The Ruba'yat of Omar Khayam (1899)

The Ruba'yat of Omar Khayam (1899) - Omar Khayyám, Richard Garnett, Jessie E. Nash Cadell This is the poetry of Omar Khayyam, a Persian poet and scientist who lived from 1048-1131. He actually wrote one of the most important treatises on Algebra before modern times. The very name "Ruba'yat" actually comes from an Arab word for "four" and refers to the quatrain structure and the title was given to a selection of Khayyam's poems by Edward Fitzgerald, who first popularized the poems in the West with his translations into English in editions published from 1889 to 1895. The most famous verses of this translation would be recognized by many: 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! However famous though, Fitzgerald's version famously took many liberties. The translation I have on my shelves is by Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs, and purports to be as faithful as possible to the original. So the lines above are rendered: If chance supplied a loaf of white bread, Two casks of wine and a leg of mutton, In the corner of a garden with a tulip-cheeked girl, There'd be enjoyment no Sultan could outdo. The Avery/Heath-Stubbs version has the reputation of being more restrained, and I think that's captured in the two quotations. Actually, that does make me want to seek out Fitzgerald's version, even if it's more romantic Victorian than true to the original. But the Avery/Heath-Stubbs was the version through which I became acquainted with this poetry, and I found it beautiful. I picked it up because The Ruba'yat was on a list of "100 Significant Books" in Good Reading only to find myself entranced. It's a very slim volume of 104 pages of 235 quatrains.