
  • In "The Moving Finger" episode of 'I Dream of Jeannie' Jeannie tries out to be a movie star and her screen test is her reciting the Rubaiyat

Other media edit

Other edit

  • In Australia, a copy of FitzGerald's translation and its closing words, Tamam Shud ("Ended") were major components of the mystery of the Somerton Man.
  • The Supreme Court of the Philippines, through a unanimous opinion written in 2005 by Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, quoted "The Moving Finger" when it ruled that the widow of defeated presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. could not substitute her late husband in his pending election protest against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, thus leading to the dismissal of the protest.
  • There was a real jewel-encrusted copy of the book on the Titanic. It had been crafted in 1911 by the firm of Sangorski & Sutcliffe in London. It was won at a Sotheby's auction in London on 29 March 1912 for £405 (a bit over $2,000 in 1912) to Gabriel Weis, an American, and was being shipped to New York. The book remains lost at the bottom of the Atlantic to this day.

Anniversary events edit

2009 marked the 150th anniversary of FitzGerald's translation, and the 200th anniversary of FitzGerald's birth. Events marking these anniversaries included:

  • The Smithsonian's traveling exhibition Elihu Vedder's Drawings for the Rubaiyat at the Phoenix Art Museum, 15 November 2008 – 8 February 2009
  • The exhibition Edward FitzGerald & The Rubaiyat from the collection of Nicholas B. Scheetz at the Grolier Club, 22 January – 13 March 2009.
  • The exhibition Omar Khayyám. Een boek in de woestijn. 150 jaar in Engelse vertaling at the Museum Meermanno, The Hague, 31 January – 5 April 2009
  • The exhibition The Persian Sensation: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the West at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin, 3 February – 2 August 2009
  • An exhibition at the Cleveland Public Library Special Collections, opening 15 February 2009
  • The joint conference, Omar Khayyam, Edward FitzGerald and The Rubaiyat, held at Cambridge University and Leiden University, 6–10 July 2009
  • The Folio Society published a limited edition (1,000 copies) of the Rubáiyát to mark the 150th anniversary.[59]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Yohannan, John D. (1977). Persian Poetry in England and America. Caravan Books. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-88206-006-4.
  2. ^ a b c Mehdi, Aminrazavi (2005). The Wine of Wisdom: The Life, Poetry and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam. Oneworld Publications. ISBN 978-1-85168-355-0.
  3. ^ a b c Edward Denison Ross, "Omar Khayyam", Bulletin of the School Of Oriental Studies, London Institution (1927)
  4. ^ a b c Ali Dashti (translated by L. P. Elwell-Sutton), In Search of Omar Khayyam, Routledge Library Editions: Iran (2012)
  5. ^ Francois De Blois, Persian Literature – A Bio-Bibliographical Survey: Poetry of the Pre-Mongol Period (2004), p. 307.
  6. ^ a b Bashiri, Iraj. "Sadeq Hedayat's Learning". Blind Owl. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  7. ^ a b The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 4. Cambridge University Press (1975): Richard Nelson Frye
  8. ^ MS. Ouseley 140, copied in 1460 in Shiraz, Persia, 47 folia. This is the oldest securely dated manuscript of Omar Khayyam's poetry. It belonged to William Ouseley (1767–1842) and was purchased by the Bodleian Library in 1844
  9. ^ Preface to a facsimile of the first edition (no year [c. 1900], "from the fine copy owned by Charles Dana Burrage" [1857–1926]).
  10. ^ Davis, Dick. "FitzGerald, Edward". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  11. ^ FitzGerald, E. (2010). Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (p. 12). Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg
  12. ^

    "Sufis understood his poems outwardly and considered them to be part of their mystical tradition. In their sessions and gatherings, Khayyam's poems became the subject of conversation and discussion. His poems, however, are inwardly like snakes who bite the sharia [Islamic law] and are chains and handcuffs placed on religion. Once the people of his time had a taste of his faith, his secrets were revealed. Khayyam was frightened for his life, withdrew from writing, speaking and such like and travelled to Mecca. Once he arrived in Baghdad, members of a Sufi tradition and believers in primary sciences came to him and courted him. He did not accept them and after performing the pilgrimage returned to his native land, kept his secrets to himself and propagated worshipping and following the people of faith." cited after Aminrazavi (2007)[page needed]

  13. ^

    "The writings of Omar Khayyam are good specimens of Sufism, but are not valued in the West as they ought to be, and the mass of English-speaking people know him only through the poems of Edward Fitzgerald. It is unfortunate because Fitzgerald is not faithful to his master and model, and at times he lays words upon the tongue of the Sufi which are blasphemous. Such outrageous language is that of the eighty-first quatrain for instance. Fitzgerald is doubly guilty because he was more of a Sufi than he was willing to admit." C. H. A. Bjerregaard, Sufism: Omar Khayyam and E. Fitzgerald, The Sufi Publishing Society (1915), p. 3

  14. ^ "Every line of the Rubaiyat has more meaning than almost anything you could read in Sufi literature". Abdullah Dougan, Who is the Potter?, Gnostic Press 1991 ISBN 0-473-01064-X
  15. ^ "FitzGerald himself was confused about Omar. Sometimes he thought that he was a Sufi, sometimes not." Idries Shah, The Sufis, Octagon Press (1999), pp. 165–166
  16. ^ Aminrazavi, Mehdi. "Umar Khayyam". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  17. ^ Beveridge, H. (1905). XVIII. "Omar Khayyam". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 37(3), 521–526.
  18. ^ Katouzian, H. (1991). Sadeq Hedayat: The life and literature of an Iranian writer (p. 138). London: I.B. Tauris
  19. ^ Ambrose George Potter, A Bibliography of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1929).
  20. ^ Francois De Blois, Persian Literature – A Bio-Bibliographical Survey: Poetry of the Pre-Mongol Period (2004), p. 312.
  21. ^ Christopher Decker (ed.), Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam / a critical edition , Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 1997, 2008.
  22. ^ A. J. Arberry (ed.), The Romance of the Rubáiyát : Edward Fitzgerald's First Edition reprinted with Introduction and Notes, Routledge, 2016.
  23. ^ Fitzgerald, Edward (2007). "Note by W. Aldis Wright". Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. p. 132. ISBN 978-81-7167-439-8.
  24. ^ Michael Kearney (1888). "Biographical Preface". Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in English verse. By Omar Khayyam. Translated by Edward FitzGerald. New York and Boston: Houghton, Mifflin. p. 17.
  25. ^ "". Archived from the original on 30 June 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  26. ^ The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam : being a facsimile of the manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, with a transcript into modern Persian characters. Translated, with an Introd. and notes, and a bibliography, and some sidelights upon Edward Fitzgerald's poem (1898).
  27. ^ Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Justin Huntly McCarthy MP. [London] : D. Nutt, 1889. (Source: Trinity College Dublin Library)
  28. ^ Talib, Adam (2011). "Le Gallienne's Paraphrase and the limits of translation". In Poole, Adrian (ed.). 'FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: Popularity and Neglect. London: Anthem Press.
  29. ^ "An Anonymous Quatrain". Notes and Queries. 17 (8): 317–a–317. 1 August 1970. doi:10.1093/nq/17-8-317a. ISSN 1471-6941.
  30. ^ Raza, Rosemary Cargill (2004). "Cadell, Jessie Ellen (1844–1884)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4300. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  31. ^ Dashti, Ali (25 February 2011) [1971]. In Search of Omar Khayyam. Routledge Library Editions: Iran. Vol. 12. Translated by Elwood-Sutton, L. P. Routledge. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-0-415-60851-0.
  32. ^ a b Irwin, Robert. "Omar Khayyam's Bible for drunkards". The Times Literary Supplement. Archived from the original on 18 March 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  33. ^ Bowen, John Charles Edward. (31 January 1973). Translation or travesty? an enquiry into Robert Graves's version of some Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Freshet library, no. 2. Abbey Press (Berks). ISBN 9780900012327 – via Hathi Trust.
  34. ^ Avery, Peter, and John Heath-Stubbs. (1981). The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam. Penguin Classics. Penguin. ISBN 9780140443844 – via Google.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  35. ^ Azarang, Abd-al Hussein. "Emami, Karim". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  36. ^ Emami, Karim. Ups and Downs of Translation, Tehran, 1988, pp. 134–169
  37. ^ "Wine of The Mystic". Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  38. ^ Omar Khayyam (2022). Rubaiyat [Quatrains]. Translated by Akbar Golrang. Sheila Publishing House, 2022. ISBN 9781674875613. A free extract is available at
  39. ^ "Web of the Galician Culture Council". Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  40. ^ a b c d e Omar Khayyam. Rubaiyat. Translated by Ryosaku Ogawa (小川亮作, Ogawa Ryosaku). Iwanami Shoten, 1949 (revised ed. in 1979), pp. 167–73. ISBN 978-4003278314.
  41. ^ 図書カード:ルバイヤート. 21 July 2006. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  42. ^ "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". Odia Book Bazar. 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  43. ^ a b "Rubaije Omera Hajjama". Archived from the original on 6 October 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  44. ^ "Logo". Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  45. ^ Khayyam, Omar; Khinno, Eshaya Elisha (2012). Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam: A Translation Into Assyrian Language Plus Other ... – Omar Khayyam, Eshaya Elisha Khinno – Google Books. ISBN 9780646543147. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  46. ^ Jeffrey D. Lavoie, The Private Life of General Omar N. Bradley (2015), p. 13.
  47. ^ Michael Kimmel, Christine Milrod, Amanda Kennedy, Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis (2014), p. 93.
  48. ^ Molavi, Afshin, The Soul of Iran, Norton, (2005), p. 110f.
  49. ^ "The Handbook of Hymen by O. Henry". Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  50. ^ "Old Fashioned American Humor". Old Fashioned American Humor. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
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  52. ^ "Principia Discordia, the book of Chaos, Discord and Confusion". Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  53. ^ Pirsig, Robert M. (1974). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Vintage. p. 284. ISBN 9780099786405.
  54. ^ Pirsig, Robert M. (1974). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Vintage. p. 285. ISBN 9780099786405.
  55. ^ Cooper, Miriam (1973). Dark Lady of the Silents. Bobbs Merrill. p. 104. ISBN 0672517256.
  56. ^ "See album". Amazon. 1997. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  57. ^ Selvin, Joel. "Alton Kelley, psychedelic poster creator, dies". San Francisco Chronicle. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  58. ^ "The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam". Valley Entertainment-Hearts of Space Records. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  59. ^ Edward FitzGerald. "Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám | Folio Illustrated Book". Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  • William Mason, Sandra Martin, The Art of Omar Khayyam: Illustrating FitzGerald's Rubaiyat (2007).

Further reading edit

External links edit