Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
The nature of a translation very much depends on what interpretation one places on Khayyam's philosophy. The fact that the rubaiyat are a collection of quatrains - and may be selected and rearraged subjectively to demonstrate one interpretation or another - has led to widely differing versions. Nicolas took the view that Khayyam himself clearly was a Sufi. Others have seen signs of mysticism, even atheism, or conversely devout and orthodox Islam. Fitzgerald gave the Rubaiyat a distinct fatalistic spin, although it has been claimed that he softened the impact of Khayyam's nihilism and his preoccupation with the mortality and transience of all things. Even such a question as to whether Khayyam was pro- or anti-alcohol gives rise to more discussion than might at first glance have seemed plausible.
Of the five editions published, four were published under the authorial control of Fitzgerald. The fifth edition was edited after his death on the basis of manuscript revisions Fitzgerald had left.
Fitzgerald also produced Latin translations of certain rubaiyat.
As a work of English literature Fitzgerald's poetic version is a high point of the 19th century. As a work of accurate line-by-line translation of Omar Khayyam's quatrains, it is noted more for freedom than for fidelity. Many of the verses are paraphrased, and some of them cannot be confidently traced to any one of Khayyam's quatrains at all.
Some critics informally refer to the Fitzgerald's English versions as "The Rubaiyat of FitzOmar", a practice that both recognizes the liberties Fitzgerald inflicted on his purported source and also credits Fitzgerald for the considerable portion of the "translation" that is his own creation.In fact, Fitzgerald himself referred to his work as "transmogrification". Some people find this quite unfortunate. Others see Fitzgerald's translation of the work as being close to the true spirit of the poems.
Perhaps the most famous of Fitzgerald's verses is this one (two versions).
Quatrain XI in his 1st edition:
- 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.
Quatrain XII in his 5th 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!"
This translated quatrain can be traced back to at least two original quatrains that Fitzgerald conflated into one.
Another well-known verse (Fitzgerald's quatrain LI in his 1st edition) is:
- "The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
- Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
- Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
- Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
- "The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
The term "Rubaiyat" by itself has come to be used to describe the quatrain rhyme scheme that Fitzgerald used in his translations: AABA.
Graf von Schack
Quatrain 151 (equivalent of Fitzgerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):
- Gönnt mir, mit dem Liebchen im Gartenrund
- Zu weilen bei süssem Rebengetränke,
- Und nennt mich schlimmer als einen Hund,
- Wenn ferner an’s Paradies ich denke!
Friedrich von Bodenstedt
Quatrain IX, 59 (equivalent of Fitzgerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):
- Im Frühling mag ich gern im Grüne weilen
- Und Einsamkeit mit einer Freundin teilen
- Und einem Kruge Wein. Mag man mich schelten:
- Ich lasse keinen andern Himmel gelten.
Edward Henry Whinfield
Quatrain 84 (equivalent of Fitzgerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):
- 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!
The first French translation, of 464 quatrains in prose, was made by J.B. Nicolas, chief interpreter at the French Embassy in Persia in 1867.
Prose stanza (equivalent of Fitzgerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):
- Au printemps j’aime ŕ m’asseoir au bord d’une prairie, avec une idole semblable ŕ une houri et une cruche de vin, s’il y en a, et bien que tout cela soit généralement blâmé, je veux ętre pire qu’un chien si jamais je songe au paradis.
John Leslie Garner
An English translation of 152 quatrains, published in 1888.
Quatrain I. 20 (equivalent of Fitzgerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):
- Yes, Loved One, when the Laughing Spring is blowing,
- With Thee beside me and the Cup o’erflowing,
- I pass the day upon this Waving Meadow,
- And dream the while, no thought on Heaven bestowing.
Justin Huntly McCarthy
Quatrain 177 (equivalent of Fitzgerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):
- In Spring time I love to sit in the meadow with a paramour perfect as a Houri and a goodly jar of wine, and though I may be blamed for this, yet hold me lower than a dog if ever I dream of Paradise.
Edward Heron-Allen (1861-1943) published a prose translation in 1898. He also wrote an introduction to an edition of Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo)’s translation into English of Nicolas’s French translation.
Example quatrain (equivalent of Fitzgerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):
- I desire a little ruby wine and a book of verses,
- Just enough to keep me alive, and half a loaf is needful;
- And then, that I and thou should sit in a desolate place
- Is better than the kingdom of a sultan.
Robert Graves and Ali-Shah
The Robert Graves and Ali-Shah translation is a modern version published in 1968. Although claimed to be based on an old manuscript, critics have counter-claimed that it is in fact wholly reliant on the Fitzgerald translations.
Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs
A modern version of 235 quatrains, claiming to be "as literal an English version of the Persian originals as readability and intelligibility permit", published in 1979.
Example quatrain 160 (equivalent of Fitzgerald's quatrain XI in his 1st edition, as above):
- In spring if a houri-like sweetheart
- Gives me a cup of wine on the edge of a green cornfield,
- Though to the vulgar this would be blasphemy,
- If I mentioned any other Paradise, I'd be worse than a dog.
- Cornelis Jacob Langenhoven (poet 1873 - 1932, author of Die Stem van Suid-Afrika) produced the first translation in Afrikaans. Herman Charles Bosman wrote a translation in Afrikaans published in 1948.
- Fraînque Le Maistre produced a Jčrriais version (based on Fitzgerald's 1st edition) during the German occupation of the Channel Islands 1940-1945.
- Many Russian language translations have been undertaken, reflecting the popularity of the poetry in Russia since the late 19th century and the tradition which has grown up of using the rubaiyat for purposes of bibliomancy. The earliest verse translation (by V.L. Velichko) was published in 1891. The version by Osip Rumer published in 1914 is a translation of FitzGerald's version. Rumer later published a version of 304 rubaiyat translated directly from the Persian. A lot of poetic translations (some written from non-poetic verbatim translations by others) were also written by G. Plisetsky , K. Balmont , Ts. Banu, L. Pen'kovsky, V. Derzhavin, and others.
Like Shakespeare's works, Omar Khayyám's verses have provided later authors with quotations to use as titles:
- The title of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novel Some Buried Caesar comes from one of the Tentmaker's quatrains (Fitzgerald's XVIII), for example.
- Eugene O'Neill's drama Ah, Wilderness! derives its title from the first quoted quatrain above.
- Agatha Christie used The Moving Finger
- The full text of Fitzgerald's translation can be found at http://www.freewisdom.org/Omar/fitzger.html
- Graves and Ali-Shah (http://dogbert.abebooks.com/servlet/BookSearch?ph=2&an=ali-shah&tn=rubaiyyat).
- Project Gutenberg: etext #246 (translation by Edward FitzGerald) and etext #5408 (a parody by Wallace Irvin)
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details