Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain LXIX

This is another quatrain that concerns itself with the grape, but in this one he wonders if perhaps he's made a mistake.

First Edition:  Quatrain LXIX

Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong:
    Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song.

Second Edition:  Quatrain CI

 Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my credit in Men's eye much wrong:
    Have drown'd my Glory in a shallow Cup
And sold my Reputation for a Song.

Fifth Edition:  Quatrain XCIII

 Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my credit in this World much wrong:
    Have drown'd my Glory in a shallow Cup
And sold my Reputation for a Song.

FitzGerald made only minimal changes to this quatrain.   In the first quatrain he states that he has "drown'd  [his] Honour in a shallow Cup" while in the second and fifth versions, it is his "Glory" that he has drowned.  Perhaps the difference here is that "Honour," as he sees it, is related to personal qualities such as integrity and honesty of which he has control while "Glory" comes from the outside, more related to one's external reputation that comes from others. 

The other change occurs in the second line.  In the first and second editions, those "Idols" have hurt him in "Men's Eye" while in the fifth the damage to his Credit now is in "the World."  I like the change for "in this World" seems to flow much more smoothly than "in Men's Eye."

 The reference to "shallow cup" and "drown'd" suggest again that wine is the theme here and not God's grace for several reasons.  To suggest that he has been talking about God's grace throughout doesn't make sense when one considers the reference in the first line to those "the Idols I have loved so long."  To refer to God's grace as an Idol seems blasphemous for Idols in both the Islamic and Christian traditions refer to false gods.  It seems more likely that those Idols refer to the sensual pleasures here in this life for over-indulgence is certainly something that would ruin his reputation in contrast to following God's commandments which would do exactly the opposite.

This quatrain also follows the theme of the two previous quatrains which focus on death.  In this quatrain the Poet/Narrator seems to regret his past behavior, wondering if he has been following false gods--a very common response among many people who suddenly realize that the end is near for them--a reconsideration of their past life and what they have made of it.  Deathbed conversions and repentance are not unusual, after all. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Langston Hughes: Does it matter?

New Year

The years
Fall like dry leaves
From the top-less tree
Of eternity.
Does it matter
That another leaf has fallen?

-- Langston Hughes --
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

About ten days ago Mayan Calendar ended and a new cycle began.  Today, our calendar begins a new cycle.  In spite of the foolish panic of some, I really didn't see any difference when the Mayan Calender ended.  And, frankly, this morning I had to remind myself that we are now in 2013 for I couldn't see anything different this morning either.

If either calendar change makes a difference, I think it's only because we decide that it does. Langston Hughes asks a question--Does it matter/That another leaf has fallen?-- and, like many other writers, doesn't answer his question.  He leaves it for you and me and the other guy.

Does it matter?