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So, to recap — we have a somewhat poeticized and loose translation of poems, some of which are not likely by Khayyam, arranged to suggest a thematic link not present in the original, and a small selection to boot. I Wake!

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Though these quatrains have a very rigid rhyme scheme, FitzGerald does a great job of keeping the poetry sounding fresh, not at all like doggerel -- no mean feat. Also, the work is, in many ways, quite a radical statement, and one especially suited to reading in the spring.


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Khayyam, who had received quite a bit of education in Islamic Persia, and who, as a learned mathematician and philosopher had himself been part of the system, reveals a great skepticism here. Again, and again, Khayyam and his imitators casts into doubt the prevailing belief in a blessed afterlife as a reward for an ascetic life in the here and now. He refers to the tavern as if it were a temple, and suggests that book, bread, and charming companionship can bring happiness to us now, in the only life of which we can be sure. He likewise casts into doubt the value of logic and theology as opposed to a life lived.

But in a society where alcohol is frowned upon, and a society that places high value upon learning and disquisition, to compose a work advocating living the vida loca as the best means to finding truth and paradise is a very radical statement, indeed.

And, in translating this work at the height of the Victorian period, FitzGerald himself is being quite the radical. So, do yourself a favor — sit back, relax, and let the poetry of FitzOmar as some call this amalgam of poet and translator wash over you. You may want, for comparison sake, to look at another translation — that of Peter Avery is a nice literal translation not quite so poetic, and without a rhyme scheme , which has a very good discussion of Khayyam and his poetry.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

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Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam: Edward FitzGerald’s work is one of the most controversial translations

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