I like reading all sorts of nonsense. This week I have been battling with Omar Khayyám’s Rubáiyát.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, go now, take my car, and buy a copy. (But please bring the car back…) Its wonderful. (The poem, not the car.)
Omar Khayyám was born in 1048 in Born in Nishapur. He moved to Samarkand and then to Bukhara and became established as the leading light among mathematicians and astronomers of the Islamic medieval period. He did all sorts of clever things with circles and calendars, most of which I dont understand, but also wrote a small compendium of Persian poetry before he died in 1131. (By the way his tomb in Iran is horrible… dont even bother google searching it… its painful!) His poetry now is far more famous than this mathematical gymnastics owing not in a small part to an eccentric Englishman, Edward FitzGerald (1809–1883).
FitzGerald rather loosely translated the Rubáiyát for Victorian audiences. He was evidently a bit of a loony, albeit of the best possible variety… his Epitaph reads, “I am all for the short and merry life!” Anyhow, his translations formed a significant part of the Victorian obsession with all things Oriental and romantic (think Burton, Morris etc etc) and although not exactly accurate, they were hauntingly beautiful. The line in full reads,
Perplexed no more with human or divine,
Tomorrow’s tangle to ye winds resign,
And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The cypress-slender minister of wine.
So, what made me think of this… well, a few months ago I was visiting Bristol and came across a rusting iron arch, with an inscription over it. It captured my imagination, and I took a quick snap on my camera… It troubled me months trying to work out where the inscription was from… and at the weekend, it all clicked. Luckily I did not ‘resign my tangle to the winds,’ and so failed to follow the instructions on the arch, but may adopt Khayyám’s suggestion more closely tomorrow.