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Rubaiyat performances and crowd funding

December 9, 2014

Jos Coumans has provided us with links to two unusual performances of the Rubaiyat in the USA.

Back in early November, the Katha Dance Theatre put on a performance in Minneapolis entitled “The Rubaiyat — Life in a Day”. This event was described as follows.

The haunting, melancholy musings of Persian philosopher-poet Omar Khayyam are brought to life by choreographer Rita Mustaphi and the dancers of Katha Dance Theatre Company. Backed by design projections, dramaturgy and digital Illustrations, a talented cast of guest artists — including composer/vocalist Maryam Yusefzadeh, actor/musician David Jordan Harris, composer/multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Keefe, and David Stenshoel and David Burk of the world-music ensemble Robayat — transform Khayyam’s seminal work The Rubaiyat into gorgeous movement and evocative dance.

There is more information on any readers of this blog went to this performance, or know of any repeats in other locations, please comment.

handshadowsMeanwhile a new US group, Hand Shadows Productions, is planning a stage adaptation of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, under the title ‘Poetry, dance, music, the beauty and the mystery of life and death’. The group is planning two performances apiece in Washington DC and Baltimore, starting in late February 2015.  They are seeking ‘crowd funding’ for the events – see The piece is written as a dialogue between characters from the text and from the creators’ imaginations, and it will combine poetry, music, and dance.   Casting and rehearsals have already commenced.  For more information, go to

Unusual versions of the Rubaiyat – additional comments on some earlier posts

December 5, 2014

Over the past year, Bob Forrest has contributed several interesting posts on rare or unusual published versions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He has now augmented his comments here with more extensive material on his own website. This new material is listed below together with links to the relevant web pages and our original post.

Fig.10The Isabel Hawxhurst Hall Rubaiyat. A look at the rare edition of The Rubaiyat published by the Alice Harriman Company of New York in 1911, and illustrated with some extraordinary charcoal drawings by the 23 years old artist, Isabel Hawxhurst Hall. [Original post –]

Frank Chesworth and the “Clarion” Series of Omar Khayyam Postcards. A look at the six Rubaiyat-related postcards designed by the young artist Frank Chesworth in 1904 for the Socialist newspaper “The Clarion”. The article also looks at the keen interest of the paper’s founder-editor, Robert Blatchford, in The Rubaiyat, as well as looking at a range of work by the little known and talented artist, Frank Chesworth, who committed suicide at the early age of 38. [Original post –]

Rubaiyat for a Cotillon. A look at an edition of The Rubaiyat adapted for use in a series of seven masques or dance formations at an aristocratic party, probably somewhere near Edinburgh, on September 30th, 1909. [Original post –

Bob has also added some intriguing comments on Martin Luther and Omar? - a look at the origins of the Omarian couplet, still from time to time falsely attributed to Luther, “Who loves not women, wine, and song / will stay a fool his whole life long.” . We shall comment on these in a latter post on this blog.

Austin Torney’s new blog and new Rubaiyat-related publications

November 28, 2014



Austin Torney is an artist and poet who has published an illustrated version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and versions of his own poems in Rubaiyat format, also with illustrations. His original Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was published in book form in 2009, and this has now been updated in a number of different formats available via Amazon. Details of these and Austin’s other illustrated works are shown on his new blog site. Go to for more information.

Opportunity to learn more about Edward FitzGerald, Bedford, and the Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám

November 2, 2014

Garry Garrard has alerted us to a special one day course of interest to students of FitzGerald and the Rubaiyat, being run in Bedford on Saturday 8th November

f01-1iefgd28scfThis day course is being organised by The Retirement Education Centre in Bedford and is presented by Dr Stephen Rogers. The title of the day is Edward FitzGerald, Bedford, and the Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám, and the accompanying description is as follows.

“Ezra Pound claimed that FitzGerald’s version of the Rubáiyat was ‘the only good poem of Vict[orian] era that has got beyond a fame de cénacle.’ Indeed its fame reached across America and Laurens van der Post recorded that it was still known by heart in remote provinces of the Soviet Union in the 1960s. We will discover that FitzGerald was profoundly influenced by his visits to Bedford and the surrounding countryside in the 1830s, 40s and 50s; and whilst it might be too much to describe him as a great Bedfordian, it is well to acknowledge his debt to the town. We will examine the man and his works. How accurate is his version of Omar’s work? Can the work of a translator of poetry ever be just the exact repetition of work in one language into another? Why was FitzGerald’s version so important? “

There are further details on . Course number is WEF 08A, cost £24 to non-members. You can book online, or by telephone 01234 302203/4.

Edward FitzGerald’s organ ‘found’ in Essex church

October 20, 2014

Garry Garrard was visiting St Mary’s Church in Saffron Walden, Essex, when he ‘discovered’ the organ that Edward FitzGerald had in his home in Woodbridge.  Here is his report.

On the back of the small organ is the following caption. ‘This organ was built by Bevington around 1870 for Edward FitzGerald of Woodbridge (famous for originally translating the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam).  Following his death it was moved to Woodbridge Roman Catholic Church where it accompanied weekly services until 2000 when it was moved (here) to St. Mary’s, Saffron Walden. It is on loan to the church and is jointly owned by Andrew Malcolm and Peter De Vile.’

Thomas Wright, one of FitzGerald’s earliest biographers, describes…an organ on which he often played, always from memory, songs from old operas and glees – little pieces from Handel or Mozart. “We often”, says one of [the boys who read to FitzGerald] “passed an hour in that way, especially in the summer twilights, instead of with books.” It was a kind of David’s harp to him – driving away melancholy. “He could get,” says Archdeacon Groome, “such full harmonies out of it as did good to the listener.” ‘

The pictures below show the organ as it is now and a cartoon image of FitzGerald playing the organ, drawn by his friend Charles Keene.

EFGorganFitz by Keene













The specification for the organ is: open diapason 8; stopped diapason treble 8; stopped diapason bass 8; dulciana 8; principal 4; flute 2. Bevington and Sons, Organ Builders, was based in Rose Yard, Rose Court, in London, but later moved to Greek Street, Soho. It was started in 1794 by Henry Bevington, who had been apprenticed to Ohrmann and Nutt, successors to the famous Snetzler. In 1851 the firm employed 8 men, 3 boys and 1 apprentice. Bevingtons was severely damaged during the ‘blitz’ of 1941, and was bought by the organ firm of Hill, Norman & Beard in 1950.

The organs of St. Martin’s in the Fields, St Paul’s Church Covent Garden, the Foundling Hospital, St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, were also built by Bevington & Sons, as well as those in many provincial churches and even private homes! There is a renowned (and untouched) Bevington organ in St. Mary’s Church, Rock Gardens, Brighton. A Bevington organ was installed in the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 1878/9.

New illustrated version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Benny Thomas

September 30, 2014

BennyThomas0914Benny Thomas is an architect, author, artist, and epigramist based in the Netherlands. For several years he has been working on a new English version, with illustrations, of quatrains from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. This work has now been published in a variety of forms. There is an e-book with illustrations, a paperback with illustrations, and a cheaper paperback without illustrations.

More details on the e-book are available on, with links to the other formats. All formats contain some 260 quatrains, plus a foreword by Prof. Mehdi Aminrazavi, the author of The Wine of Wisdom. There is also an introduction by the author explaining his approach to Khayyam’s verses.

As the foreword concludes ‘For those interested in a mystical reading of Khayyām’s quatrains, this collection of poems provides an invaluable insight.’ There is further information about the translation and illustrations on Benny Thomas’ blog

Recently on the web

September 23, 2014

KGOUOn the website of KGOU, a public radio station, licensed to the University of Oklahoma, you can listen to an interview with Austin O’Mally, classical Persian scholar and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago. O’Malley says he was drawn to ancient Persian poetry because of the accessibility of the language. The interview is about ancient Persian poetry, more particularly on Khayyám and Rumi, and their influence on modern culture. There is also a full transcript of the interview.
Go to the KGOU website.



In Church Times, the world’s leading Anglican newspaper, there is a column by Ronald Blythe called “Word from Wormingford”. Blythe told his young neighbours that he once lived near Boulge, the Suffolk village where Edward FitzGerald translated The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. They had driven to his grave and recited what was once one of the most popular poems in the English language, and now he ponders on this meeting with these young boys ….
Read the column


RobinsonFrench historian Jean Stouff, librarian at he University of Tours, published a list of Omar’s illustrators on his website: Les illustrateurs des Robâiyât d’Omar Khayyâm. Here we find the names and (a selection of) illustrations of Thomas Heath and Charles Robinson, Balfour, Pogány, Bull, Fish, Palmer, Buckland Wright and many others. Short biographical notes are also provided.




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