The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam is the collection of quatrains—four-line stanzas—written by the Persian astronomer Omar Khayyam (1048 – 1123). They are largely known to the English-speaking world in the translations 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 poem, highlighting the futility of regret, is featured 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.