Fugitive articulation: an introduction to The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. D Schenker.
In: Edward FitzGerald's The Rubáiyt of Omar Khayyám. Ed. by H. Bloom. Philadelphia, Chelsea House, 2004. p. 59-76.
(From Victorian Poetry 19, no. 1.)
Schenker takes an innovative and challenging look at the Rubaiyat, questioning why we fail today to respond to it as a work of serious literary art (p. 60). The author compares its effect on an audience with that of an “unimpeachable contemporary masterpiece, T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. The Rubaiyat’s wide appeal might be that it “institutionalizes a cult of spiritual resignation” and that it is “sufficiently void of meaning to be recyclable in any number of contexts”. In his analysis of the poem, the author recognises its “verbal claustrophobia”. Follows an interesting analysis of the function of speech in the Rubaiyat (pp. 70-73) and the conclusion that Fitzgerald began with a very modern-looking poem, but proceeded as the years went forward to bring his work in line with a more conservative ideal (p. 73). As to the supposed value of the poem as a piece of wisdom literature, Schenker feels that the Victorian era “saw the development of all kinds of self-help books for the benefit of the masses, and perhaps this is the genre to which the Rubaiyat ultimately belongs: “infinite resignation made simple”. (Abstract from: Abstracta Iranica)