Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”*
Image: (Wikipedia) “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May is an oil painting on canvas created in 1909 by British Pre-Raphaelite artist, John William Waterhouse. It was the second of two paintings inspired by the 17th century poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” “
“*Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is the title that Edward FitzGerald gave to his 1859 translation from Persian to English of a selection of quatrains (rubāʿiyāt) attributed to Omar Khayyam (1048–1131), dubbed “the Astronomer-Poet of Persia”.
Although commercially unsuccessful at first, FitzGerald’s work was popularised from 1861 onward by Whitley Stokes, and the work came to be greatly admired by the Pre-Raphaelites in England. FitzGerald had a third edition printed in 1872, which increased interest in the work in the United States. By the 1880s, the book was extremely popular throughout the English-speaking world, to the extent that numerous “Omar Khayyam clubs” were formed and there was a “fin de siècle cult of the Rubaiyat”.
FitzGerald’s work has been published in several hundred editions and has inspired similar translation efforts in English and in many other languages.
The English novelist and orientalist Jessie Cadell (1844–1884) consulted various manuscripts of the Rubaiyat with the intention of producing an authoritative edition. Her translation of 150 quatrains was published posthumously in 1899.
A. J. Arberry in 1959 attempted a scholarly edition of Khayyam, based on thirteenth-century manuscripts. However, his manuscripts were subsequently exposed as twentieth-century forgeries. While Arberry’s work had been misguided, it was published in good faith.
The 1967 translation of the Rubáiyat by Robert Graves and Omar Ali-Shah, however, created a scandal. The authors claimed it was based on a twelfth-century manuscript located in Afghanistan, where it was allegedly utilized as a Sufi teaching document. But the manuscript was never produced, and British experts in Persian literature were easily able to prove that the translation was in fact based on Edward Heron Allen’s analysis of possible sources for FitzGerald’s work.
There was a real jewel-encrusted copy of the book on the Titanic. It had been crafted in 1911 by the firm of Sangorski & Sutcliffein London. It was won at a Sotheby’s auction in London on 29 March 1912 for £405 (a bit over $2,000 in 1912) to Gabriel Weis, an American, and was being shipped to New York. The book remains lost at the bottom of the Atlantic to this day.”