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Omar Khayyam’s birthday has come round again

May 18, 2017



It’s Omar Khayyam Day – today 18th May 2017 is the 969th anniversary of Khayyam’s birth in the city of Nishapur in eastern Iran.  We send greetings to all the people world-wide who value the contributions of Khayyam, still of relevance in the 21st century.  Take a minute to remember a polymath whose work, and that attributed to him, inspired so many others.

Our picture shows an image of ‘Old Khayyam’ created by Maurice Greiffenhagen in 1909.

Why is it a ‘Lizard’ in quatrain 17 of FitzGerald’s first edition?

May 17, 2017

Namdar Fereidooni has just posted the following query as a comment on the Background Page of this blog.  We think his query is an interesting and provoking one.  He writes as follows.

Hello, i wanted to know your opinion on why Mr. Fitzjerald used the word Lizard , in the quatraint about Jamshid’s court?

The quatrain referred to is number 17 in FitzGerald’s first edition.

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshýd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahrám, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass
Stamps o’er his Head, and he lies fast asleep.

According to Heron-Allen (1899), the literal translation of the Persian original, from the Calcutta MS Q99, is the following.

In that palace where Bahrám grasped the wine-cup;
The foxes whelp, and the lions take their rest;
Bahrám who was always catching wild asses,-
To-day behold that the grave has caught Bahrám.

Comparing this literal version with FitzGerald’s verse shows that he turned the original fox(es) (rube in Persian) into a Lizard.  Like Namdar, we wonder why he did this?  The alliteration of ‘Lion and Lizard’ might have been a reason.   It is just possible that the issue arises in one of the many letters in which FitzGerald consults Edward Cowell about the details of translation, but we haven’t had time to look yet.  Incidentally a quick look at Jos Coumans’ invaluable Concordances website, shows that other translators have also used different animals in their versions of the same Calcutta quatrain – see  But the Persian text also varies slightly between manuscripts – Whinfield’s original has the Persian Ahu (= gazelle) in place of the fox(es) elsewhere.

Does any reader have better ideas on this?  Please comment below.

Yet more on trays with a Khayyam theme

May 11, 2017

In a couple of earlier posts, we have given information on trays and other items with a Khayyam theme that are in the possession of some of our readers.  These mentions can be found via the following link.

We have now been sent details of a couple of other similar items.  Reader Alan Birch writes as follows.  

I have just seen the butler’s tray [with a Khayyam theme] on your blog.  I recently bought a similar tray (without legs) from an auction in Tring (Herts).
As the photo below shows, it has an image in what looks like ivory in the centre and a misquote from quatrain XX in marquetry at top and bottom:
My beloved fill the cup that cheers
Today of past regrets and future fears.

omar tray (002)
A week later I bought a wooden plaque from a car boot sale in Tetsworth (Oxon.) for the princely sum of £2.  This also has an image in what looks like ivory. (see second photo)
I also believe that all these items are early 20th C. They all have an Arts and Crafts feel.

omar plaque (002)

Do any of our readers have similar items and/or know anything about their history?  Please comment if you do.

Rubaiyat for the Martyrs of Two Wars

May 3, 2017

We were sent yesterday an example of a modern use of the Rubaiyat form in English.  Here are the details.

Roboyat: an installation of robots in Portland OR, inspired by the Rubaiyat

April 9, 2017

Martin Kimeldorf has alerted us to the following unusual spin-off from the Rubaiyat.   If any reader manages to get to Portland to see the show, please post a comment below.  We wish we could go ourselves.

Omar Khayyam’s famous 11th century poem, the Rubaiyat, informs the structure, context and content of Merridawn and Geordie Duckler’s cacophonous new installation, Roboyat. However, while Khayyam wrote about the fleeting nature of existence, the Ducklers are concerned with the anti-topical and what lasts beyond current manias. “We are interested in ideas of translation, the ephemeral and daily image, what lasts and doesn’t, the lineages that keep poetry and visual art alive, in science and in language as a visual medium,” they explain.

Along with deep regard for Khayyam’s classic work, the self-taught artists, who are brother and sister, bring humor and a giant dose of futurism to their task. “The installation is a meditation on the art and artifacts in our world as envisioned by the imagined future, in the form of the Roboyats,” they say.

Included in the installation is a collection of 500 robots amassed by Geordie and ranging in size from tiny to looming.  The show is at the Blackfish Gallery 420 NW 9th Ave Portland OR 97209 503.224.2634.  It runs April 4 – 29, 2017 .  For more information go to .

Today is Edward FitzGerald’s birthday

March 31, 2017

31st March 2017 marks the 208th anniversary of the birth of Edward FitzGerald in 1809.  Please join us in raising a glass of something appropriate to celebrate the event and to show our appreciation of the treasure he left us in his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

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

March 23, 2017

We have just received notification of this exciting event in Leiden at the end of May.  There is more information in the poster below and, for further details, please contact Asghar Seyed-Gohrab on . 

Leiden Poster mei 2017