Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Second Edition, Quatrain XLIV

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.  I am now concentrating on those quatrains that were added for the Second Edition and am 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 XLIV

Do you, within your little hour of Grace,
The waving Cypress in your Arms enlace,
    Before the Mother back into her arms
Fold, and dissolve you in a last embrace.

This is a rather unique quatrain in that it was introduced in the Second Edition, but then was removed when the Third Edition appeared and was not included in any subsequent edition. It appears to be just another quatrain that advocates the oft expressed philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.

The second line poses the most significant problem: The waving Cypress in your Arms enlace.  I don't remember any previous quatrain that referred to a "Cypress," so I looked at later quatrains and found this reference in Quatrain LV:

                                            And lose your fingers in the tresses of
                                       The Cypress-slender Minister of  Wine.

According to FitzGerald's notes, this refers to Saki, "A servant whose duties include pouring of the wine."  Again, life is short, enjoy yourself before you return to Mother Earth's "last embrace."

This quatrain really does nothing more than reiterate a theme that has been brought out already in numerous quatrains and, no doubt, will appear in future ones. This may be the reason why FitzGerald decided to discard this quatrain after its only appearance in the Second Edition.


  1. I have a dim-witted question, Fred, so do not be too alarmed at my foolishness. Are the quatrains intended as independent (more like epigrams) or thematically linked offerings that must considered within the whole?

  2. R.T.,

    Definitely neither dimwitted nor foolish. I was surprised to find when I started this project to find that a number of the quatrains were linked, sometimes three or four in sequence. I had thought they were independent, perhaps thematically related at most.

    In some cases, a following quatrain answers a question raised in the previous quatrain. In my commentaries on the First Edition I have listed a number of sets of linked quatrains if I recognized them at that time.

    For example:

    Q 1-2-3
    Q 9-10-11
    Q 21-22-23
    Q 26-27-28-29-30

    Some may seem a stretch, I suppose.

  3. I only remember noticing one set before. Going to have fun tracing the others as soon as I get the time. Thanks, Fred.

    1. madamevauquer,

      There are five different editions. However, I've only been able to find volumes that include 1, 2, and 5. At most I've found brief notes about changes in Editions 3 and 4.

      The First Edition has 75 quatrains, while the Second has 110 quatrains and the Fifth has 101 quatrains.

      Enjoy. . .