Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Rubaiyat: Second Edition, Quatrain LII

This is the third in a series of four linked quatrains, from Quatrain L to LIII.

Second Edition:  Quatrain LII

Whose secret Presence, through Creation's veins
Running, Quicksilver-like eludes your pains;
    Taking all shapes from Mah to Mahi; and
They change and perish all--but He remains. 

Fifth Edition:  Quatrain LI 

Whose secret Presence, through Creation's veins
Running Quicksilver-like eludes your pains;
    Taking all shapes from Mah to Mahi; and
They change and perish all--but He remains. 
-- Edward FitzGerald --
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

There are no significant differences between the Second and Fifth editions.  The only change I can see is the removal of the comma following "Running" in the second line, which makes for a more direct statement of the way the "secret Presence" moves and "eludes" us.

The first line of this stanza tells us something about "the Master" who was mentioned in the last line of the previous stanza.  The Master is present throughout all creation, taking all shapes, and even though they change and die, "He remains."  In other words, the Creator does not just create and abandon His creations or allow them an existence free of his presence but inhabits them throughout their lives.  In Hinduism we find a similar belief.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna

My true being is unborn and changeless
I am the Lord who dwells in every creature.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Four
Eknath Easwaran, trans. and editor

In both cases, the Supreme Deity or the Master is present in all creation.  Though they die, He remains "unborn and changeless.  .  . in every creature."  Moreover, his "Presence" though running through creation's veins is secret and like quicksilver, which is impossible to grasp or hold.  This is echoed in John 7:34, "Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come."

Consequently, in  many religious traditions, God, the Master, the Lord, Allah, is  characterized as ineffable, unknowable, unfathomable.  His motives are beyond us and mysterious.  Yet,  a few minutes later we are told about God's likes and dislikes, what He wants us to do and what we are to avoid doing, what pleases Him and what saddens Him, what we can eat and what is forbidden.  There are all sorts of behaviors that must be performed, that may be performed, and that must not be performed.  God doesn't seem that unknowable to these people, or so it seems to me.

It all appears to be a bit contradictory to me.  


"Mah is also the Persian language name of a species of fish, which gives rise to the Persian language expression, az mah ta mahi, "from the moon to the mah-fish", to mean 'everything'."
Wikipedia entry on "Mah"

"Krishna is recognized as the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu or as the Supreme God in other traditions. Krishna is one of the most widely revered and most popular of all Hindu deities."
Widipedia entry on Sri Krishna


  1. Well, consider this similar expression in the two-quatrain lyric from Rilke:

    I live my life in widening circles
    that reach out across the world.
    I may not ever complete the last one,
    but I give myself to it.

    I circle around God, that primordial tower.
    I have been circling for thousands of years,
    and I still don't know; am I a falcon,
    a storm, or a great song?

    In this and your quatrain(s), I detect strains of the "law" and the "way" central to Buddhism. But, I could be misreading again. Still, the puzzle of life remains, and who are we (as mere humans) to solve the puzzle?

  2. R.T.,

    "Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,"

    I'm not sure about the law and the way, but there's that same sense of failure in spite of all the effort that has been spent in trying to solve the mystery of The Master.