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H.G. Keene - 1887 & 1895

Omar Khayyam - 1887

In 1887 H.G. Keene published an article "Omar Khayyam", in Macmillan's Magazine (November 1887, vol. 57, pp. 27-32) in which he included a number of original versions. A second series of quatrains by Keene were published in an article "Loose Stanzas" in The Calcutta Review (January 1895, Vol. C.)

From: Omar Khayyam

To drink and revel and laugh is all my art,
To smile at faith and unfaith my Faith's part:
I asked the bride what gift would win her love,
She answered, 'Give me but a cheerful heart.'

If in your heart the light of Love you plant
(Whether the mosque or synagogue you haunt),
If in Love's court its name be registered,
Hell it will fear not, Heaven it will not want.

This is the time for roses and repose
Beside the stream that through the garden flows,
A friend or two, a lady rosy-cheeked,
With wine — and none to hear the clergy prose.

Unless girls pour the wine the wine is naught,
Without the music of the flute is naught:
Look as I may into the things of life,
Mirth is the only good — the rest is naught.

The red wine in a festal cup is sweet,
With sound of lute and dulcimer is sweet:
A saint, to whom the wine-cup is not known,
He too — a thousand miles from us — is sweet.

Thou hast no way to enter the Dark Court,
For not to mortals does it yield resort:
There is no rest but on the lap of earth —
Woe! that its riddle is so far from short!

Ah, brand! ah, brand! if all that thou canst earn
Be but to help the fires of Hell to burn,
Why wilt thou cry, 'Have mercy, Lord, on me!'
Is it from such as thee that He will learn?

Of thy Creator's mercy do not hold
Doubt, though thy crimes be great and manifold,
Nor think that, if thou die in sin to-day,
He from thy bones His mercy will withhold.

Although God's service has not been my care,
Nor for His coming was my heart made fair,
I still have hope to find the mercy-seat,
Because I never wearied Him with prayer.

Am I a rebel? then His power is — Where?
Is my heart dark? His light and glory — Where?
Doth He give Heaven for our obedience?
'T is due. But then, His loving-kindness — Where?

Although my sins have left me faint and fell,
One hope I keep — the heathen have it as well —
In dying may I clasp my girl and glass
What else to me were Paradise or hell.

If I drink wine it is not for delight,
Nor unto holiness to do despite:
I do it to breathe a little, free from self:
No other cause would make me drink all night.

They say that Tophet from of old was planned,
But that 's what I could never understand:
If there were Hell for those who drink, then Heaven
Would be no fuller than one's hollow hand.

With wine and music if our lives have glee,
If grass beside the running brook wave free,
Better than this esteem no quenched Hell:
This is thy Heaven — if Heaven indeed there be."

Since life flies fast, what 's bitter and what 's sweet?
When death draws near, what matter field or street?
Drink wine; for after thee and me, the moon
Her alternating course will oft repeat.

I dreamed of an old man, who said, and frowned,
'The rose of bliss in sleep was never found;
Why then anticipate the work of death?
Drink rather: sleep awaits thee in the ground.'

Ah, comrades! strengthen me with cups of wine
Until my faded cheeks like rubies shine,
And bathe me in it after I am dead,
And weave my shroud with tendrils of the vine."

Clouds come, and sink upon the grass in rain,
Let wine's red roses make our moments fain;
And let the verdure please our eyes to-day,
Ere grass from our dust shall give joy again.

Sweetheart, if Time a cloud on thee have flung,
To think the breath must leave thee, now so young,
Sit here, upon the grass, a day or two,
While yet no grass from thy dust shall have sprung.

Long before thee and me were Night and Morn;
For some great end the sky is round us borne:
Upon this dust, ah, step with careful foot,
Some beauty's eyeball here may lie forlorn.

This cup once loved, like me, a lovely girl,
And sighed, entangled in a scented curl:
This handle, that you see upon its neck,
Once wound itself about a neck of pearl."

Ah! that the raw should have the finished cake,
The immature the ripest produce take,
And eyes, that make the heart of man to beat,
Shine only for the boys' and eunuchs' sake.

His mercy being gained, what need we fear?
His scrip being full, no journey makes me fear:
If, by His clemency, my face be white,
In no degree the Black Book will I fear.

I warred in vain with Nature — what 's the cure?
I suffer for mine actions — what 's the cure?
I know God's mercy covers all my sin;
For shame that He has seen it —what 's the cure?

Is it not a shame, because on every side
Thy curious eyes are circumscribed and tied,
Pent in this dark and temporary cell,
In its poor bounds contented to abide?

O tent-maker, that frame is but a tent,
Thy soul the king, to realms of Nothing bent;
And slaves shall strike the tent for a fresh use,
When the king rises and his night is spent.

In my way-going Thou hast laid the snare in many a place.
Thou sayest, 'I slay thee,' if I make default therein.
The world is not free from Thy command a tittle.
I do Thy command, and Thou callest me 'Sinner'!

O Thou, of the sanctity of whose nature knowledge is not,
and art indifferent both to our obedience and sin!
I am drunk with sin, but sober with hope,
in that my hope is in Thy great mercy.

Do thou beware no human heart to wring,
Let no one feel thine anger hotly sting.
Wouldst thou enjoy perpetual happiness?
Know how to suffer: cause no suffering.

From: Loose Stanzas

My span is but a few days, scarcely one,
of fortune Wind on the desert blowing, quickly gone;
Long as life lasts I care not but for two —
The day that is not, and the day that is done.

This vase once loved, like me, a lovely girl.
And bent in rapture o'er a scented curl.
This handle that you see upon its neck.
Once wound itself about a neck of pearl.

Be watchful! Fortune menaces deceit;
Sharp is the sword above thee: keep thy feet;
And if she offer thee a sugared nut,
Forbear to taste: there is poison in the sweet.

A hundred thousand Saints the past has seen,
Sinai a hundred thousand Prophets seen,
The Palatine full many an Emperor,
Kasra a hundred thousand Shahs has seen.

That vault of azure, and that golden bowl,
Have rolled for ages, will for ages roll;
Even so — the destined sons of destiny —
We come and go, poor fragments of the whole.

When we are gone the world will still remain,
Yet neither name nor sign of us retain;
In days past we were not, and no one cared,
Nor will in future, when we are not, again.

Ah woe! our hands must drop their garnered store,
And Azrael's talons bathe our hearts in gore;
While from that bourne no traveller returns,
To tell us how they fare who went before.

Those sons of care whom mortals call "The Great,"
Have lives of trouble, all at odds with Fate;
Yet him who is not Passion's slave, like them,
They hardly reckon as of man's estate.

The old familiar faces! All are fled,
Under the feet of Azrael trampled dead;
At life's sad feast they shared the wine awhile,
But drank too quickly, and were quickly sped.

The wheeling zenith hides an unborn thought,
A cup with universal meaning fraught;
Lament not when the cup comes round to you,
But drain with gladness what your turn has brought.

This wheel that will to none its course explain
Mahmud, Ayaz, a thousand such has slain;
Drink wine! For life is given to no one twice,
And none that once has lived comes back again.

In circles of existence too long pent,
And fallen from man's estate by sad descent.
Since life can never bring us what we want
Would God satiety could feel content!

Pure from the void we came, impure we go;
Welcomed with joy we came, in grief we go;
Tempered with tears in furnace of the heart,
Life given to the winds, to dust we go.

Help all you may their heavy loads to bear,
Lay waste the shrines of sacrifice and prayer.
This soothsay of Khayyám receive, O friend,
Drink wine, take purses, but be kind to care.

This pile whose gables wooed the smile of day,
And on whose floor kings wont their brows to lay,
We saw a dove upon its battlements,
And all she said was — "Where, Ah! Where are they?'"

Since all man gathers in this waste below
Feeds him on ashes and then bids him go,
Happiest is he who soonest takes his leave,
Or he who never saw this world of woe.

Temple and Kába both are fanes of prayer,
Pells and Müazzins call alike to prayer;
Churches and mosques, crosses and rosaries,
What are they all but instruments of prayer?

In fane or cloister, mosque or school, one lies
Adread of Hell, one dreams of Paradise;
But none that know the secrets of the Lord,
Will sow their hearts with such absurdities.

If in your heart the lamp of Love you plant.
Whether the mosque or synagogue you haunt,
If in Love's Court your name be registered,
Hell you will fear not, Heaven you will not want.

Pity! the raw should win the well-cooked cake,
And prentice-bunglers mar the plans we make;
Sweet eyes that bid the hearts of men to beat
Shine but for schoolboys, or for eunuchs' sake.

If roses fail, my fate is thorns you see;
And, if light fails, why darkness does for me.
And if I find no place for Muslim prayer,
I must make shift with Christian heresy.

Ah! heedless race: the world's affairs are naught,
Foundation of the wind; whereof comes naught;
The bounds of being are two negatives,
One on each side and, midway, you, too, naught.

Seek not to do the people harm by night,
Lest they appeal to God from thee by night;
Lean not on strength or beauty of thine own,
For this and that will leave thee soon by night.

The red wine in a festal cup is sweet,
With sound of lute and dulcimer is sweet;
A holy man who does not think it so.
He, too, a thousand miles from us is sweet.

On Love's sweet path pursue the offering heart,
In Love's own precinct seek a perfect heart,
A hundred temples are but beaten clay,
Let be the temple, so thou find a heart.

Arise! Where is the song you used to sing?
Your little mouth my spirit's food can bring;
But pour me wine as rosy as your face,
My heart is like your ringlet's broken wing.

These compasses resemble you and me
Whose heads are two, though one the body be,
About the centre, like a circle, twined;
But in one point they meet at last, you see.

A jug of wine, a book of poetry,
For stay of life a crust of bread give me,
And thou beside me, in the wilderness!
The Sultan's Kingdom better cannot be.

I cannot see the form mine eyes require,
Nor can I bear the frustrated desire,
Nor yet relate my pain to any one, —
Hard suffering, strange grief, delightful fire!

Your love-nets hold my hair-forsaken head,
For which my lips with wine are always red;
Repentance born of reason you have wrecked,
And bid time tear the robe that patience made.

Now that new joy to earth the Zephyrs bring,
And every living heart goes forth to spring,
On every bough the hand of Moses gleams.
The voice of Jesus quickens everything.

It is the season when the land grows green,
And Moses's hand upon the boughs is seen:
The breath of Jesus rises from the ground.
And weeping clouds above the landscape lean.

"I am Joseph's flower from Egypt," said the Rose,
"My ruby mouth such glittering jewels shows."
I asked her to produce another sign, —
"See," she replied, "with blood my raiment flows."

Look where I may, I see on every side
Fresh fountains springing in the champaign wide,
And lawns that once were called the plains of Hell
Now smile like Heaven, with ladies heavenly eyed.

If I go right, Thy guiding hand is — WHERE?
If I go darkling, Thy clear-light is— WHERE?
Dost Thou give Heaven for my obedience?
'T is due; but Thy benevolence is — WHERE?

The impress of His hand the vessels keep,
Who makes and throws them on the rubbish heap
But if they turn out well why are they broken?
If ill, the blame is surely His to reap.

He makes Earth bear the firmamental thrust,
He scars our hearts with sorrow, fear and lust,
And many a ruby lip and perfumed lock
Garners in clay and coffers in the dust.

When shame for sin committed stirs the heart,
Hot from the breast the scalding eye-drops start
And surely when the slave laments his fault
Complete forgiveness is the master's part.

I drink, and every wise man does like me,
Which God, no doubt, regards indulgently —
Foreseen before the making of the world,
If I did not, where would His prescience be?

To keep from what is ordered beats our skill,
"Bid" and "forbid" are masters of our will;
Helpless we stand between their "Yea" and "Nay,"
Like guests advised to tilt, but not to spill.

Thou settest in my pathway snare and gin,
Saying; — "I slay thee if thou fall therein,"
The world is free from Thy command no jot,
Thine the command, but mine is still the sin.

As we know Thee, the Zealot knows Thee not,
Like faithful followers strangers know Thee not,
Thou sayest — "The wicked shall be sent to hell."
— Say so to some of those that know Thee not!

Better in wine shops for Thy secrets yearn,
Than patter praises that by rote we learn;
Ah! Thou art Alpha and Omega still,
Whether Thou please to cherish or to burn.

His mercy gained, what cause have we for fear?
His scrip being full, what journey need we fear?
If by his grace my face be once made white,
In no degree the black-book will I fear.

I war in vain with nature — what is the cure?
I suffer for my doings — what is the cure?
I know his mercy covers all my sin,
For shame that He has seen it — What is the cure?

I weep, because I am of evil fame,
Defiled with many a lust and taint of shame;
Commanded things undone, forbidden done,
I weep to find my life so full of blame.

I grovel to appease the Heavenly will,
I found no claim by good to atone for ill,
Whereso Thy bounty pleases, there will come
Undone as done, and done as undone still.

Ah! ne'er-do-well, that workest nought but ill,
Yet grovellest to appease the Heavenly will;
Hope not for absolution; evermore
Good will be good, and evil, evil still.

At dawn a voice came from the house of wine;
"Ho! reckless wastrels lying there supine,
Rise! let us fill our measures full of drink
Before they fill your measures, yours and mine."

I'll drink till such a scent of wine shall rise
Out of the earth where my dead carcase lies,
That cup-sick revellers, passing by the place,
Shall from that scent receive new enterprise.

Ah! comrades strengthen me with draughts of wine
Until my sallow cheeks like rubies shine;
And wash me in it after I am dead,
And stitch my shroud with tendrils of the vine.

If I drink wine it is not for delight,
Nor unto holiness to do despite;
I drink to breathe a moment free from self,
No other cause would make me drink all night.

Unless girls pour the wine the wine is nought,
Without the music of the flute is nought.
Look as I may into the world's affairs,
Mirth is the only good, the rest is nought.

Clouds come, and soon will feed the grass with rain,
Let Life's glad moments make our senses fain;
Rest thee, dear friend, a while, and drink with me,
Till, of our clay fresh grass shall grow again.

This is the time for roses and repose
Beside the stream that through the meadow flows.
A friend or two, a rose-like lady love,
With wine; and not to hear the clergy prose.