Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Omar Khayyam: Fact and Fiction

It is widely recognised that the 'translation' that FitzGerald made had about it a good deal of FitzGerald himself. The first verse is entirely his own invention, and as to the rest:

"It must be admitted that FitzGerald took great liberties with the original in his version of Omar Khayyam."

So wrote W Aldis Wright, who edited a version of the Rubaiyat for Macmillan in 1962.

"None but the fool the wine of Earth doth quaff,
none but the wise the wine of Life do draw...

The means that do the ends of life defeat,
are: drink, fornication and other unlawful acts
committed by the flesh, gambling and untruth.

No threats of Hell, no hope of Heaven, can lift
the cloud that doth enshroud a defiled earthly temple.
Such flowers as these forever die,
uselessness has no place in creation's fertile fields.

Oft has the Way on earth been blazed, that all the
Path might see and rightly follow.

Sages the Pateran* have placed at every crossroad.
And though so many have pushed those darkened doors aside,
none have returned of that Way here to tell!
Which to discover, all for themselves must tread.

Yet some may question the Wisdom of the Law,
that free salvation grants to all on earth who fall.

Yet falling they must rise again; oh slayer of our foes,
renunciation is thy name!

With thee we fight the hordes of pain, and passion slay,
and thus destroy the cause of all our ills.

Each his own salvation wins! Each all earthly sin must here renounce!
Thus have the wise all taught.

Let us call Him the All-Merciful, for He the Path doth light,
so man from mortal darkness may be led into the Light.

Hear ye then this simple, yet most ancient of the truths,
how man can gain the knowledge of life beyond the tomb.

"Control thyself, and with thy senses send thy soul unto its elements,
there to wring out the secret of its birth and end."

- Omar Khayyam [1]

* Pateran: a leaf that travelers place at the cross roads to show the way to their followers.
1. Hazeldine, Norton F.W., The Sufism of the Rubaiyat, Pg 37-40


Edward Ott said...

very nice article, and you seem to have a nice blog.

Silencer said...