The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (tr. Fitzgerald, 5th edition)

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The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam  (1889)  by Omar Khayyám, translated by Edward FitzGerald
Fifth Edition


 WAKE! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight
 The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
   Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
 The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light.


 Before the phantom of False morning died,
 Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
   "When all the Temple is prepared within,
 "Why nods the drowsy Worshiper outside?"


 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."


 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 Pehlevi, 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 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.


 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 Kaikobad away.


 Well, let it take them! What have we to do
 With Kaikobad the Great, or Kaikhosru?
   Let Zal and Rustum bluster as they will,
 Or Hatim 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 Mahmud on his golden Throne!


 A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
 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; and some
 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!


 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 Caravanserai
 Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
   How Sultan after Sultan 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 Bahram, that great Hunter--the Wild Ass
 Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.


 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 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 Fears:
   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 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.


 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 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 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.


 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!"


 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 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.


 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 you press,
 End in what All begins and ends in--Yes;
   Think then you are TO-DAY what YESTERDAY
 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 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 Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
   The Sultan 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 Saki 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 has reach'd
 The NOTHING it set out from--Oh, make haste!


 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.


 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 endeavor 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.


 For "Is" and "Is-not" though with Rule and Line
 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, by my Computations, People say,
 Reduce 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 Mahmud, Allah-breathing Lord,
 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!


 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 comrades, 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.


 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 plays
 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 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.


 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.


 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 Parwin and Mushtari 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.


 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 Ramazan 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 molded, 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 Sufi 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."


 "Well," murmured 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 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.


 That ev'n 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 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 apieces tore.


 And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel,
 And robb'd me of my Robe of Honor--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 yield
 One glimpse--if dimly, yet indeed, reveal'd,
   To which the fainting Traveler might spring,
 As springs the trampled herbage of the field!


 Would but some winged 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-mold 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, oh Saki, 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!


Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.