Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Second Edition, Quatrain LXX

This quatrain responds to the previous quatrain in which the human body was referred to as a "Clay suburb."



Second Edition:  Quatrain LXX

But that is but a Tent wherein may rest
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
     The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.



Fifth Edition:  Quatrain XLV
 
'Tis but a Tent where takes his one day rest
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
     The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.


The only difference between the Second and the Fifth editions occurs in the first line, which FitzGerald seems to modify to make it flow more easily and to eliminate that double "but."  This is one of the rare occasions in which I like the second version more than the first.

The body is now a tent which the occupant leaves behind, just as the soul presumably leaves the body behind at death.  Since the body is composed of clay or dust or ash, it will be used again and again in the future.   We are here for a short time only and then must move on to make room for "another Guest."

The Ferrash has pitched the tent (the body) and now it strikes it: "the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD,"  as we read in the KJV, Job 1:21.




Note:  Ferrash:  Servant, tent-pitcher.
Definition found in the glossary of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, "Published for the Classics Club by Walter J. Black:  Roslyn, N. Y.

8 comments:

  1. I don't know. The dark Ferrash seems pretty nasty and cruel. Oh, wait, that is a lot like the YHWH of the Hebrew scriptures (before he is transformed by Christian revisionists into a kind, forgiving, fatherly figure.

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    1. R.T.,

      You mean the One who wipes out cities with hurricanes because of a lax attitude toward homosexuals or creates AIDS for the same reason?

      Delete
  2. What jumped out at me, Fred, was "one day rest" instead of just rest. I also like the second one better.

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    1. madamevauquer,

      Yes, that perplexed me a bit. I think it's a reference to the short time we really have down here before it ends--a point made in other quatrains. If it isn't that, then I'm missing the reference.

      How do you see it?

      Delete
  3. i can't figure out whether "adrest" means where the tent is located, or indicates that the Sultan is speaking... this is certainly one of the more obscure ones... no?

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    Replies
    1. Mudpuddle,

      "addrest" means to guide, control, or direct, perhaps ss in to address a letter. The Sultan is being guided towards death, I guess, as we all are.

      Yes, it's up there on the obscurity scale.

      Delete