posted October 21, 2004 01:01 AM
The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam
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.
Now the New Year reviving old desires,
The thoughtful soul to solitude retires,
Where the white hand of Moses on the bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the ground suspires.
With me along some strip of herbage strown,
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of slave and sultan scarce is known,
And pity Sultan Mahmud on his throne.
I sometimes think that never blows so red,
The rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every hyacinth the garden wears
Dropt in its lap from some once lovely head.
Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and the best,
That time and fate of all their vintage prest,
Have drunk their cup a round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.
And we that now make merry in the room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the couch of earth
Descend, ourselves to make a couch - for whom?
Why, all the saints and sages who discuss'd
Of the two worlds so learnedly, are thrust
Like foolish prophets forth; their words to scorn
Are scatter'd, and their mouths are stopt with dust.
For let philosopher and doctor preach,
Of what they will and what they will not - each
Is but one link in an eternal chain,
That none can slip, nor break, nor over-reach.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and saint, and heard great argument
About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same door as in I went.
With them the seed of wisdom did I sow
And with my own hand, labour'd it to grow:
And this was all the harvest that I reap'd -
'I came like water, and like wind I go.'
Up from Earth's center through the seventh gate
I rose, and on the throne of Saturn sate,
And many knots unravel'd by the road;
But not the knot of human death and fate.
Ah, fill the cup: - what boots it to repeat
How time is slipping underneath our feet:
Unborn tomorrow, and dead yesterday,
Why fret about them if today be sweet!
While the rose blows along the river brink,
With old Khayyam the ruby vintage drink:
And when the angel with his darker draught
Draws up to thee - take that, and do not shrink.
How long, how long in infinite pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute?
Better be merry with the fruitful grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, fruit.
You know, my friends, with what a brave carouse
I made a second marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren reason from my bed,
And took the daughter of the vine to spouse.
For 'is' and 'is-not' though with rule and line,
And 'up-and-down' by logic I define,
Of all that one should care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but - Wine.
The grape that can with logic absolute
The two-and-seventy jarring sects confute:
The subtle alchemist that in a trice
Life's leaden metal into gold transmute.
But leave the wise to wrangle, and with me
The quarrel of the universe let be:
And in some corner of the hubbub coucht,
Make game of that which makes as much of thee.
'Tis all a checker-board of nights and days
Where Destiny with men for pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the closet lays.
The ball no question makes of 'Aye's and 'No's,
But right or left as strikes the player goes;
And he that toss'd thee down into the field,
He knows about it all - HE knows - HE knows!
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.
And that inverted bowl we call the sky,
Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help - for It
Rolls impotently on as thou or I.
With Earth's first clay they did the first man's knead,
And then of the last harvest sow'd the seed:
Yea, the first morning of Creation wrote
What the last dawn of reckoning shall read.
And this I know: whether the one true light
Kindle to love, or wrath consume me quite,
One flash of it within the tavern caught
Better than in the temple lost outright.
What! out of senseless nothing to provoke
A conscious something to resent the yoke
Of unpermitted pleasure, under pain
Of everlasting penalties, if broke!
What! from this helpless creature be repaid
Pure gold for what he lent him dross-allay'd -
Sue for a debt he never did contract,
And cannot answer - O the sorry trade!
O Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin
Beset the road I was to wander in,
Thou wilt not with predestination round
Enmesh me, and impute my fall to sin!
O Thou, who man of baser earth didst make,
And who with Eden didst devise the snake;
For all the sin wherewith the face of man
Is blacken'd, man's forgiveness give - and take!
KUZA-NAMA ("Book of Pots")
Then said another - 'Surely not in vain
My substance from the common earth was ta'en
That He who subtly wrought me into shape
Should stamp me back to common earth again.'
Another said - 'Why, ne'er a peevish boy
Would break the bowl from which he drank in joy;
Shall He that made the vessel in pure love
And fancy, in an after rage destroy!"
None answer'd this; but after silence spake
A vessel of a more ungainly make:
'They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
What! did the hand then of the Potter shake?'
Said one - 'Folks of a surly Tapster tell,
And daub his visage with the smoke of Hell;
They talk of some strict testing of us - Pish!
He's a good fellow, and 'twill all be well.'
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my credit in men's eye much wrong:
Have drown'd my honor in a shallow cup
And sold my reputation for a song.
Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
I swore - but was I sober when I swore?
And then and then came Spring, and rose-in-hand
My threadbare Penitence apieces tore.
Alas, that Spring should vanish with the rose!
That youth's sweet-scented manuscript should close!
The nightingale that in the branches sang,
Ah, whence, and wither flown again, who knows!
Ah Love! Could Thou and I with fate conspire
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits - and then
Re-mould it nearer to the heart's desire!
Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane,
The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again:
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same garden after me - in vain!
And when thyself with shining foot shall pass
Among the guests star-scattered on the grass,
And in thy joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one - turn down an empty glass!
TAMAM SHUD (It is completed)
"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." - Rumi