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 his Rose,
And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one knows;
But still a Ruby kindles in the Vine,
And many a Garden by the Water blows.
And David's lips are
lockt; but in divine
High-piping Pehleví, with Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine! the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That sallow cheek of hers to incarnadine.
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.
Whether at Naishápúr
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.
Each Morn 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 Kaikobád away.
Well, let it take them!
What have we to do
With Kaikobád the Great, or Kaikhosrú ?
Let Zál and Rustum bluster as they will,
Or Hátim call to Supper - heed not you.
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 Mahmúd on his golden Throne!
A Book of Verses underneath
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Some for the Glories of This World;
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!
Edition has a stanza here that runs:-
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 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."
And those who husbanded
the Golden grain,
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.
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
Think, in this batter'd
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp
Abode his destin'd Hour, and went his way.
They say the Lion and
the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahrám, that great Hunter - the Wild Ass
Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.
think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Cæsar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.
And this reviving Herb
whose tender Green
Fledges the River-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
To-morrow! - Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n thousand Years.
For some we loved,
the loveliest and the best
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.
And we, that now make
merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend - ourselves to make a Couch - for whom ?
Ah, make the most of
what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and - sans End.
Alike for those who
for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after some TO-MORROW
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 wisely - they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.
Myself when young did
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.
With them the seed
of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine 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."
Into this Universe,
and Why not knowing
Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.
What, without asking,
hither hurried Whence ?
And, without asking, Whither hurried hence!
Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine
Must drown the memory of that insolence!
Up from Earth's Centre
through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
And many a Knot 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 might not see:
Some little talk awhile of ME and
There was - and then no more of THEE and
Earth could not answer;
nor the Seas that mourn
In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn;
Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs reveal'd
And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.
Then of the THEE
IN ME who works behind
The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find
A lamp amid the Darkness; and I heard,
As from Without - "THE ME WITHIN
THEE BLIND !"
Second Edition version is :-
to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
Asking"What Lamp has Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark ?"
BLIND UNDERSTANDING !" Heav'n replied.]
Then to the Lip of
this poor earthen Urn
I lean'd, the Secret of my 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 drink; and Ah! the passive Lip I kiss'd,
How many Kisses might it take - and give!
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!"
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 ?
And not a drop that
from our Cups we throw
For Earth to drink of, but may steal below
To quench the fire of Anguish in some Eye
There hidden - far beneath, and long ago.
Perplext no more with
Human or Divine,
To-morrow's tangle to the winds resign,
And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip
End in what All begins and ends in - Yes;
Think then you are TO-DAY what
You were - TO-MORROW you shall
not be less.
So when that Angel
of the darker Drink
At last shall find you by the river-brink,
And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff - you shall not shrink.
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
Were't not a Shame - were't not a Shame for him
In this clay carcase crippled to abide ?
'Tis but a Tent where
takes his one day's rest
A Sultán to the realm of Death addrest;
The Sultán rises, and the dark Ferrásh [tent-pitcher]
Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.
And fear not lest Existence closing
Account, and mine, should know the like no more;
The Eternal Sáki from that Bowl has pour'd
Millions of Bubbles 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 the Sea's self should heed a pebble-cast.
A Moment's Halt - a momentary taste
Of BEING from the Well amid
the Waste -
And LO! - the phantom Caravan
The NOTHING it set out from
- Oh, make haste!
Second Edition version is :-
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!]
Would you that spangle
of Existence spend
About THE SECRET - quick about
A Hair perhaps divides the False and True -
And upon what, prithee, may life depend ?
A Hair perhaps 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
Whose secret Presence, through Creation's
Running Quicksilver-like eludes your pains;
Taking all shapes from Máh to Máhi [fish to moon];
They change and perish all but He remains;
A moment guess'd -
then back behind the Fold
Immerst of Darkness round the Drama roll'd
Which, for the Pastime of Eternity,
He doth Himself contrive, enact, behold.
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, when You shall be You
no more ?
Waste not your Hour,
nor in the vain pursuit
Of This and That endeavour and dispute;
Better be jocund 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 "IS-NOT" though with Rule and
And "UP-AND-DOWN" by Logic I define,
Of all that one should care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but - Wine.
Ah, but my Computations,
Reduced the Year to better reckoning ? - Nay,
'Twas only striking from the Calendar
Unborn To-morrow and dead Yesterday.
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!
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:
The mighty Mahmúd,
That all the misbelieving and black Horde
Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul
Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword.
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 ?
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,
To fill the Cup - when crumbled into Dust!
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 has blown for ever dies.
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
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn'd,
Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep
They told their comrades, and to Sleep return'd.
I sent my Soul through
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return'd to me,
And answer'd "I Myself am Heav'n and Hell:"
Heav'n but the Vision
of fulfill'd Desire,
And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.
We are no other than a moving row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show;
But helpless Pieces of the Game He
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.
The Ball no question
makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss'd you down into the Field,
He knows about it all - HE knows - HE knows!
The Moving Finger writes; and, having
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.
And that inverted Bowl
they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help - for It
As impotently moves as you or I.
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.
This Day's Madness did prepare;
Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came.
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
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.
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.
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.
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 him dross-allay'd -
Sue for a Debt he never did contract,
And cannot answer - Oh the sorry trade!
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!
Oh Thou, who Man of
baser Earth didst make,
And ev'n with Paradise devise the Snake:
For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken'd - Man's forgiveness give - and take!
As under cover of departing Day
Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazán away,
Once more within the Potter's house alone
I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.
Shapes of all Sorts
and Sizes, great and small,
That stood along the floor and by the wall;
And some loquacious Vessels were; and some
Listen'd perhaps, but never talk'd at all.
Said one among them
- "Surely not in vain
My substance of the common Earth was ta'en
And to this Figure moulded, to be broke,
Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again."
Then said a Second
- "Ne'er a peevish Boy
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy;
And He that with his hand the Vessel made
Will surely not in after Wrath destroy."
After a momentary 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 ?"
Whereat some one of
the loquacious Lot -
I think a Súfi pipkin - waxing hot -
"All this of Pot and Potter - Tell me, then,
Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot ?"
another, "Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
The luckless Pots he marr'd in making - Pish!
He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."
one, "Let whoso make or buy,
My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry:
But fill me with the old familiar Juice
Methinks 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 jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother,
Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creaking!"
Ah, with the Grape
my fading life provide,
And wash the Body whence the Life has died,
And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf,
By some not unfrequented Garden-side.
That 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.
Indeed the Idols I
have loved so long
Have done my credit in this World much wrong:
Have drown'd my Glory in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song.
Indeed, indeed, Repentance
I swore - but was I sober when I swore ?
And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.
And much as Wine has
play'd the Infidel,
And robb'd me of my Robe of Honour - well,
I wonder often what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the stuff they sell.
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!
Would but the Desert of the Fountain
One glimpse - if dimly, yet indeed, reveal'd,
To which the fainting Traveller might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!
Second Edition has a stanza here that
might be the Motto of this Website, and runs:-
Would but some wingèd
Angel ere too late
Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate,
And make the stern Recorder otherwise
Enregister, or quite obliterate!
Ah Love! could you
and I with Him 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!
Yon rising Moon that
looks for us again -
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden - and for one in vain!
And when like her,
Wine-bearer, 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!
Umar ibn Ibrahim
al-Khayyami is better known to us as Omar Khayyám.
He lived from circa 1048 to 1131, and few today realise how extensive
his interests were.
As a mathematician he greatly expanded on al-Khwarizmi's algebraic principles
and on Euclid's geometry.
As an astronomer he spent 18 years working in an observatory in Isfahan,
where he measured the length of the solar year more accurately than
any previous astronomer (at 365.24219858156 days). He also devised a
solar calendar with eight leap years every 33 years, a great deal more
accurate than the Gregorian correction of the Julian calendar (which
was finally promulgated in 1582). Knowing this we can better appreciate:
Ah, but my Computations, People say,
Reduced the Year to better reckoning ? - Nay,
'Twas only striking from the Calendar
Unborn To-morrow and dead Yesterday.
Dissident Websites' Footnote:-
FitzGerald came from the very wealthy Anglo-Irish Purcell
vegetarian who did not like vegetables, nor cared for wine,
he was inspired to learn Persian by Edward Byles Cowell,
an older intimate, who reportedly disapproved of the superficially-hedonistic
slant that his admirer gave the Quatrains.
translated them first into mediæval Latin!
The recently-discovered manuscript he worked from was one
of collections of quatrains of varying number and quality,
traditionally ascribed to Khayyám, though none has
ever been securely identified as a work of the great 12th-century
never actually spoke Persian, nor did he hear it enunciated
by native speakers.
numbering over 300, many rubáiyát
'migrated' like hadith from anonymous sources.
The earliest manuscript dates from the XVth century.
were the result of literary accretion: any acerbic, sceptic
or neo-Epicurean/Diogenean quatrain would almost automatically
become one of Khayyám's. The collections were assembled
alphabetically and according to end-rhyme.
changed that format, turning a large selection of the rubáiyát
into a single long poem beginning with dawn and ending with
the arrival of eternal night. In the mid-19th century the
thoughts which FitzGerald expressed through Khayyám
were revolutionary, and would not even have been put down
in a private letter, let alone a brilliant poem of religious,
moral, philosophical and intellectual rebellion.
The very first quatrain can easily be seen as anti-monarchist,
and the whole tenor of the poem is anti-dogma, anti-religious,
even anti-Islamic - which makes the current popularity of
Persian collections of the Rubaiyát in Iran
is also a work of literary genius, constructed (in its various
editions) with great care and subtlety (with Shakespearean
and Biblical references, for example), not to mention a beauty
of expression which shows up Ginsberg's Howl (for example)
as the utterance of a spoiled and backward infant.
references to Wine and the Grape can be seen as neo-Epicurean,
but, within the Sufi tradition they are metaphorical
the drinking of wine represents the absorption of Understanding
(which is a process rather like intoxication), but it also
represents itself, for Sufis understand that there is more
than one Way, and a little insight might be inspired by the
fermented juice of the grape as well as much benefit in mystical
is also saying that the seeker-after-truth would find more
substance in the grape than in the teachings of the mullahs
and imams, or even of the Prophets. Since we are clay and
return to clay, he pointed out, we are ideally suited to contain
liquids (and each other) rather than gas.
the Sufi term (or code) for Wisdom.
Tavern of Omar Khayyám is the heart, but may also correspond
Lodge of the Bektashis - or to the small fellowship of the
Aware or Wise.
first stanza can be interpreted thus:
from the Unawareness you have been 'educated' into
and let the dawn of Awareness strangle the arrogance of mere
Let the cruel light of Wisdom, gentle at first, irradiate
the other hand, 'The Beloved' might not be Understanding,
or a light in our spiritual darkness, a spark in the cramped
prison of our awareness - but quite simply a young boy, desired
in the natural and Ancient Greek way.
first edition was published at FitzGerald's expense in London
in 1859, and was ignored.
Not one copy was sold.
It was not until Dante Gabriel Rossetti picked up a single
remaindered copy for sale at one penny
the next day to buy another, to find that the price had doubled
that the work gradually, by word of mouth, entered the public
ken, and became the publishing sensation of the 19th century.
The most lavish edition was a single copy, bound elaborately
with gold leaf, ivory, rubies, pearls, topazes, diamonds,
etc. which sank with the Titanic.
comparison of different translations of the Rubáiyát
also my page on the Bektashi
Order of Sufis
the page on
and the tradition of Diogenes of Sinope
Click here for a site comparing all five versions of FitzGerald's
the translation of poetry:
live Sparrow than a stuffed Eagle.