Remembering Omar Khayyam

I was reminded today that 4th December is the anniversary of the death, in 1131, of the Persian astronomer, mathematician and poet Omar Khayyam. That in turn reminded me that just over year ago I received a gift of a sumptuously illustrated multi-lingual edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám:

Edward Fitzgerald‘s famous English translation of these verses is very familiar, but it seems there’s a more of Fitzgerald than Khayyam in many of the poems and the attribution of many of the original texts to Khayyam is dubious in any case.  Whatever you think about this collection, I think it’s a bit unfortunate that Khayyam is not more widely recognized for his scientific work, which you can read about in more detail here.

Anyway, as we approach the end of 2022 many of us will be remembering people we have lost during the year so here is a sequence of three quatrains (XXII-XXIV) with an appropriately elegiac theme:

For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath pressed,
    Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.

And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,
    Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend–ourselves to make a Couch–for whom?

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
    Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and–sans End!

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