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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.

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