The Ruba'iyat

by Omar Khayyám

Added 19 February 2012

The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyám

Although I have a handsome face and colour.
Cheek like the tulips, form like the cypress,
It is not clear why the Eternal Painter
Thus tricked me out for the dusty show-booth of earth.

Heaven's wheel gained nothing from my coming,
Nor did my going augment its dignity;
Nor did my ears hear from anyone
Why I had come and why I went.

He began my creation with constraint,
By giving me life he added only confusion;
We depart reluctantly still not knowing
The aim of birth, existence, departure.

Since the Upholder embellishes the material of things,
For what reason does He cast it into diminution and decay?
If it turned out good, why break it?
If the form turned out bad, whose fault was it?

Those, boy, who went before
Have been laid in the dust of self-delusion;
Go, drink wine and hear the truth from me,
It was all hot air that they spoke.

If only there were occasion for repose,
If only this long road had an end,
And in the track of a hundred thousand years, out of the heart of dust
Hope sprang again, like greenness

The characters of all creatures are on the Tablet,
The Pen always worn with writing 'Good', 'Bad':
Our grieving and striving are in vain,
Before time began all that was necessary was given.

Since a day or a life cannot be lengthened or shortened,
We should not distress ourselves with the more and the less;
It cannot be that your affairs and mine
Are shaped as we would judge, wax in our own hands.

The good and evil that are in man's heart,
The joy and sorrow that are our fortune and destiny,
Do not impute them to the wheel of heaven because, in the light of reason,
The wheel is a thousand times more helpless than you.

When we were children we went to the Master for a time,
For a time we were beguiled with our own mastery;
Hear the end of the matter, what befell us:
We came like water and we went like wind.

Drink wine , you will lie long enough under the ground ,
Without companion , friend or comrade.
Take care you tell no one this hidden secret,
'No lilly that withers will bloom again.'

Oh what a long time we shall not be and the world will endure,
Neither name nor sign of us will exist;
Before this we were not and there was no deficiency,
After this, when we are not it will be the same as before.

Every particle of dust on a patch of earth
Was a sun-cheek or brow of the morning star;
Shake the dust off your sleeve carefully—
That too was a delicate, fair face.

Look, the morning breeze has torn the rose's dress,
The nightingale is in ecstasy at the rose's beauty;
Sit in the rose's shade, for many such
Have come from earth and to it returned.

Last night I smashed an earthenware pot on the stones,
I was drunk when I committed this folly:
The jug protested,
I was like you, you will be like me also.

The jug was love-sick like me,
Tangled in a fair girl's locks;
This handle you now see on its neck
Was his hand on the neck of the girl.

My rule of life is to drink and be merry,
To be free from belief and unbelief is my religion:
I asked the Bride of Destiny her bride-price,
"Your joyous heart," she said.

Nobody, heart, has seen heaven or hell,
Tell me, dear, who has returned from there?
Our hopes and fears are on something of which,
My dear, there is no indication but the name.

I need a jug of wine and a book of poetry,
Half a loaf for a bite to eat,
Then you and I, seated in a deserted spot,
Will have more wealth than a Sultan's realm

I saw a waster sitting on a patch of ground,
Heedless of belief and unbelief, the world and the faith-
No God, no Truth, no Divine Law, no Certitude:
Who in either of the worlds has the courage of this man?

Do you know why the cock crows
So early in the whiteness of dawn?
He tells that the morning's mirror shows
One more night of life gone, and you heedless.

How long shall i grieve for what i have or have not,
Over whether to pass my life in pleasure?
Fill the wine - bowl -- it is not certain
That I shall breathe out again the breath I now draw.

The globe is the image of a ball compacted of our bones,
The Oxus, a trickle of our distilled tears;
Hell is a spark from our consuming torments,
Paradise, a moment from our space of reprieve.

Since neither truth nor certainty is granted,
You cannot sit in doubtful hope all your life;
Let us be careful not to set the wine cup aside,
Since a man is in ignorance, drunk or sober.

I live a life that is overcast, all my affairs are in a tangle,
Disasters increase, ease decreases;
God be thanked that for what causes our troubles
He alone is answerable to us.

Suffering ennobles a man,
Enduring the oyster-shell's prison makes a pearl of a water drop;
Though worldly goods perish, Let your head remain like a cup –
When the cup is empty it may be filled again.

This reason which seeks the way of bliss
Says again and again to you,
'Seize this moment which is yours:
You are not that herb which is cut down only to flourish anew.'

The Living God who has the power to make skulls and faces
Always botches his work;
They say a maker of wine-jars can be no good Muslim,
What is to be said of Him who makes the gourd?

When a moment of life goes by
Let it only pass in joy;
Be careful, for the stock-in-trade of this world's market
Is the life you purchase for yourself.

Drink wine, it stops you thinking about the Many and the One,
Dispels thoughts about the seventy-two jarring sects;
Don't abstain, the physic you get
In one draught of it rids you of a thousand sicknesses.

I drink no wine, but not because I'm poor,
Nor get drunk, though not through fear of scandal;
I drank to lighten my heart
But now that you have settled in my heart, I drink no more.

Every now and then someone comes along saying, 'It is I.'
He arrives with favours, silver and gold, saying,'It is I.'
When his little affair is sorted out for a day, death suddenly jumps out of ambush saying,
'It is I.'

These worldly goods which you need for use –
It is permitted that you should strive to get them,
But laying up what you have not gained by your own efforts is worthless,
Beware lest you barter your days for that.