Home page | About this website | Sitemap
You are here: Home page » Translations

Roe - 1906

Rubá'iyát of Omar Khayyám. A new metrical version rendered into English from various Persian sources by George Roe. With an introduction and many notes and references, and an original "Ode to Omar". Chicago, McClurg & Co., 1906.

Quatrains from Roe's translation that correspond with the Bodleian Ms.

5 [2]
And better far, with Thee, in taverns learn,
Than in the temple from Thy visage turn.
Oh, First and Last of all creation Thou,
Whate'er Thou wilt, or cherish me or burn.

6 [7]
Elate I stand beside the fallen door,
My raiment pawned; heart, soul, and cup paid o'er;
And, flushed with wine, I know nor hope nor fear;
O'er fire and water, earth and air I soar.

7 [13]
But lo, without, the year is young and fair,
And yearning hearts to stilly meads repair;
The hand of Musa shines on ev'ry bough,
The breath of 'Isa rises on the air.

8 [80]
For now 't is Spring, when verdure clothes the land,
And flow'rs gleam white as Musa's snowy hand;
The breath of 'Isa wakes the sleeping earth,
And kindly rains refresh the thirsty sand.

9 [82]
The morning dews bedeck the tulip's face,
The violets bend their heads with timid grace,
And fairer still, the rosebud's petall'd veil
Shields blushing cheek from Zephyr's soft embrace.

10 [67]
Nor warm, nor cold, the day dawns bright and fair,
The rain-kissed flow'rs perfume the morning air;
And hark! in Pahlavi the bulbul trills -
"Come, drooping rose, this dewy vintage share."

12 [43]
O'er beauty's grave the gentle zephyr blows,
From beauty's cheek the blue-eyed violet grows;
And see, where royal crimson stained the sod,
The flaming tulip blossoms near the rose.

13 [32]
When Springtime wafts her perfumes o'er the lea,
By river's brink, with playmates fond and free,
I pledge my love in morning's joyful bowl,
And what is mosque or synagogue to me.

14 [34]
Some talk of Heav'n, where streams like Kusar flow,
And houris dwell, and golden vineyards grow;
But fill my cup and give me beauty here,
Ah, give them now, and let the promise go!

15 [149]
A book of verses underneath the vine,
A loaf of bread, a jug of ruby wine,
And thou beside me, resting in the wild,
Would make the dreary wilderness divine!

16 [118]
See, morning dawns; the rosy cup retain,
And smash the crystal of repute again;
Thy lute is sweet, thy tresses soft as down,
Ah, Heav'n is here, and future glory vain.

17 [17]
Sweet is the breeze that gently fans the rose ;
Sweet, in the shade, to watch thy face repose:
Oh, tell me not that yesterday was sweet!
To-day is sweet! To-morrow ah, who knows?

18 [47]
Whether at Balkh or Babylon, we die;
Or sweet or bitter, soon the cup runs dry;
Gome drink, my love, for many a silver moon
Will wax again and wane, where'er we lie.

19 [52]
And love's bright path is hut the road to naught,
Where Fate's rude talons have destruction wrought;
Oh lovely saki, water ere I die,
And this poor dust again to dust he brought!

20 [27]
I lay upon iny couch in slumber deep,
And Wisdom cried aloud, "Oh, wherefore sleep?
For sleep is kin to death; drink while you may;
Eternal slumber hastens o'er the steep!"

21 [31]
Ere yet the dawn of Azal shed its light
O'er dreary chaos and the realms of night,
The Pen, unmoved by good and evil, wrote;
Nor grief can change, nor endless toil rewrite.

22 [41]
And ev'ry sorrow, all our passing mirth,
Was long predestined, ere creation's birth;
But blame not Heav'n, for all is foreordained,
And Heav'n more helpless than the helpless earth.

24 [54]
For what is written, be it long or brief,
Remains the same, nor tears can give relief;
No drop of destiny is less nor more,
Though naught you know but lifelong pain and grief.

25 [40]
I know not what the Lord hath made my share,
The joy of Heav'n - the Hell of deep despair;
But wine and beauty fill me with delight,
And Earth is here, and Paradise is - where?

26 [29]
The secret 's hidden from the mortal eye,
Nor living soul can read the mystery;
Save in the heart of earth, we have no rest;
So fill the bowl, 'twill soon be time to die.

27 [18]
How long shall I throw bricks upon the sea?
I scorn such tricks of vain idolatry!
Say not Khayyam is surely doomed to Hell.
Who knows of Hell, or Heav'n, or if they be?

29 [102]
And when thou hast some ruby wine, rejoice;
Or canst in beauty's arms recline, rejoice;
Since all that is, must surely end in naught,
Think thou art naught while life is thine, rejoice.

30 [72]
No mind has solved the tangled mystery,
Nor passed the orbit of eternity;
The teacher and the tyro both are blind,
And grope amid the darkness helplessly.

35 [26]
Soon shall you bid farewell to mortal tie;
Soon shall you read life's deepest mystery.
Drink, for you know not when you go, nor where;
Drink, for you know not whence you came, nor why.

37 [121]
And oft, when young, from teachers I designed
To fill with wisdom's lore my youthful mind;
But lo, the end of all their lofty themes: -
We came like water and depart like wind.

38 [157]
Unwilling, helpless, hurried through life's door,
And, helpless, whither, when the dream is o'er?
Ah, better far to Earth I ne'er had come
Than come, live, go, and taste of life no more!

40 [145]
This spirit, freed from mortal bonds, could soar
Back through the realms of space to Heaven's door;
Its proper home lies o'er the azure sky,
And shame it was to touch this earthly shore.

41 [15]
When life first dawned this mortal cell,
Long sought my soul where Pen and Tablet dwell,
Sought Hell and Heav'n, and heard the Master say -
"Behold, within thyself, the heav'n and hell!"

42 [33]
Heav'n is the tranquil joy of inward rest,
And Hell, the anguish of a soul distress'd;
The azure sky is but the robe we wear,
And Jihun's flood, the tears of hearts oppress'd.

44 [21]
Thrust into life without my own consent,
Thrust back to death, with who knows what intent?
Arise, bright saki, fill the cup with wine
And drown the burden of my discontent.

47 [6]
Men call the Koran "Fount of Sacred Lore,"
"The Word Supreme," and, hasty, glance it o'er;
But on the goblet's rim a text is writ
That all shall read and ponder evermore.

53 [94]
Like helpless chessmen on the checkered blocks,
We 're hither, thither moved, till Heaven knocks
The luckless pieces from the crowded board,
And one by one returns them to the box.

56 [35]
So fill the bowl, swift passes life's brief day,
And oh! th' eternal bed of chilly clay!
No friend, no song, no wine, no love, -!
The flow'r that dies is ever passed away.

64 [23]
Khayyám,why drown thyself in sorrow here?
What though thy sins like ocean sands appear?
Mercy can reach thee, though it pass the pure;
'T is made for sinners, wherefore dost thou fear?

65 [91]
Go toss commandment to the passing wind,
Nor with tradition keep thy soul confined;
Pay hate with love, enjoy the ruddy wine,
Nor fear the grave, nor what there is behind.

66 [68]
Ere Fate lay low thy head, the goblet drain,
Bring forth the rosy cup and staunch thy pain;
Oh, heedless fool, art thou a golden store
That men will bury and dig up again ?

67 [123]
Drink, if thou wilt, or fail to watch and pray,
Or break the fasts, or plunder by the way;
Hear now the Word of Truth from old Khayyám, -
No loving heart can wander far astray.

68 [36]
And when the rose shall bloom o'er Nature's shrine,
And friends invite, and buoyant youth is thine,
Lift high the bowl eternal life is there
And drown thy sorrows in the joys of wine.

71 [105]
Then mark my scanty virtues one by one,
And, ten by ten, forgive the wrongs I 've done;
Nor fan the flame, and, by the Prophet's tomb,
The fire will die and anger's heat be gone.

72 [109]
My nature oft o'ercomes my might, alas!
My deeds bring woe, howe'er I fight, alas!
And though I trust God's pardon shall be mine,
The shame will never leave my sight, alas!

73 [148]
But thou who settest in the way a snare,
With threats of hell for all who stumble there,
Almighty Spirit, whom the spheres obey,
Is mine the sin, or Thine the greater share?

75 [60]
The caravan of life moves strangely on,
It wanes and fades, then waxes clear anon;
Why fret, bright saki, o'er tomorrow's doom?
Gome, fill the goblet, ere the night be gone!

78 [49]
A voice that haunts the path of pleasure calls,
And ev'ry hour the awful warning falls -
"Know now, forever, when you die, YOU DIE,
And Spring's soft voice no human soul recalls!"

79 [51]
Then oh, what profit to the sphere my birth?
Or, when I die, what will my death be worth?
Or who beneath the vault of Heav'n can tell
Or why we come, or why we leave the earth?

82 [48]
And we who love to drain the flagon deep,
And ye who pray and nightly vigils keep,
We neither know, we both are cast adrift;
But One, He knows; the rest are fast asleep.

83 [101]
Take counsel, then, and give thine ear to me,
For Allah's sake cast off hypocrisy;
The future is forever, earth but now;
For one brief hour sell not eternity.

84 [50]
"Oh, learned fools," the voice of Wisdom saith.
"Why spend the hours in talk of life and death?
'T is dried up fruit, go taste the vine instead;
On what can ne'er be known, why waste your breath?"

85 [89]
When in the market-place I stopped one day
To watch a potter pounding his fresh clay,
The clay addressed him in a mystic tongue
"Once I was man, so treat me gently, pray!"

86 [9]
Then thought I how that handle once embraced
With yearning touch some perislender waist;
And how, perchance, those sad, complaining lips
In rapture, once, on other lips were placed.

90 [140]
For oh, bright saki, they who passed before,
To dust have dropped beyond the mystic door;
Their lofty themes have turned to empty wind,
And now their lips lie locked for evermore.

95 [24]
And though in synagogue, mosque, school, or cell,
Men, seeking Heav'n and fearing Sheol, dwell;
Yet he who knows the secret truth of God
Sows no such chaff and scorns the fear of Hell.

100 [39]
The wine 's a ruby and the cup a mine;
The cup is body, and the soul is wine;
But ah, the crystal cup contains a tear, -
A bleeding heart is hidden in the vine.

106 [126]
And yonder skies too often tear away
Our dearest friends, and all our hopes betray;
So, Darling, live - live now, while life is ours;
To-morrow's naught, and naught is yesterday.

107 [92]
And see, this cup hath rose-red wine, - may be;
This crystal cup 's a ruby mine, - may be;
This water sparkles with a melted gem;
Through moonlight's veil the sunbeams shine, may be.

110 [5]
Drink 'neath the moonbeams, greet me with a song;
To-night we live, sweet moon, and love is strong;
To-morrow, when we lie beneath the sod,
The moon shall seek us, and shall seek us long.

112 [58]
Those countless orbs that roll o'er Heaven's main,
Perplex the learn'd, their myst'ries still remain;
Oh, seek not whence they come, or whither bound,
The wise grow dizzy 'neath their mighty train.

116 [103]
And some were wrapped in silence, others not;
And one spake loudly, 'mid a wrangling lot -
"Why talk ye thus and thus, ye know not what?
Who is the potter, pray, and who the pot?"

121 [158]
And while they talked, the time sped quickly on,
Till new-moon came, and Ramazán was gone;
And stealing softly through the open door,
A dusky porter seized them, one by one.