Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Rubaiyat: Second Edition--Quatrain XLIII

This is another in my second set of posts about a favorite work--Edward FitzGerald's version? adaptation? interpretation? of Omar Khayyam's The Rubaiyat.  In the first set, I focused on the First Edition and included corresponding quatrains from the Second and Fifth Editions.  However, the First Edition had only seventy-five quatrains while the Second had one hundred and ten, so, I'm now concentrating on those that were added for the Second Edition and including the related quatrains from the Fifth Edition.  Since the Fifth Edition had only one hundred and one, I expect that when I have completed my posts on the Second Edition, I will also have included all of the quatrains from the Fifth Edition. 

Second Edition:  Quatrain XLIII

As then the Tulip for her wonted sup
Of Heavenly Vintage lifts her chalice up,
    Do you, twin offspring of the soil, till Heav'n
To Earth invert you like an empty Cup.

Fifth Edition:  Quatrain  XL
As then the Tulip for her morning sup
Of Heav'nly Vintage from the soil looks up,
    Do you devoutly do the like, till Heav'n
To Earth invert you--like an empty Cup.

FitzGerald makes only one change in the first line, and that is to substitute "morning" for "wonted."
"Wonted" means usual or normal, so the change makes it more specific, moving from usual to a particular time of day--the morning.  I'm not sure why he made the change, but perhaps he felt that "wonted" may be confusing and more readers would easily understand "morning."

FitzGerald has replaced "lifts her chalice up" with "from the soil looks up" in the Fifth Edition.  He changes the poetic "chalice" with the more prosaic "soil" as she catches the "Heav'nly Vintage, which is either rain or perhaps the morning dew as suggested in the Fifth Quatrain version.  

In the third line of the Second Edition, we are reminded that we and the Tulip come from soil, as it is related in Genesis, but that reference to soil is moved to the second line in the Fifth Edition and seems to refer now more specifically to the Tulip.  In addition, the Second Edition includes a very strong pairing of  us and the Tulip, "twin offspring of the soil."  By calling us "twin offspring," FitzGerald puts us in the same family, which goes beyond mere resemblance in behavior.  This strong pairing, however, disappears in the Fifth Edition as it now tells us to do the same with no suggestion of the relationship brought out in the Second Edition.

The fourth line is the same for both, aside from the dashes inserted in the Fifth Edition.   I think the dashes act as a pause, forcing us to now think about that empty cup.  The inverted and empty cup is a foreshadowing of themes brought out in later quatrains, especially those that introduce the Potter and also the last quatrain.  The inverted cup is symbolic of death and burial.

The quatrain is one more example of the Poet's philosophy of enjoying what is given us for death awaits us all.  The nature of that "Heavenly Vintage" is ambiguous enough to satisfy most readers: it could be water, it could be wine, and it could even be Grace from above. 


  1. But I resist becoming an "empty cup." That metaphor seems to undercut the potential included in the other lines. To partake of "Heavenly vintage" ought not lead to emptiness at the end. Of course, I could be overly concerned about one metaphor out of context.

  2. Robert,

    The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, or something like that. I think the quatrain is a restatement of Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for tomorrow we die.

    "Heaven" could be Fate or Destiny or as the Taoists have it, just the Way things are.