Perfect Poems: the Mediaeval Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám / ‏ عمر خیام

In the sphere of the sky, whose depth is invisible,

There is a cup from which everyone must drink in turn.

When your turn comes, do not sigh.

Drink it happily, for it is your turn to drink.

*

Time is ashamed of that person

Who sits lonely and grieves over days now past.

Drink wine from a glass to the sound of a harp

Before the glass smashes into a rock.

*

Yesterday I saw a jug-maker in the bazaar,

Who was treading a lump of clay, repeatedly,

While that clay told him in its own language:

“I used to be like you.  Treat me kindly!”

Why do you grieve over existence, my friend?

Why do you afflict your heart and soul with futile thoughts?

Live joyfully and spend your life happily in the world.

They did not consult you in the beginning anyway.

*

Some people are thoughtful about religion.

Others are suspicious of any conviction.

I am afraid one day a voice may call out:

” Oh ignorant ones,  the way is neither this nor that. “

*

From the nadir of the black mud to the zenith of Saturn,

I have solved all the major problems of being.

I untied many difficult knots, using many tricks.

Every knot I’ve opened, except the knot of death.

 

 

_____

 

 

Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) was born in Nishapur, Persia (contemporary Iran),

and is considered to be among the greatest of all the world’s poets.

He composed a thousand rubáiyát  (Persian-language quatrains) – brief poems in

four lines that touch upon Life’s big themes:  the love for the Belovéd (be it human and

amorous, or be it the love of God (Allah);   the meaning of Life;   Spirituality;

the mystery of Death.

Khayyám was a profoundly mystical thinker – Sufi and Muslim -

an astronomer and mathemetician who was also a poet.  People have interpreted

and mis-interpreted the meanings of his quatrains – 19th-century translator

Edmund FitzGerald most famously (yet beautifully) – but Khayyám’s voice – intelligent,

warm, vigorous, direct – speaks to all our human wonderings even now, 900 years

“down the road”.   The contemporary translations here, from Persian(Farsi) into English,

have been done with a simple, pleasing clarity by Reza Saberi.


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