Omar Khayyam's "Ruba'iyat"

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Omar Khayyam's "Ruba'iyat"

Post by Don on April 20th 2008, 9:31 am

A friend recently recommended a poetry book to me, which happened to be Omar Khayyam's "Ruba'iyat". I'm not overly familiar with Persian poetry (or even poetry in general), so I wasn't really sure what to expect.

Khayyam was apparently best known in 11th century Persia (now Iran) as an astronomer, mathematician and philosopher. and I think its the latter role which influences his words in this book, making them more "philosophical guidance" than poetry itself.

What I found was- in some ways- quite interesting. Khayyam seems to me to be at odds with the deeply religious attitude that (I'm guessing) was commonplace in his surroundings. In fact, his "poems" seem largely based on the enjoyment of wine, women and song. I gave up counting, but I would say that nearly every stanza mentions wine, and there 235 stanzas in the book. In fact, its tempting to describe him as a bit of a "hedonous heathen", but I shall stick to more diplomatic terms, by describing him (in my view) as an unashamed epicurean, humanist and materialist (of sorts).

Some examples:

Since neither truth nor certainty is granted
You cannot sit in doubtful hope all your life;
Let us be careful not to set the wine-cup aside,
Since a man is in ignorance, drunk or sober.

Drinking wine and consorting with good fellows
Is better than practising the ascetic's hypocrisy;
If the lover and the drunkard are among the damned
Then no-one will see the face of heaven.

A religious man said to a wh*re, "You're drunk,
Caught every moment in a different snare."
She replied, "Oh Shaikh, I am what you say,
Are you what you seem?"

And so it goes on. In my opinion, there are a few jems of wisdom hidden amongst the odes to alcohol. But, personally, I got a little tired of having the wonders of wine banged home, even though I do agree (in part) with some of his philosophies.

Well, I think I'll read some Kahlil Gibran next...

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Re: Omar Khayyam's "Ruba'iyat"

Post by Godiva83 on April 20th 2008, 11:14 pm


Let us be careful not to set the wine-cup aside,
Since a man is in ignorance, drunk or sober.
Reminds me of Winston Churchill's infamous:

I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.
He certainly was one cheeky bastard, drunk or sober tongue

Interesting approach from this Omar guy, though, specially for pointing out how ascetics were basically tight ass hypocrits.

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