Omar Khayyám

Cantata by Henry Houseley (1852? - 1925)

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1. Part I

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Wake! For the Sun behind yon Eastern height 
Has chased the Session of the Stars from Night,
And, to the field of Heav'n ascending, strikes 
The Sultán's Turret with a Shaft of Light.

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Before the phantom of False morning died
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried:
"When all the Temple is prepared within
Why nods the drowsy Worshipper outside?"

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And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted -- "Open then the Door!
"You know how little while we have to stay,
"And, once departed, may return no more."

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Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling.
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter -- and the Bird is on the wing!

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Whether at Naishápúr or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

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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,
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobád away.

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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.

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Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling.
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter -- and the Bird is on the wing!

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2. Part 2

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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 Máhmúd on his golden Throne!

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A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread -- and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness --
[Oh]1, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Un libro di poesie posato sotto un ramo", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

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1 Lehmann : "Ah"

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Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go,
Nor heed the music of a distant Drum!

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Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!

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Look to the [blowing Rose]1 about us -- "Lo,
"Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow:
"At once the silken Tassel of my Purse 
"Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

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1 first edition: "Rose that blows".

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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]1 gone.

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1 Fitzgerald has "was" in the second and third editions.

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Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai,
Whose [Portals]1 are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp,
Abode his [destined hour]2 and went his way.

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1 in the first edition alone: "Doorways"
2 in the first edition alone: "Hour or two"

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3. Part 3

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They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshýd gloried and drank deep,
And Bahrám, that great Hunter, -- the wild Ass
Stamps o'er his Head, [but cannot break his sleep]1.

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1 in the first edition alone: "and he lies fast asleep"

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[And not]1 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
There hidden -- far beneath, and long ago.

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1 Lehmann: "Ah, not"

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I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled,
That [every]1 Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in [her]2 lap from some once lovely head.

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1 Lehmann: "ev'ry"
2 first edition, Murray (probably): "its"

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And this [delightful]1 Herb, whose [tender]2 green,
Fledges the [River's Lip]3 on which we lean --
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen.

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1 Houseley, Lehmann: "reviving"
2 Fitzgerald had "living" in the second edition.
3 Lehmann: "river-lip"

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Ah, my Beloved, 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 Sev'n thousand Years.

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For some we loved, the loveliest and the best 
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.

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And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend, ourselves to make a Couch -- for whom?

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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,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and -- sans End!

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4. Part 4

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Alike [for]1 those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after [some]2 TO-MORROW stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
"Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!"

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1 Harris: "are" ; further changes may exist not noted above.
2 in the first edition: "a"

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Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the two Worlds so wisely — they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth ;their Words to Scorn
Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

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Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.

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With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own Hand [wrought to make it]1 grow,
And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd --
"I came like Water, and like Wind I go."

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1 first edition: "labour'd it to"

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Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

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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!

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Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
And many a Knot unravel’d by the Road;
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.

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There was the Door to which I found no Key;
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.

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Earth could not answer; nor the Seas that mourn
In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn:
Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs reveal’d
And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.

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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,
As from Without -- "THE ME WITHIN THEE BLIND!"

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Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn
I lean’d, the Secret of my Life to learn;
And Lip to Lip it murmur’d — "While you live, 
Drink! — for, once dead, you never shall return."

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5. Part 5

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I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some [letter]1 of that After-life to spell,
And by and by my Soul return'd to me
And answer'd: I myself am Heav'n and Hell.

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1 Lehmann: "secret"

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Heav'n but the vision of fulfilled 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.

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We are no other than a moving row
Of [Magic Shadow-shapes]1 that come and go
Round with this Sun-illumin'd Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show;

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2 second edition: "visionary Shapes"

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But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays;
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

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The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There, as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss'd you down into the Field,
He knows about it all -- HE knows --- HE knows!

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

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And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help -- for it
As impotently moves as you or I.

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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.

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And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press, 
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.

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So when [the]1 Angel of the darker Drink
At last shall find you by the river-brink,
And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff -- you shall not shrink.

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1 Houseley, Lehmann: "that"

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[Why,]1 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
In this clay carcase crippled to abide?

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1 Lehmann: "But"

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'Tis but a Tent where takes his one-day's rest
A sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrásh
Strikes, and prepares it for another guest.

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And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, and mine, should know the like no more;
The Eternal Sáki from that Bowl has pour'd 
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour.

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When you and I behind the veil are past
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.

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6. Part 6

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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!

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And when like her, oh Sáki, you shall pass 
Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot 
Where I made One -- turn down an empty Glass!

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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!

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Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield
One glimpse -- if dimly, yet indeed, reveal'd,
To which the fainting Traveller might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!

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Would but some winged Angel ere too late
Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate,
And make the stern Recorder otherwise
Enregister, or quite obliterate!

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Ah Love! could [thou]1 and I with [Fate]2 conspire
To grasp the sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would [not we]3 shatter it to bits -- and then
Remould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

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1 Houseley, Lehmann: "you"
2 third and fourth editions, Houseley: "Him"
3 Houseley, Lehmann: "we not"

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