The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayýám of Naishápúr
Translated by Edward FitzGerald
Edited by Keith Beckman (Edition © Keith Beckman)
Khayyám, who stitched the tents of science,
Has fallen in grief’s furnace and been suddenly burned;
The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life,
And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing!
Wake! For the Sun behind yon Eastern height
Has chased the Session of the Stars from Night;
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n, and strikes
The Sultán’s Turret with a Shaft 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.“
(1:3; 2:3; 5:3)
Be of Good Cheer — the sullen Month will die,
And a young Moon requite us by and bye:
Look how the Old one meagre, bent, and wan
With Age and Fast, is fainting from the Sky!
(1,2: Notes:25; 5:Notes:90)
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.
(1:4; 2:4; 5:4)
Irám indeed is gone with all its Rose,
And Jamshyd‘s Sev‘n-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 Péhlevi, 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
Your Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly — and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.
(1:7:1, 3-4; 3, 2:7:2)
Whether at Naishápúr 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.
And look — a thousand Blossoms with the Day
Woke — and a thousand scatter‘d into Clay:
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 Rustum cry ”To Battle!“ as he likes,
Or Hátim Tai ”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 Sultán is forgot —
And Peace to Máhmúd on his golden Throne!
A Book of Verse beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Loaf of Bread — and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness —
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
(5:12:3,4; 1,2 Order:3:12; Wording:1:11)
”How sweet is mortal Sovranty!“ — think some:
Others — ”How blest the Paradise to come!“
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go,
Nor heed the music 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 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.“
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 turn‘d
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.
Think, in this batter‘d Caravanserai
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp
Abode his destined 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.
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.“
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.
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!
Ah, my Belovéd, 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 Sev’n Thousand Years.
(1:20; 2:21; 5:21)
For some we loved, the loveliest and the 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?
(1:22; 2:23; 5:23)
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!
(1:23; 2:26; 5:24)
Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after a TO-MORROW stare,
A Muezzín from the Tower of Darkness cries
”Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.“
(1:24; 2:27; 5:25)
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.“
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.
Oh, come with old Khayyám, 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 for ever 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 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.
(1:29; 2:32; 5:29)
What, without asking, hither hurried Whence?
And, without asking, Whither hurried hence! Another and another Cup to drown
The Memory of this Impertinence!
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 Heav’n itself I cried,
Asking, ”What Lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?“
And — ”A blind understanding!“ Heav’n replied.
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!“
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 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 mold?
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.
As then the Tulip for her morning sup
Of Heav’nly Vintage from the soil looks up,
Do you devoutly do the like, till Heav’n
To Earth invert you — like an empty Cup.
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!
One Moment in Annihilation’s Waste,
One moment, of the Well of Life to taste —
The Stars are setting, and the Caravan
Starts for the dawn of Nothing — Oh, make haste!
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.
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.
How long, how long, in infinite Pursuit
Of This and That endeavour and dispute?
Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.
You know, my Friends, how long since 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.
For ”Is“ and ”Is-NOT“ though with Rule and Line,
And, ”UP-AND-DOWN“ without, I could define,
I yet in all I only cared to know,
Was never deep in anything but — Wine.
Ah, but my Computations, People say,
Have squared the year to human compass? Nay,
’Twas only striking from the Calendar
Unborn To-morrow, and dead Yesterday.
(2:59:1-2; 5:57:2 “Nay,”, 3-4)
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 sovereign Alchemist that in a trice
Life’s leaden metal into Gold transmute;
The mighty Máhmúd, the victorious Lord,
That all the misbelieving and black Horde
Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul
Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword.
(1:44:1-3; 2:62:4; 5:60:4)
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!
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.
Of 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 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.
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
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.
But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht,
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.
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all Things end in — Yes —
Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be — Nothing — Thou shalt 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 you Lips to quaff — you shall not shrink.
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
Were’t not a Shame — were’t not a Shame for him
In this clay carcass 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 Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.
And fear not lest Existence closing your
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 much as Ocean of a pebble-cast.
A Moment’s Halt — a momentary taste
Of BEING from the Well amid the Waste —
The Stars are setting, and the Caravan
Draws to the Dawn of Nothing — Oh make haste.
’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.
Would you that spangle of Existence spend
About THE SECRET — quick about it, Friend!
A Hair perhaps divides the False from 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 too;
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;
A moment guessed — 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.
Oh Thou who burn’st in Heart for those who burn
In Hell, whose fires thyself shall feed in turn;
How long be crying, “Mercy on them, God!”
Why, who art Thou to teach, and He to learn?
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?
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 your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your 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 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 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 not know whence you came, nor why:
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 Parwín and Mushtarí they flung,
In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.
The Vine had struck a fiber: which about
It clings my Being — let the Dervish flout;
Of my Base metal may be filed a Key
That shall unlock the Door he howls without.
I long for Wine! oh Sáki of my Soul
Prepare thy Song and fill the morning Bowl;
For this first Summer Month that brings the Rose
Takes many a Sultán with it as it goes.
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.
(1:56; 2:82; 5:77)
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!
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 wilt not with Predestined Evil round
Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?
(1:57:1,2,4; 2:87:3; 5:80:3)
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!
If I myself upon a looser Creed
Have loosly strung the Jewel of Good deed,
Let this one thing for my Atonement plead:
That One for Two I never did mis-read.
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.
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.
Said one among them — ”Surely not in vain
My substance of the common Earth was ta’en
And to this Figure molded, to be broke,
Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again.“
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!“
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?“
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?“
”Why,“ said 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.“
Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
”My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by-and-bye!“
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 shoulders’ 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.
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.
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.
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my credit in Men’s eyes 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.
(1:70; 2:102; 5:94)
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 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 Traveler might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!
Oh 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!
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.
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-mold it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!
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!
And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on The Grass,
And in Thy joyous Errand reach the Spot
Where I made one — turn down an empty Glass!