Omar Ali-Shah entrusted me, a year ago, with the task of translating Omar Khayaam's Rubaiyyat into English verse from a Persian text, the “Jan Fishan Khan” manuscript, which has been in the possession of his princely Afghan family, senior in descent from the Prophet Mohammed, since a few years after Khayaam's death, when a contemporary Sultan presented it to them. That was in the year 1153 A.D. I had long enjoyed a close friendship with Omar Ali-Shah and his elder brother Idries, who is “Grand Sheikh of the Sufi Tariqa,” meaning Chief Teacher of the Sufic Way of Thought—a Way exemplified in the poems of Hafiz, Rumi, Saadi, Khayaam—in fact of all the best-known classical Persian poets. I am, however, no Persian scholar and therefore closely followed an annotated English text with which Omar Ali-Shah had supplied me; and made the first draft of my verse-rendering in the corner bed of a large surgical ward at St. Thomas's hospital, London, where the ghost of Florence Nightingale still walks, lamp in hand, and the quiet atmosphere encourages a careful reading of poems. The night nurse allowed me to work in bed until midnight so long as I shaded my light-bulb with its green silk shade.

I foresaw, but was not daunted by, the hostility that publication would excite among such English and Americans as were too well indoctrinated in Edward Fitzgerald's mid-Victorian Rubaiyyat not to make a sacred cow of it. I use this metaphor without disrespect for Hindus, but in the sense that sacred cows, which yield no milk and may never be slaughtered for beef, often invade Indian country market-places and greedily browse on the fruit and vegetables which poor peasants have brought for sale. Though Hindu stall-holders dare not take offense, trouble arises when sacred cattle make free with Moslem produce. In such cases I incline to the Moslem side, being also descended, like many other Britons, including Her Majesty the Queen, from the Prophet Mohammed. Edward Fitzgerald, I feel, has also browsed and pillaged without moral right in Moslem territory. Omar Khayaam is revered as a religious teacher by some fifty million Sufis throughout the East, and especially honored in Persia, where a national Omar Khayaam Trust has been set up to preserve his memory. He is read not so much for the felicity of his language as for the concentrated power of his thought, and for his rejection of formal dogma in favor of divine grace. Yet by an outrageous freak of fortune this blameless Moslem celebrant of mystical love has come to be elected patron saint of fifty million hearty boozers throughout the Christian West.

I had been asked to present Omar Khayaam as clearly as possible and without, if possible, making the customary genuflections to Fitzgerald's memory; which I was glad to do, on the ground that sacred cows should be confined to their own Temple paddocks and tended by their own priests. My occasional intuitions of his hidden meanings were prompted less by former contrastive studies of Hebrew and Gnostic mysticism than by a sense of kinship which I felt with medieval Irish poets who (as scholars now recognize) came under strong Sufic influence as early as the 8th and 9th centuries.

When our book was published in London, the first scholarly attack came from Major J.C.E. Bowen, who had been nettled by our publisher's announcement that this was the first modern retranslation of the Rubaiyyat. Major Bowen had himself, in 1952, versified a manuscript dated from the early 13th century, at the instance of its discoverer, Professor Arberry, who formerly held the Chair of Persian at London University and now holds that of Arabic at Cambridge. Major Bowen's review in the Times focused on our opening quatrain with comments that conveniently illustrated the textual difference between his manuscript and ours, as also the deformatory process of Fitzgerald's Rubaiyyat, and the unscholarly habits of his successors:

The Persian text is exactly the same as that of quatrain No. 134 in the Calcutta manuscript sent to Fitzgerald from India by Professor Cowell, except that where the Graves-Shah manuscript has badeh (wine) the Calcutta manuscript has mohreh (pebble or bead); so the opening lines of the Calcutta quatrain, used by Fitzgerald, run literally: “The sun has flung the noose of dawn upon the roof/The Kaikhosru of day has flung the pebble into the bowl” [of departure].

These lines were translated, with reasonable accuracy, by Fitzgerald as: “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.”

Mr. Graves, handicapped by the (probably corrupt) reading of “wine” for “pebble,” has translated the quatrain as: “While Dawn, Day's herald straddling the whole sky/Offers the drowsy world a toast ‘To Wine,’ The Sun spills early gold on city roofs—/Day's regal Host, replenishing his jug.”

Did Mr. Graves (one is tempted to wonder) relinquish Omar's splendid metaphor of the Noose of Light merely in order to differ from Fitzgerald? Or did Ali-Shah not explain to him the line's significance?

Doubt as to whether Mr. Graves has fully understood the complexity of the task he has undertaken is roused by two references of his Introduction to Omar's Rubaiyyat as a “poem,” which of course, they—for Rubaiyyat is merely the plural of the Persian word ruba'i (quatrain)—are not. It is well known that every divan, or collection of Persian poetry, is arranged so that each poem is grouped with others having the same letter-ending in the first line. This arrangement by letters rules out the possibility of any significance being attached to the sequence. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, made what he called a tessalation of the quatrains he paraphrased, to form one long English poem, leading from Dawn to Dusk—and the down-turned glass.

Nor is the quality of Mr. Graves's verse impressive. It rarely rises above the humdrum level of his opening stanza, quoted above, in which the ugly and inappropriate word “straddling” is used.

_____________

Perhaps Major Bowen cast doubt on the authenticity of the Jan Fishan Khan manuscript because the Arberry manuscript from which he worked had been omitted by Omar Ali-Shah from our list of Khayaamiana as suspect. And Major Bowen is certainly mistaken in suggesting that Fitzgerald had imposed a decent order upon the original. On the contrary, our text offers a more exact temporal sequence: Fitzgerald deliberately broke it in several places, and omitted the splendid closing stanzas.

Omar Ali-Shah replied to Major Bowen:

. . . Concerning the suggestion of the lack of authenticity of our verse, I must point out that very serious doubts have been cast upon the authenticity of the A.D. 1259 Chester Beatty Ms. from which the reviewer himself worked. Serious students of Oriental literature are referred to the article by Professor Minovi, the distinguished Persian authority, published April 1963, in Rahnemayi Ketab, organ of the Book Society of Persia, and the recent book on Omar Khayaam by Professor Jeluddin Homayi published jointly by the Society of National Monuments and the Custodians of the Omar Khayaam Trust of Iran.

Anyone who takes the trouble to acquaint himself with the findings of these academicians will understand why I have not been able to include these in my bibliography of Mss.

These scholars in fact cited verses contained in the two Khayaam manuscripts identified and authenticated by Professor Arberry, which they contend were written by Persian poets who lived far later than the date given. One of these manuscripts was sold to Cambridge University; the other is in the Chester Beatty Collection.

Omar Ali-Shah continues:

The reviewer further states that the Jan Fishan Ms. Verse One is almost exactly similar to verse 134 of the Calcutta Ms. which is one of those said to have been used by Edward Fitzgerald. He adds, however, that it differs in the “probably corrupt reading of ‘wine’ for ‘pebble.’” Yet may I point out that the Rosen Ms., the Saida Nafisi Ms., and a 12th-century Ms. owned by Professor Minovi, also read “wine”? “Wine” is also considered a more valid metaphor.

I am additionally taken to task for not having explained to Robert “Omar's splendid metaphor of the Noose of Light” and allowing him to stumble on and produce a “humdrum stanza” lacking the all-important Noose. Yet how does one noose the flat roofs of Nishapur with never a minaret in sight (at least in the original)? “Kamand” in Persian certainly means “noose” but in poetic usage also means “shaft, ray, or effusion.” Hence our version. Major J.C.E. Bowen (enriching the original) in his own translation makes the “Hunter of the Dark” throw a noose “across the world.” Neither phrase exists even in the “A.D. 1259” Ms. which he uses.

Omar Khayaam's Rubaiyyat (from the Arabic word ‘Ruba'i’) is a poem and not a collection (divan). And I cannot concur that Robert's use of the good English word “straddling” is “ugly” or “inappropriate.”

Later a Mr. Leaper took up the cudgels in the same columns:

Mr. Ali-Shah's letter today invites a number of comments more concerned with poetry than with scholarship: the authenticity of the manuscripts is a question which cannot concern those to whom the Rubaiyyat is a poem rather than a study.

Mr. Ali-Shah does not seem to recognize that the word “straddling” is appropriate (as a word) only in a suitable context, and in this particular context most readers would find it ugly. His preference for standards and criteria other than poetic is also shown by his comment about the noose and the lack of minarets around which to fling the light. The idea and metaphor are, however, quite beautiful.

In my rendering of the original I had agreed with Omar Ali-Shah to omit the name of the early medieval potentate Kai Khosru to whom the rising sun is here likened when he replenishes his immortal pitcher with wine. Since this mention would have called for a footnote and distracted the reader's attention, I merely called him a “regal host.” To have made “Kai Khosru” intelligible to the English reader by turning him into “King Arthur”—as Fitzgerald introduces “buried Caesars” into his version—would have been historically false. “Poetry,” as Robert Frost said, “is what gets lost in translation”; but in mistranslation it gets positively benighted. Since the original quatrain referred to the spread of dawn from East to West I made the host “straddle the whole sky.” “Straddle” is a reputable Elizabethan word poetically applied by Shakespeare's noble contemporary Michael Drayton to the North wind's mighty reach from coast to coast. I had indeed been assured by Omar Ali-Shah that no turret occurs in the original verse, and that a simple shaft or dazzle of light was thrown on the flat roofs; but in any case I should have suspected the “noose of light” metaphor as unauthentic. Early sunlight flashed on a turret does not “noose” it; the western part must remain relatively unilluminated. For a poet of Khayaam's caliber no such faulty metaphor would have seemed “quite beautiful.”

As for the word mohreh (pebble) which has been substituted in later manuscripts for badeh (wine) and is glossed by Major Bowen (following Fitzgerald's often ignorant mentor, Professor Cowell) to mean a pebble thrown into a drinking cup as a signal for “Strike Camp!” I am assured by Omar Ali-Shah that this is a historical error. The signal given was not the clink of a pebble in a bowl but the boom of a huge stone flung into the camp cauldron where a communal stew had boiled the previous evening. And even “stone in the Cauldron of Night” would have been a curiously inappropriate metaphor for sunrise: the Sun may perhaps resemble a fiery stone thrown by Morning, but since it soars up from the cauldron of Night rather than being flung into it, Khayaam, whose metaphors were always clear and logical, could never have used it.

_____________

The same Mr. Leaper held that “the authenticity of a manuscript cannot concern readers of poetry.” Not even if it misrepresents and deforms a classic? A reviewer from the BBC journal, The Listener, commended Fitzgerald for having accomplished “an incredible literary feat, giving us a close equivalent in English of Omar's languorous music.” Yet the original verse, which the reviewer had not read, is not in the least languorous. Still another reviewer asked:

Does it matter that Fitzgerald travestied the original? Or that he turned an Oriental mystic into a toping Victorian skeptic? Only, I think, if the original is at least of equal quality. Graves does not convince here. He has produced a prosy New English Bible sort of Khayaam, whose cloudy mysticism raises more questions about evil than it answers. At the very least, Fitzgerald found a decent form for his poem, a stanza in which the penultimate line seems to lift and suspend the wave that falls over in the last. Graves produces ripples in a sea of sludge. He writes: “Let me speak out, un-allegorically:/ We are mere puppets of our Master, toys/ On the table of Existence, one by one/ Flung back into the toybox of Non-existence.”

Surely no one in his right mind could prefer this to Fitzgerald's fine carelessness: “Tis all a Chequerboard of Nights and Days/ Where Destiny with Man for Pieces plays:/ Hither and thither moves, and mates and slays/ And one by one back in the Closet lays.”

The fact is that here Fitzgerald's “fine carelessness” had interrupted the sequence of Omar Khayaam's thought by breaking off short the shadow-show metaphor and interpolating an unnecessary game of chess. The original reads:

This vault underneath which we
    lie bemused
Is, so to speak, God's magic shad-
    ow show
With sun for lamp, the world as
    a wide screen
For countless lie-rehearsing sil-
    houettes
Let me speak out, unallegorically
We are mere puppets of our
    Master, toys
On the table of Existence, one by
    one
Flung back in [not into] the toy-
    box of Non-existence

Fitzgerald had said: “At all costs a Thing must Live—with a Transfusion of one's own worse Life if he can't retain the Original's better. Better a live sparrow than a stuffed Eagle.” He based this remark on the scornful old proverb: “Better a live dog than a dead lion”—a coward's excuse for avoiding the defense of his country in battle. So here, for once, Fitzgerald honestly confesses that his own crude versifying is at odds with Omar's poetic genius. Elsewhere, however, he pretends that the Persians were so deficient in poetry that their ghosts could surely not grudge the extravagant license he so often took while embellishing their works with a little art! At all events, he translated Khayaam's thirteenth stanza as:

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!

though the original contains references neither to ambition for mortal sovereignty nor to any hopes for an orthodox Islamic Paradise. It runs:

They say that Eden is bejeweled
   with Houris.
I answer that grape-nectar has no
   price—
So laugh at long-term credit, stick
   to coin
Though distant drums beguile
   your greedy ear

Fitzgerald has missed the satiric sense. Khayaam is referring to a wholly unKoranic Paradise promised by Arab chieftains as a spur to simple solders: If they should die in battle they will visit a glorious Palace, stocked with expensive houris to indulge their carnal appetites. But, just as any honest soldier would prefer a good drinking bout before battle to vague promises of a superlative Rest and Recreation Camp after the campaign has ended, so here Khayaam prefers a Sufi life, in which sufficient spiritual joy and beauty can daily be found, to any gloomy puritanical one preached by orthodox mullahs with promises of a glorious world to come.

Major Bowen wrote to the Times at this point:

Mr. Robert Graves and General Omar Ali-Shah in their letters of November 20th and 30th, go to great lengths to cast doubt on the authenticity of two Persian Mss. to which I made no reference whatsoever in my review of their book.

Yet it was on the strength of having translated one of them that Major Bowen had applied to the Times for permission to review our translation.

He goes on:

I wonder whether the object of such shadow-boxing is to distract attention from their own Mss. which they claim to be a genuine 12th-century document. . . . We are asked to believe that a 12th-century scribe was able to foresee the sequence in which a 19th-century poet would arrange the verses of an English poem and write them down in approximately the same order. How else can be explained the fact that of the first dozen quotations in the “authentic Ms.” no fewer than eight follow the exact sequence of the first edition of Fitzgerald's Rubaiyyat?

Well, it seems that Fitzgerald's accomplice Cowell had supplied him with a copy of a borrowed copy of the authentic manuscript: thus to supplement the far later Ousely manuscript at Oxford from which Fitzgerald is supposed to have worked; though, as I say, Fitzgerald broke the order in many places, inserted fragments from other poets, and changed the end.

Major Bowen thinks it a pity that I did not choose as collaborator “someone with a surer language of classical Persian.” Yet classical Persian was Omar Ali-Shah's spoken language at the Court in the Hindu Khoosh where he was educated—with Khayaam and all the great Persian poets as his favorite reading under the tuition of his father—and writes classical Persian poems himself.

One of the wildest criticisms came from a Persian lecturer at a Scottish university, who found it most absurd to claim Omar Khayaam as a Sufi. This critic, however, is shown by his name to be a Shiah, a Moslem sect who are famous for ritual cursing of their theological enemies and who detest all Sufis—if only because their discipline forbids them to curse, or litigate, or even to condone litigation. Khayaam's Sufism has always been generally accepted by the Sufis—why else would the Shah family, traditionally Sufis, have hoarded this manuscript for eight centuries?

A Scottish reviewer from Glasgow, where a popular students' drinking resort is named “The Bowl of Night,” writes:

Fitzgerald is said to have been ill-acquainted with Sufic symbolism and Sufic metaphor. And our own critical deficiency is, of course, that we are no more interested in the authentic thoughts and philosophies of the real Omar than we are in the true history and accurate biography of Robin Hood. Sufic, though, is for scholars; Omar is for less cultivated ears and lips, and for artless intellects that do not find it an evil paradox that an old Persian mystical poem should be accepted as “a drunkard's rambling profession of a hedonist creed.”

Indeed Khayaam himself has been past caring these eight-hundred years. So let the orientalists make of the original what they like; we prefer our old hackneyed and well-rounded Moving Finger that writes and the Piety and Wit that cannot lure it back to cancel half a line, far above the workaday statement of Robert Graves that: “What we shall be is written, and we are so;/ Heedless of God or Evil, pen, write on!/ By the first day all futures were decided;/ Which gives our griefs and pains irrelevancy.”

Khayaam the Sufi, whose spirit is very far from dead, did not make a profession of doubt, but pointed out that one logical result of the popular belief in God, as an All-Father and Supreme Judge who made man in His image, must be to accuse Him of human frailties. God, for Omar, was the spirit of creative love which animates all noble spirits. He admits the occasional onset of doubt, which, however, he regards as necessary to a better understanding of the human condition, writing:

One breath parts infidelity from
   faith,
Another breath parts certitude
   from doubt.
Yet cherish breath, never make
   light of it—
Is not such breath the harvest of
   our being?

My heart complained: “I long for
   inspiration,
I long for wisdom, to be taught
   and learn.”
I breathed the letter A. My heart
   replied:
“A is enough to occupy this
   house.”

For Khayaam, as for Jesus who, in the Apocryphal Syriac Gospel of St. Thomas, asked his schoolteacher Zachaeus: “If thou knowest not Alpha according to its nature, how canst thou teach others the Beta?” the letter A (Alpha or Alif) took precedence over all other letters, because it was the first letter of God's name in Hebrew as in Arabic. Fitzgerald has once more missed the point by converting Khayaam's inspiriting view into a pessimistic suggestion that only by the remotest guess can man find the truth.

Would you that spangle of Exist-
   ence spend
About the Secret—quick about it,
   Friend!
A Hair, they say, divides the false
   and true
And upon what, prithee, does
   Life depend?
A hair, they say, divides the false
   and true
Yes; and a single Alif were the
   clue,
Could you but find it, to the
   Treasure-house
And peradventure to the Master
   too.

Omar despised intellectuality, as he had a right to do after achieving international fame as a philosopher and mathematician. His thirteenth stanza runs:

Man's brain has never solved the
   eternal why
Nor foraged past the frontier set
   for thought.
All intellect, be sure, proves nuga-
   tory.
However hard we either teach or
   learn.

He goes even further:

Misguided foes call me philos-
   opher—
God knows that this is the one
   thing I am not.
I am even less: in such a nest of
   sorrows
I cannot tell you even who I am.

And he addresses God, this same bright element of Truth and Love:

Hidden you live, inscrutable as
   ever;
A person sometimes, but some-
   times a place,
Showing this costly spectacle to
   no one—
You the sole audience and the
   actor too.

Persian and English poems, in careful translation from each other, work out at about the same verse-length, and if one preserves only Khayaam's quatrain form, not his metrical measure or his rhyming scheme, there is no need either to cut or expand the sense. Nevertheless, the concentration of meaning in some of Khayaam's lines is intense. For example:

The Moon, by her own nature
   prone to change,
Varies from animal form to vege-
   table:
Destroy her form, you have de-
   stroyed nothing,
For what she seems survives her
   not yet being.

Which, expanded to prose, would read, I think, something like this:

Woman, man's complementary sex, resembles the Moon, if only because her menstrual course corresponds closely with the Moon's mensual one. Like the Moon, whose first appearance suggests the bright horn of an animal, and whose bulk when at the full resembles a ripe melon soon to be eaten away, woman varies, as she grows older, from either reckless or shy animality to lazy, plump domesticity. Though you may expose the physical phases of a woman's life by such a comparison, you will not have accounted for the magical hold that she may exercise even on a reasonable man. For he cannot honestly deny her power over his heart; and a wise man knows that one day when women are no longer mere chattels bought and sold for male diversion, but recognized as having minds, such a hold will be amply justified as it cannot yet be.

_____________

Fitzgerald usually took the easy and even banal way out in translation: he writes in his seventeenth quatrain (second edition):

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.

This is the same morose “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” sentiment that one finds cut on 18th-century tombstones. What Khayaam wrote was altogether different. He advised his friends to accept the world as it was and make the very best of their sojourn in it, though recognizing that this could not last more than a couple of generations, or three at the outside. Our translation runs:

Think of this world as modeled
    to your whim,
Perfectly trimmed for you from
    east to west;
Yet know yourself a snowdrift on
    the sand
Heaped for two days or three,
    then thawed and gone.

Fitzgerald has composed another truistic quatrain on the theme that nobody has ever returned from the dead to describe his experiences:

Strange, is it not? that of the
    myriads who
Before us pass'd the Door of
    Darkness through,
Not one returns to tell us of the
    Road
Which to discover we must travel
    too.

Khayaam, however, was here (stanza 68) commenting rather on the extraordinary variety of experience that life offers, and on every life's uniqueness:

My wandering feet have led me
    through far plains
And valleys: I have strayed this
    way and that
Yet never found a traveler who
    could boast
That he had ever trod the same
    road twice.

Again, Khayaam in his satiric portrayal of the anthropomorphic God, writes with Sufic humor:

That sin is irresistible He knows:
Yet He commands us to abstain
    from sin.
Thus irresistibility confounds us
With prohibition: “Lean, but
    never fall!

Fitzgerald found it necessary to present this as simple Victorian agnosticism, and characteristically translated it into terms of money; which resulted in the following confused stanza:

What! from his helpless Creature
   be repaid
Pure gold for what he lent us
   dross-allay' d
Sue for a Debt we never did con-
   tract
And cannot answer—Oh, the sorry
   trade!

a purposeful contradiction of the familiar hymn:

O Lord since all I give to Thee
Repaid a thousand-fold shall be
Therefore I offer willingly
My soul to be Thy trust.

And every true poet would prefer Khayaam's simple antithetical quatrain (stanza 50):

This world must long survive our
    poor departure,
Persisting without name or note
    of us.
Before we came, it never grudged
    our absence;
When we have gone, how can it
    feel regret?

to Fitzgerald's artistic and over-metaphorical:

When you and I behind the Veil
    are past
Oh, but the long, long while the
    World shall last,
Which of our Coming and De-
    parture heeds
As much as Ocean of a pebble
    cast.

Khayaam used the same economical style in addressing (stanza 50) his Orthodox colleagues who because arrack (date liquor) had been forbidden them in the Koran, extended the Prophet's ban to wine, which the Hebrew mystics, like Khayaam's predecessors, had also used as a symbol of divine joy:

They say: “Be sober, lest you die
    of drink
And earn Hell-fire on God's last
    Judgment Day.”
Nevertheless my blaze of drunk-
    enness
Outshines both worlds: your Now
    and your Hereafter.

Fitzgerald has converted this into a mere preference of a good vintage claret to an orgy of metaphysical argument:

Waste not your Hour, nor in the
    vain pursuit
Of this and that endeavor and
    dispute.
Better be merry with the fruitful
    grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter,
    fruit.

Here, as often, his search for a suitable rhyme has made him do violence to the English language. One can write “Sadden after bitter fruit or none,” but “none or bitter fruit”—one cannot “sadden after none fruit”—is listed by the Oxford English Dictionary as a novel usage.

Near the beginning of this transmogrified Rubaiyyat, Fitzgerald printed his version of the awesome stanza which ends the true one:

The Palace that to Heav'n his
    pillars threw
And Kings the forehead on his
    threshold drew—
I saw the solitary Ringdove there,
And “Coo, coo, coo,” she cried;
  and “coo, coo, coo.

The use of his for its is misleading, since it seems a reference to Bahram the great hunter in the preceding verse, and what does “Kings drew the forehead on his threshold” mean, unless that they chalked a drawing of Bahram's forehead on the threshold of his former palace? We have translated the original in its quiet simplicity:

The palace with huge walls soar-
    ing to Heaven
Where prostrate Kings did rever-
    ence at the gate:
A ring-dove perches on its battle-
    ments:—
“Where, where?” it coos, “where,
    where?

This is the visionary palace gate which dying men or takers of hallucinatory drugs frequently see opening for them: the Portals of Death. The ring-dove cries “du-du” in Persian, meaning “where, where?” exactly as the cuckoo does in Wales where the word ku has the same meaning. The cuckoo is known there as the “sorrowful bird,” because it returns in the spring from the South and asks what has happened to so many neighbors who have disappeared during its absence. Similarly the Persian ring-dove does not coo lovingly as in England, but mourns the death of kings.

_____________

Any attempt at improving or altering Khayaam's poetic intentions would have seemed shocking to me when I was working on the Rubaiyyat at St. Thomas's hospital. The thought was hard, clear, and closely woven, but it is only now, a year later, that I can view the poem as a whole and follow its kaleidoscopic changes. These vary from spiritual autobiography to straight-faced satire and sudden simple statements of his faith in love, seen as the perpetual miracle that dissipates all mental and moral confusion. What I have written, under Omar Ali-Shah's surveillance, may seem to inebriated members of the Fitz-Omar cult prosaic ripples on a sea of sludge, but may also one day prove useful to students who find that they think as Omar thought and decide to read the Rubaiyyat in the original Persian. My twin principles were: “Stick as strictly to the script as you can” and “Respect the tradition of English verse as first confirmed by the better Tudor poets: which is to be as explicit as possible on every occasion and never play down to ignorance.”

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