Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Rubaiyat: Second Edition, Quatrain LXV

This quatrain was added in the Second Edition but had been removed by the time the Fifth Edition was published.  Frankly, I'm puzzled by it.


If but the Vine and Love-abjuring Band
Are in the Prophet's Paradise to stand,
    Alack, I doubt the Prophet's Paradise
Were empty as the hollow of one's Hand.

The problem, for me anyway, are the verbs adjure and abjure. Adjure means to encourage or earnestly entreat others to do something, almost a command, while abjure means to forbid or to abstain from something.  I have two copies of The Rubaiyat and in one, the verb is adjure for Quatrains LXIV  and LXV and in the other, it is abjure. The logic of Quatrain LXIV suggests that the verb should be abjure, that one should abstain from alcohol.

That is why this quatrain is puzzling.  The poet suggests that if those who abjure or abstain from the Vine and Love.  .  . gain Paradise, then the poet doesn't think (doubts) that Paradise would be empty.  This suggests that those who abjure wine and love will go to heaven, but it doesn't say anything about those who don't abjure the Vine and Love. Could it be that it doesn't make any difference what one believes?  All will go to Paradise.

I suspect my problem is caused some changes in meaning in one or more words in the quatrain. Or perhaps what puzzles me is what caused FitzGerald to eventually drop this quatrain.

Your thoughts?


  1. Could the verb discrepancy be a typesetting error? Early editions of Shakespeare's plays, for example, are filled to o'erflowing with such variations.

    Well, that still doesn't solve the other issues in the stanza. I will give them more thought. But I am putting my money on typesetting errors for the verb problem.

    1. R.T.,

      I just checked another source and found that "abjure" is the verb for both quatrains. So, two of the three sources have "abjure." This fits in better with the sense of the quatrain.

      I suspect you are right--it is a typesetting error. The verb should be "abjure."

      That this quatrain was dropped afterwards suggests that perhaps FitzGerald had problems with it also.

  2. well, my reading is that if those who reject "grapes" in favor of the stems and also frown on love are in heaven, then said heaven must be "empty", or not existent. in shakespeare and spencer, "doubt" indicates what is thought or imagined. fitz in the first two lines seems to be contrasting wine grapes and love against the fruitless plant and those who "abjure" love... what do you think...?

    1. Mudpuddle,

      That's what I thought but the verb "doubt" means "don't think" so the line reads "I don't think the Prophet's Paradise were empty as the hollow of one's Hand." And, that says that Paradise isn't as empty as the hollow of one's hand and that there is something there....

      Again, the problem here seems to be deciding exactly when FitzGerald is really saying.

  3. or, more accurately, i think, "vine and love" is treated as a compound noun, which is what is being rejected by the band elected to stay in heaven...

  4. Well, now, those two letters 'd' and 'b' are carrying quite a load, aren't they? I guess it all depends on how you take your religion -- in severe or loving doses. Either can be used depending on what you believe.

    Interesting at least to me is the word 'alack' is an expression of regret or dismay. Maybe kind of like 'alas.' So this poor soul not only believes love-hating or love-loving souls are in heaven, but he is dismayed by the thought. Or am I misreading this, which, frankly is quite common when poetry and I cross paths.

  5. Shadow Flutter,

    That also could be. As I mentioned earlier, I think it says something about FitzGerald's thinking about the quatrain when he eventually removes it by the Fifth Edition.