Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Rubaiyat: Second Edition, Quatrain LXXVII

Quatrain LXXVII of the Second Edition refers back to the previous quatrain in the Second Edition:

Second Edition, Quatrain LXXVI
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on:  nor all your Piety nor Wit
      Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

The Moving Finger reference comes from the Bible, Book of Daniel, chapter 5, in which Daniel interprets the words written on Belshazzer's palace wall during a feastThe words predict Belshazzar's death and nothing can be done to change that.

 Second Edition:  Quatrain LXXVII

For let Philosopher and Doctor preach
Of what they will, and what they will not--each
      Is but one Link in an eternal Chain
That none can slip, nor break, nor overreach.  

This quatrain appeared first in the Second Edition and was then dropped from all following editions.  FitzGerald apparently had second thoughts about it.  One possible reason may be the theme.  The theme of the previous quatrain was the immutability of the past.  What has happened, has happened and can't be changed.  This quatrain goes beyond that and appears  to extend it into the future:  the philosophers and doctors are "but one Link in an eternal Chain."  This, to me anyway, hints at predestination, which is rejected by most Christians and Moslems, as far as I know.


  1. Fred, I think there are still plenty of folks out there (not only Calvinists and their descendants) who believe God (or Someone) has put together and put in motion all the parts of the running clock.

    Help me out here. Fitzgerald is translating. Right? Why would he also edit the original by omitting content? I guess I do not know enough about the text to even understand if I am asking the right questions. So, while I wait for your response, I will dig around the Internet to see if I can learn more about the text and Fitzgerald.

    1. good idea... sometimes i wish i knew arabic and polish and russian and french, etc. sad that we have to live with our own limitations... something that Stanislaw Lem fought against bravely... see the Ijon Tichy stories...

    2. R.T.,

      I didn't say there were none; I said that I thought most did not accept predestination, at least they don't insist that GOD was responsible for their actions. If you are still unhappy, then I will change it to many. OK?

      FitzGerald's version is not strictly a translation, but a rendering into English which included much of his own ideas, as many scholars and critics will say. It's a blend of 11th and 12th century Islamic teaching (some of which may be heretical, as orthodox Moslems insisted when it first came out) and FitzGerald's 19th century Protestantism.

    3. Whoa! How did you think that I was (or am) unhappy? We are dealing here, I think, with the problem with blogging; the nuances of language sometimes get very lost and misunderstandings erupt.

      Thanks for the explanation about FitzGerald as renderer v. translator. This old dog continues to learn new tricks. Aarf!

  2. VERY interesting quatrain... i think Omar is talking about the inexorability of time; the "chain" being the eternal rise and fall of things that's been going on for 4.5 billion years and will continue for another 4 billion before a nova burns up the planet... and even then, the procession of stellar bodies of one sort or another will continue living and dying into the inevitable heat death of the universe... well, maybe... or perhaps we do live in a little clockwork solar system with the planets rolling around on epicycles... if i live long enough i'll figure it out. haha.... not....

    1. Mudpuddle,

      If it's clockwork, then it was created by a very poor designer. Galaxies are crashing into each other (our solar system and the Andromeda Galaxy next door are fated to collide in the future) The earth has suffered, like all other planets, collisions with various bodies in the past and will probably will do so in the future. Several years ago astronomers got photos of a large comet crashing into Jupiter.

      The moon is a huge chunk of the Earth that was blasted out when another large body hit the Earth a few million? billion? years ago.

    2. Mudpuddle,

      My error: I should have said that our galaxy (known as the Milky Way) and the Andromeda Galaxy will collide some time down the road. However, since that will be billions of years in the future, we need not lose any sleep over it, at least for a while anyway.

    3. actually, my recollecting mechanism is telling me that's it's just a matter of four billion years before A meets MW in a little secret hideaway where sparks will fly; i must look around for a good hiding place... on another note, i wonder if any scifi deals with dark matter? pps: if you haven't read Lem, you have a great treat in store...

    4. Mudpuddle,

      I've read several of Lem's novels, including what is probably his best known one --Solaris- as well as seen both film versions. However, I know nothing about the Ijon Tichy stories. Are they short stories or novels?

      I haven't read about or heard, so far, any SF that deals with dark matter, which isn't to say there aren't any.

    5. they're short stories, most of them: the star diaries, memoirs of a space traveler, titled Voyages"; the cyberiad, although not about Ijon Tichy is my favorite; i've read most of Lem and they're all good, some more serious than others... he wrote several about first contact, all of which give an original view on how such an event might occur...

    6. Mudpuddle,

      Thanks for the information. I shall look around for some collections of short stories by Lem. The first contact ones sound intriguing. Solaris was a first contact novel, and it was probably the most realistic of the ones I have read.

  3. The Moving Finger was one of the first I ever read and memorized back when I was in school. I don't recall ever reading the other one, but I love it and am copying it to keep. Thanks, Fred!

    1. madamevauquer,

      Yes, "The Moving Finger" is one of my favorites also. Another is the following:

      Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
      The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
      The Bird of Time has but a little way
      To fly--and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.