Continuing the 'translations' theme:
(Poem #750) The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
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 in hand and waive the Rest; Oh, the brave music of a distant Drum!
Translated by Edward FitzGerald. From FitzGerald's first edition, published in 1859. "FitzGerald's Rubaiyat" - the name says it all, really, so intertwined are the English translation and the Persian original. This is surely the canonical example of a poem whose popularity owes as much to its translator as to its author, and for good reason: although not as faithful to the letter of the original as some other versions, FitzGerald's masterpiece is justly celebrated for its thematic unity, its command of atmosphere, and above all, its sublime choice of phrasing. thomas. [Other translations] Here's FitzGerald's second edition: A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, -- and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness -- Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow! Some for the Glories of This World; and some Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come; Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go, Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum! -- Omar Khayyam / Edward Fitzgerald FitzGerald completed three more versions of the Khayyam's Rubaiyat before his death in 1883. In the same year, Edward Whinfield published a more comprehensive translation, of which these are the corresponding verses (numbered 79, 84, 452, 94 and 108 respectively): Some wine, a Houri (Houris if there be), A green bank by a stream, with minstrelsy;--- Toil not to find a better Paradise If other Paradise indeed there be! In the sweet spring a grassy bank I sought, And thither wine, and a fair Houri brought; And, though the people called me graceless dog, Gave not to Paradise another thought! Give me a skin of wine, a crust of bread, A pittance bare, a book of verse to read; With thee, O love, to share my lowly roof, I would not take the Sultan's realm instead! Did He who made me fashion me for hell, Or destine me for heaven? I can not tell. Yet will I not renounce cup, lute, and love, Nor earthly cash for heavenly credit sell. They preach how sweet those Houri brides will be, But I say wine is sweeter---taste and see! Hold fast this cash, and let that credit go, And shun the din of empty drums like me. -- Omar Khayyam / Edward Whinfield Yet another version is Arthur Talbot's, completed in 1908; here are his quatrains 40, 149, 34 and 42, respectively: Whether my destin'd fate shall be to dwell Midst Heaven's joys or in the fires of Hell I know not; here with Spring, and bread, and wine, And thee, my love, my heart says "All is well." Give me a scroll of verse, a little wine, With half a loaf to fill thy needs and mine, And with the desert sand our resting place, For ne'er a Sultan's kingdom would we pine. Men talk of Eden's Houris and their charms; To maids of Earth I drink and sing my psalms. Hold fast Life's cash; if Time be in thy debt How pleasant is the distant call to arms! If in thy heart the seed of Love is plac'd, No day of all thy life can run to waste; Whether for God's approval thou dost strive, Or on the joys of Earth hast set thy taste. -- Omar Khayyam / Arthur Talbot Here's an extract from Richard Brodie's Anagrammatic Rubaiyat (more about which later): A Poem, and Trees a-blowing in a Wind. A Brew I'll drink -- base Needs of other Stuff Ignore. Ah see here how we do behave; Indeed for us a Song is just enough -- Omar Khayyam / Edward FitzGerald / Richard Brodie And finally, here's Wendy Cope's transcription of Strugnell's Rubaiyat: Here with a Bag of Crisps beneath the Bough, A Can of Beer, a Radio - and Thou Beside me half asleep in Brockwell Park And Brockwell Park is Paradise enow. Some Men to everlasting Bliss aspire, Their lives, Auditions for the heavenly Choir: Oh, use your Credit Card and waive the Rest - Brave Music of a distant Amplifier! -- Omar Khayyam / Jason Strugnell / Wendy Cope [Links] http://www.fitzgeraldsrubaiyat.com/ is an excellent resource for those interested in the translator's art; it charts the progress of FitzGerald's translation of Rubaiyat through several editions, and has a very neat verse-by-verse comparison of FitzGerald, Whinfield and Talbot. Most impressive of all, it offers (as a work in progress) Richard Brodie's anagrammatic paraphrase of the Rubaiyat, a poem whose every stanza is a perfect anagram of the corresponding one in FitzGerald's original. Check it out! Incidentally, Richard Brodie is the co-author, with Mike Keith, of "The Anagrammed Bible", an anagrammatic paraphrase of three complete books of the Old Testament (King James Version). And Mike Keith's name has been mentioned before on the Minstrels, for his insanely brilliant constrained version of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", [broken link] http://users.aol.com/s6sj7gt/mikerav.htm Jeff Kelley's Kellcraft Studio, http://www.kellscraft.com/rubaiyatcontent.html the Poet's Corner, [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/rubaiya1.html and the ELF's Rubaiyat site, http://www.arabiannights.org/rubaiyat/index2.html have a wealth of Rubaiyat-related information - annotations, critiques, FitzGerald's prefaces, and so on. And finally, Minstrels links: we've dipped into FitzGerald's Rubaiyat several times before; see poem #162, poem #342, poem #545 and poem #654. Also don't miss out Wendy Cope's parody (attributed to that all-too-impressionable South London poet, the Bard of Tulse Hill, Jason Strugnell), poem #587. [Moreover] Some interesting snippets from the sites mentioned above: FitzGerald's Rubaiyat was not a translation as such. The Rubaiyat manuscripts contained over 400 quatrains. FitzGerald translated some literally, some loosely, combined others, and added some of his own composition though in the spirit of the Persian original. In addition, FitzGerald arranged the verses so that they seem to have a certain cohesion, though the original quatrains were independent and related only in tone. A more literal translation was undertaken by Robert Graves in the 1970s. -- Bob Blair, [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/rubaiya1.html While Whinfield and Talbot do not exhibit the same consistent, memorable sublimity of expression as does Fitzgerald, they can serve to illuminate the latter's monumental achievement of sifting and sorting through the hodge-podge that is the original Persion collection, consisting not only of Khayyam's verse, but of subsequent poets as well, selectively extracting and recombining from this diverse assortment, a beautifully coherent and naturally flowing creation. -- Richard Brodie, http://www.fitzgeraldsrubaiyat.com/