Home page | About this website | Contact | Sitemap
You are here: Home page » Library » Books

Meghdadi, Bahram

A comparative analysis of Edward Fitzgerald's and Robert Graves's translation of 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam'. Bahram Meghdadi. Columbia University, 1969.

Abstract: Robert Graves's publication of his own translation of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat in November, 1967 triggered this study. Graves claims that Edward FitzGerald used spurious sources for his translation and that FitzGerald misinterpreted Khayyam's basic philosophy. According to Graves, Khayyam was a mystic poet and therefore his quatrains must be interpreted in that fashion. Graves's claim generates from a manuscript that a retired Afghan army officer by the name of Omar Ali-Shah gave him. According to Ali-Shah, his Persian text is an uncontradictably authentic manuscript of Khayyam' poetry, which had been in his family for eight hundred years.This dissertation attempts to investigate the validity of Graves's assumptions by studying the sources that FitzGerald and Graves used, examining the authenticity of these sources, reviewing the commentaries on Omar Khayyam made by critics and scholars, studying the history of the period in which Omar Khayyam lived, and finally comparing the FitzGerald and the Graves translations of The Rubaiyat. The last task demanded that the language, rhythm, rhyme, and other poetic devices that these translators used be compared and, at the same time, matched with the actual source material. On the basis of this investigation, the following conclusions can be made: (1) Graves's claim that FitzGerald used spurious sources is undoubtedly justified. As a matter of fact no authentic manuscript of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat has ever been discovered. All the manuscripts contain "wandering" stanzas that are spurious. (2) Graves's claim that he used a more authentic source is not justified. His source probably is a copy of the sources FitzGerald used, and, therefore, he, too, used spurious stanzas. (3) Graves's claim that Omar Khayyam was a Sufi mystic does not seem to be justified by the evidence we have. (4) Graves's concept of Omar Khayyam as a Sufi mystic did not materially influence the language of his translation, although it undoubtedly would influence the reader's interpretation of his translation. (5) In translating The Rubaiyat, FitzGerald invented lines and stanzas and made extensive changes. (6) Graves's translation kept more closely to the text, but he left out all rhyme. (7) FitzGerald's translation departs, therefore, somewhat from the text but is much more musical than Graves's translation, for he kept the rhyme scheme of the original and used musical devices like alliteration. (8) Graves's translation is more exact, but his stanzas do not have the musicality of his source.

Keywords: authenticity; comparison; sources; sufism; thesis;