Wednesday, June 27, 2018



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 her's 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.


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 dropping One by One.


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.


Well let it take them, what have we to do
With Kaikobad and Kaikhosru?
Let Zal and Rustum thunder as they will
Or Hatim call to supper — heed not you.


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 Mahmud on his golden 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 and let the Credit go
Nor heed the rumble 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 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, but cannot break his Sleep.


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
TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears —
Tomorrow? — Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years


For some we loved, the loveliest and the 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 TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after a TO-MORROW 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 for ever 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 where 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."

Credits:  Translation by Edward Fitzgerald.  This entire poem (adapted for performance) can be found at The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So Why Did I Defend Paul Bowles?

by Hisham Aidi  In the mid-1990s, I used to lead literary walking tours of “Paul Bowles’s Tangier” for friends or literary pilgrims visitin...