Garry Garrard has sent us this interesting news of a place dear to the heart of Edward FitzGerald.
I used to live in Bedford until 10 years ago and I came to know quite a bit about Edward FitzGerald’s frequent visits there. In my book (details below) I said that he must have done much of his early work on the Rubaiyat during visits to the house of his close friend, William Kenworthy Browne (see EFG letters, June 5, 1857, from which you can conclude that here he did some of his Latin versions). I concluded the comments with the sad news that the house – Goldington Hall – was derelict and likely, at best, to be converted into apartments. I was privately concerned that the whole property might be burned accidentally (or even intentionally) resulting in demolition and the building of yet another estate.
I recently returned to Bedford and I received some confused input about Goldington Hall from old friends. I investigated and I am delighted to say that all my fears have been allayed. There was a fire at Goldington Hall in 2009 or 2010, but it must have been a modest one, resulting only in repairs to part of the roof. The house was subsequently bought by the Manor Building Preservation Trust and has been renovated and modernised to make it suitable for (very luxurious!) modern living. It is now on sale, as a seven bedroom, six bathroom property with two acres, for £3.4million. You can find the details on this link: http://www.chewtonrose.co.uk/CWR080608076 . There are 30 photos. So the house lives again.
It’s nice to hear a story like that these days. We are sure that Edward FitzGerald would be glad.
* Garry Garrard A Book of Verse: The Biography of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 2007.
Only a few days are left to hurry down to Tehran for an exhibition of calligraphy works of Khayyám’s poems in the University of Tehran. The collection which includes Khayyam Latin calligraphy was created by the Iranian calligrapher Mojtaba Karami who has vast experiences in the art. Some 30 works of the artist have been displayed at the exhibition, depicting some selected poems of Khayyam’s famous quatrains in ten different languages.
The exhibition started Sunday, February 16, and will run until February 19, at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Tehran.
From: Press TV, February 17, 2014
Sehdev Singh from Visakhapatnam, a city in the State of Andhra Pradesh, India has sent us information about a rare translation of the Rubaiyat, and some comments on a Spiritual Interpretation of the verses.
In a historic town of Vizianagaram, just 55 kms. from Visakhapatnam, during the twentieth century, there lived a great scholar by the name, Sri Adibhat Narayandas who was proficient in Sanskrit and many other languages. He was a great devotee of God and publically sang the praises and the stories of the Lord. When he read Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of “The Rubaiyat,” he decided to learn Persian and then study the master-piece. In his translation of the book, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam, published in 1932, he writes: “By a deep study of Omar’s original quatrains, and Edward Fitzgerald’s English translation thereof, I translated both of the texts into Sanskrit and Atchha-Telugu verse…..I translated Fitzgerald into Sanskrit of the Anustub metre, into Telugu of the Kandam metre, and the original text (Persian) into Giti and one of the Bhujangi metres of Sanskrit.”
Sri Narayandas’ book has been out of print for quite a quite long time. Sehdev Singh reports ‘It took me four years to locate this book and only recently I found it in the Central Library of Andhra University. I was allowed to take a photocopy of the entire book. I gave one copy of the photocopied book to Mr Marcel Bassirian and his wife Nadia Azzizadeh of Iran who attended a workshop on Sunyoga organized be me here in Visakhapatnam last month.’
Sehdev Singh adds: ‘The most important and divinely authoritative work of interpretation of the Rubaiyat, I believe, was done of India’s great yogi, Sri Paramahansa Yogananda in his book entitled “Wine of the Mystic – The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – A Spiritual Interpretation.” It is published by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, founded by him in 1920 [there is an edition published in Los Angeles in 1994, with extensive illustrations]. In this book, Sri Yoganda has given spiritual interpretation along with practical application of the verses of the Rubaiyat. I recommend this book to your readers.’
Finally, Sehdev Singh asks whether it is possible to have an official version in Persian of all the available verses of “The Rubaiyat” along with English transliteration and English translation? Comments please.
Bob Forrest sends the following post in response to an earlier post “Reply to Omar“
I hadn’t heard of Alfred Fox’s Reply to Omar before Jos’s posting about it, and thankfully I managed to acquire a copy of it for my own collection, as it is certainly an interesting example of a Christian response to Omar’s agnosticism and Epicureanism. There is another such which, alas, I haven’t been able to acquire – N.B. Ripley’s Omar or Christ? (New York, 1914), so if anyone reading this has a copy, I would be very grateful if I could buy or beg a photocopy or scan of it (it is only 20 pages long.) Meanwhile, I do have a few others, and the following is extracted from my forthcoming website.
Condé B Pallen’s book, The New Rubaiyat & Other Poems was published (in London) in 1920, though it was first published America in 1898. Pallen is known today mainly as one of the editors of the great Catholic Encyclopedia, a definitive reference work first published in 16 volumes between 1907 and 1914, so, not surprisingly, he was more than a little aghast at FitzOmar. (I use FitzOmar deliberately, for though Pallen addresses Omar, he does so in the format of FitzGerald; plus it was precisely FitzGerald’s rendering of Omar which was seen by many as a great moral threat.)
Pallen’s New Rubaiyat opens with an address to:
Old Omar, subtle weaver of the skein
Of doubt entangled in thy muddled brain.
It then goes on (p.12) to accuse Omar – and all sceptics, in effect – of being arrogant in their presumption in even trying to fathom the ways of God:
You thought to compass with your little span
The wide abysses of creation’s plan,
And finite measure infinite
You – you would be God, who are but man.
Another, rather different type of example is Rose Roy’s Rubaiyat of the Rose, privately published in America in 1941, in which the author undertakes to paraphrase every verse of FitzGerald’s fourth edition. The book is printed with FitzGerald’s verses on the left hand pages and Roy’s parodies of them on the right hand pages. The book’s cover bears an image of the Holy Bible with a rose clasped within its pages (see illustration), this being indicative of the intention of the author to take her readers on a spiritual reinterpretation of The Rubaiyat. But this is not a critical reinterpretation. Rather it is one which sees in Omar’s verses, at least if you squint a bit and think laterally, a strangely Christian spiritual outlook. Not that she claims that Omar was a closet Christian – rather she sees that Omar’s (or FitzGerald’s) verses, given a bit of a tweak, can convey a Christian message. To that end her own verses are accompanied by Biblical references for the more dedicated of her readers to follow up, if they so wish.
Here, for example, is verse 21, whose meaning changes dramatically when FitzGerald’s “Cup that clears” becomes “Faith that clears”:
Ah, my Beloved, give me the Faith that clears
Today of past Regrets and future Fears;
Tomorrow ? Why, Tomorrow I shall be
Myself with Yesterday’s unnumbered years.
Again, verses 63 – 64 read thus:
Oh, threats of Hell, and Hopes of Paradise!
One fills with fear, the other seeks the Prize:
Divine Laws are certain – the rest is Lies:
The Spirit once created – never dies.
‘Tis not strange that there are myriads who
Have pierced this Veil of Darkness through
For One returned and told us of the Road,
That we may fill our Lamps and travel too.
That is, Christ’s return from the dead is all the proof a Christian needs of the promise of an afterlife.
Another example of a spiritual reaction to The Rubaiyat, but more hostile to FitzOmar than Rose Roy’s, is George Frederic Viett’s New Rubaiyat from a Southern Garden (New York, 1915.) Viett’s theme is “Man and his Destiny …the Pageantry of Time” (v.2), and for him “the Rising of the Sun of Faith” will smite “the hosts of Darkness and of Doubt” (v.3) – including, of course, Omar. “Bring thou old Khayyam’s Verse”, he urges his readers in v.9, “and let us seek / With him, the Pathway to the Heart’s Desire.” But he warns his readers (v.25):
Beware this Persian rhyme! And here confess
We pore the Page but for its loveliness,
Holding our Faith despite the siren chant
That lures to Doubt with Melody’s caress.
One of the major complaints again FitzOmar, of course, is that the sublimity of the poetry masks the moral dangers of its carpe diem philosophy. Here again is v.30:
When then his luring Lines you pensive read,
Beware the Spell that would thy foot-steps lead
Adown the paths unblest of Faith and Hope!
Take them but for their Beauty – not their Creed.
One of Viett’s primary concerns is the reality of an Afterlife, on which score he refutes Omar’s fatalistic “Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie” with his verse 43:
Thus much, old Omar, I’ll not yield to thee –
I will nor hail nor praise thy blasphemy;
I do protest – by Love’s Immortal Soul
Protest – the Dust is not my Destiny!
The body might go to dust, but not the soul. Here is verse 124:
Life’s meaning! Hast thou not read it – why then
Thou hast not lived! These multitudes of Men
That went Before, they left the Record clear –
That Clay is of the Earth, the Soul of Heav’n.
A different type of example again – it doesn’t use FitzGerald’s format for a start – is Fred Emerson Brooks’s The Gravedigger. The first edition of the poem was published (again in America) in 1916. By 1922 it had acquired the subtitle: “An Answer to the Rubaiyat” (see illustration.) Set in a graveyard, and purportedly involving the poet in conversation with a gravedigger there, Brooks covers many familiar Omarian issues of human life and death, morality, the after-life and, of course, the existence of God. Thus, for example, verse 36 looks at the limitations of Man’s conception of God:
Why doubt that which we can not understand?
We can not comprehend the things that be:
The ant upon the barren desert land
Believes the world is flat and made of sand,
Because, forsooth, it never saw the sea.
As for anyone who doubts the existence of God (already dismissed in verse 15 as “the boasting fool”), he surely cannot be serious. Here is verse 38:
This monster world was made to swing in air
By that Electric Will that bids it go.
The Skeptic knows, when reason plays him fair,
Those countless myriad planets everywhere
Are moved by some Celestial Dynamo.
There must be many more such replies to FitzOmar out there, and as Jos says, the field seems not to have been systematically explored, so it is to be hoped that readers will send in accounts of their own encounters with such stuff. Finally, it is worth bearing in mind that Robert Browning’s poem Rabbi ben Ezra was one of the earliest – if not the earliest – reply to FitzOmar, being first published in 1864. Though Browning never actually said so, his poem was almost certainly written in response to reading the first edition of FitzGerald, a copy of which he had been given by Rossetti in 1861.
The New Year ahead of us will mark the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Great War 1914-1918. For many of those involved in those terrible years, the Rubaiyat was an important support and solace, as is shown by the fly-leaf inscriptions of copies from the period. Further evidence that Omar Khayyam was there, comes from the archives of an internment camp for civilians, at Ruhleben, a few miles from Berlin. The site of the camp was originally a harness-racing track. In it were between 4,000 and 5,500 civilian male prisoners from the Allied Powers, most of them British. These were mainly people who had the misfortune to be caught in Germany at the outbreak of war. (For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruhleben_internment_camp.)
The camp became something of a self-contained community, with a wide range of activities developed, financed through the American Embassy. This enabled goods to be sent in and/or bought from local suppliers, and shops and markets were established. Sports were important including football, cricket, rugby, golf, and tennis, while cultural activities covered music like The Mikado with orchestra and costumes, a drama society and a printing press, producing books and a magazine which was published intermittently all the way through until 1917.
In the October 1915 edition no. 9 of this magazine, then called In Ruhleben Camp, there are twelve quatrains parodying the Rubaiyat, published as ‘Translated from the original by S.E.J.’ under the title ‘Omar Khayyam at Ruhleben’. In the May 1916 edition no. 3 of The Ruhleben Camp Magazine (the name was changed) there are a further eight quatrains under the title ‘Omar Revisits Ruhleben’. A selection of the verses is given below. They highlight the relevance of the Rubaiyat’s message of resignation in the face of fate, to those like the camp members for whom ‘The Time is Now – to pass it as we may,/Until Deliverance shall come at last!’ .From October 2015 Wake! For the Glories of the Rising Sun Remind us of another day begun. There is the old routine to live again, The weary round before the Day is done. Hark how the cock crows welcoming in the day! Arise my Little Ones to work or play; And cheat the ultimate Design of Fate; And pass the all too slothful Hours away! ….. For here and there, above, below, about, Though you may look for ways of getting out, ‘Tis Labour vain and ill-repaid, as some In Stadtvogtei would prove to you, no doubt. …. A wonderous, motley crowd are we, and queer, Made more so, possibly, in the long year Of tedious Trivialities and Talk, Sans Wine, sans Cash, sans Women, and Sans Beer. ….. From May 2016 ….. Recumbent on a wood-stuffed Mattress, I Now hear a voice within the Barrack cry, “Forth! leave thy Bath, and join the waiting Throng, Nor stay that soapy Hide of thine to dry!” Another cries: “What matters your Attire? Go, bear this can to yonder Boiler Fire; Condensed Milk , Helvetian Bread, and Jam Will make a Breakfast such as we desire! A Suit-case from the Cubby Hole I bring,, And, in it all my Winter Garments fling My rubber shoon and nailed clogs I cast Therein, and laugh, for lo! it is the Spring! ….
Copies of the original magazines can be seen in the library of the Imperial War Museum in south London, and some other libraries.
Omariana is a very valuable source of research and news on topics to do with the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. It has been produced for many years by Jos Coumans and the Netherlands Omar Khayyam Society. It was issued as a news bulletin which was sent out to subscribers, first in print form, and latterly as a pdf-file by email. It was recently announced that from now on, the bulletin has been transformed into a weblog: http://omariana.nl
Omariana will continue to inform about new translations, editions, articles plus more specific information on Omar Khayyám and his Rubáiyát. Those interested can follow the new blog, and receive alerts to new posts by registering through the “Follow” button on the blog. Just enter your email address to sign up. We plan to co-ordinate the operation of the OmarKhayyamRubaiyat blog and the new Omariana blog site so that the posts are complementary. There is a link to the Omariana blog in the righthand column of this screen, plus an RSS feed giving details of the new posts on the site.
Previous issues of Omariana are still available on the following website: http://www.omarkhayyamnederland.com/omariana/index.html. This site also contains information on the various national Omar Khayyam societies, translations of the Rubaiyat in different languages, recent publications and other useful material. It is well worth consulting.
Recently I purchased a copy of a small book called Reply to Omar by Alfred Fox. Although I was not specifically interested in what Bob Forrest calls ‘Omariana Eccentrica’, it was just his series of articles on this subject that I decided to spend a few dollars for what appears to be a very nice unpretentious volume.
There is a rather large number of interpretations, adaptations, re-translations or whatever you may call it, that comment on Omar’s philosophy or FitzGerald’s interpretation of it. This is another specimen, in which Alfred Fox declares that “Omar’s dark scepticism, agnosticism, and logical epicureanism, with which we may disagree, is made music of by the equally sad and hopeless Fitzgerald. His attractive and incomparable poetic setting (…) is a masterly expression of the hopelessness of life.” However, Khayyám’s stanzas exclude the promise of Eternal Life. Poor Omar saw no possibility of cure and turned to the wine jar, “to forget the mystery of life and death, cut himself loose from the Truth, and suffered the results of such folly”.
The stanzas by Alfred Fox are presented in the hope that “they may be of value in helping other hopeless souls, and in providing a healthier a and happier Christian challenge to the gloomy and godless philosophy of Omar”. The first of the twenty-two stanzas reads as follows:
Your Hand had written, ere You Went Your Way:
Imperishable Lines it left, to stay
As Entertainment for the Passing Few,
But not a True Believer’s Faith to sway.
As far as I know, this field of Omarianism is not very well explored, in contrast to the parody domain of the Rubáiyát, where we have some studies by Jos Biegstraaten and Annmarie Drury.
The booklet was published by S. John Bacon Publishing Company, Melbourne, Australia. No year is given, but some sources give 1957. It has a short introduction by Alfred Fox. My copy has a gift inscription by Fox, dated 1957. 22pp., landscape, 16mo.