Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Youth's Sweet-Scented Manuscript:" The Rubáiyát, Part III:

This is part 3 of a look at the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. To see where all this started, here's part 1 and part 2.

The response up to this point has been, well, nil, but sometimes you just have to do what you've have to do. Mercifully, this post will wrap up this recent fixation: some things you just have to get out of your system. Just as with Japanese and Chinese poetry, I will always have an affinity for the Rubáiyát. The lyric tone and style is antiquated, to be sure. The philosophy, though, is close to my lapsed agnostic heart.

Spill that wine, take that pearl ...

But in vain down on the stubborn floor
Of Earth, and up to Heav'n's unopening Door
---You gaze To-day while You are You—how then
Tomorrow, when You shall be You no more?

For "Is" and "Is-Not" though with Rule and Line
And "Up-and-Down" by Logic I define,
---Of all that shall care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but—Wine.

Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing is certain—This Life flies;
---One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever Dies.

Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass'd the door of Darkness through,
---Not one returns to tell us of the Road
Which to discover we must travel too.

The Revelations of Devout and Learn'd
Who rose before us, and as the Prophets burn'd,
---Are all but stories, which, awoke from Sleep
They told their comrades and to Sleep return'd.

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of the After—life to spell:
---And by and by my Soul return'd to me,
And answered "I myself are Heav'n and Hell:"

Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire,
And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
---Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.

The Moving Finger writes and having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
---Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die,
---Lift not your hands to It for help—for It
As impotently moves as you or I.

Yesterday This day's madness did prepare;
Tomorrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
---Drink, for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink for you know not why you go, nor where.

Yet Ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth's sweet-scented manuscript shall close!
---The Nightingale that in the branches sang,
Ah, whence, and whither flown, who knows?

Cover by David Shabee

This week's trip to the Back Issue Archive of Lilliput Review continues to go way down the alley: August 1993. Here are a few select nuggets from back then: enjoy.

brow to brow
and thunderhead

William Hart

You Taught
You taught
me woman things
with your smooth words and way;
how is it you taught me how to
leave you?
Terria Tucker Smith

Heads Or Tales
We live in a time where
childhood is a lie
tomorrow is a fantasy
and today is duck duck
Cheryl Townsend

Elegiac Feast
-----"ramma ramma, katzenjamma"

---------------rise up gypsies, dancers, mountebanks,
troubadours, lost souls, poets, painters, ghost
of starving, teeth-gnashing Van Gogh, penniless
and drunk, staring at the stars in the rain,
actors, itinerant players, the irregulars, feast
in a world out of joint and biting our ass, drink
up rogue gypsy gala, dance till morning, oh Judy,
Judy, Judy, sing on, sing on, the singing soul
of our crying hearts.

T. Kilgore Splake

Oh, and one little last something, live, because we can:



Runechris said...

A nice early morning read Don..


Ally Malinenko said...

Yesterday This day's madness did prepare;
Tomorrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
---Drink, for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink for you know not why you go, nor where.

perfect. perfect. perfect.
thanks don.

Ed Baker said...

ahhhhhh...this GOOODY 'stuff' takes me Bach to my
musical rootz where every single note implores!

it's just the Swinburne in all of us



Blake, the Rossetti's

them Pre-Raphialites (Mathew Arnold, etc...

hey, maybe time to re:visit John Ruskin?


Charles Gramlich said...

I should reread this. I read it the first time in grad school and I appreciated the message, even though I was doing exactly the opposite. I might get more out of it today.

Charles Shere said...

But as I recall, the word in #71 is not "Pity" but "Piety", which puts quite a different construction on the quatrain...

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

C, many thanks ...

Ally: It is almost too good, he said on his way down ...

Ed, the music always connects with you ... yes ... you've hit another weak spot ... The Pre-Raphaelites and, yes, Ruskin - I'm a secret Ruskin reader - is there a post there?

Charles G., it's well worth the reread, it grabbed me even more this time round -

Charles S., many, many thanks for catching the pity for piety error - it's corrected - posting at 5 in the morning before work, I have to be more vigilant (i.e. awake) - I've left a note on one of your blogs in case you don't follow this ...

I appreciate your close reading and letting me know.


Fred said...

I know what you mean about the Rubaiyat. I've started my own project, one quatrain at a time until I finish the 75 in the first edition.

The Rubaiyat and the haiku are my ways to meditate, or perhaps that's too serious--my way of pausing and getting a moment away from the distractions of the everyday.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks, I don't think meditation is too strong a word for working in these forms. Basho thought of hokku (or haiku) as a way, such as the Way of the Warrior, the Way of Tea etc.

Best of luck with your project.