Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Rubaiyat: Second Edition, Quatrain LXXXVI

A confusing quatrain:  the syntax is not clear to me.


Nay, but for the terror of his wrathful Face,
I swear I will not call Injustice Grace;
    Not one Good Fellow of the Tavern but
Would kick so poor a Coward from this place. 

Perhaps FitzGerald felt there were problems with this quatrain, for it had disappeared by the time the Fifth Edition was published.

I think the meaning is that the  "terror of his wrathful Face," what is what would prevent him from calling  "Injustice Grace."  This refers back to the theme of those pleasures that God set before us and then forbade us from tasting them under pain if eternal punishment. 

I think he refers to himself as so poor a Coward  for being afraid to stand up and say what he thinks.  Those in the Tavern understand his fear and therefore would not reject him. If this is an adequate reading, then the quatrain is a very strange one: one that suggests that it is fear of God that keeps him from speaking the truth.  Perhaps FitzGerald had similar problems with it, for it was removed by the fifth edition, if not earlier.

Any other meanings possible?  Am I missing something?


  1. I think that your interpretation makes sense.

    I think fear of speaking truth because God may disapprove might be somewhat akin to not admitting certain truths even to oneself. I think that this is common, even in our time.

    1. Brian Joseph,

      I fear you are right. I knew many people who are unable to face problems and situations directly, or at all, preferring to deny that they exist.

  2. Strange indeed, and I'm clueless. It's like a cryptic offering from Emily Dickinson. However, perhaps God is not part of the explication. Sorry, no help here.

    1. Tim,

      Strange, yes. The tone is so unlike any of the other quatrains by FitzGerald.

  3. all the quatrains seem to value wine over religion; the first couplet in this one, as Brian says, recounts the normal reaction to a vengeful God, and the cowering resulting therefrom; the second couplet, imo, kicks the question out the door and claims the virtues of alcohol are superior to the daunting present of a living God... living in the moment, i think, is a constant in Fitzgerald's translations...

    1. Mudpuddle,

      Yes, that is how I see it. Wine is valued over the claims of those who claim to know, but who are merely guessing or fantasizing as it is said in many of the quatrains.

      And again, I agree, the main theme in the Rubaiyat is living in and for the present and letting tomorrow take care of itself.

    2. yes, and it's an admirable way of interpreting the world, the only problem being, it's hard to plan anything or get anything done; we have to think of the future, like it or not: one of the misfortunes of being human...

    3. Mudpuddle,

      It's a delicate balancing act: living in the present and planning for the future.