Rubaiyat of Omar Khayym Author:Edward Fitzgerald Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Translated by Edward Fitzgerald, with illustrations in full color by Edmund Dulac. The Rub?iy?t (Arabic: رباعیات) is a collection of poems, originally written in the Persian language and of which there are about a thousand, attributed to the Persian mathematician and astronomer ... more »Omar Khayy?m (1048 ? 1123). "Rubaiyat" (derived from the Arabic root word for 4) means "quatrains": verses of four lines.
Of the five editions published, four were published under the authorial control of Fitzgerald. The fifth edition was edited after his death on the basis of manuscript revisions Fitzgerald had left.
Fitzgerald also produced Latin translations of certain rubaiyat.
As a work of English literature Fitzgerald's poetic version is a high point of the 19th century. As a work of accurate line-by-line translation of Omar Khayyam's quatrains, it is noted more for freedom than for fidelity. Many of the verses are paraphrased, and some of them cannot be confidently traced to any one of Khayyam's quatrains at all.
Some critics informally refer to the Fitzgerald's English versions as "The Rubaiyat of FitzOmar", a practice that both recognizes the liberties Fitzgerald inflicted on his purported source and also credits Fitzgerald for the considerable portion of the "translation" that is his own creation. In fact, Fitzgerald himself referred to his work as "transmogrification". "My translation will interest you from its form, and also in many respects in its detail: very unliteral as it is. Many quatrains are mashed together: and something lost, I doubt, of Omar's simplicity, which is so much a virtue in him" (letter to E. B. Cowell, 9/3/58). And, "I suppose very few People have ever taken such Pains in Translation as I have: though certainly not to be literal. But at all Cost, a Thing must live: with a transfusion of one?s own worse Life if one can?t retain the Original?s better. Better a live Sparrow than a stuffed Eagle" (letter to E. B. Cowell, 4/27/59). Some people find this quite unfortunate. Others see Fitzgerald's translation of the work as being close to the true spirit of the poems.
Perhaps the most famous of Fitzgerald's verses is this one (two versions).
Quatrain XI in his 1st edition:
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Quatrain XII in his 5th edition :
"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!"
This translated quatrain can be traced back to at least two original quatrains that Fitzgerald conflated into one.
Another well-known verse (Fitzgerald's quatrain LI in his 1st edition) is:
"The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
The term "Rubaiyat" by itself has come to be used to describe the quatrain rhyme scheme that Fitzgerald used in his translations: AABA.« less