Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain LVIII

Quatrain LVIII is related to the previous one by its opening  and by its focus on sin, something that hasn't come up in earlier quatrains.

First Edition:  Quatrain LVIII

Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And who with Eden didst devise the Snake,
    For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give--and take!

Second Edition:  Quatrain LXXXVIII

Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And ev'n with Eden didst devise the Snake:
    For all the Sin the Face of wretched Man
Is black with--Man's Forgiveness give--and take!

Fifth Edition:  Quatrain LXXXI

Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And ev'n with Paradise devise the Snake,
    For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken'd--Man's Forgiveness give--and take!

As usual, FitzGerald made some changes to the Second Edition, but what is unusual,  he restored some of the changes by the Fifth Edition.  He dropped the term "wherewith" from the second quatrain but put it back in by the fifth edition.  I suspect FitzGerald may have felt that the original version flowed much more smoothly than did the revision.

The first line is the same in all three versions.  In the second line, FitaGerald refers to Eden in the first and second editions but replaces it with "Paradise" in the fifth.  Why the change is not clear to me. "Eden" clearly refers to the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve resided until the Fall.  The snake, of course, is Satan the tempter of Eve.  "Paradise," on the other hand, could refer to the Garden of Eden, but it could also refer, and does so much more frequently, to heaven.  In this case, the Snake would then suggest Hell, where Satan lives.  FitzGerald also dropped "didst" in the second line after the second edition, which necessitated another syllable, which could explain the substitution of  "Paradise" which has three syllables for "Eden" which has only two.

As I mentioned earlier, this is the second quatrain in which the Poet brings up the issue of Sin.  And, as in the previous quatrain, he discusses it in a way that isn't in line with received dogma, either in Islam or Christianity, at least as far as I can tell.  In the previous quatrain, he suggests that Man should not be blamed for giving into temptations because the Creator created them. If there were no temptations, then Man would not give into them.

In this quatrain, the Poet goes considerably further in the last two lines of the quatrain when he insists that the Creator not only forgive Mankind for its transgressions but also accept Man's forgiveness!  He seems to  be saying that if the Creator insists on attributing certain behaviors as sins or transgressions against him, then the Creator also needs to be forgiven for putting temptations in the path of humanity.  I believe none of the major religions would accept this for this would mean that the Creator is imperfect, something none of the monotheistic religions could accept--an imperfect Creator--and that the Creator must accept Man's judgement just as It judges Man.

I couldn't but help think of Robert Frost here:

Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee
And I'll forgive Thy great big one on me.


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