Today we come to the final section of Edward Fitzgerald’s 19th century translation of the Persian classic, the Rubai’Yat of Omar Khayyam. I have really enjoyed re-reading and posting this in the last few months, as both the content, the style and the great translation are uplifting and full of life. Here we go…
Today’s section goes from stanza 67 to the end at stanza 75. For the previous sections see the sequence of posts on this site on September 29th 2014, October 18th 2014, November 8th 2014, December 12th 2014, January 20th 2015 and February 20th 2015. So the whole work has appeared here in 7 posts.
After looking at this last section, I intend to set aside some time to go back and read the whole poem again in one sitting. I hope some of the readers of this blog are inspired to do the same. You can either revisit the blog posts referenced above, or just click on the link below the poem to find the whole work in one place. Enjoy…
Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
And in the Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.
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.
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.
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 Goods they sell.
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!
Ah Love! could thou 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!
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!
And when Thyself with shining Foot shall 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!
TAMAM SHUD (It is completed.)
After the parable of the pots in the previous section, which put another spin on the themes of living life to the full while you can, avoiding useless ambition, avarice or power, making the most of the moment, ignoring false prophets or mystics, and taking joy from wine, women and song, this final section reaffirms the poet’s philosophy as he approaches death. This is a time when many people try to put the world behind them and find religion, as if it was going to change their fate. Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam will have none of this.
Stanza 67 has the poet still yearning after the grape as his life fades away, and all he asks for is a beautiful burial place in a scenic spot where passers-by can remember him. There are no illusions of after-life or immortality here.
In stanzas 69 and 70, he recognizes that his philosophy of life may have damaged his reputation among more orthodox, more conformist people. But ultimately, this is less important than the fact that has enjoyed his life.
The final several stanzas express regret, not that the poet’s life has been frittered away on wine and pleasure, but regret that death brings those pleasures to an end. It is a final affirmation that life is made to be lived to the full. The poem ends with the poet imagining one of his lovers or one of his readers coming across his burial place and finding an empty glass – meaning that he has succeeded in drinking all the wine that life has had to offer. What a way to go…
So whether we are in 11th century Persia, 19th century England or 21st century America, let’s follow the poet’s example and drink and be merry.
The Poetry Dude