|The woman who uploaded this image of her Rubaiyat tattoo|
calls it “my creed.” The quatrain goes like this (her translation):
Don’t remember the last day,
Don’t cry for the future,
In the past and in the future don’t believe,
Live today and don’t lose, in the wind, your life.
If the heart knewThis puts me in mind of the 15th century Indian poet Kabir, who wrote:
the secret of life as it really is,
it would also know, in death,
the divine mysteries.
Since you know nothing
of yourself today,
what will you know tomorrow
when you’re gone from yourself?
The idea that the soul will rejoin with the ecstaticIt is sometimes said of Khayyam that he was pessimistic about the human condition, but I think instead, as with Kabir, that Khayyam simply couldn’t stomach the hollow triumphalism that lies at the heart of almost every religious tradition. He and Kabir wrote from and against the Islamic tradition (in the way that Sufism sprang from and opposed that tradition), just as Jesus apparently sprang from and opposed the Judaic tradition as expressed by the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
just because the body is rotten—
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
[tr. Robert Bly—complete poem here]
This raises a question: Is it possible, in the current age, for poets to do anything but oppose the traditions from which they spring? Not in their lives, perhaps, but in their works?
* The two very different results are evident in these versions of the same Rubaiyat quatrain:
“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,It seems to me that Cole’s versions are much more in the spirit Emami brings to his translations….
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”
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.