Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain LXVII

Having finished a linked series of quatrains focusing on the relationship between the Potter/Creator and the pots/creatures, we now move to a series of four quatrains that concentrate on wine.  Again, while there are those who attempt to interpret Khayyam's references to wine as being a symbol of God's grace, these quatrains, as do many of the previous references, pose serious problems for them.  While some can be construed in a religious sense, all four most consistently suggest that Khayyam meant wine to be simply wine.  You can see for yourself.


First Edition:  Quatrain LXVII

Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
    And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.



Second Edition:  Quatrain XCVIII


Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
    And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf,
By some not unfrequented Garden-side.



Fifth Edition:  Quatrain 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.


Only one change was made in the first two lines:  "my Body" in the first and second editions becomes "the Body" in the fifth edition.  The change seems to make it more impersonal, more disconnected.  At first it was his "Body," but now it's "the Body."   He no longer owns? the Body or is connected to it, but he now sees it as something separate from him, something that exists alone.

While this is not a change, for it remains the same throughout the three versions listed, I wonder about the wording: "the Life has died."  Living creatures die.  We do not usually say, at least not in my experience, that life dies.  We say life leaves or departs or even flees the body, but I've never heard anyone else say or write that life dies.  Curious wording.

Most of the changes in this quatrain occur in the third and fourth lines.  While the words have changed, the sense, though,  seems to remain much the same: he is to be wrapped in a sheet made of  plant leaves and buried in a Garden.  In the first version, he continued the reference to the grape by requesting that he be wrapped in a "Vine-leaf." In the second and fifth edition, that becomes a "living Leaf,"  which makes a possible reference to the vine more ambiguous.  Does the "living Leaf" refer to a "Vine-leaf," or will leaves from any plant be satisfactory?

Another change occurs in the last line where the "sweet Garden-side"  becomes "some not unfrequented Garden-side."  The Garden no longer has to be sweet, but it must  be one that is visited regularly.  What seems contradictory here is that in the fifth version, he no longer refers to "my Body" but "the Body."  But, he still requests that he (his body) be wrapped in plant leaves and buried in a Garden.  He seemingly has regained ownership of the Body in the third and fourth lines.  Or, perhaps he never meant to suggest the separation of himself from his Body, and I'm guilty of over-reading here (something to meditate on).

My copy Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, published by Garden City Books, includes the following anecdote in the brief discussion of the  life of Omar Khayyam, pp.27-40.

"Khwajah Nizami of Samarkand, who was one of his pupils, relates the following story: "I often used to hold conversations with my teacher, Omar Khayyam,  in a garden;  and one day he said to me, "My tomb shall be in a spot where the north wind may scatter roses over it."  I wondered at the words he spake, but I knew that his were no idle words.  Years after, when I chanced to revisit Naishapur, I went to his final
resting-place, and lo! it was just outside a garden, and trees laden with fruit stretched their boughs over the garden wall, and dropped their flowers upon his tomb, so that the stone was hidden under them.'"

As it is in the Rubaiyat, so it came to pass:  Omar Khayyam  was buried in that garden-side. 

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