Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
The term “Rubaiyat” is the plural of the Farsi word for quatrains (a four line stanza). Omar Khayyam lived in the city of Naishapur in Persia between 1048 CE and 1131 CE. Eight years before his birth, the region was conquered by Turkman invaders who were recent converts to Islam, and the territory was then under the jurisdiction of the Caliphate in Baghdad. Omar Khayyam became one of the best known mathematicians and astronomers of his day.
The poem was unknown in the West until it a copy of the quatrains was discovered in the Bodleian Library at Oxford in England by Edward Byles Cowell, who then gave it to his friend, Edward Fitzgerald (1809 – 1883) in 1856. Fitzgerald, who had already been working on translating other works from Persian into English, translated the poem and published the first edition on 1859. The poem received almost no attention until a copy was discovered by Dante Gabriel Rossetti the following year in a bargain sale of books. It was Rossetti who is credited with popularizing the poem. Afterwards, Fitzgerald revised his translation several times. By the time the third edition came out, Fitzgerald was known to be the translator. In all, Fitzgerald produced 5 editions of the poem, with the last being published in 1879.
Structure of the Poem:
The original Persian quatrains were not constrained to any particular ordering, and it was understood that they could be rearranged at will. Fitzgerald is credited with arranging and translating the quatrains in such manner as to make them more thematically consistent.
The poem is written in iambic pentameter, and in most of the quatrains, the rhyme scheme is aaba (the first, second, and last lines have end rhymes:
Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."
Some of the quatrains have a rhyme scheme...