Millions of words have been written about Omar Khayyam, the great Persian poet. So, what is new? Nothing, except that I came across an interesting review of the book Omar Khayyam: Poet, Rebel, Astronomer by Hazhir Teimourian (Sutton, £20, pp.384). The review by Justin Marozzi was originally published in the Spectator and reproduced in the
Marozzi starts with a statement that what most people know about Omar Khayyam could be summed up in two words – the Rubaiyat. This is true in my case. My love affair with the Rubaiyat started in the early 1950s during college days in
Rubaiyat means a pentameter quatrain. Kasida is a poetic form which has pre-Islamic origin. It has been nurtured over the centuries and is still popular. Many have been translated beautifully into English.
Kasida also means a kind of Arab needlework imported into
I loved the collection that was presented to me and read it many times over. But I never bothered to find out more about Omar Khayyam. Now, from the book review I understand that Khayyam, born at Nishapur in the north-eastern
Justin Marozzi also says that Fitzgerald’s translations of the Rubaiyat have enriched the English language with more phrases than the Bible and Shakespeare together. The review has kindled my interest in the poet and his life. I must get hold of the book by Hazhir Teimourian.
One quote from the Rubaiyat given in the review is:
Today I will shed my robe of restraint;
Let trails of red wine my white beard taint.
No more piety; I am seventy
If not dance now, when might it then be?
Well, I am seventy-four. But it is difficult to follow Khayyam’s advice about wine. Though
Returning to the Rubaiyat, one of my favorite stanzas is:
Oh, Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin
Beset the road I was to wander in,
Thou wilt not with Predestination round
Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?
TAMAM SHUD (It is completed.)
Also see: Book review: A Thousand Splendid Suns