The Rubiayat, c. 1120 CE
The Rubiayat Begins
Wake! For the Sun behind yon Eastern height Has chased the Session of the Stars from
Night; And to the field of Heav'n ascending, strikes The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of
Awake Morning: For the sun behind yon eastern height.]
Before the phantom of False morning died, Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
"When all the Temple is prepared within, Why lags the drowsy Worshipper
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
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.
Iram indeed is gone with all his Rose, And Jamshyd's Sev'n - ring'd Cup where no one
knows; But still a Ruby gushes from the Vine, And many a Garden by the Water blows.
And David's lips are lockt; but in divine High - piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine!
Wine! Red Wine!" - the Nightingale cries to the Rose That sallow cheek of hers to
Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring Your Winter - garment of Repentance
fling: The Bird of Time has but a little way To flutter - and the Bird is on the Wing.
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon, Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run, The Wine of
Life keeps oozing drop by drop, The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.
Morning a thousand Roses brings, you say; Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
And this first Summer month that brings the Rose Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.
Well, let it take them! What have we to do With Kaikobad the Great, or Kaikhosru? Let
Rustum cry "To Battle!" as he likes, Or Hatim Tai "To supper!" - heed
With me along the strip of Herbage strown That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot And Peace to Mahmud on his golden Throne!
Slave And Sultan: Peace to Mahmud on his golden Throne.]
Here with a little Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Some for the Glories of This World; and some Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go, Nor heed the music of a distant Drum!
Were it not Folly, Spider - like to spin The Thread of present Life away to win What?
for ourselves, who know not if we shall Breathe out the very Breath we now breathe in!
Look to the blowing Rose 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
Garden: Treasure on the garden throw.]
For 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.
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 - was gone.
Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day, How
Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahram, that great Hunter - the Wild Ass Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his
The Palace that to Heav'n his pillars threw, And Kings the forehead on his threshold
drew I saw the solitary Ringdove there, And "Coo, coo, coo," she cried; and
"Coo, coo, coo."
The Palace: The palace that to heav'n his pillars threw.]
Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears To - day of past Regret and Future Fears: To -
morrow! - Why, To - morrow I may be Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n thousand Years.
For some we loved, the loveliest and the best That from his Vintage rolling Time has
prest, Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before, And one by one crept silently to rest.
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
I sometimes think that never blows so red The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.
And this delightful Herb whose living 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!
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!
Dust Into Dust: Before we too into the Dust descend.]
Alike for those who for To - day prepare, And those that after some To - morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries, "Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor
Another Voice, when I am sleeping, cries, "The Flower should open with the Morning
skies." And a retreating Whisper, as I wake "The Flower that once has blown for
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.
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.
With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow, And with my own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd "I came like Water, and like Wind I
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.
What, without asking, hither hurried Whence? And, without asking, Whither hurried
hence! Ah, contrite Heav'n endowed us with the Vine To drug the memory of that insolence!
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 Master - knot of Human Fate.
There was the Door to which I found no Key: There was the Veil through which I could
not see: Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee There was - and then no more of Thee and
Thee And Me: And then no more of Thee and Me.]
Earth could not answer; non the Seas that mourn In flowing Purple, of their Lord
forlorn; Nor Heaven, with those eternal Signs reveal'd And hidden by the sleeve of Night
Then of the Thee in Me who works behind The Veil of Universe I cried to find A Lamp to
guide me through the Darkness; and Something then said - "An Understanding
Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn I lean'd, the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur'd - "While you live, Drink! - for, once dead, you never
I think the Vessel, that with fugitive Articulation answer'd, once did live, And drink;
and that impassive Lip I kiss'd, How many Kisses might it take - and give!
For I remember stopping by the way To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay: And with
its all - obliterated Tongue It murmur'd - "Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"
Potter: Watch a potter thumping his wet clay.]
For has not such a Story from of Old Down Man's successive generations roll'd Of such a
clod of saturated Earth Cast by the Maker into Human mould?
And not a drop that from our Cups we throw On the parcht herbage, but may steal below
To quench the fire of Anguish in some Eye There hidden - far beneath, and long ago.
As then the Tulip for her wonted sup Of Heavenly Vintage lifts her chalice up, Do you,
twin offspring of the soil, till Heav'n To Earth invert you like an empty Cup.
Do you, within your little hour of Grace, The waving Cypress in your Arms enlace,
Before the Mother back into her arms Fold, and dissolve you in a last embrace.
Last Embrace: Dissolve you in a last embrace.]
And if the Cup you drink, the Lip you press, End in what All begins and ends in - Yes;
Imagine then you are what heretofore You were - hereafter you shall not be less.
So when at last the Angel of the Drink Of Darkness finds you by the river - brink, And,
proffering his Cup, invites your Soul Forth to your Lips to quaff it - do not shrink.
Angel Of The Drink: Proffering his cup, invites your soul.]
And fear not lest Existence closing your Account, should lose, or know the type no
more; The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour'd Millions of Bubbles like us, and will
When You and I behind the Veil are past, Oh, but the long long while the World shall
last, Which of our Coming and Departure heeds As much as Ocean of a pebble - cast.
One Moment in Annihilation's Waste, One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste The Stars
are setting, and the Caravan Draws to the Dawn of Nothing - Oh make haste.
Would you that spangle of Existence spend About the secret - quick about it, Friend! A
Hair, they say, divides the False and True And upon what, prithee, does Life depend?
A Hair, they say, divides the False and True; Yes; and a single Alif were the clue
Could you but find it - to the Treasure - house, And peradventure to The Master too;
Whose secret Presence, through Creation's veins Running, Quicksilver - like eludes your
pains; Taking all shapes from Mah to Mahi; and They change and perish all - but He
A moment guess'd - then back behind the Fold Immerst of Darkness round the Drama roll'd
Which, for the Pastime of Eternity, He does Himself contrive, enact, behold.
But if in vain, down on the stubborn floor Of Earth, and up to Heav'n's unopening Door,
You gaze To - day, while You are You - how then To - morrow, You when shall be You no
Oh, plagued no more with Human or Divine, To - morrow's tangle to itself resign, And
lose your fingers in the tresses of The Cypress - slender Minister of Wine.
Minister Of Wine: The Cypress - slender Minister of wine.]
Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit Of This and That endeavour and dispute;
Better be merry with the fruitful Grape Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.
You know, my Friends, how bravely 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.
For "Is" and "Is - Not" though with Rule and Line And "Up -
and - down" by Logic I define, Of all that one should care to fathom, I Was never
deep in anything but - Wine.
Ah, but my Computations, People say, Have squared the Year to human compass, eh? If so,
by striking from the Calendar Unborn To - morrow, and dead Yesterday.
And lately, by the Tavern Door agape, Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape
Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and He bid me taste of it; and 'twas - the Grape!
The Grape that can with Logic absolute The Two - and - Seventy jarring Sects confute:
The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice Life's leaden metal into Gold transmute:
The mighty Mahmud, Allah - breathing Lord, That all the misbelieving and black Horde Of
Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword.
Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare Blaspheme the twisted tendril as a
Snare? A Blessing, we should use it, should we not? And if a Curse - why, then, Who set it
I must abjure the Balm of Life, I must, Scared by some After - reckoning ta'en on
trust, Or lured with Hope of some Diviner Drink, When the frail Cup is crumbled into Dust!
If but the Vine and Love - abjuring Band Are in the Prophet's Paradise to stand, Alack,
I doubt the Prophet's Paradise Were empty as the hollow of one's Hand.
Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise! One thing at least is certain - This Life
flies; One thing is certain and the rest is Lies; The Flower that once is blown for ever
Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who Before us pass'd the door of Darkness
through, Not one returns to tell us of the Road, Which to discover we must travel too.
The Revelations of Devout and Learn'd Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn'd, Are
all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep They told their fellows, and to Sleep return'd.
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside, And naked on the Air of Heaven ride, Is't
not a Shame - is't not a Shame for him So long in this Clay Suburb to abide?
But that is but a Tent wherein may rest A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest; The
Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.
I sent my Soul through the Invisible, Some letter of that After - life to spell: And
after many days my Soul return'd, And said, "Behold, Myself am Heav'n and Hell:"
Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire, And Hell the Shadow of a Soul on fire, Cast
on the Darkness into which Ourselves, So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.
Heav'n And Hell: Heav'n the vision, Hell the shadow.]
We are no other than a moving row Of visionary Shapes that come and go Round with this
Sun - illumin'd Lantern held In Midnight by the Master of the Show;
Impotent Pieces of the Game He plays Upon this Chequer - board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays, And one by one back in the Closet lays.
The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes, But Right or Left as strikes the Player
goes; And He that toss'd you down into the Field, He knows about it all - he knows - He
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit Shall
lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
For let Philosopher and Doctor preach Of what they will, and what they will not - each
Is but one Link in an eternal Chain That none can slip, nor break, nor over - reach.
And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky, Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help - for It As impotently rolls as you or I.
With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man knead, And there of the Last Harvest
sow'd the Seed: And the first Morning of Creation wrote What the Last Dawn of Reckoning
Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare; To - morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why: Drink! for you know not why you go, nor
I tell you this - When, started from the Goal, Over the flaming shoulders of the Foal
Of Heav'n Parwin and Mushtari they flung, In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.
The Vine had struck a fibre: which about If clings my being - let the Dervish flout; Of
my Base metal may be filed a Key, That shall unlock the Door he howls without.
And this I know: whether the one True Light Kindle to Love, or Wrath - consume me
quite, One Flash of It within the Tavern caught Better than in the Temple lost outright.
What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke A conscious Something to resent the yoke Of
unpermitted Pleasure, under pain Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!
What! from his helpless Creature be repaid Pure Gold for what he lent us dross -
allay'd Sue for a Debt we never did contract, And cannot answer - Oh the sorry trade!
Nay, but, for terror of his wrathful Face, I swear I will not call Injustice Grace; Not
one Good Fellow of the Tavern but Would kick so poor a Coward from the place.
Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin Beset the Road I was to wander in, Thou
wilt not with Predestined Evil round Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin!
Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make, And ev'n with Paradise devise the Snake:
For all the Sin the Face of wretched Man Is black with - Man's Forgiveness give - and
As under cover of departing Day Slunk hunger - stricken Ramazan away, Once more within
the Potter's house alone I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.
And once again there gather'd a scarce heard Whisper among them; as it were, the
stirr'd Ashes of some all but extinguisht Tongue, Which mine ear kindled into Living Word.
Said one among them - "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 shapeless Earth
Another said - "Why, ne'er a peevish Boy Would break the Cup from which he drank
in Joy; Shall He that of His own free Fancy made The Vessel, in an after - rage
None answer'd this; but after silence spake Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;
"They sneer at me for leaning all awry: What! did the Hand then of the Potter
Thus with the Dead as with the Living, What And Why? so ready, but the Wherefore not,
One on a sudden peevishly exclaim'd, "Which is the Potter, pray, and which the
Said one - "Folks of a surly Master tell, And daub his Visage with the Smoke of
Hell; They talk of some sharp Trial of us - Pish! He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be
"Well," said another, "Whoso will, let try, My Clay with long Oblivion
is gone dry: But fill me with the old familiar Juice, Methinks I might recover by and
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! Now for the Porter's
shoulder - knot a - creaking!"
Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf, By some not unfrequented Garden - side.
Whither resorting from the vernal Heat Shall Old Acquaintance Old Acquaintance greet,
Under the Branch that leans above the Wall To shed his Blossom over head and feet.
Then ev'n my buried Ashes such a snare Of Vintage shall fling up into the Air As not a
True - believer passing by But shall be overtaken unaware.
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long Have done my credit in Men's eyes much wrong:
Have drown'd my Glory in a shallow Cup And sold my Reputation for a Song.
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.
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 ware they sell.
Yet, Ah, 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!
Nightingale Sang: The Nightingale that in the branches sang.]
Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield One glimpse - if dimly, yet indeed,
reveal'd, Toward which the fainting Traveller might spring, As springs the trampled
herbage of the field!
Of if the World were but to re - create, That we might catch ere closed the Book of
Fate, And make The Writer on a fairer leaf Inscribe our names, or quite obliterate!
Better, oh better, cancel from the Scroll Of Universe one luckless Human Soul, Than
drop by drop enlarge the Flood that rolls Hoarser with Anguish as the Ages roll.
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
But see! The rising Moon of Heav'n again Looks for us, Sweet - heart, through the
quivering Plane: How oft hereafter rising will she look Among those leaves - for one of us
And when Yourself with silver Foot shall pass Among the Guests Star - scatter'd on the
Grass, And in your joyous errand reach the spot Where I made One - turn down an empty
Havard Classics series, 1909
Note that there were multiple editions of Fitzgerald's translation, each with a
different number of stanzas. There is some reason to see this text as much as an example
of Victorian British literature as Persian poetry. For discussion, see the recent
Edward FitzGerald, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam : a critical edition, edited by
Christopher Decker. (Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 1997.)
This text is part of the Internet
Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and
copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
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© Paul Halsall, September 1998