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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Omar Khayyám (1048–1131)

Version of Edward Fitzgerald’s Fifth Edition, Entire

WAKE! for the Sun, who scattered into flight

The Stars before him from the Field of Night,

Drives Night along with them from Heaven, and strikes

The Sultán’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.

Before the phantom of False morning died,

Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,

“When all the Temple is prepared within,

Why nods the drowsy Worshiper outside?”

And as the Cock crew, those who stood before

The Tavern shouted—“Open then the Door!

“You know how little while we have to stay,

And once departed, may return no more.”

Now the New Year reviving old Desires,

The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,

Where the WHITE HAND OF MOSES on the Bough

Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

Iram indeed is gone with all his Rose,

And Jamshyd’s Seven-ringed Cup where no one knows;

But still a Ruby kindles in the Vine,

And many a Garden by the Water blows.

And David’s lips are lockt; but in divine

High-piping Pehleví, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!

Red Wine!”—the Nightingale cries to the Rose,

That sallow cheek of hers t’ incarnadine.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring

Your Winter garment of Repentance fling:

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To flutter—and the Bird is on the Wing.

Whether at Naishápúr or Babylon,

Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,—

The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,

The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say:

Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?

And this first Summer month that brings the Rose

Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobád away.

Well, let it take them! What have we to do

With Kaikobád the Great, or Kaikhosrú?

Let Zál and Rustum bluster as they will,

Or Hátim call to Supper—heed not you.

With me along the strip of Herbage strown

That just divides the desert from the sown,

Where name of Slave and Sultán is forgot—

And Peace to Mahmúd on his golden Throne!

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness—

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Some for the Glories of This World; and some

Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come:

Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,

Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!

Look to the blowing Rose about us—“Lo,

Laughing,” she says, “into the world I blow,

At once the silken tassel of my Purse

Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw.”

And those who husbanded the Golden grain,

And those who flung it to the winds like Rain,

Alike to no such aureate Earth are turned

As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon

Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,

Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face,

Lighting a little hour or two—is gone.

Think, in this battered Caravanserai

Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,

How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp

Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep

The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:

And Bahrám, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass

Stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.

I sometimes think that never blows so red

The Rose as where some buried Cæsar bled;

That every Hyacinth the Garden wears

Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.

And this reviving Herb whose tender Green

Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean—

Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows

From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!

Ah, my Belovèd, fill the Cup that clears

TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears:

To-morrow!—Why, To-morrow I may be

Myself with Yesterday’s Seven thousand Years.

For some we loved, the loveliest and the best

That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,

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!

Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,

And those that after some TO-MORROW stare,

A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries,

“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discussed

Of the Two Worlds so wisely—they are thrust

Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn

Are scattered, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent

Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument

About it and about; but evermore

Came out by the same door wherein I went.

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,

And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;

And this was all the Harvest that I reaped—

“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

Into this Universe, and Why not knowing,

Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;

And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,

I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.

What, without asking, hither hurried Whence?

And, without asking, Whither hurried hence!

Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine

Must drown the memory of that insolence!

Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate

I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate:

And many a Knot unraveled by the Road;

But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.

There was the Door to which I found no Key;

There was the Veil through which I might not see:

Some little talk awhile of ME and THEE

There was—and then no more of THEE and ME.

Earth could not answer; nor the Seas that mourn

In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn;

Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs revealed

And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.

Then of the THEE IN ME who works behind

The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find

A lamp amid the Darkness; and I heard,


Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn

I leaned, the Secret of my Life to learn;

And Lip to Lip it murmured—“While you live,

Drink!—for once dead, you never shall return.”

I think the Vessel, that with fugitive

Articulation answered, once did live,

And drink; and Ah! the passive Lip I kissed,

How many Kisses might it take—and give!

For I remember stopping by the way

To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay:

And with its all-obliterated Tongue

It murmured—“Gently, Brother, gently, pray!”

And has not such a Story from of Old

Down Man’s successive generations rolled

Of such a clod of saturated Earth

Cast by the Maker into Human mold?

And not a drop that from our Cups we throw

For Earth to drink of, but may steal below

To quench the fire of Anguish in some Eye

There hidden—far beneath, and long ago.

As then the Tulip for her morning sup

Of Heavenly Vintage from the soil looks up,

Do you devoutly do the like, till Heaven

To Earth invert you—like an empty Cup.

Perplext no more with Human or Divine,

To-morrow’s tangle to the winds resign,

And lose your fingers in the tresses of

The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,

End in what All begins and ends in—Yes;

Think then you are TO-DAY what YESTERDAY

You were—TO-MORROW you shall not be less.

So when that Angel of the darker Drink

At last shall find you by the river-brink,

And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul

Forth to your Lips to quaff—you shall not shrink.

Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,

And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,

Were’t not a Shame—were’t not a Shame for him

In this clay carcass crippled to abide?

’Tis but a Tent where takes his one day’s rest

A Sultán to the realm of Death addrest;

The Sultán rises, and the dark Ferrásh

Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.

And fear not lest Existence, closing your

Account, and mine, should know the like no more;

The Eternal Sákí from that Bowl has poured

Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour.

When You and I behind the Veil are past,

Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,

Which of our Coming and Departure heeds

As the Sea’s self should heed a pebble-cast.

A Moment’s Halt—a momentary taste

Of BEING from the Well amid the Waste—

And LO!—the phantom Caravan has reached

The NOTHING it set out from—Oh, make haste!

Would you that spangle of Existence spend

About THE SECRET—quick about it, Friend!

A Hair perhaps divides the False and True—

And upon what, prithee, may life depend?

A Hair perhaps divides the False and True;

Yes; and a single Alif were the clue—

Could you but find it—to the Treasure-house

And peradventure to THE MASTER too;

Whose secret Presence, through Creation’s veins

Running Quicksilver-like, eludes your pains;

Taking all shapes from Máh to Máhi; and

They change and perish all—but He remains:

A moment guessed—then back behind the Fold

Immerst of Darkness round the Drama rolled

Which, for the Pastime of Eternity,

He doth Himself contrive, enact, behold.

But if in vain, down on the stubborn floor

Of Earth, and up to Heaven’s unopening Door,

You gaze TO-DAY, while You are You—how then

TO-MORROW, when You shall be You no more?

Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit

Of This and That endeavor and dispute;

Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape

Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse

I made a Second Marriage in my house;

Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,

And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

For “IS” and “IS-NOT” though with Rule and Line

And “UP-AND-DOWN” by Logic I define,

Of all that one should care to fathom, I

Was never deep in anything but—Wine.

Ah, but my Computations, People say,

Reduced the Year to better reckoning?—Nay,

’Twas only striking from the Calendar

Unborn To-morrow, and dead Yesterday.

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,

Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape

Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and

He bid me taste of it; and ’twas—the Grape!

The Grape, that can with Logic absolute

The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute;

The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice

Life’s leaden metal into Gold transmute;

The mighty Mahmúd, Allah-breathing Lord,

That all the misbelieving and black Horde

Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul

Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword.

Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare

Blaspheme the twisted tendril as a Snare?

A Blessing, we should use it, should we not?

And if a Curse—why, then, Who set it there?

I must abjure the Balm of Life, I must,

Scared by some After-reckoning ta’en on trust,

Or lured with Hope of some Diviner Drink,

To fill the Cup—when crumbled into Dust!

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!

One thing at least is certain—This Life flies;

One thing is certain and the rest is Lies:

The Flower that once has blown forever dies.

Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who

Before us passed the door of Darkness through,

Not one returns to tell us of the Road,

Which to discover we must travel too.

The Revelations of Devout and Learned

Who rose before us, and as Prophets burned,

Are all but Stories, which awoke from Sleep

They told their comrades, and to Sleep returned.

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,

Some letter of that After-life to spell;

And by-and-by my Soul returned to me,

And answered, “I Myself am Heaven and Hell:”

Heaven but the Vision of fulfilled Desire,

And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,

Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,

So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.

We are no other than a moving row

Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go

Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held

In Midnight by the Master of the Show;

But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays

Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;

Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,

And one by one back in the Closet lays.

The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,

But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;

And He that tossed you down into the Field,

He knows about it all—HE knows—HE knows!

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,

Whereunder crawling cooped we live and die,

Lift not your hands to It for help—for It

As impotently moves as you or I.

With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man knead,

And there of the Last Harvest sowed the Seed;

And the first Morning of Creation wrote

What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

YESTERDAY This Day’s Madness did prepare;

TO-MORROW’S Silence, Triumph, or Despair:

Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why;

Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

I tell you this—When, started from the Goal,

Over the flaming shoulders of the Foal

Of Heaven Parwín and Mushtarí they flung,

In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul

The Vine had struck a fibre; which about

If clings my Being—let the Dervish flout:

Of my Base metal may be filed a Key

That shall unlock the Door he howls without.

And this I know: whether the one True Light

Kindle to Love, or Wrath-consume me quite,

One Flash of It within the Tavern caught

Better than in the Temple lost outright.

What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke

A conscious Something to resent the yoke

Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain

Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!

What! from his helpless Creature be repaid

Pure Gold for what He lent him dross-allayed—

Sue for a Debt he never did contract,

And cannot answer—Oh the sorry trade!

Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin

Beset the Road I was to wander in,

Thou wilt not with Predestined Evil round

Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin!

Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,

And e’en with Paradise devise the Snake:

For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man

Is blackened—Man’s forgiveness give—and take!


As under cover of departing Day

Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazán away,

Once more within the Potter’s house alone

I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.

Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,

That stood along the floor and by the wall:

And some loquacious Vessels were; and some

Listened, perhaps, but never talked at all.

Said one among them—“Surely not in vain

My substance of the common Earth was ta’en

And to this Figure molded, to be broke,

Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again.”

Then said a Second—“Ne’er a peevish Boy

Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy;

And He that with his hand the Vessel made

Will surely not in after Wrath destroy.”

After a momentary silence spake

Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make:—

“They sneer at me for leaning all awry:

What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”

Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot—

I think a Súfi pipkin—waxing hot—

“All this of Pot and Potter—Tell me, then,

Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”

“Why,” said another, “Some there are who tell

Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell

The luckless Pots he marred in making—Pish!

He’s a Good Fellow, and ’twill all be well.”

“Well,” murmured one, “Let whoso make or buy,

My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry;

But fill me with the old familiar Juice,

Methinks I might recover by-and-by.”

So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,

The little Moon looked in that all were seeking:

And then they jogged each other, “Brother! Brother!

Now for the Porter’s shoulder-knot a-creaking!”

“Ah, with the Grape my fading life provide,

And wash the Body whence the Life has died,

And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf,

By some not unfrequented Garden-side.

That e’en my buried Ashes such a snare

Of Vintage shall fling up into the Air,

As not a True-believer passing by

But shall be overtaken unaware.

Indeed, the Idols I have loved so long

Have done my credit in this World much wrong:

Have drowned my Glory in a shallow Cup,

And sold my Reputation for a Song.

Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before

I swore—but was I sober when I swore?

And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand

My threadbare Penitence apieces tore.

And much as Wine has played the Infidel,

And robbed me of my Robe of Honor—Well,

I wonder often what the Vintners buy

One half so precious as the stuff they sell.

Yet Ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!

That Youth’s sweet-scented manuscript should close!

The Nightingale that in the branches sang,

Ah whence, and whither flown again, who knows!

Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield

One glimpse—if dimly, yet indeed revealed,

To which the fainting Traveler might spring,

As springs the trampled herbage of the field!

Would but some wingèd Angel ere too late

Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate,

And make the stern Recorder otherwise

Enregister, or quite obliterate!

Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

Would not we shatter it to bits—and then

Remold it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!


Yon rising Moon that looks for us again—

How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;

How oft hereafter rising look for us

Through this same Garden—and for one in vain!

And when like her, O Sákí, you shall pass

Among the Guests Star-scattered on the Grass,

And in your joyous errand reach the spot

Where I made One—turn down an empty Glass!