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*Yond ruby in a glass of crystal do thou bring. That comrade and mate of all good fellows do thou bring.
Since thou knowest that the space of this earthly world Is a breeze that quickly passes by, wine do thou bring.'
(87) *Season of rose, bank of a stream, marge of the sown, One, two or three folk, and a butt for jest, fair of form,Bring forth the bowl, for they who drain the morning
draught of wine Are free from the mosque and clear of the synagogue' (32) One flagon of wine, the lip of a friend, the edge of the sown,All these have left to me no cash: to thee no credit.
Mankind are in pawn to Heaven and Hell :Who has been into Hell, and who has come forth of Heaven?'
(45) It would, of course, be quite erroneous to imagine that in stanzas such as these Omar is drawing a life-portrait of himself. In one quatrain he declares that when the crack of doom resounds, he will be found unconscious on the tavern floor (132). In another he commends the life of a Robin Hood, who plays the highwayman and gives of his plunder to the poor (123). In another he boasts of stealing prayer-mats from the mosque:
Of stanzas in the more strictly carpe diem strain, which counsel living for to-day and letting yesterday and to-morrow go, the following may be given :
On the face of the rose the breeze of Spring is good.
(17) . Drink wine, for this is the only “everlasting life.” Thine (only) profit from thine hour of Youth is this :The season of the rose and wine and of friends full
drunk. Be merry for the moment, for such (a moment) is Life.' (36)
Coming from this revolving Arch evil actions see!
Whilst thou canst, do thou, for one breath, be for thyself. To-morrow consider not: Yesterday seek not: the Present
(126) *How long must I grieve for that which I have, or have not? And whether I pass this life in joy of heart or not?
Take up the cup of wine, for to me is unknown
There are, to be sure, some stanzas, which, if they alone were extant, would compel us to set Omar down as merely one of the many mystic poots of Persia :
To him for whom the shoot of Certainty has not grown up,
bough! To-day as yesterday know, and to-morrow as at the first.' *
(14) • Him would'st thou have ?-From wife and child begonel Manfully away from kith and kin begone!
All that is hindrance on the Path for theeWith hindrance, how shalt thou walk the Path ? Hindrance begone!'
(86) In these strophes there is no hint of a literal interpretation, and if such alone were found among the quatrains, we should undoubtedly be compelled to reckon Omar also among the Sufis. Moreover, Omar certainly
* That is, Creation is an eternal process.
uses many of the stock phrases of these people. He speaks in defence of drunkards' (3, 123, 127), mentions the four elements (7) and the lock of the fair, and refers to the length of his own moustaches * (132). But, if Omar did give way for a moment to that frame of mind, it was for no more than a moment; and there are no lines which are not capable of a literal interpretation, All he seems to have done was to draw on the vocabulary of those with whom he did not agree, to express his own ideas. The Sufis may have spoken of spiritual ecstasy under the figure of wine or love. But when Omar uses similar terms apparently in a similar way, the third or fourth line too often shatters the impression created by the first and second. Before the end of the stanza is reached he shows only too plainly that he is speaking in no metaphorical sense (24, 113, etc.). Many of his verses read like a parody upon those of the Sufis.
This is not to say that Omar was merely an Oriental Falstaff, ready for any adventure and full of braggadocio and sack. Poets, both East and West, write verses for their own sake, merely for the pleasure of making them, and to construct their lives out of their verses would be like using his famous Limericks for a life of Edward Lear. At the same time no strict Muslim would have dared to pen verses such as Omar's, and we are justified in drawing from them the conclusion that their author belonged to no religious faith or philosophic school. Omar, as he appears in the oldest MS., was not interested in any sort of metaphysical or theological speculation. His chief delight lay in natural scenery, in what Lucretius calls species verna diei and the opening rose, and in the companionship of his fellow-men, always accompanied, however, by what Mr Dick Swiveller was wont to speak of as 'the ruby, as, indeed, does Omar himself.
The Spring 'verses remind us of the Song of Songs,' but it has to be remembered that in warm countries Spring often means Autumn, when the land baked and burnt by the Summer's drought and heat, with the first fall of rain becomes alive and green once more.
• Quite recently a visitor to Kerbala aroused the wrath of the students, who took him for a Sufi, on account of his long moustaches. T. Lyell, • The Ins and Outs of Mesopotamia,' London, 1923.
• Now that the world has the means of attaining joy, In every living heart is a longing for the wilderness.
On every bough is the appearing of the Moses-band : * In every soul is the sighing of the Jesus-breath.'t (13)
• See the skirt of the rose cleft by the spring-breeze ! The Bulbul at the beauty of the rose is full of joy.
Sit in the shade of the rose, for many a rose by the
wind Into the dust is swept, and dust becomes.'
* The day is pleasant and the air nor cold nor hot. The cloud is washing the dust from the cheek of the rose. The nightingale to the saffron rose in the Pehlevi
tongue Makes complaint: "It ever behoves to drink (wine).”' (67)
* Each morning that the face of the tulip receives the night
dew, The tops of the violets in the orchard downward bend.
Truly to me from the rosebud sweetness ever comes, Which holds together its own skirts.'
This is the time when they adorn the world with spring
breezes, And open the eyes (chashm) with hope (chashm).
The Moses-band shows like foam on the bough: The Jesus-breath from the dust comes forth.'
In stanza 98 Omar wakes up to find the world all white with snow:
• Make full the bowl, for snow-coloured comes the day. From that wine which is ruby-from it (alone mayest thou)
learn colour. Take up two logs, and enkindle the gathering: One make a lute, and that other burn.' I
One side of Omar Khayyam's poetry which we miss almost altogether in FitzGerald's version is its humour. Sometimes this takes humour's lowest form-that of the pun :
• The white blossom like the leprous hand of Moses. † The revivifying breath which raised the dead.
| The point is that the one word 'ud means both 'log' and 'lute.' The one is to be used to warm the assembly physically, the other spiritually. Vol. 245.-No. 485,
They who lay the foundation of their business upon
detraction Come and place a parting between soul and body. Upon my parting I will place flagons of wine, even if
after that They place a saw upon my neck, as though I were a cock.'
(57) In this stanza there are no less than three puns.
The word fark is used first for the separating of soul and body, then for the parting of the hair. The word for 'flagons' is khurús and for a cock' kharús. And the word arrah means both a 'saw' and a.cock's comb.'
Instances of humour in the ordinary sense are : *O Khayyam, this mourning for sin, what means it? And to grieving what good, great or small, is there?
For that man who does no sin, there is no forgiveness.
Now that I know that wine is foe to the Faith, By Allah, I will drink the blood of the foe, for that is lawfull
(38) Notwithstanding that wine has rent my veil, So long as I have life, I will not be cut off from wine.
I am in a wondering at the sellers of wine, for they, Better than that which they sell, what can they buy?' (62)
Take heed that thou nourish me from the
of wine, And this face of amber do thou of ruby make. When once I have passed within (the veil), wash me with
wine, And from wood of vine the boards of my coffin make.' (69) Since I have fallen under the foot of Destiny with downcast
head, And have been dug up by the root from the hope of life, Take heed that from my clay you make naught save a
wine-jar: Haply, when it is filled with wine, I shall revive.' (116) • Wine I ever drink, and each one who like me is worthy. My wine-drinking in the eyes of God is light.
My wine-drinking He Who is the Truth was foreknowing. If wine I drink not, God's foreknowledge were ignorance.'