Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Booknote: The Rubáiyát

Title:The Rubáiyát
Author: Omar Khayyám, translated by Edward Fitzgerald
Publication Information: New York: Random House, 1947
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 147, including notes.

The text I used was a donation to the library that was added to the collection. It has a very nice cover, and beautiful end papers. It also contains various color engravings that add to the beauty of the book and the verses. The book includes the first edition of the poems as well as the later 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions as well as the translator's notes and prefaces. For readers, I think it may be more accessible to find a modern edition, though I think they may miss out on some of the reading experience from reading a volume like the one I had.

Had I known that this book was such an easy and yet lyrical read, I would have picked up sooner. This is one of those books on lists of great books, the ones we often mean to read but never get to. Well, this one is well worth it. In fact, readers may already be able to quote it without knowing it. It is a collection of quatrains, four line stanzas, that rhyme on an aaba pattern. This means they rhyme on the first, second, and fourth line. Here is an example:

"Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
And Wilderness is Paradise enow."

I am betting a lot of people have heard this quatrain before. Well, now you know where it comes from. This work has a lot of verses like that. The author explores life, love, and beauty. A common theme is the idea of seizing the moment, the old carpe diem. The language is simply beautiful; one can read these verses with ease. It is a very relaxing experience, and musicality adds to it. I highly recommend this volume.

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