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Isani, Mukthar Ali

The vogue of Omar Khayyám in America. Mukthar Ali Isani.
Comparative literature studies, 14 (1977) 3, pp. 256-273.

No literary event since the birth of classic letters and art in the sixteenth century is at all comparable to the discovery and reincarnation of Omar by Fitzgerald,” declared a journal in Portland, Oregon. According to a report current in the 1890s, even a frontiersman striking a remote camp on the Great Divide was heard murmuring a quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. An American was the first to review the poem and start it on its road to fame, and, in the nineteenth century, FitzGerald probably had more admirers in America than in his own country. By the turn of the century, Americans quoted the Rubaiyat from memory, called for a number of editions of British translations, brought out their own versions, publicly debated the philosophy of Omar, and copied the Persian’s manner and method either in admiration or to heap satire upon the events and personalities of their time. Some of the “Omarism” of the 1890s was a fad, but evidence of a serious and lasting American interest is now spread impressively over the span of a century.