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Christensen, A. [1927]

Critical studies in the Rubá'iyát of 'Umar-i-Khayyám. A revised text with English translation by Arthur Christensen. København, Host & Son, 1927

In my head may there be desire for the houri-like
idols. In my hand may there be the grape-juice through
out the year.
People say to me: "May God give thee repentance!"
He will not give it. I will not practise it. May it be far
from me!

I drink wine, and my opponents from left and right
say: "Do not drink wine, for it is the foe of faith."
Now that I know that wine is the foe of faith, by Allah!
I will drink the blood of the foe, for that is lawful.

Khayyam, if thou art drunk with wine, be merry! If
thou art sitting with a tulip-cheek, be merry!
Do not be sorry that thou shalt be naught to-morrow:
imagine thou art not, whilst thou art, and be merry'

They say; there will be a paradise and black-eyed
maidens, and in that place there will be wine and milk and honey.
Therefore we ought not to be without wine and beloved
ones, seeing that things will be the same after death.

Of all those who have departed on that long journey,
where is the one who has come back to tell us the secret?
Well then! At the end of this double road of desire
and want see that thou hast not left anything [undone],
for thou shalt not come back.

To speak the truth and not as a metaphor, we are
the pieces of the game and Heaven the player.
We play a little game on the chessboard of existence.
Then we go back to the box of non-existence, one by one.

Before a night-attack is made upon my head, order
them to bring rose-coloured wine.
Thou are not gold, o heedless fool, that they should
hide thee in the earth and dig thee up again.

One cup of wine is worth a hundred hearts and faiths,
one draught of wine is worth the kingdom of China.
Apart from ruby wine there is not on the surface of the
earth anything bitter that is worth a thousand sweet lives.

Since our stay in this world is not a permanent rest, it
is a great mistake [to live] without wine and a beloved one.
How long shall I be in hope and fear as to [the pro
blem] of "beginningless" or "begun"? When I am gone,
what matter whether the world has a beginning or not?

This reason that walks the path of happiness, a
hundred times a day it says to thee:
"Find out this one moment of thy lifetime, for thou art
not like those pot-herbs which are picked and grow again."

They tell me that the drinker is a denizen of Hell.
That is an absurd saying, to which the heart can can give
no credence.
If the lover and the drinker are to be denizens of Hell,
thou shalt to-morrow see Paradise [empty] as the palm of
[my] hand.

From the account-book of life we must be wiped out;
by the claw of death we must meet our ruin.
o sweet-faced Sáqi, do not sit idle, bring me the fluid.
for [one day] we must become dust.

Sit down with wine, for this is the kingdom of Mah-
mud''. And listen to the sound of the lute, for this is the
melody of David.
Over things not yet come and things already gone do
not ponder. Be merry, for this is the meaning of life.

In the wine-house we cannot perform the ablution but
with wine. And that reputation which has grown bad
cannot be made good again.
Be merry, for this our veil of modesty has become so
badly torn that it cannot be repaired.

Know that thou shalt depart, deprived of thy soul; thou
shalt go behind the veil of the mystery of annihilation.
Drink wine: thou knowest not whence thou art come.
Be merry! thou knowest not whither thou shalt go.

Do not follow the Sunna and do not care for the
commands of faith, but withhold not from anyone that
morsel which thou hast in possession.
Speak not slander, nor afflict the heart of anyone, then
I warrant thee yonder world. Bring wine!

If they adorn the world for thy benefit, strive not after
such things, after which wise men do not strive.
Many like thyself are going, and many are coming.
Snatch thy share, for [some day] they will snatch thee away.

As often as ever I gaze on all sides, there flows in the
garden a stream of the waters of Kawthar.
The desert is become like Paradise. Speak not of Hell. Sit
down in [this] paradise with a being with a paradisaic face.

From all that is not amusing abstinence is best. And
wine, served with the hand of the idols in the tent is best.
Drunkenness and vagrancy and erring from the path are
best. One draught is best from Moon [above] to the Fish

"Wine is forbidden, it is true, but the question is: who
drinks? and then how much? and how and with whom
he drinks?
When those four conditions are observed altogether,
then, if a wise man does not drink, who drinks?

How long [this talk of] the lamps of the mosque and
the smoke of the fire-temple? How long of the losses of
Hell and the profits of Paradise?
Go and look at the tablets [of Fate], for the Master of
the pen has written from eternity all that must be.

Alas for that heart in which there is no fire [of love],
which is not struck with distress for a heart-cheering being!
The day that thou spendest without wine, no day is
more lost to thee than that day.

The breath of the breeze of New Year on the face of
the rose is charming. The face of the heart-cheering one,
hidden amidst the flowers of the meadow, is charming.
What thou sayest of Yesterday, that is gone, is not
charming. Be merry, and speak not of Yesterday, for To
day is charming.

O Wheel of Heaven: I am not satisfied with thy
rotation. Why dost thou give me advice? I am immune
to advice.
If thou fanciest ignoramuses and good-for-nothings, lo!
I am not such a good and wise man either.

They say: "Do not drink wine in the month of Sha'bán;
it is not lawful. Nor in Rajab, for that is God's special
Sha'bán and Rajab are the months of God and the
Prophet; so let us drink wine in Ramadhán, for that is
our special month.

O Friend, come, let us not grieve for To-morrow, but
count this one moment of our life a gain.
To-morrow, when we depart from this old inn, we shall
be the road-fellows of the travellers of seven thousand years.

O thou who art the product of the four and the seven,
and who art constantly aglow owing to the seven and
the four,
Drink wine, for already a thousand times I have said
to thee: there is no return for thee; when thou art gone.
thou art gone.

If we get but a loaf of wheaten-bread, a gourd of wine
and a leg of mutton.
and if I and thou be sitting in the wilderness, that
were a treat beyond the powers of most sultans.

In cell and college and monastery and synagogue there
are fearers of Hell and seekers of Paradise.
The person who has knowledge of the secrets of God
sows nothing of this seed within his heart.

No one has ever made his way to a rosy cheek, but
a thorn, at the hand of Time, made its way to his heart.
Likewise the comb: not ere its head has been split into a
thousand tines will its hand reach the ringlet of a fair one.

The days of Time are ashamed of him who is sitting
heart-sick, heavy with grief of the days.
Drink wine out of the glass, whilst thou listeneth to the
elegy of the lute, before the glass is flung against the stone.

Since my coming was not of my own choosing from
the first day, and my going has been irrevocably fixed
without my will,
arise and gird thy loins, o nimble Sáqí, for I will
wash down the grief of the world with wine.

O heart, thou arrivest not at the secrets of the mystery,
thou arrivest not at the nice distinctions of the subtle
Prepare a paradise here with wine and cup, for thither
were Paradise is, thou mayst arrive—or mayst not arrive.

If my coming had depended on me, I had not come, and
if, again, my going had depended on me, why should I go?
Were it not better, if in this growth and decay I had
not come, nor gone, nor been?

This wheel of Heaven, for the sake of my destruction
and thine, has designs upon my pure soul and thine.
Sit down on the grass, o idol, for it will not be long
ere grass shall spring from my dust and thine.

Against the stone, last night, I flung the wine-bowl of
faience. I was drunk when I did that brutal action.
The bowl said to me in the language of bowls: 'I was
what thou art, thou also shall be what I am."

Like the water of the river and like the wind of the
desert, another day of my life-time has passed.
For two days I never cared: the day that has not
come, and the day that has gone.

This jar was like me a sorrowful lover, and it was in
search of the face of a fair one.
This handle that thou seeest upon its neck is a hand
that [once] lay upon the neck of a friend.

If, in the time of spring, an idol, houri-shaped, gives
me a cup of wine on the bank of the field.
— however much this saying may jar on the ears of the
vulgar —I were worse than a dog, cared I for Paradise.

When I am cast headlong into the grave of my hope,
and I am like a plucked bird under the hand of Death,
take care! from my clay make nothing but a wine
bottle. Perhaps, when I am filled with wine, I may revive.

The Qur'án, which people call the Best Word, they
read it from time to time, not constantly
On the lines of the cup a sacred verse is engraved
which they read everywhere and always.

Drink wine, for it will relieve thee of the Too-much
and the Too-little, and it will relieve thee of all care for
the seventy-two sects.
Avoid not that philosopher's stone, for if thou drinkest one
man thereof, it will relieve thee of a thousand maladies.

This vault [of Heaven] is like an inverted bowl, under
which all the wise have become helpless captives.
Look at the friendship of bottle and cup: their lips
meet, yet there is [red] blood between them.

In the castle where Bahrám seized his wine-cup, the
fox litters and the gazelle lies at rest.
Bahrám spent his whole life in catching wild asses (gúr);
and lo! to-day the tomb (gúr) has caught Bahrám.

It is better that thou fliest from all the lore of the sciences.
It is better that thou seizest the tip of the lock of the
Ere Time shall shed thy blood, it is better that thou
sheddest the blood of the refining vessel into the cup.

In every plain where there was a tulip-bed, the tulips
have sprung from the blood of a king.
Every shoot of the violet which grows from the earth
is a beauty-spot that has [once] been on the cheek of a
fair one.

It is the time of dawn. Arise, thou quintessence of
loveliness! Gently, gently, drink wine and play the lute,
for those who are present will not stay long; of those
who are gone none will come back.

Those who are become the slaves of intellect and ar-
gument, in anxious ponderings over existence and non-
existence they are become naught.
Go, thou know-nothing, and choose the juice of the
[ripe] grapes, for those know-nothings from eating the un-
ripe grapes [of wisdom] are become [like] dry raisins.

The wine, although in the Holy Law it has a bad
reputation, is delightful. When it is offered at the hand
of the beloved one and the slave, it is delightful.
It is bitter, and it is forbidden, and yet it is dear to
me. That is a truth from of old: all that is forbidden is

Since nobody gives [thee] surety of To-morrow, by
now make merry this sorrowful heart.
Drink wine by the light of the moon, o Moon, for many
times the moon will shine, and it will not find us here.

When at New Year the cloud has washed the face of
the tulip, arise and seize the cup of wine with a firm
for this green-sward that is to-day a feast for our eyes
shall grow, to morrow, from thy dust.

If I tell Thee my secrets in the tavern, it is better
than to perform the prayer in the mihráb without Thee.
O Thou, the beginning and the end of all creation.
burn me, if such is Thy will, cherish me, if such is Thy will.

How long shall we be captives in the prison of every
day reason? What matter whether we have come into the
world for a hundred years or for one day?
Pour wine into the cup, before we become pots in the
workshop of the potters.

Drink wine, for under the clay thou shalt sleep for long
without friend and companion and fellow and wife.
Take care! do not tell to anyone this hidden secret:
the tulip once withered will not blossom again.

I know not whether He who moulded me has pre-
destined me to be one of the people of Paradise or a
dweller of hideous Hell.
A meal, an idol, and wine on the bank of the field, these
three are cash to me; thine be an order for Paradise.

Go! throw dust upon the head of the heavens and the
world. Drink ever wine and hover about the fair-faced ones.
What place is there for worship? what place for prayer?
for of all those who are gone not one has come back.

As far as thou canst, do service to the drunkards; lay
waste the foundations of prayer and fasting.
Hear then this true word from 'Umar-i-Khayyam: "Drink
wine, be a highwayman, but do good."

The celestial sphere is a girdle enclosing our tormented
life. The river Oxus is the trace of our [blood-]mingled tears.
Hell is a spark from our absurd sufferings. Paradise a
moment of our time of rest.

I dropped asleep. A wise man said to me: "From sleep
the rose of pleasure did never bloom for anyone.
Why do you meddle with that which is of a piece
with death ? Drink wine for we must sleep during many
a lifetime."

Every draught that the Sáqí sheds upon the earth
stifles the fire of anguish in a burning eye.
God be praised! is then the water that frees thy heart
from a hundred pains nothing but air to thee?

Behind the veil of the secrets there is no way for any-
body. Of this scheme of things the soul of no man has
any knowledge.
There is no dwelling-place except in the heart of the
dust. Drink wine, for such tales are not short to tell.

To-day thou hast no power over To-morrow, and the
thought of To-morrow is to thee nothing but melancholy.
Do not forfeit this moment if thy heart be not insane.
for the worth of the rest of thy life is not evident.

Whosoever has got imprinted on his heart one character
of the script of reason has not lost one moment of his life.
whether he strives lo live after the pleasing of God, or
he chooses his own comfort and raises the wine-cup.

How long shall I pile up bricks upon the surface of
the sea? I am sick of the idolaters of the temple.
Who has said that Khayyám shall be a denizen of
Hell? Who has ever gone to Hell and who has come from Paradise?

I laid my lip to the lip of the wine-cup in the utmost
desire to seek from it the means of prolonging life.
It laid its lip to my lip and said mysteriously: "During
a whole life I was like thee; rejoice for a while in my

Here we are, and the wine and the bench of the tavern
and the furnace in ruins. We have put soul and heart
and cup and cloak in pledge for wine
and got rid of the hope of mercy and the fear of punish-
ment. Careless we are of earth and air and fire and water.

Khayyám, who was stitching the tents of wisdom, fell into
the furnace of affliction and was burnt all of a sudden.
The shears of death cut the tent-rope of his life. The
broker of hope sold him for nothing.

Yesterday I saw a potter in the bazar. He beat the
fresh clay with many strokes,
and that clay said to him in its own language: "Once
I was [a being] like thee; so treat me gently."

Drink of that wine which is eternal life. It is the capital
of the pleasure of youth, therefore drink!
It burns like fire, but like the water of life it alleviates
sorrow. Therefore drink!

Nobody, since the revolving sphere has been visible on
heaven, has seen anything that is better than ruby wine.
I wonder at the wine-sellers, for what will they buy
that is better than that which they sell?

We cannot consume our merry heart with grief and
tear asunder the time of our happiness against the rock
of affliction.
Who knows what will happen in time? Wine is what
we need, and the beloved one and repose after satisfied

We have returned to the habit of debauchery. We
renounce the five daily prayers.
Wherever there is a goblet, thou mayst see us with our
necks stretched like the neck of the bottle towards it.

How long [shall we listen to] traditions about eternity
to come and eternity past? Theory as well as practice are
beyond the measure of my ability.
In the hour of joy there is no substitute for wine.
Wine settles all difficulties.

O friend, never again shalt thou rebuke drunkards. If
He makes me repentant, then I shall show repentance
towards God.
Be not arrogant, saying: "I do not drink wine." Thou
dost do a hundred things in comparison to which wine
drinking is but child's play".

This night I will fetch a cup that measures one man
I will make myself rich with two half mans of wine.
First, by thrice repeating the formula of divorce, I
will repudiate reason and faith; then I will marry daughter of the

When I am dead, wash me with wine, make over me a funeral oration of
wine and cup.
If you want to find me on the day of resurrection, seek me in the dust
before the door of the wine-house.

It is not allowable for a man, [even when] drunk, to de-
stroy the composition of a cup which he has put together.
So many fair heads and feet, formed by His hand, for
love of whom did He make them? and for hate of whom
did He destroy them?

O wheel of heaven, ruin springs from thy hatred.
From time immemorial thy business was to do wrong.
earth, if they cleave thy heart, how many a precious
stone is to be found in thy bosom?

Everyone into whose heart love and friendship have
been kneaded, be he one of the people of the prayer-mat
or one of the people of the church.
Everyone whose name is entered in the account-book
of love is free from Hell and independent of Paradise.

Of that circle which encloses our coming and going we
can make out neither beginning nor end.
Nobody can utter a single word rightly to explain the
mystery, whence is our coming, and whither our going.

All that green-sward which grows on the bank of the
rivulet has grown, as it were, on the lip of a beeing of
angelic nature.
Put not thy foot on the grass in contempt, for that
grass has grown from the dust of a moon-face.

This anxiety for money and this grief over the world.
what is it all ? Never hast thou seen a man who did live
With those one or two breaths which thy body has
borrowed shalt thou deal as with a thing lent to thee,
being thyself a loan.

Good and evil that are in the nature of man, joy and
grief that are in fate and predestination,
do not impute them to the wheel of Heaven, for in
the way of reason the wheel is a thousand times more
helpless than thou art.

When I drink wine it is not for the sake of merry-
making, nor because I am a reprobate, reckless of faith
and morality.
I wish to escape for a moment from myself; this is
the motive of my wine-bibbing and drunkenness.

Since the Lord Himself has mixed the ingredients of
human nature, why did He afterwards subject them to
decay and ruin?
If the result was good, why then break it up? and if these
creatures proved failures, who is to blame in the matter?

Before I and thou were born, night and day existed,
and the revolving sky was at work too.
Take care, put thy foot lightly on the dust, for once
it was the apple of the eye of a fair being.

At the banquet of Wisdom, Reason gave an excellent
demonstration [and] spoke among Greeks and Arabs right
and left (maisara):
"If an ignorant person said that wine is not good
(unlawful), how should I listen [to him], since God has
said 'maisara'?"

One draught of wine is better than the kingdom of
Ká'ús, and it is better than the throne of Qubád and the
estates of Tús.
Every love-lament that a drunkard raises at dawn is
better than the cry of the hypocritical zealots.

The rain-cloud is come and has shed its doleful tears
all over the grass. It is not suitable to live without the
rose-coloured wine.
This grass is to-day a feast for our eyes; the grass that
shall grow from our dust, for whose eyes shall it be a feast?

When God prepared the clay of our existence, He knew
what would be the outcome of our actions.
Not one of my sins has been committed without His
order; why then will he burn me on the day of resur

From of old the scheme of all that must be has existed.
The pen of destiny has written good and evil without
He has appointed in predestination all that must come.
We distress and bestir ourselves, but all to no avail.

I am a disobedient servant; where are the means of
pleasing Thee? In the treasure of my heart where is Thy
light and clearness?
If Thou givest us Paradise as a reward for our obe-
dience, it is a mere bargain. What then becomes of Thy
mercy and beneficence?

When life vanishes, what then is Baghdad, what is
Balkh? When the measure of our cup is full, what matter
if the drink be sweet or bitter?
Drink wine, for after me and thee this moon will pass
many times from the last day of the month to to the first
of the next and from the first to the last.

To Heaven it was of no profit to bring me hither, and
to take me away could not increase its magnificence and dignity.
Nor have my two ears ever heard from anyone for
what reason it brings me and takes me away.

He who built the earth and the sky and [all] the heavens.
with how many a brand did He mark the sorrowful hearts!
Many a ruby lip and many a musky lock did He hide
in the [hollow] drum of earth and the box of dust.

The sun has thrown the lasso of dawn over the roof.
The Kai Khusraw of the day has poured wine in the cup.
Drink wine, for the broker of morning-time has arisen
and has flung out among the days the cry of "Drink!"

This caravan of life passes by like a wonder. Mayst thou
discover the moment that passes by with delight.
Sáqí, why dost thou trouble thyself with the To-morrow
of thy fellows? Bring a cup, for the night passes by.

Beware! give me nourishment from the wine-cup, and make this amber face
[of mine red] as ruby.
When I shall depart this life, wash me with wine, and make from the wood
of the wine the planks of my coffin.

My soul cleaves to a face like the rose; my hand cleaves
to the wine-cup.
Of all the parts [of the totality] I will take my share,
before the parts shall be merged in the totality.

If thou sprinklest wine on the mountain, it dances. A
defective man is he who is deficient in wine.
Why dost thou command me to repent of wine ? Wine
is that spirit which brings out personality.

The brick that is placed upon the jar is sweeter than
the kingdom of Jam. The odour from the cup is sweeter
than the food of Maria.
A morning-sigh from the breast of a drunkard is sweeter
than the elegies of Bú Sa'íd and Adham.

It is morning-time. Arise, o wonderful youth: fill the
crystalline cup with ruby wine,
for that one moment we have borrowed in this corner
of annihilation — long shall thou seek for it, and thou
shalt not find it again.

Since the outcome of human existence in this inn with
two gates is nothing but a bleeding heart and the sur-
render of life,
happy is the heart of the man whom nobody knows,
and at peace the man who was never born of a mother.

Though I never threaded the bead of obedience to Thee
and never wiped off the dust of sin from my face.
none the less I am not hopeless of Thy mercy, because
I never called the One Two.

In a state of drunkenness I passed by the wine-house
last night. I saw an old man drunk and with a jar on
his shoulder.
I said; "Art thou not ashamed before God, o old man?"
He said: "Mercy comes from God, drink wine and be

I said: "Nevermore will I drink ruby wine, for wine
is the blood of the vine, and henceforth I wil not drink blood."
Old man reason asked me: "Art thou in earnest?"
I answered: "I only spoke in jest. How could I refrain from drinking?"

May my heart always be set on unmixed wine! May
my ear always listen to the flute and the rebeck!
If the potters are to turn my dust into a jar, may that
jar always be full of wine!

The Holy Book in one hand and the cup in the other.
I am now a follower of things permitted, now of things
We are, beneath this turquoise-coloured marble-vault.
neither absolute heathens, nor perfect Muslims.

So far as in thee lies, be not without wine for one
moment, for through wine reason and heart and faith be-
come merry.
If Iblís had drunk but one draught of wine, he would
have prostrated himself two thousand times before Adam

The secrets of eternity past neither dost thou know,
nor do I, and the word that solves the riddle neither canst
thou speak, nor can I.
There is behind the veil some talk about me and thee.
When the veil is drawn aside, neither dost thou remain.
nor do I.

It is a disgrace to be known as a man of good name
It is shameful to grieve at the tyranny of the wheel of fate.
To be drunk with the flavour of the grape-juice is better
than to pride oneself on an ascetic life.

Since the outcome for man in this salt-marsh is nothing
but to suffer grief or to uproot one's soul.
happy is the heart of the man who passes quickly
from this world, and at peace the man who came not at
all into the world.

To him who has a knowledge of the conditions of the
world, the joy and grief of the world have become all
the same.
Since the good and the bad of the world will be all
over, well! be all pain, then, or all remedy.

Where is the profit of our coming or going? and where
is the woof to the warp of the stuff of our life?
In the hoop of the wheel of Heaven the souls of so
many pure beings burn and become ashes, and where is
the smoke?

Yon castle which reared its wings heavenwards, and
in whose audience-hall kings prostrated themselves [to do
on its pinnacle I saw a ring-dove sit cooing: "where?
where? where? where?"

How long [this talk] about Yá Sin and Barát, o Sáqí?
Draw a draft (barát) on the wine-house, o Sáqí.
The day on which they give us a permit (barát) for
the wine-house, that day will be better than the night of
Barát, o Sáqí.

In the work-shop of a potter I grew meditative. I saw
the master with his foot on the treadle of the wheel.
Boldly he prepared for the jar handle and neck from
the skulls of kings and the feet of beggars.

At the time of the morning-draught, o my beloved,
harbinger of luck, strike up a tune and serve the wine,
for this coming of the month of Tír and that going of
Dai has struck to the ground a hundred thousand Jams
and Kais.

If thou wishest to lay a firm foundation for life, seek
out a carefree moment in the heart's world.
Do not sit idle without drinking wine and grape-juice.
so that thou mayest find pleasure at any moment.

All that thou sayest to us, it is out of hatred that thou
sayest it. Always thou callest me an heretic and an infidel.
I admit all that I am, but, honestly, art thou the one
to say so?

By the coming of spring and the going of Dai we
have finished turning over the leaves of the book of our
Taste wine and do not taste sorrow, for the philo-
sopher has said: "The griefs of the world are like poison,
and the antidote is wine".