Monday, November 12, 2012

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain LXVI

This is the last in a series of  linked quatrains that focus on the Creator/Potter relationship with comments by the pots or vessels expressing a variety of opinions as to the nature of that relationship.  It is appropriate, therefore, that this quatrain takes place at the end of Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for Moslems.



First Edition: Quatrain.LXVI

So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
One spied the little Crescent all were seeking:
     And then they jogg'd each other,  "Brother, Brother!
Hark to the Porter's Shoulder-knot a creaking!"




 Second Edition:XCVII

So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
One spied the little Crescent all were seeking:
     And then they jogg'd each other,  "Brother, Brother!
Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creaking!"



 Fifth Edition:  Quatrain XC


So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
The little Moon looked in that all were seeking:
     And then they jogg'd each other,  "Brother, Brother!
Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creaking!"


 FitzGerald made only minor changes from the First through the Second to the Fifth Editions.  The first, third, and fourth lines are almost identical except for the minor changes of changing some upper case letters to lower case and the substitution of "Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot.  .  ." for "Hark to the Porter's Shoulder-knot .  .  ."

In the second line Fitzgerald rearranged the sequence from "One spied the little Crescent all were seeking:"--to  "The little Moon looked in that all were seeking." as well as substituting "The little Moon" for "the little Crescent."  The change of wording adds some ambiguity for a crescent is much more specific than a little moon and is far more precise considering its relationship to Ramadan.

The change also changes focus in the quatrain.  In the first edition, the focus is solely on the pots whereas the rearrangement in the second and fifth versions  interrupts that.  The focus is on the pots in the first, third, and fourth lines, while it shifts to the Moon in the second line.  The change of wording in the fourth line isn't significant for both versions suggest the pots are waiting for the sound of the Porter's shoulder-knot.  The Porter is the one who will bring the food and drink for the banquet to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as signified by the appearance of the crescent.

I read somewhere (unfortunately I can't find it again) that the Porter will be bringing a tray of food and drink for the end of the fast.  Since the tray will be very heavy, it will be supported by straps that are attached at one end to the tray and at the other end are wrapped  around the Porter's shoulders, thus the creaking of the shoulder-knot. 



 From the Wikipedia entry on Ramadan:

"The Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr ("festivity of breaking the fast"), sometimes spelled in English as Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month called Shawwal in Arabic. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions. This first day of Shawwal is called Eid ul-Fitr. Eid Ul-Fitr may also be a reference towards the festive nature of having endured the month of fasting successfully and returning to the more natural disposition (fitra) of being able to eat, drink and resume intimacy with spouses during the day."

The "little Crescent" in the quatrain signifies the end of Ramadan, the end of thirty days of daylight fasting.  Ramadan is also the time for meditation on Allah and one's relationship to Allah, which is represented by the linked quatrains focusing on the vessels' or pots' commentaries on the Potter and their relationship to him.  It seems appropriate, therefore, to end the discussion with the Eid ul-Fitr ("festivity of breaking the fast."

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