Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
 
Poems of Sentiment: I. Time
Rubáiyát
Omar Khayyam (1048–1131)
 
Paraphrased from the Persian by Edward Fitzgerald

I.
WAKE! for the Sun, who scattered into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
  Drives Night along with them from Heaven, and strikes
The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.
 
II.
Before the phantom of False morning died,
        5
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
  “When all the Temple is prepared within,
Why nods the drowsy Worshiper outside?”
 
III.
And as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted—“Open then the Door!        10
  You know how little while we have to stay,
And once departed, may return no more.”
 
IV.
Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
  Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough        15
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.
 
V.
Iram indeed is gone with all his Rose,
And Jamshyd’s Seven-ringed Cup where no one knows;
  But still a Ruby kindles in the Vine,
And many a Garden by the Water blows.        20
 
VI.
And David’s lips are lockt; but in divine
High-piping Pehleví, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!
  Red Wine!”—the Nightingale cries to the Rose,
That sallow cheek of hers t’ incarnadine.
 
VII.
Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
        25
Your Winter garment of Repentance fling:
  The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter—and the Bird is on the Wing.
 
VIII.
Whether at Naishápúr or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,—        30
  The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.
 
IX.
Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say:
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
  And this first Summer month that brings the Rose        35
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobád away.
 
X.
Well, let it take them! What have we to do
With Kaikobád the Great, or Kaikhosrú?
  Let Zál and Rustum bluster as they will,
Or Hátim call to Supper—heed not you.        40
 
XI.
With me along the strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
  Where name of Slave and Sultán is forgot—
And Peace to Mahmúd on his golden Throne!
 
XII.
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
        45
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
  Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
 
XIII.
Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come:        50
  Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!
 
XIV.
Look to the blowing Rose about us—“Lo,
Laughing,” she says, “into the world I blow,
  At once the silken tassel of my Purse        55
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw.”
 
XV.
And those who husbanded the Golden grain,
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain,
  Alike to no such aureate Earth are turned
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.        60
 
XVI.
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
  Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face,
Lighting a little hour or two—is gone.
 
XVII.
Think, in this battered Caravanserai
        65
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
  How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp
Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.
 
XVIII.
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:        70
  And Bahrám, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass
Stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.
 
XIX.
I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Cæsar bled;
  That every Hyacinth the Garden wears        75
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.
 
XX.
And this reviving Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean—
  Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!        80
 
XXI.
Ah, my Belovèd, fill the Cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears:
  To-morrow!—Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday’s Seven thousand Years.
 
XXII.
For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
        85
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,
  Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.
 
XXIII.
And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,        90
  Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend—ourselves to make a Couch—for whom?
 
XXIV.
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
  Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie,        95
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and—sans End!
 
XXV.
Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after some To-morrow stare,
  A Muezzín from the Tower of Darkness cries,
“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”        100
 
XXVI.
Why, all the Saints and Sages who discussed
Of the Two Worlds so wisely—they are thrust
  Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scattered, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.
 
XXVII.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
        105
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
  About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same door wherein I went.
 
XXVIII.
With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;        110
  And this was all the Harvest that I reaped—
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”
 
XXIX.
Into this Universe, and Why not knowing,
Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
  And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,        115
I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.
 
XXX.
What, without asking, hither hurried Whence?
And, without asking, Whither hurried hence!
  Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine
Must drown the memory of that insolence!        120
 
XXXI.
Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate:
  And many a Knot unravelled by the Road;
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.
 
XXXII.
There was the Door to which I found no Key;
        125
There was the Veil through which I might not see:
  Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was—and then no more of Thee and Me.
 
XXXIII.
Earth could not answer; nor the Seas that mourn
In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn;        130
  Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs revealed
And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.
 
XXXIV.
Then of the THEE IN ME who works behind
The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find
  A lamp amid the Darkness; and I heard,        135
As from Without—“The Me within Thee Blind!”
 
XXXV.
Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn
I leaned, the Secret of my Life to learn;
  And Lip to Lip it murmured—“While you live,
Drink!—for once dead, you never shall return.”        140
 
XXXVI.
I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
Articulation answered, once did live,
  And drink; and Ah! the passive Lip I kissed,
How many Kisses might it take—and give!
 
XXXVII.
For I remember stopping by the way
        145
To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay:
  And with its all-obliterated Tongue
It murmured—“Gently, Brother, gently, pray!”
 
XXXVIII.
And has not such a Story from of Old
Down Man’s successive generations rolled        150
  Of such a clod of saturated Earth
Cast by the Maker into Human mould?
 
XXXIX.
And not a drop that from our Cups we throw
For Earth to drink of, but may steal below
  To quench the fire of Anguish in some Eye        155
There hidden—far beneath, and long ago.
 
XL.
As then the Tulip for her morning sup
Of Heavenly Vintage from the soil looks up,
  Do you devoutly do the like, till Heaven
To Earth invert you—like an empty Cup.        160
 
XLI.
Perplext no more with Human or Divine,
To-morrow’s tangle to the winds resign,
  And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.
 
XLII.
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
        165
End in what All begins and ends in—Yes;
  Think then you are To-day what Yesterday
You were—To-morrow you shall not be less.
 
XLIII.
So when that Angel of the darker Drink
At last shall find you by the river-brink,        170
  And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff—you shall not shrink.
 
XLIV.
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
  Were ’t not a Shame—were ’t not a Shame for him        175
In this clay carcass crippled to abide?
 
XLV.
’T is but a Tent where takes his one day’s rest
A Sultán to the realm of Death addrest;
  The Sultán rises, and the dark Ferrásh
Strikes and prepares it for another Guest.        180
 
XLVI.
And fear not lest Existence, closing your
Account, and mine, should know the like no more;
  The Eternal Sákí from that Bowl has poured
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour.
 
XLVII.
When You and I behind the Veil are past,
        185
Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,
  Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As the Sea’s self should heed a pebble-cast.
 
XLVIII.
A Moment’s Halt—a momentary taste
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste—        190
  And Lo!—the phantom Caravan has reached
The Nothing it set out from—Oh, make haste!
 
XLIX.
Would you that spangle of Existence spend
About the secret—quick about it, Friend!
  A Hair perhaps divides the False and True—        195
And upon what, prithee, may life depend?
 
L.
A Hair perhaps divides the False and True;
Yes; and a single Alif were the clue—
  Could you but find it—to the Treasure-house
And peradventure to The Master too;        200
 
LI.
Whose secret Presence, through Creation’s veins
Running Quicksilver-like, eludes your pains;
  Taking all shapes from Máh to Máhi; and
They change and perish all—but He remains:
 
LII.
A moment guessed—then back behind the Fold
        205
Immerst of Darkness round the Drama rolled
  Which, for the Pastime of Eternity,
He doth Himself contrive, enact, behold.
 
LIII.
But if in vain, down on the stubborn floor
Of Earth, and up to Heaven’s unopening Door,        210
  You gaze To-day, while You are You—how then
To-morrow, when You shall be You no more?
 
LIV.
Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute;
  Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape        215
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.
 
LV.
You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
  Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.        220
 
LVI.
For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and Line
And “Up-and-Down” by Logic I define,
  Of all that one should care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but—Wine.
 
LVII.
Ah, but my Computations, People say,
        225
Reduced the Year to better reckoning?—Nay,
  ’T was only striking from the Calendar
Unborn To-morrow, and dead Yesterday.
 
LVIII.
And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,
Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape        230
  Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and
He bid me taste of it; and ’t was—the Grape!
 
LIX.
The Grape, that can with Logic absolute
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute;
  The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice        235
Life’s leaden metal into Gold transmute;
 
LX.
The mighty Mahmúd, Allah-breathing Lord,
That all the misbelieving and black Horde
  Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul
Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword.        240
 
LXI.
Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare
Blaspheme the twisted tendril as a Snare?
  A Blessing, we should use it, should we not?
And if a Curse—why, then, Who set it there?
 
LXII.
I must abjure the Balm of Life, I must,
        245
Scared by some After-reckoning ta’en on trust,
  Or lured with Hope of some Diviner Drink,
To fill the Cup—when crumbled into Dust!
 
LXIII.
Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain—This Life flies;        250
  One thing is certain and the rest is Lies:
The Flower that once has blown forever dies.
 
LXIV.
Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us passed the door of Darkness through,
  Not one returns to tell us of the Road,        255
Which to discover we must travel too.
 
LXV.
The Revelations of Devout and Learned
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burned,
  Are all but Stories, which awoke from Sleep
They told their comrades, and to Sleep returned.        260
 
LXVI.
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell;
  And by-and-by my Soul returned to me,
And answered, “I Myself am Heaven and Hell:”
 
LXVII.
Heaven but the Vision of fulfilled Desire,
        265
And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
  Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.
 
LXVIII.
We are no other than a moving row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go        270
  Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show;
 
LXIX.
But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
  Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,        275
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
 
LXX.
The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
  And he that tossed you down into the Field,
He knows about it all—HE knows—HE knows!        280
 
LXXI.
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.
 
LXXII.
And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
        285
Whereunder crawling cooped we live and die,
  Lift not your hands to It for help—for It
As impotently moves as you or I.
 
LXXIII.
With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man knead,
And there of the Last Harvest sowed the Seed;        290
  And the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.
 
LXXIV.
Yesterday This Day’s Madness did prepare;
To-morrow’s Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
  Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why;        295
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
 
LXXV.
I tell you this—When, started from the Goal,
Over the flaming shoulders of the Foal
  Of Heaven Parwín and Mushtarí they flung,
In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.        300
 
LXXVI.
The Vine had struck a fibre; which about
If clings my Being—let the Dervish flout:
  Of my Base metal may be filed a Key
That shall unlock the Door he howls without.
 
LXXVII.
And this I know: whether the one True Light
        305
Kindle to Love, or Wrath consume me quite,
  One Flash of It within the Tavern caught
Better than in the Temple lost outright.
 
LXXVIII.
What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke
A conscious Something to resent the yoke        310
  Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain
Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!
 
LXXIX.
What! from his helpless Creature be repaid
Pure Gold for what He lent him dross-allayed—
  Sue for a Debt he never did contract,        315
And cannot answer—Oh the sorry trade!
 
LXXX.
Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
  Thou wilt not with Predestined Evil round
Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin!        320
 
LXXXI.
Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And e’en with Paradise devise the Snake:
  For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blackened—Man’s forgiveness give—and take!
*        *        *        *        *
LXXXII.
As under cover of departing Day
        325
Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazán away,
  Once more within the Potter’s house alone
I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.
 
LXXXIII.
Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,
That stood along the floor and by the wall:        330
  And some loquacious Vessels were; and some
Listened, perhaps, but never talked at all.
 
LXXXIV.
Said one among them—“Surely not in vain
My substance of the common Earth was ta’en
  And to this Figure moulded, to be broke,        335
Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again.”
 
LXXXV.
Then said a Second—“Ne’er a peevish Boy
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy;
  And He that with his hand the Vessel made
Will surely not in after Wrath destroy.”        340
 
LXXXVI.
After a momentary silence spake
Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make:—
  “They sneer at me for leaning all awry:
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”
 
LXXXVII.
Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot—
        345
I think a Súfi pipkin—waxing hot—
  “All this of Pot and Potter—Tell me, then,
Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”
 
LXXXVIII.
“Why,” said another, “Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell        350
  The luckless Pots he marred in making—Pish!
He ’s a Good Fellow, and ’t will all be well.”
 
LXXXIX.
“Well,” murmured one, “Let whoso make or buy,
My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry;
  But fill me with the old familiar Juice,        355
Methinks I might recover by-and-by.”
 
XC.
So while the Vessels one by one were speaking
The little Moon looked in that all were seeking:
  And then they jogged each other, “Brother! Brother!
Now for the Porter’s shoulder-knot a-creaking!”        360
 
XCI.
Ah, with the Grape my fading life provide,
And wash the Body whence the Life has died,
  And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf,
By some not unfrequented Garden-side.
 
XCII.
That e’en my buried Ashes such a snare
        365
Of Vintage shall fling up into the Air,
  As not a True-believer passing by
But shall be overtaken unaware.
 
XCIII.
Indeed, the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my credit in this World much wrong:        370
  Have drowned my Glory in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song.
 
XCIV.
Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before,
I swore—but was I sober when I swore?
  And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand        375
My threadbare Penitence apieces tore.
 
XCV.
And much as Wine has played the Infidel,
And Robbed me of my Robe of Honor—Well,
  I wonder often what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the stuff they sell.        380
 
XCVI.
Yet Ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth’s sweet-scented manuscript should close!
  The Nightingale that in the branches sang,
Ah whence, and whither flown again, who knows!
 
XCVII.
Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield
        385
One glimpse—if dimly, yet indeed revealed,
  To which the fainting Traveller might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!
 
XCVIII.
Would but some wingèd Angel ere too late
Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate,        390
  And make the stern Recorder otherwise
Enregister, or quite obliterate!
 
XCIX.
Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
  Would not we shatter it to bits—and then        395
Remould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!
*        *        *        *        *
C.
Yon rising Moon that looks for us again—
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
  How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden—and for one in vain!        400
 
CI.
And when like her, O Sákí, you shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scattered on the Grass,
  And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made One—turn down an empty Glass!
 
 
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