Thursday, April 02, 2009
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Following a recent post by The Weaver of Grass I acquired a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam earlier this week and on Tuesday I sat out in the sunshine to read it.It was translated from the original Persian in 1859 by Edward Fitzgerald and became a great favourite of the Pre-Raphaelites without whose interest and support it would probably have sunk without trace. These illustrations from The Rubaiyat are by a wonderful French illustrator called Edmund Dulac who was working in the early to mid 20th century and was greatly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones.
Omar Khayyam was a Persian poet,philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who lived between 1048 and 1151. This portrait is in his mausoleum at Nishapur, the town where he was born and lived for most of his life.
I suspect that a great many people know parts of the Rubaiyat without being aware of it. For instance:
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse- and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
" The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: " are also well-known lines from The Rubaiyat. They provided Agatha Christie with the title for one of her Miss Marple stories.
I have always thought that the Rubaiyat was a poem of love and romance - actually it's a bit of a drunken rambling written as Omar Khayyam spends the day in an inn getting progressively more intoxicated and morose as the day goes on! Dulac did a series of beautiful illustrations for the book, however I am not matching them to the lines he wrote them for but to the ones that appeal to me:) My favourite lines are the opening quatrain which The Weaver also quoted:
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.
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.
The title of this illustration from the Rubaiyat series is The Sleeve of Night - less colourful but with a tranquil, dreaming quality that I love.
Edmund Dulac illustrated many other fairytales and books including The Arabian Nights and Shakespeare's play The Tempest from which comes this lovely drawing of the sprite Ariel. What I would love now is to discover where there are examples of his original artwork that I could go and see.