Book Review: Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, translated by Edward Fitzgerald with drawings by Edmund J. Sullivan


Omar Khayyám was a twelfth-century scientist and poet in Persia. This slim volume contains seventy-five quatrains (rubáiyát) each accompanied by an illustration by Sullivan. The text was translated by Fitzgerald in the late nineteenth century. The central theme of the poetry presented her seems to be drink and be merry, but especially drink. Khayyám is very fond of the daughter of the vine, as he calls it. Some of the poems also reveal a personal philosophy that no one knows why we are here on this earth and we never will learn, so live for today because yesterday has passed and tomorrow never really comes. I enjoyed the poetry, though it was sometimes difficult to understand. (That probably owes to the date of the translation and to my own unfamiliarity with poetry in general.) Each drawing coincides with a quatrain of the poem. The artwork is truly wonderful, line and ink drawings with expressive faces and lithe bodies. I quite liked this book and would like to read another edition, with a more modern translation.

Review by Jessica A.


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