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Keene, H.G. [1887]

Omar Khayyam. H.G. Keene
In: Macmillan's Magazine, vol. 57, 1887, Nov., p. 27-32
Potter 338

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.