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The tale of two Romany versions of the Rubaiyat

November 3, 2018

Bob Forrest has been delving into yet another little known area of Rubaiyat studies.  This is the story of two published versions of verses from FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated into Romany, the language of the Roma people or gypsies.  The first of these, containing just one verse in English Romany, was published in 1899.  The second, with 22 verses in Welsh Romany, appeared in 1902.

FP to 1902 version by Augustus John

The full story of these two Romany translations is contained in a special article on Bob’s web site,  Something of the flavour of the study can be seen from Bob’s introduction to the larger 1902 version.  He says:

“Translations of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat into foreign languages do not normally arouse much enthusiasm in me: interest, yes, but enthusiasm, no. But the Romany Rubaiyat (Potter #507) is not like so many others – it involves key participants in the Rubaiyat story in a merry–go–round of such readable unorthodoxy and even scandal, that it merits special attention.“

The story is indeed a fascinating and absorbing one.  It involves significant figures such as Augustus John, Francis Hindes Groome and George Borrow, as well as John Sampson, the translator of the 1902 Romany edition.  There is a complex network of relationships, involving several Romany ladies and some unconventional life styles.  Bob has done his usual thorough research into the subject, and he presents it all in a very readable way, with many illustrations.  This is an article well worth looking at, and we are grateful to Bob for sharing the results of his research with us all.

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