Skip to content

More things to go on the Rubaiyat trays

June 7, 2017

Bob Forrest has sent us details of a Rubaiyat decanter which he bought recently and which would go nicely on one of the Rubaiyat trays mentioned in earlier posts, with some Rubaiyat wine in it? – see .  

Bob writes as follows.

I bought this Rubaiyat decanter on ebay several months ago now. It is about 24cm tall, from its base to the top of the stopper. Unfortunately, it bears no maker’s mark, and as a result I haven’t been able to date it, so if any of your blog readers knows anything about it, please let me know!  Please add your comments below.

Rubaiyat roses in bloom again

June 5, 2017

These is the season that roses are in bloom in our gardens.  Roger Paas sent us this picture of a rose called Rubaiyat seen recently by a family member in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in the USA.  Alas this rose is apparently not available for sale in the UK.  It has a great colour and lovely looking blooms but is not quite the type of rose that is supposed to have been on the graves of Omar Khayyam and Edward FitzGerald, which is more of an old fashioned climber.  The story of that rose, and a picture of a modern version of the rose, can be seen in an article in a past issue of Indiran magazine which is produced by the Ancient India and Iran Trust in Cambridge – see – .

The article and the story of the rose were also covered in an earlier post on this blog – see

Research Day on Omar Khayyam in Leiden Sat. 27th May 2017

May 31, 2017

We recently took part in this Research Day on Khayyam and his Rubaiyat which was held at the University of Leiden and organised by members of the University and the Netherlands Omar Khayyam Society.  It was a very interesting and enjoyable occasion, giving participants the chance to meet old friends, exchange information and views, and learn about new research in the area of Khayyam, FitzGerald and Rubaiyat studies.  Brief details of the papers presented are shown below.  It is hoped that a fuller set of papers can be published in due course.  Our personal thanks go to Asghar Seyed-Gohrab and Jos Coumans for their efforts in setting up and running the event.


13.00 Words of Welcome

13.15 Bill Martin & Sandra Mason

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the West.   How Edward FitzGerald & Edward Cowell made it popular

Three key topics were covered:  the history of Rubaiyat publication in the West, based on updated statistics;  the key role played by Edward Cowell as well as Edward FitzGerald in making the Rubaiyat accessible to Western readers;  an analysis of some of the factors contributing to the continuing popularity of the poem on a world-wide basis.

 14.00 Nasrollah Pourjavady

Omar Khayyam’s Idea of Being in His Quatrains

Unfortunately owing to visa problems, Prof Pourjavady was not able to attend the meeting, but Asghar Seyed-Gohrab presented a summary of part of his paper, dealing with the evidence from Khayyam’s own writings on his religious views and his position in relation to the Sufis.

 14.45 Asghar Seyed-Gohrab

Transgressing the Law: Khayyam and his Antinomian Views

This paper focussed particularly on modern Iranian views of Khayyam and his views, certain of which are at odds with orthodox Islamic teaching.  It included interesting examples of the use of Khayyam’s thinking by leading religious scholars in Iran as a basis for clarifying Islamic teaching.

15.15 Break

15.45 Jos Coumans

Comparative tables of the Calcutta & Bodleian quatrains

Jos Coumans’ invaluable work on concordances for different versions of the Rubaiyat is available on his dedicated web site . In this paper, Jos reviewed the different translations of the Rubaiyat that are available and some of the problems involved in comparing them, and showed the results of his recent work on the Calcutta manuscript of the poem.

 16.15 Rokus de Groot

Musical approaches to Omar Khayyâm’s Rubâiyât in the Netherlands

This presentation focused on modern musical settings of verses of the Rubaiyat by Dutch composers, include one by Rokus de Groot himself.  He played extracts from a variety of pieces, providing valuable introduction to these extracts which enhanced our awareness of their distinctive features.

17.00 Concluding remarks

There was a valuable Q&A session after each of the presentations as well as a short concluding discussion.  The issue of how to make the Rubaiyat approachable to younger generations was raised as it had been at the end of the Research Day in Cambridge last year – see

 At the end of the afternoon, there was a chance to see the section of the University in which the words of one of the verses of the Rubaiyat (in English) have been mounted on the walls (see below).  Initiatives such as this provide excellent publicity for the poem to potential new readers among the students.

Some things to go on the Rubaiyat themed trays

May 31, 2017

In response to the recent exchanges on Rubaiyat themed trays (see, Fred Diba has sent us an image of something that might be placed on such a tray, plus of course at least a couple of glasses.  Since the label on the bottle is difficult to photograph properly, he has transcribed the content as follows.

Barranco Oscuro presents
de Omar Khayyam

“En una taberna, pedi​ a un viejo sabio
que me informara sobre la suerte de aquellos que ya han partido
Me respondió:
Ya no volverán. Es todo lo que sé. ¡Bebe vino!

It is a bottle from the winery Barranco Oscuro (2008), produced in Navarra, Spain.  A look at their website suggests that for each year’s label their choose a different quatrain to put on the label – see .

Fred also draws readers attention to an alternative source of Rubaiyat vintage – the Rubaiyat Vineyard in Sonoma, CA: .

We can add to this collection two bottles, one each from Egypt and India, which we have received, and drunk, in recent years.  The relevant labels are shown below.

The Rubaiyats of John Buckland Wright (1897–1954) and Anthony Reid (1916–2003)

May 24, 2017

Bob Forrest has been investigating John Buckland Wright and his illustrations of the Rubaiyat which were published by the famous Golden Cockerel Press in 1938.  In the process he has discovered fascinating comments by the artist on his approach to this work,  and various other details of additional illustrations for the poem that Buckland Wright created.  This work has led Bob on to look at the life and works of Anthony Reid, who knew Buckland Wright and created an important Check List of his book illustrations.  Reid also produced an unusual Rubaiyat version of his own (see below), possibly based on A J Arberry’s translation of a forged manuscript, published in 1952.

The results of Bob’s extensive research are published on his own website – see word of warning to readers is in order.  As Bob puts it : “If this essay were a film, I would have to warn viewers that it contains ‘Adult Material’.”  Buckland Wright’s main illustrations are just very mildly erotic – we show one example here.  But his additional work is much more explicit in presenting heterosexual love, while Reid’s version is strongly homo-erotic.  What Bob has documented are examples of what may have been a fairly extensive sub-culture in Rubaiyat interpretation and illustrations.  As usual he has put together a very thorough and well researched study.

Omar in the Media: some recent examples from North America

May 22, 2017

When people seek to prove that the Rubaiyat is still alive in popular idiom and culture, the examples of quotes by Martin Luther King and Bill Clinton are often used.  Danton O’Day has sent us two splendid examples of more up to date references to the poem.  He writes as follows.

 Recently Rubáiyát enthusiasts have been working on ways to bring more attention to Edward FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam. It seems that a famous US author might be lending a hand. Over the past several years I’ve noticed with pleasure that James Lee Burke has alluded to content and lines from the poems. In 2014, in his book Wayfaring Stranger, he was more direct with the quote, “Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!” (quatrain 12, 2nd Version). His next book, House of the Rising Sun reflects on the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam as one of the items owned by a lead character who was a soldier in WWI. While this might seem like minor support for the Rubáiyát cause, it is important to recognise just who this author is. James Lee Burke is considered by a multitude of major newspapers, critics and other authors to be America’s best living author. Words like “master”, “genius” and “American treasure” are often used to describe his ability as a writer of fiction about the Detective Dave Robicheaux and a, more or less, historical series on the Holland family. To have someone of his stature mention the Rubáiyát will hopefully encourage some Google enthusiasts to learn more about Fitz and Omar’s poetry.

A second example comes from the world of television.  Of all the nightshirts one might expect the American Secretary of State to wear, it would not be one bearing the image of a skeleton. To be fair, we are talking about the most interesting Secretary of State or, more simply, “Madame Secretary” Elizabeth McCord, wonderfully played by Téa Leone in the eponymous TV drama. On a recent 2017 episode titled “Convergence” she is preparing for bed while talking with her husband. What stands out in this interaction is not her words but the fact she is wearing a nightshirt bearing the image of a skeleton. But not any old skeleton—it is one from the cover of a Grateful Dead album cover. You’d have to be from the same generation as this writer to remember the famous double album from 1971. Known formally as the Skulls and Roses album, it became the band’s first gold album. The cover image of a skeleton with a wreath of roses on its head became an instant classic. While the Grateful Dead gets the credit for the picture, the artist who did the work was Edmund J. Sullivan. He did the picture to illustrate verse 26 from Edward FitzGerald’s first edition.  (Our image is of the Sullivan original.) 

So, the Rubaiyat still lives in the world of 21st century popular culture.  Does anyone else have other examples or quotes to share on this?

New edition of Omariana available

May 22, 2017


A new edition of Omariana, the newsletter produced by Jos Coumans, Secretary of the Netherlands Omar Khayyam Society, is now available.  This is an invaluable compendium of what is new in Khayyam and Rubaiyat studies, and it gives information on forthcoming events and new translations, books, articles and more.  You can subscribe to received successive editions by e-mail.  Just go to , and fill in the form with your details.

Issue number 3 of Spring 2017 contains more information about the programme for the forthcoming Omar Khayyam Research Day being held in Leiden on Saturday 27th May, as well as details of a variety of interesting recently published material.

An item that caught our eyes is an article by Professor Juan Cole entitled The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and Muslim secularism (Studies in People’s History, 3 (2016), Nr. 2, pp. 138-150).*  We are grateful to another Rubaiyat colleague who simultaneously sent us a copy of this paper.  The author discusses possible reasons for the production of collections of verses under the name of Omar Khayyam from the mediaeval period onwards, linking them with elements of Muslim scepticism developing over the period and subsequently.  The new Omariana also contains details of a novel based on the life of Omar Khayyam (currently in German) and a catalogue of audio material which contains various recordings of the Rubaiyat in different translations.

*See for more information.