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‘All is Number’ – Pythagoras

March 21, 2021

Charles Mugleston has sent us the following piece which looks at FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat from an unusual perspective. He writes:

1 2 7 72… 1000 – A Genius aiming for Perfection ?

Hardly a page of the noetic – poetic Ruba’iya’t of Omar Khayya’m is turned without the reader / listener being introduced to some form of implicit or explicit number symbolism.

The number Seven for instance with all Its Divine, Cosmic and Human Mysteries wins hands down as The Key to IT All, and yet…

Back in 2008  while doing some research for  a stage presentation of the poem at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich in 2009, I visited Claude Cox Books in Silent Street, Ipswich and happened to meet a man who was looking after the shop for the owner. He told me he owned E.F.G’s copy of the Book of Common Prayer & Psalms with E.F.G’s bookplate designed by W.M.Thackeray which apparently E.F.G used to carry around in his pocket and I certainly now regret not asking him if I could see it.

E J Sullivan Quatrain 38

However, reflecting on that recently and that a quote from Psalm 100 is inscribed on his gravestone” “It is He that has made us and not we ourselves” and remembering that there are 150 Psalms, it moved me to wonder why E.F.G possibly used not one numerical ‘blue print’ or ‘ground plan’ for the poem’s expansion & contraction in all its five editions, but three !!! ?

Do the numbers of the quatrains used… firstly 75, then 110 and then 101 follow certain patterns of thought, of awareness ?  have a certain reason for being there or did they just pour out of the ‘Cornucopia’ as they did… happen spontaneously ? “Light has Its reasons of course”

Well, trying to tune into his mind, reasoning, inspiration, intuition… perhaps we can discern a plausible reason as to why we are offered / given 75 quatrains in the first edition.

Could it be he wanted to share it based on 75 being exactly half the number of the Psalms “And David’s Lips are lock’t”?

Or, was he influenced by the number 72 in the poem “The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute” ? adding his own touches – extra quatrains making it 75 – “a live sparrow”… ?

Did he then throw numerical symbolism to the winds in his efforts to draw more metaphorical water from the well of wisdom of quatrains  that became available to him when he chose to have 110 in the second edition ?

Then, how do we account for his using 101 quatrains for the fifth edition ? His love of pruning maybe ? for he liked to reduce the superfluous be it cutting paintings, poems, prose – which he was quite skilful at – rather more skilful indeed in those particular departments than pruning roses so local reports have it !

Or, could it actually be this… In the Islamic Religion there are the 99 Names of Allah, but in the Zoroastrian Religion of Ancient Persia as recorded in the Zend Avesta – a religion which influenced Buddhism, Christianity and Islam there are 101 Names of Ahura Mazda…AH !

Perhaps, in his reading of what was available to him and maybe through his purchases from Bernard Quaritch maybe such a Sacred number shaped his thought – crowned his Masterpiece helping to provide the underlying rich & resonant roots that give it such a universal appeal. So, I offer this numerical food for thought – a Persian Sweetmeat so to speak both for today being Nowruz and an early Easter Gift, likewise to share as we draw near to the 31st March – Edward Purcell’s /FitzGerald’s birthday remembering also his good friend Alfred Lord Tennyson who mentioned Pythagoras in the Prologue to Tiresias his poetic tribute to E.F.G.

Our thanks to Charles for sharing his thoughts. At this season of Nowruz, we also send greetings to all our readers. Let us hope that 2021/2 proves to be a better year for all of us.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2021 9:59 am

    Martin Kimeldorf has sent us the following comment.

    I really enjoyed the poetry woven into the mysticism in Charles Mugleston’s post. It’s a blend that appeals to me a great deal at this point in my life.

  2. May 5, 2021 11:09 am

    Hello Charles. Apologies for the delay in reply, but I enjoyed your article as I have had a long standing (if sceptical) interest in numerology. My mind goes to the question: “Why are there 153 fishes in John 21.11 ?” A huge amount of ingenuity has been expended on this – see Ethelbert W. Bullinger’s book “Number in Scripture” (1895) p.273-8 – and there is even a Wikipedia page on the number which covers some of the same ground. But the simplest answer surely is: because that’s how many fish happened to be in the net. Sceptical as ever…Bob

    • May 5, 2021 3:42 pm

      Dear Bob,
      Thank you very much for your comment.
      Am pleased you ‘look’ into things “Look to the Rose…” as Fitzomar advises – for as Dante advises we need to look deeply 1. Literally and 2. Allegorically 3. Morally and 4. Mystically to see – intuit things as an Integral Whole because it all ‘Fitz’ together… ! Apperception is to see the Idea behind the symbol.
      One splendid book you might like to look into re the Whole Panorama of Number if you do not know of it already is : The Theoretic Arithmetic of The Pythagoreans by Thomas Taylor (the Platonist). Published by The Prometheus Trust. He knows numbers through and through…
      Thomas Taylor also knew William Blake, who knew Dr Malkin who knew Edward FitzGerald… who added Platonic Thought “High Thinking – Plain Living” to the Ruba’iyat.
      There be treasure yet to discover in them there Ruba’iya’t Hills methinks…

  3. May 5, 2021 5:53 pm

    Yes, I’m familiar with Thomas Taylor and quite a number of his modern disciples, one of whom (also a devotee of Blake) once told me I was “an expendable sub-human zombie”. I’m also familiar with Shakespeare: “Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish / A vapour sometimes like a bear or lion / …/ that nod unto the world / and mock our eyes with air.” In other words, beware that “intuit” doesn’t become “imagine”. Witness Kepler’s wonderful model correlating the orbits of the then known six planets orbiting the Sun with the five Platonic Solids – wonderful and mathematically elegant, but all the same an illusion, blown apart when Uranus was discovered, and with more accurate measurements of orbital dimensions. So, beware how thou treadest in them there Rubaiyat Hills, Charles, but God (if there is one) be with thee on thy quest, and guide thee in thy ways!

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