Home page | About this website | Contact | Sitemap
You are here: Home page » e-Library » English

W. Stokes - 1885

Whitley Stokes (1830 - 1909) published eighteen quatrains in 'Academy', 17 January 1885, nr. 663.
Fifteen quatrains had been included in the famous Madras edition of the Rubáiyát (1862), titled "Some more of Omar's quatrains". These were issued in 1936 in a miniature edition published by The Lilliputian Press, Monroe (USA), with a foreword by A.G. Potter.
Ten of these quatrains were also included in "The Dublin book of Irish verse" (London, 1909).

Stokes was one of Ireland’s greatest scholars, pioneer of Celtic studies and lawyer at the same time, spending much of his life in India, where he worked on the codification of Anglo-Indian Law. In England however, he was better known as a man of letters, translator of poetry from eastern and northern Europe.

See also Withley Stokes, in Omariana, Vol. 9, Nr. 1-2, Fall, 2009


I. - Death

I dashed my clay-cup on the stone hard-by:
The reckless frolic raised my heart on high:
Then said a shard with momentary voice:
"As thou have I been; thou shalt be as I."

Annihilation makes me not to fear:
In truth it seems more sweet than lingering here:
My life was sent me as a loan unsought:
When pay-day comes I'll pay without a tear.

Has God made profit from my coming? Nay.
His glory gains not when I go away.
Mine ear has never heard from mortal man
This coming and this going, why are they?

I'd not have come, had this been left to me:
Nor would I go, to go if I were free:
Oh! best of all, upon this lonely earth
Neither to come nor go - yes, not to be!

Oh! that there were some place where men could rest,
Some end to look for in this lonely quest,
Some hope that in a hundred thousand years
Our dust might blossom on the Mother's breast!

Alas for me! the Book of Youth is read:
The fresh glad Spring is now December dead:
That bird of joy whose name was Youth is flown:
Ay me, I know not how he came or fled!

II. - God

Thou art the Opener, open Thou the door:
Thou art the Teacher, teach my soul to soar:
No human masters hold me by the hand:
They pass away - Thou bidest evermore.

I cannot reach the Road to join with Thee:
I cannot bear one breath apart from Thee:
I dare not tell this grief to any man:
Ah hard! ah strange! ah longing sweet for Thee!

III. - Conduct

In school and cloister, mosque and fane, one lies
Adread of Hell, or dreams of Paradise;
But none that know the secrets of the Lord
Have sown their hearts with suchlike phantasies.

Ah, strive amain no human heart to wring:
Let no one feel thine anger burn or sting:
Wouldst thou be lapt in long-enduring joy,
Know how to suffer: cause no suffering

While sinew, vein and bone together blend,
Outside the path of Doom we cannot wend.
Bow not thy neck, though Rustam be thy foe;
Be bound to none, though Hátim be thy friend.

IV. - Consolation

This is the time for roses and repose
Beside the stream, that by the meadow goes:
A friend or two, a sweetheart like a rose,
With wine, and none to heed how Mullas prose.

Come, bring that Ruby in yon christal bowl,
That brother true of every of every open soul:
Thou knowest overwell this life of ours
Is wind that hurries by - O bring the bowl!

With loving lip to lip the bowl I drain,
To learn how long my soul must here remain,
And lip to lip it whispers, "While you live,
Drink, for, once gone, you come not back again."

Sweet airs are blowing on the rose of May:
Sweet eyes are shining down the garden gay:
Aught sweet of dead Yestreen you cannot say -
No more of it - so sweet is this To-day!

When Death uproots my life-plant, ear and grain,
And flings them forth to moulder on the plain,
If men shall make a wine-jug of my clay,
And brim with wine, 'twill leap to life again.

This jar was once a lover like to me,
Lost in delight of of wooing one like thee;
And, lo! the handle here upon the neck
Was once the arm that held her neck in fee.

Your love-nets hold my hair-forsaken head:
Therefor my lips in warning wine are red:
Repentance born of Reason you have wrecked,
And Time has torn the robe that Patience made.

The text of the quatrains, read by Barty Begley, is recorded for LibriVox.
Click on either file to listen to the verses: 128KbpsMP3 or 64KbpsMP3

More about LibriVox: http://librivox.org/