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Quatrain IX from the Rubaiyat of Omar Kahyyám is part of our summer poetry series, dedicated to making the season of vacation lyrical again. Taken from a collection of loose translations by English writer and poet Edward FitzGerald originally published in 1859, this quatrain uses summer roses to evoke a melancholy resignation to the passing of time.
Omar Khayyám was a Persian philosopher, mathematician, and poet who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries, and became a major contributor to what we now know as the Islamic Golden Age. Among his many works (which include important advances in algebra and astronomy) are a thousand or so four-line verses, whose form is known as rubaiyat. A few of them were introduced to the West by the translations of Edward FitzGerald, who collected them under the title of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám.
Though not entirely consistent with Khayyám’s actual poetry, FitzGerald’s translations made the Persian polymath extremely popular, and were widely influential in wide late-19th century European culture. Quatrain IX (and X, which accompanies it) below offers a fatalistic rumination on the passing of time, with the imagery of summer roses used as foil.
Quatrain IX and X from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám (5th ed.)
by Edward FitzGerald
Morning a thousand Roses brings, you say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
And this first Summer month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.
But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot
Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
Or Hatim Tai cry Supper – heed them not.