The Rubáiyát

We present this work in honor of the 890th anniversary of the poet’s death.

12-04 Khayyam
Omar Khayyam
Persian
1048 – 1131

 

I.

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultán’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

II.

Dreaming when Dawn’s Left Hand was in the Sky,
I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
“Awake, my Little ones, and fill the cup
Before Life’s Liquor in its Cup be dry.”

III.

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted—”Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more.”

IV.

Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

V.

Irám indeed is gone with all its Rose,
And Jamshýd’s Sev’n-ring’d Cup where no one knows:
But still the Vine her ancient Ruby yields,
And still a Garden by the Water blows.

VI.

And David’s Lips are lockt; but in divine
High-piping Péhlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!”—the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.

VII.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly—and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

VIII.

And look—a thousand blossoms with the Day
Woke—and a thousand scatter’d into Clay:
And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshýd and Kaikobád away.

IX.

But come with old Khayyám and leave the Lot
Of Kaikobád and Kaikhosrú forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
Or Hátim Tai cry Supper—heed them not.

X.

With me along some Strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultán scarce is known,
And pity Sultán Máhmúd on his Throne.

XI.

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.

XII.

“How sweet is mortal Sovranty”—think some:
Others—”How blest the Paradise to come!”
Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum!

XIII.

Look to the Rose that blows about us—”Lo,
Laughing,” she says, “into the World I blow:
At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw.”

XIV.

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.

XV.

And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

XVI.

Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai
Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp
Abode his Hour or two and went his way.

XVII.

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshýd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahrám, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass
Stamps o’er his Head, and he lies fast asleep.

XVIII.

I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Cæsar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

XIX.

And this delightful Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River’s Lip on which we lean—
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!

XX.

Ah, my Belovéd, fill the cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears—
To-morrow?—Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.

XXI.

Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.

XXII.

And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend, ourselves to make a Couch—for whom?

XXIII.

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and—sans End!

XXIV.

Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after a To-morrow stare,
A Muezzín from the Tower of Darkness cries,
“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!”

XXV.

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter’d, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

XXVI.

Oh, come with old Khayyám, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

XXVII.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same Door as in I went.

XXVIII.

With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labour’d it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d—
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

XXIX.

Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

XXX.

What, without asking, hither hurried whence?
And, without asking, whither hurried hence!
Another and another Cup to drown
The Memory of this Impertinence!

XXXI.

Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
And many Knots unravel’d by the Road;
But not the Knot of Human Death and Fate.

XXXII.

There was a Door to which I found no Key:
There was a Veil past which I could not see:
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There seemed—and then no more of Thee and Me.

XXXIII.

Then to the rolling Heav’n itself I cried,
Asking, “What Lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?”
And—”A blind Understanding!” Heav’n replied.

XXXIV.

Then to the earthen Bowl did I adjourn
My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur’d—”While you live
Drink!—for once dead you never shall return.”

XXXV.

I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
Articulation answer’d, once did live,
And merry-make; and the cold Lip I kiss’d
How many kisses might it take—and give!

XXXVI.

For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day,
I watch’d the Potter thumping his wet Clay:
And with its all obliterated Tongue
It murmur’d—”Gently, Brother, gently, pray!”

XXXVII.

Ah, fill the Cup:—what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn To-morrow and dead Yesterday,
Why fret about them if To-day be sweet!

XXXVIII.

One Moment in Annihilation’s Waste,
One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste—
The Stars are setting and the Caravan
Starts for the Dawn of Nothing—Oh, make haste!

XXXIX.

How long, how long, in definite Pursuit
Of This and That endeavour and dispute?
Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

XL.

You know, my Friends, how long since in my House
For a new Marriage I did make Carouse:
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

XLI.

For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and Line,
And “Up-and-down” without, I could define,
I yet in all I only cared to know,
Was never deep in anything but—Wine.

XLII.

And lately by the Tavern Door agape,
Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape
Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and
He bid me taste of it; and ‘twas—the Grape!

XLIII.

The Grape that can with Logic absolute
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice
Life’s leaden Metal into Gold transmute.

XLIV.

The mighty Máhmúd, the victorious Lord
That all the misbelieving and black Horde
Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul
Scatters and slays with his enchanted Sword.

XLV.

But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht,
Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.

XLVI.

For in and out, above, about, below,
‘Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,
Play’d in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.

XLVII.

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all Things end in—Yes—
Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be—Nothing—Thou shalt not be less.

XLVIII.

While the Rose blows along the River Brink,
With old Khayyám the Ruby Vintage drink;
And when the Angel with his darker Draught
Draws up to Thee—take that, and do not shrink.

XLIX.

‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days,
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

L.

The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Right or Left as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss’d Thee down into the Field,
He knows about it all—He knows—HE knows!

LI.

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.

LII.

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help—for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

LIII.

With Earth’s first Clay They did the last Man’s knead,
And then of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:
Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

LIV.

I tell Thee this—When, starting from the Goal,
Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal
Of Heav’n Parwín and Mushtara they flung,
In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.

LV.

The Vine had struck a Fibre; which about
It clings my Being—let the Súfi flout;
Of my Base Metal may be filed a Key,
That shall unlock the Door he howls without.

LVI.

And this I know: whether the one True Light
Kindle to Love, or Wrath consume me quite,
One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught
Better than in the Temple lost outright.

LVII.

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?

LVIII.

Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make
And who with Eden didst devise the Snake:
For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken’d, Man’s Forgiveness give—and take!

KÚZA—NÁMA.

LIX.

Listen again. One Evening at the Close
Of Ramazán, ere the better Moon arose,
In that old Potter’s Shop I stood alone
With the clay Population round in Rows.

LX.

And, strange to tell, among that Earthern Lot
Some could articulate, while others not:
And suddenly one more impatient cried—
“Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”

LXI.

Then said another—”Surely not in vain
My substance from the common Earth was ta’en,
That He who subtly wrought me into Shape
Should stamp me back to common Earth again.”

LXII.

Another said—”Why ne’er a peevish Boy,
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy;
Shall He that made the Vessel in pure Love
And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy!”

LXIII.

None answer’d this; but after Silence spake
A Vessel of a more ungainly Make:
“They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”

LXIV.

Said one—”Folks of a surly Tapster tell,
And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell;
They talk of some strict Testing of us—Pish!
He’s a Good Fellow, and ‘twill all be well.”

LXV.

Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
“My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by and bye.”

LXVI.

So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
One spied the little Crescent all were seeking:
And then they jogg’d each other, “Brother! Brother!
Hark to the Porter’s Shoulder-knot a-creaking!”

LXVII.

Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
And in a Winding-sheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.

LXVIII.

That ev’n my buried Ashes such a Snare
Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air,
As not a True Believer passing by
But shall be overtaken unaware.

LXIX.

Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my Credit in Men’s Eye much wrong!
Have drown’d my Honour in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song.

LXX.

Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
I swore—but was I sober when I swore?
And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.

LXXI.

And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel,
And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour—well,
I often wonder what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the Goods they sell.

LXXII.

Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth’s sweet-scented Manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!

LXXIII.

Ah, Love! could you and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits—and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

LXXIV.

Ah, Moon of my Delight who know’st no wane,
The Moon of Heav’n is rising once again:
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same Garden after me—in vain!

LXXV.

And when Thyself with shining Foot shalt pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on the Grass,
And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot
Where I made one—turn down an empty Glass!

 

Translation by Edward FitzGerald

The Salutation of Ibm Mashish

06-10 Mashish
Abdeslam Ibn Mashish Alami
Moroccan
1163 – 1228

 

O Allah shower Your blessings upon him from whom burst open the secrets,
From whom stream forth the lights,
And in whom rise up the realities,
And upon whom descended the sciences of Adam, by which all creatures are made powerless,
And blessings upon him before whom all understanding is diminished.
None of us totally comprehend him, whether in the past or the future.
The gardens of the spiritual kingdom blossom ornately with the resplendence of his beauty,
And the reservoirs of the World of Dominion overflow with the outpouring of his light.
There is nothing that is not connected to him,
Because if there were no intercessor, everything to be interceded for would vanish, as it is said.
So bless him with a prayer that is worthy of You, from You, as befits his stature.
O Allah indeed he is Your all-encompassing secret that leads through You to You
And he is Your Supreme Veil raised before You, between Your Hands.
O Allah include me among his descendants and confirm me through his account
And let me know him with a deep knowledge that keeps me safe from the wells of ignorance,
So that I might drink to fullness from the wells of excellence.
Carry me on his path to Your Presence
Encompassed by Your Victory,
And strike through me at the false so that I may destroy it.
Plunge me into the seas of Oneness,
Pull me out of the morass of metaphorical Unity,
And drown me in the Essence of the Ocean of Unicity
Until I neither see, nor hear, nor find, nor sense, except through It.
O Allah make the Supreme Veil the life of my spirit
And his soul the secret of my reality
And his reality the conflux of my worlds
Through the realization of the First Truth.
O First! O Last! O Manifest! O Most Hidden!
Hear my call as You heard the call of your servant Zachary
And grant me victory through You for You,
And support me through You, for You,
And join me to You
And come between myself and anything other than You—

from Anim Z’mirot

Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg
German
1150 – 1217

 

Melodies I weave, songs I sweetly sing;
longing for Your Presence, to You I yearn to cling.

In Your shelter would my soul delight to dwell,
to grasp Your mystery, captured by Your spell.

Whenever I speak of Your glory so resplendent,
my heart yearns deeply for Your love transcendent.

Thus I glorify You in speech as in song,
declaring with my love: to You do I belong.

Without having seen You I declare Your praise;
without having known You I laud You and Your ways.

To Your assembled servants and in Your prophets’ speech,
You alluded to Your glory which is beyond our reach.

The scope of your greatness and he marvel of Your strength
are reflected in Your actions all described at length.

They have imagined You, but never as You are;
they tell of Your deeds, to portray You from afar.

They speak of You with parables in countless varied visions,
while You remain as One throughout all of their renditions.

They try to portray You as one now young, now old,
with hair now dark, now gray, as if it could be told.

Youth and force in battle, old age on judgment day;
like a seasoned warrior, with strength He clears the way.

He wears triumph as a helmet on His head,
His power and holiness have stood Him in good stead.

His head is covered with dawn-dew bathed in light,
His locks of hair are covered with dewdrops of the night.

He takes pride in me, the source of His delight;
and He will be my splendor whose praise I will recite.

His head is envisioned as pure and beaten gold,
bearing His holy name in letters large and bold.

With kindness and dignity, with splendor that they share,
His people Israel crown Him with their prayer.

Adorned is His head with the curly locks of youth,
black as a raven. He is splendid as the truth.

Nothing is more precious among all His good pleasures
than Zion, seat of splendor, chief among His treasures.

His cherished people adorn Him as a crown,
a royal diadem of beauty and renown.

He beautifies the people He has carried since their birth.
For Him they are precious; He pays honor to their worth.

In mutual devotion, in each other we glorify;
I know that He is near when unto Him I cry.

Radiant and ruddy, His garments red as wine,
He compresses sinning nations as grapes on a vine.

The knot of His tefilin He showed to Moses, humble, wise;
the Lord’s vision and His ways revealed only to his eyes.

Exalting the humble, enthroned upon their praise,
He takes pleasure in His people, exalted through heir ways.

Your word is based on truth from the start of all Creation;
since we always seek You, seek the welfare of our nation.

Cherish my plentitude of song as Your own;
may my verses be permitted to approach Your throne.

My praise I humbly offer as a crown upon Your head;
we no longer offer incense, accept my prayer instead.

May the words of this my song be precious as the Psalter
once offered in the Temple with sacrifice upon the altar.

May my prayer rise to the Creator of the miracle of birth,
Master of beginnings whose might and justice fill the earth.

And when I chant my prayer, may You greet it with assent;
the spirit of ancient offerings to You is my intent.

May You find sweet and pleasing my prayer and my songs;
my soul goes out in yearning, for You alone it longs.

from Perceval, the Story of the Grail

Chrétien de Troyes
French
1130 – 1191

 

They sat in a hall lit
As brightly as candles can make
An indoor room. And as
They chatted of this and that,
A servant entered the hall,
Carrying — his hand at its center —
A white lance. He came out
Of a room, then walked between
The fire and those seated
On the bed, and everyone saw
The white wood, and the white
Spearhead, and the drop of blood
That rolled slowly down
From the iron point until
It reached the servant’s hand.
The boy saw that wondrous
Sight, the night he arrived there,
But kept himself from asking
What it might mean, for he’d never
Forgotten — as his master at arms
Had warned him, over and over —
He was not to talk too much.
To question his host or his servants
Might well be vulgar or rude,
And so he held his tongue.

And then two other servants
Entered, carrying golden
Candleholders worked
With enamel. They were wonderfully handsome
Boys, and the candleholders
They each clasped in their hands
Bore at least ten
Burning candles. A girl
Entered with them, holding
A grail-dish in both her hands —
A beautiful girl, elegant,
Extremely well dressed. And as
She walked into the hall,
Holding this grail, it glowed
With so great a light that the candles
Suddenly seemed to grow dim,
Like the moon and stars when the sun
Appears in the sky. Then another
Girl followed the first one,
Bearing a silver platter.
The grail that led the procession
Was made of the purest gold,
Studded with jewels of every
Kind, the richest and most costly
Found on land or sea.
No one could doubt that here
Were the loveliest jewels on earth.
Just as they’d done before,
When carrying the lance, the servants
Passed in front of the knight,
Then went to another room.
And the boy watched them, not daring
To ask why or to whom
This grail was meant to be served,
For his heart was always aware
Of his wise old master’s warnings.
But I fear his silence may hurt him,
For I’ve often heard it said
That talking too little can do
As much damage as talking too much.

My Beautiful One

Safwan Ibn Idris
Arab Andalusian
1165 – 1202

 

How beautiful she is!
And imagine that beauty
is only one of her qualities.
There is nothing more bewitching
than her movements.

She is more enchanting than the moon.
If you asked the real moon,
“What would you like to be?”
it is certain to reply,
“One of her halos.”

When she looks at the real moon
it’s as if she were looking
at her own face in a mirror.

The beauty spot on the page
of her cheek
punctuates the nuns written there
by the curls of her hair.

Once I went out with her when the
shelter of night and her cape
let me mingle the fire of my breath
with the fire of her flaming cheeks.

I clasped her as a miser clasps
his treasure, and bound her tightly
with the cords of my arms
lest she escape like a gazelle.

But my chastity did not permit me
to kiss her mouth
and my heart remained huddled
over its embers.

Rain

Lu You
Chinese
1125 – 1209

 

In twilit crosslight begins
as cocoon unthreads,

brushes earth,
then hard arrowheads, airborne.

Through mosquito net light rays
to daybreak-dreams

as the brass stove’s sweet grass
steam spring clothes.

Pond fish whip caudal fin
to follow spillway;

over weir swallows zoom, wheel,
touch wings, return.

Petals have only fallen
not yet blown away,

but wet blooms ruddling bough
are where I put trust.

The Dog and the Sheep

Marie de France
French
c. 1160 – c. 1215

 

This tale is of a dog, who was
A liar, cheat and treacherous,
Who sued a sheep. He had her led
Before the judge; as plaintiff, said
That he must have the loaf of bread
He’d lent to her, that she still had.
The sheep denied the whole affair;
He had not lent a loaf to her!
The judge said: “Dog, can you produce
Witnesses that the Court can use?”
The dog said that he could, all right,
Two; one the wolf and one the kite.
These witnesses were led forth, both,
And both affirmed by solemn oath
That all the dog had said was true.
You know why they agreed, don’t you?
They hoped to get some portion, if
The sheep, found guilty, lost her life.
The judge, proceeding in the trial,
Summoned the sheep; why the denial
He asked her, that she had the bread
The dog had lent her, as he said.
Why lie? This item was so small!
Return it; or worse would befall!
The wretched sheep, who had no bread,
Was forced to sell her wool instead.
Winter and cold soon had her dead.
The dog came; took some wool she’d shed,
The kite came flying for his share,
And then the wolf. They took from her
All of her flesh; the seized on it,
For they had long been starved for meat.
No vestive of her life was left;
And, too, her master was bereft.

With this example we can state
What many false folk demonstrate.
With lies and tricks of every sort
They drag the poor folk into court;
They get false witnesses to lie,
They bribe with poor folks’ prosperity.
They don’t care how the wretched die;
They only want their slice of pie.