Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain IX

1st Edition: Quatrain IX

But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot
Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
Or Hatim Tai cry Supper--heed them not.

2nd Edition: Quatrain X

Well, let it take them! What have we to do
With Kaikobad the Great, or Kaikhosru?
Let Rustum cry "To Battle!" as he likes,
Or Hatim Tai "To Supper"--heed not you.

5th Edition: Quatrain X

Well, let it take them! What have we to do
With Kaikobad the Great, or Kaikhosru?
Let Zal and Rustum bluster as they will,
Or Hatim call to Supper--heed not you.

FitzGerald changed not only the wording, but also the tone and the underlying sense of this quatrain. In the first edition, he poses an invitation--

"But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot"

We should go with old Khayyam and forget the past that he referred to in the previous quatrain. It is gone, and we shouldn't concern ourselves with the transitory glories of the past. The present should be our concern.

The second and fifth editions also tell us to forget the past, but the invitation to join Khayyam is gone.

"Well, let it take them! What have we to do"

Instead, there's disdain or dismissal here--let the past do what it wishes with the glories of the past--"let it take them," for it is of no concern to us. And, the reference to Rustum also changes: the first version's tone is the heroic stance of hand-to-hand combat, which changes to a war cry in the 2nd edition and finally declines to "bluster" in the fifth edition, which is quite derogatory when one considers the tone of the first version.

What's also interesting about the first version is that Khayyam issues an invitation to go with him, but he does not say where. Up to this point, the quatrains have been relatively independent, even though there is some carryover of theme and reference from one to another. This quatrain, to me anyway, doesn't seem to stand alone; something is missing--an invitation to go where?

My thinking is that, particularly in the first edition, Quatrains IX, X, and XI really are one unit and should be read together. Q IX poses an invitation to go somewhere with old Khayyam, Q X tells us Khayyam's destination, and Q XI explains what we will do when we arrive there.

In the second and fifth editions, the link between X and XI is not nearly as strong as is the link between Qs IX and X in the first edition. However, the link between the second and third quatrains in this group are equally strong in all three versions.

My preference is once again for the first edition as it seems to flow much more smoothly from the first to the fourth line of the quatrain. Khayyam invites us to go with him and forget the past in the first--a sense of "do this" and "not do this"-- while the later two versions suggest irritation and dismissal only--"Well, let it take them..." In addition, the first version leaves me unsatisfied with an unanswered question about where Khayyam wishes to go. This pulls me to the next quatrain, hoping the question will be answered. The second and fifth versions suggest a dead end--forget one's concern with the past without hinting at something better to replace it.

It's too bad we can't find out why FitzGerald made these changes; it would be interesting to read about the changes in his thinking that produced the revisions.


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