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FitzGeralds's Rubaiyat

   
 

Have a drink!

   

 

  

 

We love the idea that Edward FitzGerald took the art of translation to its extreme--from the manuscripts of Omar Khayyam he created his own version of The Rubaiyat more than six centuries later, literally remolding Khayyam's verse into some strange fantastical creature: a hybrid beautiful poem and one of the most beloved in English.  There is something original in the melodiousness of his translation, in its turn of phrase, in its oriental beauty, that nobody since has quite matched with a more literal translation. 

A rubaiyat is a series of rubaiyah--a quatrain or verse of four lines.  What FitzGerald did was to recreate a patterned checkerboard that ranged from dawn to night, with the metaphors of the rose, the nightingale, the tomb, and the ruby red of wine--an arc in the day of a drinking life.  He translated from Persian to Latin and then to English and took liberties at will--he reordered verses, added his own lines, dropped pieces. "  Better a live sparrow than a stuffed eagle," is his famous comment on translation . . . and that it certainly is. 

The famous first translation with 75 verses was done in 1859 and other variations with various refinements and changes followed.  As Borges says in his essay on FitzGerald: "From the lucky conjunction of a Persian astronomer who ventures into poetry and an English eccentric who explored Spanish and Oriental texts without understanding them entirely emerges an extraordinary poet who resembles neither of them."  The Rubaiyat remains to this day the best exhortation to have a drink!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       
 

Read: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, tr. Edward FitzGerald

Read: Borges on FitzGerald

Have a drink: NYC's best wine bars

 

Tags:  literature  poetry  middle east 

 

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