Here is a note on another unusual Rubaiyat - sent to us by Bob Forrest, to whom many thanks. The content has relevance, inter alia, to 21st century discussions on religion and science. There is more information on Bob’s website – see the link at the end.
Walter E. Holloway’s Rubaiyat of Today, subtitled “For Thinkers and Dreamers”, was published in Los Angeles, in 1938. It looks forward to the establishment of a Utopian society of social equality to be achieved through the pursuit of Science and an adherence to Natural Law, and with the abolition of repressive artificial man-made institutions.
One of the repressive institutions to go, almost needless to say, is the Church, with its Priests. Here are verses 39-41 (there are 155 in all):In looking back across the fear-filled Span Of Time on Earth, since Man arose as Man, We see him moulding Gods Today the same As in old Asia where he first began. And everywhere the Priests have been aligned With Tyrants for the Plunder of Mankind: The King could not have bound the Hands of Man Had not the Priest put shackles on his Mind. Whenever War has ridden East or West, And Slaughter-lust has raged with savage Zest The Priests of some mad God with shuttered Eyes The bestial Carnival of Blood have blessed.
We need Scientists not Priests to build the New World, he tells us. Here is verse 98:The patient Man of Science found the Way, He banished Plagues that cursed the olden Day, Death-dealing Plagues that still would rage unchecked If Man depended on his Priests to pray.
On a less contentious front, here is one of Holloway’s nods to old Omar (verse 142):Dear Omar, could I share a Jug with you, I might not learn which is the False and True, But I should hear your Song, and that methinks, My failing Hope and Strength would soon renew.
For more details of this interesting little book, see the write-up on my website, in Appendix 12m (right at the end), at: http://bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/Appendices/app12.htm
Better still, get a copy of the book itself – it doesn’t seem to be particularly rare, just little known.
‘A Jug of Wine, A Loaf of Bread – and Thou; Isis, Iraq and the real Islamic caliphates’ is the title of a provocative piece by Tom Chivers, posted recently on The Telegraph blog. The article compares the ideas and philosophy of Khayyam and the history of the early Caliphate, with the views currently being promulgated by ISIS, the fundamentalist Sunni group fighting in Iraq and Syria. The author refers to an earlier post on this blog ‘The Caliph behind Khayyam’ (see http://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/the-caliph-behind-khayyam/).
The Telegraph blog item can be accessed on http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100278157/a-jug-of-wine-a-loaf-of-bread-and-thou-is-this-the-islamic-caliphate-isis-imagine/ It is worth a read.
Bob Forrest has sent us this interesting contribution. Please note his request for information at the end.
One of my favourite – and one of the rarest – illustrated editions of The Rubayat is that published by the Alice Harriman Company of New York in 1911, and illustrated with charcoal-drawings by Isabel Hawxhurst Hall. The layout of the book, and indeed the style of the illustrations, clearly owes much to the more famous Vedder edition, and yet Hall’s illustrations are both skilled and fascinating in their own right. Though information about Harriman is quite readily available, there seems to be little available about Hall. This is a pity, as one of the few references to her that I have come across (an article entitled “Young Brooklyn Girl Wins Fame with Her Omar Illustrations”, published in the Pittsburgh Press, November 12, 1911) makes it clear that she was only 23 years old when she did her remarkable illustrations. I have been unable to find anything else illustrated by her, nor any reference to any subsequent career as an artist (her real passion was apparently oil-painting.)
So, what became of her? There is a diary of hers preserved at the Brooklyn Historical Society, but I regret to say that, living in the UK, I have not yet been able to pop in and see it, so that I am hoping that someone reading this may already have done so, or live near enough to do so now – I would be more than happy to pay for photocopies / scans of it. Also, of course, I would be glad to hear from anyone who has managed to unearth any other information about this remarkable young artist.
For those interested: The cited Pittsburgh Press article can be found online at:
The Hall diary at the Brooklyn Historical Society is referenced with a few details in: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/bhs/arc_112_webb/dscref18.html
The Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara, has set to music a number of verses from Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Originally for baritone and orchestra, a version of the piece for voice and piano has also been completed. This was performed recently by the famous baritone Gerald Finley with accompanist Julius Drake in a recital at the Wigmore Hall in London. There is an extensive review of the performance on the following link:
and more information on:
If anyone knows of a recording of this piece, please post a comment. Thanks.
BBC Radio 4 has a regular and lively discussion programme called In Our Time which goes out each week at 9.00 am on Thursdays. It is chaired by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg; he leads a panel of three experts, who are usually academics in the field being discussed. This coming Thursday 22nd May, the subject to be discussed will be The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The experts joining in the programme will be Professor Charles Melville of the University of Cambridge, Professor Daniel Karlin of the University of Bristol, and Professor Kirstie Blair of the University of Stirling.
More information on the programme is available on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b043xpkd. If you can’t manage to listen at 9.00 am on Thursday, the programme will be available on the BBC I-player. It should make interesting listening.
Bob Forrest has sent us the following news of an unusual Rubaiyat edition.
I recently acquired a small copy (13.5cm by 10.0cm) of the Rubaiyat published as “Persian Poets No.1” by T.N. Foulis of Edinburgh and London in 1905. It is Potter #28. The front cover (Fig. 1), however, is neatly stamped or printed “Cotillon, 30th Sept. 1909”, and on the insides of the front cover (Fig. 2) and back cover (Fig. 3) are very neatly pasted what are perhaps best described as cast lists for seven “Figures” – that is, for seven masques or dance formations, presumably accompanied by sung or recited versions of the Rubaiyat verses associated with them. (The Cotillon was originally an 18th century dance for four couples, but in the course of the 19th century it apparently evolved to include more couples with more complex dance figures. From the cast lists of Figs. 2 and 3, though, there don’t seem to be many ‘rules’ for how many people are to be involved, couples or otherwise – hence my guess use of the word masque above.)
The titled and presumably wealthy people involved in the cast-lists, plus the professional neatness with which the cast lists have been pasted in, and with which the “Cotillon” inscription on the front cover has been applied, perhaps suggest that the publisher Foulis was commissioned to produce a special imprint of Potter #28 precisely for this event. If that is the case, there may well be other examples of such special issues ‘out there’, not just printed by Foulis, but by other publishers as well. Do any readers know of any such ?
Fig. 4 is the title page; Fig. 5 shows verse 1 (first edition) but also shows on the facing page that it was printed in Edinburgh (there is no indication of where the Cotillon of 1909 took place, unfortunately – but can we guess Scotland, and near Edinburgh? Many of the names in the cast have Scottish associations in the vicinity of Edinburgh); and Fig. 6 gives details of the Persian Poets’ Series and of J.K.M. Shirazi’s book The Life of Omar al-Khayyami (also published by Foulis in 1905.)