The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (Fitzgerald version)
- United States
More informationThe Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is the title that Edward Fitz-Gerald gave to his translation of a selection of poems, originally written in Persian and of which there are about a thousand, attributed to Omar Khayyám (1048–1131), a Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer. A Persian ruba'i is a two-line stanza with two parts (or hemis-techs) per line, hence the word "Rubáiyát" (derived from the Arabic root word for "four"), meaning "quatrains".
The translations that are best known in English are those of about a hundred of the verses by Edward FitzGerald (1809–1883). Of the five editions published, four were published under the authorial control of FitzGerald. The fifth edition, which contained only minor changes from the fourth, was edited after his death on the basis of manuscript revisions FitzGerald had left. FitzGerald also produced Latin translations of certain rubaiyat.
As a work of English literature FitzGerald's version is a high point of the 19th century and has been greatly influential. Indeed, The term "Rubaiyat" by itself has come to be used to describe the quatrain rhyme scheme that FitzGerald used in his translations: AABA. However, as a translation of Omar Khayyam's quatrains, it is not noted for its fidelity. Many of the verses are paraphrased, and some of them cannot be confidently traced to any one of Khayyam's quatrains at all. Some critics informally refer to the FitzGerald's English versions as "The Rubaiyat of FitzOmar", a nickname that both recognizes the liberties FitzGerald inflicted on his purported source and also credits FitzGerald for the considerable portion of the "translation" that is his own creation. In fact, FitzGerald himself referred to his work as "transmogrification". "My translation will interest you from its form, and also in many respects in its detail: very unliteral as it is. Many quatrains are mashed together: and something lost, I doubt, of Omar's simplicity, which is so much a virtue in him" (letter to E. B. Cowell, 9/3/58). (Introduction from Wikipedia)