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Medieval Sourcebook:
Omar Khayyam:
The Rubiayat, c. 1120 CE


The Rubiayat Begins

I

Wake! For the Sun behind yon Eastern height Has chased the Session of the Stars from Night; And to the field of Heav'n ascending, strikes The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light.

Awake Morning: For the sun behind yon eastern height.]

II

Before the phantom of False morning died, Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried, "When all the Temple is prepared within, Why lags the drowsy Worshipper outside?"

III

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."

IV

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.

V

Iram indeed is gone with all his Rose, And Jamshyd's Sev'n - ring'd Cup where no one knows; But still a Ruby gushes from the Vine, And many a Garden by the Water blows.

VI

And David's lips are lockt; but in divine High - piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine! Red Wine!" - the Nightingale cries to the Rose That sallow cheek of hers to incarnadine.

VII

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring Your Winter - garment of Repentance fling: The Bird of Time has but a little way To flutter - and the Bird is on the Wing.

VIII

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 keep falling one by one.

IX

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.

X

Well, let it take them! What have we to do With Kaikobad the Great, or Kaikhosru? Let Rustum cry "To Battle!" as he likes, Or Hatim Tai "To supper!" - heed not you.

XI

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 to Mahmud on his golden Throne!

Slave And Sultan: Peace to Mahmud on his golden Throne.]

XII

Here with a little Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

XIII

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 music of a distant Drum!

XIV

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!

XV

Look to the blowing Rose 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."

Garden: Treasure on the garden throw.]

XVI

For 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.

XVII

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 - was gone.

XVIII

Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day, How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.

XIX

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.

XX

The Palace that to Heav'n his pillars threw, And Kings the forehead on his threshold drew I saw the solitary Ringdove there, And "Coo, coo, coo," she cried; and "Coo, coo, coo."

The Palace: The palace that to heav'n his pillars threw.]

XXI

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears To - day of past Regret and Future Fears: To - morrow! - Why, To - morrow I may be Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n thousand Years.

XXII

For some we loved, the loveliest and the best That from his Vintage rolling Time has prest, Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before, And one by one crept silently to rest.

XXIII

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?

XXIV

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

XXV

And this delightful Herb whose living 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!

XXVI

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!

Dust Into Dust: Before we too into the Dust descend.]

XXVII

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!"

XXVIII

Another Voice, when I am sleeping, cries, "The Flower should open with the Morning skies." And a retreating Whisper, as I wake "The Flower that once has blown for ever dies."

XXIX

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.

XXX

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.

XXXI

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

XXXII

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.

XXXIII

What, without asking, hither hurried Whence? And, without asking, Whither hurried hence! Ah, contrite Heav'n endowed us with the Vine To drug the memory of that insolence!

XXXIV

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.

XXXV

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.

Thee And Me: And then no more of Thee and Me.]

XXXVI

Earth could not answer; non the Seas that mourn In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn; Nor Heaven, with those eternal Signs reveal'd And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.

XXXVII

Then of the Thee in Me who works behind The Veil of Universe I cried to find A Lamp to guide me through the Darkness; and Something then said - "An Understanding blind."

XXXVIII

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."

XXXIX

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

XL

For I remember stopping by the way To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay: And with its all - obliterated Tongue It murmur'd - "Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"

Potter: Watch a potter thumping his wet clay.]

XLI

For 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?

XLII

And not a drop that from our Cups we throw On the parcht herbage, but may steal below To quench the fire of Anguish in some Eye There hidden - far beneath, and long ago.

XLIII

As then the Tulip for her wonted sup Of Heavenly Vintage lifts her chalice up, Do you, twin offspring of the soil, till Heav'n To Earth invert you like an empty Cup.

XLIV

Do you, within your little hour of Grace, The waving Cypress in your Arms enlace, Before the Mother back into her arms Fold, and dissolve you in a last embrace.

Last Embrace: Dissolve you in a last embrace.]

XLV

And if the Cup you drink, the Lip you press, End in what All begins and ends in - Yes; Imagine then you are what heretofore You were - hereafter you shall not be less.

XLVI

So when at last the Angel of the Drink Of Darkness finds you by the river - brink, And, proffering his Cup, invites your Soul Forth to your Lips to quaff it - do not shrink.

Angel Of The Drink: Proffering his cup, invites your soul.]

XLVII

And fear not lest Existence closing your Account, should lose, or know the type no more; The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour'd Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour.

XLVIII

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.

XLIX

One Moment in Annihilation's Waste, One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste The Stars are setting, and the Caravan Draws to the Dawn of Nothing - Oh make haste.

L

Would you that spangle of Existence spend About the secret - quick about it, Friend! A Hair, they say, divides the False and True And upon what, prithee, does Life depend?

LI

A Hair, they say, divides the False and True; Yes; and a single Alif were the clue Could you but find it - to the Treasure - house, And peradventure to The Master too;

LII

Whose secret Presence, through Creation's veins Running, Quicksilver - like eludes your pains; Taking all shapes from Mah to Mahi; and They change and perish all - but He remains;

LIII

A moment guess'd - then back behind the Fold Immerst of Darkness round the Drama roll'd Which, for the Pastime of Eternity, He does Himself contrive, enact, behold.

LIV

But if in vain, down on the stubborn floor Of Earth, and up to Heav'n's unopening Door, You gaze To - day, while You are You - how then To - morrow, You when shall be You no more?

LV

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.

Minister Of Wine: The Cypress - slender Minister of wine.]

LVI

Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit Of This and That endeavour and dispute; Better be merry with the fruitful Grape Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

LVII

You know, my Friends, how bravely 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.

LVIII

For "Is" and "Is - Not" though with Rule and Line And "Up - and - down" by Logic I define, Of all that one should care to fathom, I Was never deep in anything but - Wine.

LIX

Ah, but my Computations, People say, Have squared the Year to human compass, eh? If so, by striking from the Calendar Unborn To - morrow, and dead Yesterday.

LX

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape, Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and He bid me taste of it; and 'twas - the Grape!

LXI

The Grape that can with Logic absolute The Two - and - Seventy jarring Sects confute: The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice Life's leaden metal into Gold transmute:

LXII

The mighty Mahmud, Allah - breathing Lord, That all the misbelieving and black Horde Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword.

LXIII

Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare Blaspheme the twisted tendril as a Snare? A Blessing, we should use it, should we not? And if a Curse - why, then, Who set it there?

LXIV

I must abjure the Balm of Life, I must, Scared by some After - reckoning ta'en on trust, Or lured with Hope of some Diviner Drink, When the frail Cup is crumbled into Dust!

LXV

If but the Vine and Love - abjuring Band Are in the Prophet's Paradise to stand, Alack, I doubt the Prophet's Paradise Were empty as the hollow of one's Hand.

LXVI

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.

LXVII

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.

LXVIII

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.

LXIX

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?

LXX

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.

LXXI

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 Heav'n and Hell:"

LXXII

Heav'n 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.

Heav'n And Hell: Heav'n the vision, Hell the shadow.]

LXXIII

We are no other than a moving row Of visionary Shapes that come and go Round with this Sun - illumin'd Lantern held In Midnight by the Master of the Show;

LXXIV

Impotent Pieces of the Game He plays Upon this Chequer - board of Nights and Days; Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays, And one by one back in the Closet lays.

LXXV

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

LXXVI

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

LXXVII

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.

LXXVIII

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky, Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die, Lift not your hands to It for help - for It As impotently rolls as you or I.

LXXIX

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

LXXX

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.

LXXXI

I tell you this - When, started from the Goal, Over the flaming shoulders of the Foal Of Heav'n Parwin and Mushtari they flung, In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.

LXXXII

The Vine had struck a fibre: 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.

LXXXIII

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

LXXXIV

What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke A conscious Something to resent the yoke Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!

LXXXV

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!

LXXXVI

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.

LXXXVII

Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin Beset the Road I was to wander in, Thou wilt not with Predestined Evil round Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin!

LXXXVIII

Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make, And ev'n with Paradise devise the Snake: For all the Sin the Face of wretched Man Is black with - Man's Forgiveness give - and take!

LXXXIX

As under cover of departing Day Slunk hunger - stricken Ramazan away, Once more within the Potter's house alone I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.

XC

And once again there gather'd a scarce heard Whisper among them; as it were, the stirr'd Ashes of some all but extinguisht Tongue, Which mine ear kindled into Living Word.

XCI

Said one among them - "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 shapeless Earth again?"

XCII

Another said - "Why, ne'er a peevish Boy Would break the Cup from which he drank in Joy; Shall He that of His own free Fancy made The Vessel, in an after - rage destroy!"

XCIII

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

XCIV

Thus with the Dead as with the Living, What And Why? so ready, but the Wherefore not, One on a sudden peevishly exclaim'd, "Which is the Potter, pray, and which the Pot?"

XCV

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

XCVI

"Well," said another, "Whoso will, let try, My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry: But fill me with the old familiar Juice, Methinks I might recover by and by."

XCVII

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! Now for the Porter's shoulder - knot a - creaking!"

XCVIII

Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf, By some not unfrequented Garden - side.

XCIX

Whither resorting from the vernal Heat Shall Old Acquaintance Old Acquaintance greet, Under the Branch that leans above the Wall To shed his Blossom over head and feet.

C

Then ev'n my buried Ashes such a snare Of Vintage shall fling up into the Air As not a True - believer passing by But shall be overtaken unaware.

CI

Indeed the Idols I have loved so long Have done my credit in Men's eyes much wrong: Have drown'd my Glory in a shallow Cup And sold my Reputation for a Song.

CII

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.

CIII

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 ware they sell.

CIV

Yet, Ah, 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!

Nightingale Sang: The Nightingale that in the branches sang.]

CV

Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield One glimpse - if dimly, yet indeed, reveal'd, Toward which the fainting Traveller might spring, As springs the trampled herbage of the field!

CVI

Of if the World were but to re - create, That we might catch ere closed the Book of Fate, And make The Writer on a fairer leaf Inscribe our names, or quite obliterate!

CVII

Better, oh better, cancel from the Scroll Of Universe one luckless Human Soul, Than drop by drop enlarge the Flood that rolls Hoarser with Anguish as the Ages roll.

CVIII

Ah Love! could you 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!

CIX

But see! The rising Moon of Heav'n again Looks for us, Sweet - heart, through the quivering Plane: How oft hereafter rising will she look Among those leaves - for one of us in vain!

CX

And when Yourself with silver Foot 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!


Source.

Havard Classics series, 1909

Note that there were multiple editions of Fitzgerald's translation, each with a different number of stanzas. There is some reason to see this text as much as an example of Victorian British literature as Persian poetry. For discussion, see the recent edition:-

Edward FitzGerald, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam : a critical edition, edited by Christopher Decker. (Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 1997.)


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, September 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu