Hello! I hope you’re all healthy and safe. Due to something urgent that came up, I wasn’t able to read a book this week, but I did read an amazing poem that’s practically as good as a great book, so I hope that makes up for it:
The “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam
The “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam is soooooo good. It affirms life, love, and happiness, and it’s only like a fifteen-minute read.
I learned about this ancient Persian poem from Eugene O’Neill’s play, “Ah, Wilderness!” (Whose title’s actually a direct quote from it). Obviously this left no choice but for me to check it out myself.
Reading the “Rubaiyat” makes me feel like the writer who wrote it actually felt what he was writing, in a slightly good-humored sort of way. I honestly have no idea why. It’s just something about the way it’s written/translated.
It has a lot of fascinating metaphors about wine, wizardry, pottery, checkers, and so on. But it’s much better than this other famous poem (George Sterling’s “Of Wine and Wizardry“). In my opinion, the Rubaiyat is much more…alive.
Finally, something interesting in a lot of medieval Arabic/Persian literature is the fact that wine is seen as something that’s not wonderful to drink in this life now, but that you can have as much of it as you want in the afterlife, so you might as well abstain now and then drink it later on. Meanwhile this poem argues the exact opposite: live now because you only have a short time to do so. Can it be subtly trying to disprove the afterlife? Who knows?
Finally, it has a lot of references to The Shahnameh (by Ferdowski) and the Bible.
If you’ve ever read the poem (or re-read it), I’d love to hear your thoughts.
“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!”
Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay in love with life.