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Omar Khayyam 

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.
Quatrain 56 from FitzGerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam
VWP webpage


Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) was a Persian
(Iranian) mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet.  Khayyam made significant contributions to the development of modern scientific thought (see Wikipedia entry for details).  As a poet, his work encompasses some 1000 quatrains (rubai), popularized first in the West by The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam translated into English Verse by Edward FitzGerald, first published in 1859.  This website draws from the 5th edition – 1889.


FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam (5th edition) contains 101 quatrains.  The selections featured here at vintagewinepoems.com, are comprised of 25 quatrains, which I have grouped to make nine (9) “wine poems”.   You are strongly encouraged to read the entirety of Fitzgerald's translation, which is available as a free e-book from Project Gutenberg.

FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam was an extremely popular book, an important  footnote in the history of English poetry and publishing.  It became a popular part of 19th Century culture, inspiring parodies into the next century (ie., The Golfer's Rubaiyat (1901) and The Rubaiyat of The Huffy Husband (1908)). Today, in his native Iran, Khayyam is revered poet and scientist, comparable in stature to Shakespeare and Galileo in the West.

By FitzGerald's own acknowledgment, this work is often a paraphrase of the original. For instance, the source material for FitzGerald reads:

I desire a flask of ruby wine and a book of verses
Just enough to keep me alive, and half a loaf is needful,
And then, that thou and I should sit in the wilderness,
Is better than the kingdom of a Sultan.

With FitzGerald's rendering, we get one of his and Omar's most well-known verses:


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!

In such instances, the more accurate description FitzGerald's English verse might be “inspired by” rather than “a translation of” the poetry of Omar Khayyam. Translations often cause such conundrums. Most critics agree that FitzGerald captured the spirit of Khayyam‘s work, as is evidenced in this comparison.


The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam: A Paraphrase From Several Literal Translations (1901) by Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947) was inspired by FitzGerald's work, maintaining its cadence, rhyme scheme, and structure.  Le Gallienne saw his work as an adjunct to FitzGerald's translation, focusing on Khayyam quatrains not covered by his predecessor.  The “wine poems” featured here at 
vintagewinepoems.com are the result of editorial choices of this writer.  A free e-book of Le Gallienne's work is available from The Internet Archive.
- S. H. Bass    

Also see the special note:   The Wine Poems of Persia


Omar Khayyam at vintagewinepoems.com

translations by Edward FitzGerald:

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring  [7 & 8]
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough  [12]
Ah my beloved fill the cup that clears  [21-24]
And not a drop that from our Cups we throw [39-43]
Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit  [54-56]
And lately, by the Tavern Door agape  [58-64]
Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare  [74-77]
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long  [93-95]
Yon rising Moon that looks for us again  [100 & 101]

translations by Richard Le Gallienne:

Within the haunted wine-cup  [9/10]
There are no sorrows wine cannot allay  [14-17]
Whether you would abide  [24-27]
Art thou aweary, friend [28-32]
Yea! what is man  [63/64]
So I be written in the Book of Love  [88-97]

What purpose think you has the Saki there [126/127]
... cup in hand among the flowers  [136-140]
Write it in wine upon a rose-leaved scroll  [145-148]
Nay! think no more, but grip the slender waist [169/170]
Here is the creed of Omar [177/178]
My days are filled with wonder and with wine [182-185]
And what should pious Khayyam have to do [210-215]
So great a brightness is the soul of wine  [220-225]
The sixtieth cup makes me so wise with wine  [227-232]
The Book of Joy  [238-240]
Love, before death comes to make our bed  [252-258]


Imitations and Tributes to Khayyam & FitzGerald
An Altar Boy's Lament by S. H. Bass  ©
In A Copy Of FitzGerald's "Omar" by Richard Le Gallienne
Omar Khayyam by Richard Le Gallienne
The New Omar by G. K. Chesterton



The Wine Poems from FitzGerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam



The Wine Poems from Le Gallienne's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
The Rhyme Makers
Omar Khayyam 1048 to 1131
Omar Khayyam
1048-1131


Edward FitzGerald 1809 to 1883
Edward FitGerald
1809-1883


Richard Le Gallienne
1866-1947

(by Alfred Ellis 1854-1930)



BOTTLED POETRY: Verses from the Vine
VINTAGE WINE POEMS    
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vinted and bottled by
Stephen H. Bass


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