Twenty-Four Quatrains From Omar


Khayyám that used to stitch the tents of Thought,1
Into Grief’s furnace dropt, was burnt to naught ;2
The shears of Fate his Life’s tent ropes have cut ;3
Yea, Hope’s sharp Broker sold him—nor got aught.4


The World gains naught that I live here below,5
And my Departure will not mar its show ;6
No man has told me yet, nor do I know7
Why I came here, or wherefor hence I go.8


The Day is breaking, let us welcome him9
With glasses crimson-beaded to the brim ;10
And as for Name and Fame and Blame and Shame,11
What are they all ?— mere Talk and idle Whim.12


Why at the Dawning must the cock still crow ?13
It is that by his crowing he may show14
That one more Night has slid from out thy Life :15
And thou art lying asleep and dost not know.16


Life’s caravan speeds strangely swift, take care ;17
It is thy youth that’s fleeting, Friend, beware ;18
Nor vex thyself for Woe to come, in vain,19
For lo, the Night rolls on, and Dawn breaks bare.20


The Spheres that turn have brought no luck to thee,21
What matter how the Years or Seasons flee ?22
Two Days there are to which I pay no heed—23
The Day that’s gone, the Day that is to be.24


Above thine head looms Heaven’s Bull Parwin ;25
Beneath thy feet a Bull bears Earth, unseen ;26
Open the eyes of Knowledge, and behold27
This drove of Asses these two Bulls between.28


The Rose saith, ‘ I am Joseph’s flower, for, lo,29
My Cup is full of Gold.’ ‘ If this be so,30
Give me another sign,’ I cried, and She31
Made answer, ‘ Red with gore my Garments show.’32


Rose, thou art like unto a Face most fair ;33
Rose, thou art like unto a Ruby rare ;34
Fate, thou art ever changing shape and hue,35
Yet ever hast the same familiar air.36


Though the Rose fade, yet are the Thorns our lot ;37
Though the Light fail, yet is the Ember hot ;38
Though Robe and Priest and Presence all are gone,39
The empty Mosque at least we still have got.40


Open the Door ; the Key is Thine alone !41
Show me the Path, only to Thee ’tis known !42
The idle Hands they reach I will not take,43
Thine Everlasting Arms shall bear me on !44


O Lord, have mercy on my enslaved Soul :45
Have mercy on my Heart that Griefs control :46
Have mercy on my Foot that seeks the Inn :47
Have mercy on my Hand that craves the Bowl.48


Creeds seventy-two among Mankind there be,49
Of all these Faiths I choose but Faith in Thee :50
Law, Sin, Repentance, all are idle words :51
Thou art my Hope. What’s all the rest to me ?52


The Drop of Water wept to leave the Sea,53
But the Sea laught and said, ‘ We still are we.’54
God is within, without, and all around,55
And not a hair’s-breadth severs Me and Thee.’56


Now Thou art hidden, unseen of all that be ;57
Now Thou art full display’d that all may see :58
Being, as Thou art, the Player and the Play,59
And playing for Thine own pleasure, carelessly.60


On these twin Compasses, my Soul, you see61
One Body and two Heads, like You and Me,62
Which wander round one centre circle-wise,63
But at the end in one same point agree.64


The Heart wherein Love’s wick burns clear and well,65
Whether it swing in mosque or shrine or cell,66
If in the Book of Love it be enroll’d,67
Is free from Hope of Heaven or Fear of Hell.68


Whether in Heaven or Hell my lot be stay’d,69
A Cup, a Lute, a fair and frolic Maid,70
Within a place of Roses please me now ;71
While on the chance of Heaven thy Life is laid.72


I lack not hope of Grace, though stain’d by Lust ;73
Like the poor Heathen that in idols trust,74
Woman and Wine I’ll worship while I live,75
Nor flinch for Heaven or Hell, since die I must.76


Come, friend, the cares of this brief life dismiss,77
Be merry in thy momentary bliss,78
If God were constant in his favour, think,79
Thy turn had never come for Cup or Kiss.80


Let not the World’s mass too much on thee weigh ;81
Nor grieve for those that Death has made his prey ;82
Lose not thine Heart save to the Fairest Fair,83
Nor lack good Wine, nor fling thy Life away.84


’Tis well to be of good Report and Trust ;85
’Tis ill to make complaint that God’s unjust ;86
’Tis better to be drunk with good red Wine87
Than swollen with Hypocrisy’s black must.88


No Shield can save thee from the Shaft of Fate,89
Nor to be glorious or rich or great ;90
The more I ponder, still the more I see91
That Truth is All, naught else has any weight.92


Of Duty towards God let Preachers whine,93
But do as I command, and Heaven’s thine ;94
Give freely, slander not, be kindly still,95
That done, have thou no fear, and call for Wine !96