The Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam
The Rubayyat Of Omar Khayyam 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”.
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”.
FitzGerald’s work has been published in several hundred editions and has inspired similar translation efforts in English, Hindi and in many other languages.
Further information: Omar Khayyam § Poetry
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). Also, five quatrains assigned to Khayyam in somewhat later sources appear in Zahiri Samarqandi’s Sindbad-Nameh (before 1160) without attribution.
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. Skeptical scholars point out that the entire tradition may be pseudepigraphic. 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”.
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”. Hedayat’s final verdict was that 14 quatrains could be attributed to Khayyam with certainty. Various tests have been employed to reduce the quatrains attributable to Omar to about 100. 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”. Foroughi accepts 178 quatrains as authentic, while Ali Dashti accepts 36 of them.
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 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”.
Skepticism vs. Sufism debate
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 skepticism he found in Omar Khayyam. 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”. 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”. The skeptic 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.
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). 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”. Idries Shah (1999) similarly says that FitzGerald misunderstood Omar’s poetry.
The Sufi interpretation is the view of a minority of scholars. 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”. 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”.
FitzGerald’s “skepticist” 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”. 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.”
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. Many more have been published since.
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) and by Arberry (2016).
Character of translation
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. Michael Kearney claimed that FitzGerald described his work as “transmogrification”. 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)
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):
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.
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.
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; 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. 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 verse translation, subtitled “a paraphrase from several literal translations”, in 1897. In his introductory note to the reader, Le Gallienne cites McCarthy’s “charming prose” as the chief influence on his version. 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)
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.
(#85, p. 47)
“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:
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.
A. J. Arberry in 1959 attempted a scholarly edition of Khayyam, based on thirteenth-century manuscripts. However, his manuscripts were subsequently exposed as twentieth-century forgeries. 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, however, 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.
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.
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.
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. 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. Example quatrain 160 (equivalent 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Afrikaans: Poet Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven (1873–1932, author of “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika”) produced the first translation in Afrikaans. Herman Charles Bosman wrote a translation into Afrikaans published in 1948.
- Albanian: Fan Noli produced a translation in 1927, the melody and poetics of which are highly regarded.
- Arabic: Ahmed Rami, a famous late Egyptian poet, translated the work into Arabic. His translation was sung by Umm Kulthum.
- Armenian: Armenian poet Kevork Emin has translated several verses of the Rubaiyat.
- Assyrian: (see Syriac below).
- Belarusian: 172 rubaiyat were translated by Ryhor Baradulin in 1989.
- Bengali: Kantichandra Ghosh, Muhammad Shahidullah (in 1942), Kazi Nazrul Islam (in 1958) and Shakti Chattopadhyay (in 1978) produced translations into Bengali. Hemendra Kumar Roy translated the Rubaiyat into Bengali.
- Catalan: Ramon Vives Pastor published a verse translation (1907) from the Nicolas’ French one and the Fitzgerald’s; in 2010, two direct translations from the Persian were published: a rhytmic one by Àlex Queraltó, and the other by Ramon Gaja, in verse and maintaining the original rhyme.
- Chinese: Kerson Huang based a Chinese version on FitzGerald’s version.
- Cornish: In 1990, Jowann Richards produced a Cornish translation.
- Czech: First Czech translator is Josef Štýbr. At first he translated from English (from FitzGerald’s “translations”) (1922), after that from original language (1931). Translation from the original can be found on Czech wikisource (770 poems). Subsequent translators are mentioned here.
- Dutch: The poet J. H. Leopold (1865–1925) rendered a number of rubaiyat into Dutch.
- Estonian: Haljand Udam produced an Estonian translation.
- Finnish: the first translations were made by Toivo Lyy in 1929. More recently Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila (1999 and 2008) and Kiamars Baghban with Leevi Lehto (2009) have translated Khayyam into Finnish.
- Galician: Xabier Correa Corredoira published a Galician translation in 2010.
- Greek: Christos Marketis translated 120 rubaiyat into Greek in 1975.
- Hindi : Maithili Sharan Gupt and Harivanshrai Bachchan translated the book into Hindi in 1959.
- Hungarian: The earliest translation in Hungarian consisted of a few stanzas taken from the French version of Nicolas, by Béla Erődi in 1919–20. Lőrinc Szabó finalized his translation of the FitzGerald version in 1943.
- Icelandic: Magnús Ásgeirsson translated the Rubaiyat in 1935. There was an earlier translation by Einar Benediktsson in 1921. Jochum M. Eggertsson (Skuggi) published a translation in 1946. All translations are of FitzGerald’s version.
- Irish: Tadhg Ó Donnchadha (Torna) translated the Rubaiyat from English into Irish in 1920.
- Italian: Francesco Gabrieli produced an Italian translation (Le Rubaiyyàt di Omar Khayyàm) in 1944. A. Zazzaretta produced a translation in 1960, and Alessandro Bausani produced another translation in 1965.
- Japanese: In 1910, Kakise Hikozo translated 110 poems from the 5th edition of FitzGerald’s translation. The first translation from Persian into the classical Japanese language was made by a linguist, Shigeru Araki, in 1920. Among various other translations, Ogawa highly evaluates Ryo Mori’s (ja:森亮), produced in 1931. In Japan, until 1949, more than 10 poets and/or scholars made translations into Japanese. The first complete translation from Persian into the modern Japanese language was made by Ryosaku Ogawa in 1949, which is still popular and has been published from Iwanami Shoten (it is now in the public domain and also freely available from Aozora Bunko). Historically, the first attempt was six poems translated by Kambara Ariake in 1908.
- Jèrriais: Fraînque Le Maistre produced a Jèrriais version (based on FitzGerald’s 1st edition) during the German occupation of the Channel Islands (1940–1945).
- Kannada: D. V. Gundappa translated the work into Kannada as a collection of poems titled Umarana Osage in 1952.
- Kurdish: The Kurdish poet Hajar translated the Rubaiyat in his Chwar Parchakani Xayam.
- Latvian: It was translated into Latvian by Andrejs Kurcijs in 1970.
- Malayalam: G. Sankara Kurup produced a translation into Malayalam (1932). Thirunalloor Karunakaran translated the Rubaiyat in 1989.
- Odia: Gopal Chandra Kanungo illustrated and translated the FitzGerald’s book into Odia in 1954. Devdas Chhotray adapted Edward FitzGerald’s work into Oriya and recorded it in musical form in 2011.
- Radha Mohan Gadanayak translated the Rubaiyat into Odia
- Polish: Several collections of Rubaiyat have appeared, including ones by Professor Andrzej Gawroński (1933, 1969), regarded as the best.
- Romanian: In 2015 it was translated into Romanian for the first time by orientalist philologist Gheorghe Iorga.
- Sanskrit: Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das (1864–1945) translated the original Persian quatrains and Edward FitzGerald’s English translations into Sanskrit and pure-Telugu. Pandit Narayana Das claimed his translation was more literal than that of FitzGerald. (See Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasu.)
- Scots: Scottish poet Rab Wilson published a Scots version in 2004.
- Serbo-Croatian: The first translation of nine short poems into Serbo-Croatian was published in 1920, and was the work of Safvet beg Bašagić. In 1932, Jelena Skerlić Ćorović re-published these nine, alongside 75 more poems. In 1964, noted orientalist Fehim Bajraktarević published his translation of the Rubaiyat.
- Slovene: The first translator into Slovene was Alojz Gradnik, his translation being published in 1955. It was translated again by Slovene translator and poet Bert Pribac in 2007 from the French Toussaint edition.
- Sureth: The Assyrian author Eshaya Elisha Khinno translated the Rubaiyat into Sureth (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic) in 2012
- Swahili: Robert Bin Shaaban produced a version in Swahili (dated 1948, published 1952).
- Swedish: Eric Hermelin translated the Rubaiyat into Swedish in 1928.
- Syriac: The Assyrian journalist and poet Naum Faiq translated the Rubaiyat into the Syriac.
- Tagalog: The Filipino poet and linguist Ildefonso Santos published his Tagalog translation in 1953.
- Telugu: Duvvoori Ramireddy translated the Rubaiyat in 1935. Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das (1864–1945) translated the original Persian quatrains and Edward FitzGerald’s English translations into Sanskrit and pure-Telugu.
- Thai. At least four versions exist in Thai. These translations were made from the text of FitzGerald. Their respective authors are HRH Prince Narathip Prapanpong, Rainan Aroonrungsee (pen name: Naan Gitirungsi), Pimarn Jamjarus (pen name: Kaen Sungkeet), and Suriyachat Chaimongkol.
- Welsh: Sir John Morris-Jones translated directly from Persian into Welsh in 1928. Thomas Ifor Rees produced a Welsh translation, published in Mexico City in 1939.
- Vietnamese: Hồ Thượng Tuy translated from English into Vietnamese (from FitzGerald’s 1st edition) in 1990. Nguyễn Viết Thắng produced a Vietnamese translation of 487 rubaiyat, translated from English and Russian in 1995, published in Hanoi in 2003.
The Rubayyat Of Omar Khayyam
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 Sultan’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.
Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,
And Jamshyd’s Seven-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 Pehlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!” — the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers 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.
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life kept falling one by one.
Morning a thousand Roses brings, you say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
And this first Summer month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.
But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot
Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
Or Hatim Tai cry Supper — heed them not.
With me along the strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot —
And Peace is Mahmud on his Golden Throne!
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 e now!
Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!
Were it not Folly, Spider-like to spin
The Thread of present Life away to win —
What? for ourselves, who know not if we shall
Breathe out the very Breath we now breathe in!
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 turned
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.
Think, in this battered Caravanserai
Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his Hour or two and went his way.
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahram, that great Hunter — the Wild Ass
Stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.
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 Beloved, 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 Seven 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 may yet 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 some To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin 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 Works to Scorn
Are scatter’d, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.
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 forever 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.
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 Master-Knot of Human Fate.
There was the Door to which I found no Key:
There was the Veil through which I could not see:
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was — and then no more of Thee and Me.
Then to the rolling Heaven itself I cried,
Asking, “What Lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?”
And — “A blind Understanding!” Heaven replied.
Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn
I lean’d, 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!”
And has not such a Story from of Old
Down Man’s successive generations roll’d
Of such a clod of saturated Earth
Cast by the Maker into Human mould?
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!
A Moment’s Halt — a momentary taste
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste —
And Lo! the phantom Caravan has reach’d
The Nothing it set out from — Oh, make haste!
Oh, plagued no more with Human or Divine,
To-morrow’s tangle to itself resign,
And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.
Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute;
Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, fruit.
You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.
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 Alchemest that in a Trice
Life’s leaden Metal into Gold transmute.
Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare
Blaspheme the twisted tendril as Snare?
A Blessing, we should use it, should we not?
And if a Curse — why, then, Who set it there?
But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
And, in some corner of the Hubbub couch’d,
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.
Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass’d the door of Darkness through
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.
The Revelations of Devout and Learn’d
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn’d,
Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep,
They told their fellows, and to Sleep return’d.
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
Is’t not a shame — Is’t not a shame for him
So long in this Clay suburb to abide?
But that is but a Tent wherein may rest
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another guest.
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And after many days my Soul return’d
And said, “Behold, Myself am Heaven and Hell.”
Heaven but the Vision of fulfill’d Desire,
And Hell the Shadow of a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.
While the Rose blows along the River Brink,
With old Khayyam and ruby vintage drink:
And when the Angel with his darker Draught
Draws up to Thee — take that, and do not shrink.
And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, should lose, or know the type no more;
The Eternal Saki from the Bowl has pour’d
Millions of Bubbls like us, and will pour.
When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh but the long long while the World shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As much as Ocean of a pebble-cast.
‘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.
For let Philosopher and Doctor preach
Of what they will, and what they will not — each
Is but one Link in an eternal Chain
That none can slip, nor break, nor over-reach.
And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Where under 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 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.
Yesterday This Day’s Madness did prepare;
To-morrow’s Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
I tell You this — When, starting from the Goal,
Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal
Of Heaven Parwin and Mushtari they flung,
In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.
The Vine has struck a fiber: which about
If clings my Being — let the Dervish 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 Wrath — consume me quite,
One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught
Better than in the Temple lost outright.
What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke
A conscious Something to resent the yoke
Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain
Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!
What! from his helpless Creature be repaid
Pure Gold for what he lent us dross-allay’d —
Sue for a Debt we never did contract,
And cannot answer — Oh the sorry trade!
Nay, but for terror of his wrathful Face,
I swear I will not call Injustice Grace;
Not one Good Fellow of the Tavern but
Would kick so poor a Coward from the place.
Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
Thou will not with Predestined Evil 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 wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken’d, Man’s Forgiveness give — and take!
Listen again. One Evening at the Close
Of Ramazan, 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?”
“Why,” said another, “Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
The luckless Pots he marred in making — 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,
Me thinks I might recover by-and-by!”
So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
The Little Moon look’d in that all were seeking:
And then they jogged each other, “Brother! Brother!
Now for 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 Winding sheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.
That evening 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 a pieces tore.
And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel,
And robbed me of my Robe of Honor — 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!
Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield
One glimpse — If dimly, yet indeed, reveal’d
To which the fainting Traveller might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!
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 Heaven is rising once again:
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same Garden after me — in vain!
And when like her, oh Saki, you shall pass
Among the Guests star-scatter’d on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one — turn down an empty Glass!
By Omar Khayyam
Translated into English in 1859 by Edward FitzGerald
Translated into ascii in 1993 by Dave Gross (email@example.com)
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia