[Magazine Home] - [Past Issues]
[New Vision Home] [New Vision Bookshelf] 

Creative Muse:

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

[Part 2>>>]

When the Rubaiyat was first translated into English, it was considered risqué with its sensuous imagery of wine and love. However, it has long been considered a work of sacred mysticism in the Middle East.

Paramahansa Yogananda, in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained, provides a wonderful key to the rich, symbolic imagery of the Rubaiyat. Khayyam's constant desire to become drunk with wine is a reference to the mystic's deep yearning for blissful union with the Divine, for example.

Here is the complete text of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

 

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 Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

 

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."

 

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."

 

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 its Rose,

And Jamshyd'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.

 

And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine

High-piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine!

Red Wine!" -- the Nightingale cries to the Rose

That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.

 

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.

 

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 Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

 

But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot

of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:

Let Rustum lay about him as he will,

Or Hatim Tai cry Supper -- heed them not.

 

With me along some Strip of Herbage strown

That just divides the desert from the sown,

Where name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known,

And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.

 

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.

 

"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!

 

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."

 

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.

 

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.

 

Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai

Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,

How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp

Abode his Hour or two, 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, and he lies fast asleep.

 

I sometimes think that never blows so red

The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;

That every Hyacinth the Garden wears

Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

 

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!

 

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears

Today of past Regrets and future Fears --

Tomorrow? -- Why, Tomorrow I may be

Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.

 

Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and 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.

 

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?

 

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!

 

Alike for those who for Today prepare,

And those that after a Tomorrow stare,

A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries

"Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!"

 

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.

 

Oh, come with old Khayyam, 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 forever dies.

 

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 labour'd it to grow:

And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd --

"I came like Water, and like Wind I go."

 

Into this Universe, and why not knowing,

Nor whence, lake 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!

Another and another Cup to drown

The Memory of this Impertinence!

 

Up from the 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.

[Part 2>>>]

[Magazine Home] - [Past Issues]
[New Vision Home] [New Vision Bookshelf]