Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

'Living life tomorrow's fate, though thou be wise,
Thou canst not tell nor yet surmise.
Pass therefore not today in vain,
For it will never come again.'    
-Omar Khayyam

   Omar Khayyam was influential scholar of the medieval period born in 1048 in Persia. He was an admired mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and poet. He also wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, and Islamic theology, though he is known more widely for his existential philosophy and poetic expression of his beliefs about and struggles with the limitations of human life.  

Rubaiyat (quatrains or four-line verses) is Khayyam's great poetic work where his philosophy was reflected. He believed that the sensual pleasures that we experience are merely depictions of a deeper joy within ourselves. Truth does not lay within external pleasures. He also expressed through his poetry that we as people only have a limited control of our destiny. We were not in control of the place and time of our birth into the world, and we do not have full control over death.

His significance as a philosopher and teacher, and his few remaining philosophical works, have not received the same attention as his scientific and poetic writings. Al-Zamakhshari referred to him as “the philosopher of the world”. 

Outside Iran and Persian speaking countries, Khayyám has had an impact on literature and societies through the translation of his works and popularization by other scholars. The English scholar Thomas Hyde (1636–1703) was the first non-Persian to study him. The most influential of all was Edward FitzGerald (1809–83). 

The most famous translation of the Rubaiyat from Farsi into English was undertaken in 1859 by Edward J. Fitzgerald. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is among the few masterpieces that have been translated into most languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, and Urdu.

Here are some beautiful verses of Rubaiyat

"I sent my soul through the invisible,
some letter of that afterlife to spell;
and by and by my soul returned to me,
and answered, "I myself am heav'n and hell"

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.

With them the seed of wisdom did i sow,
 and with my own hand labour’d it to grow:
and this was all the harvest that I reap’d—
 “I came like water, and like wind I go.”

And, as the cock crew, those who stood before
 the tavern shouted— “open then the door!
You know how little time we have to stay,
 and once departed, may return no more.”

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.

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.

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 yesterday's sev'n thousand years.

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."

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.

Up from earth's center 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 thee
there was - and then no more of thee and me.

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 drink; and ah! The passive lip I kiss'd,
how many kisses might it take-and give!

A moment's halt-a momentary taste
of being from the well amid the waste-
and lo!-the phantom caravan has reached
the nothing it set out from-oh, make haste!

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 passed the door of darkness through,
not one returns to tell us of the road,
which to discover we must travel too.

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.

Oh thou, who man of baser earth didst make,
and even with paradise devise the snake:
for all the sin wherewith the face of man
is blackened-man's forgiveness give-and take!

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
 listened perhaps, but never talk'd at all. 

With earth's first clay they did the last man knead,
and there of the last harvest sowed the seed:
and the first morning of creation wrote
what the last dawn of reckoning shall read.

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