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The Rubaiyat

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

First Version (1859)

Translated by Edward FitzGerald

Omar Khayyám lived in the area of Naishapur, Persia (modern Iran) in the 12th century. He was primarily a mathmetician and astronomer, and some of his works in those areas are still extant. He also wrote rhymed epigramatic quatrains called in Persian ruba'i. Later Persian scholars collected these verses in manuscripts called Rubáyyát.

In 1857, Edward FitzGerald, an English "literary man" who was a friend of Tennyson and Carlyle, discovered a manuscript of Omar's Rubáyyát in the British Museum and translated some of the verses. The translation did not attract much attention when it was first published, but when it was praised by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1861 it became an immediate popular success.

FitzGerald's Rubáyyát was not a translation as such. The Rubáyyát manuscripts contained over 400 quatrains. FitzGerald translated some literally, some loosely, combined others, and added some of his own composition though in the spirit of the Persian original. In addition, FitzGerald arranged the verses so that they seem to have a certain cohesion, though the original quatrains were independent and related only in tone. A more literal translation was undertaken by Robert Graves in the 1970s.

FitzGerald's translation went through five major revisions over 30 years. This Web edition contains the text of the first edition, FitzGerald's introduction to the second, and FitzGerald's notes to the second edition. The major difference between this and other currently available Web versions of FitzGerald are the retention of original diacritical marks and the inclusion of notes and explanatory material.    -- Bob Blair


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