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The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

The original, squashed down to read in about 3 minutes


Illustration to the Rubayat by Edmund J. Sullivan

(Persia, modern Iraq, c1120)



The Rubáiyát (meaning 'four lines') is a collection of Persian poems, attributed to the mathematician Omar Khayyám. It is one of the very few works which have been translated into pretty much every language. This abridgement is taken from the beautiful, popular, and wildly inaccurate, Edward Fitzgerald translation of 1859.
Abridged: GH



The Rubáiyát Of Omar Khayyám


AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone which puts the Stars to Flight:
   And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultán's Turret in a noose of light

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.

So come with old Khayyam and leave the Lot
    Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
With me along some Strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,

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

I sometimes think that never blows so red
The rose as where some buried Caesar bled.
   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 Yesterdays, seven thousand years.
   And this was all the harvest that I reaped -
'I came like water, and like Wind I go.'

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

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

So to this earthen Bowl I do adjourn
My Lip the Secret Well of Life to learn:
   And Lip to Lip it murmur'd - 'While you live
Drink! - for once dead you never shall return.'




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