The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam is the collection of quatrains—four-line stanzas written by Omar Khayyam. They are largely known to the English-speaking world through the translation written by Edward FitzGerald, first published anonymously, in 1859.
They are perhaps some of the most quoted poetry in the English language: of approximately a hundred stanzas, about forty of them are included in full in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
Undoubtedly the best-known stanza is:
- 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!
Another famous verse, highlighting the futility of regret, is referred to in the musical Kismet:
- 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.
FitzGerald's translation is not literal. FitzGerald believed he was being true to the spirit of the original.
Khayyam alludes to his professional work as mathematician and astronomer in the quatrain:
- 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.