Omar Khayyam: Poems of longing and rebellion,
a new translation by Mary O’Connell and Roshanak Vahdani
Working with the Persian originals, and decorated with beautiful calligraphy, these fifty new poems keep faith with the imagery and meanings of the medieval Sufi poet and offer contemporary readers a fresh chance to engage with Khayyam outside of Edwardian imagery and fantasies.
Omar Khayyam (1048 – 1131) born in Nishapur, Persia gained fame in his own lifetime as astronomer, mathematician and philosopher. His quatrains (rubaiyat) appear to have been written for a much smaller audience; those of his Sufi community, although over the centuries following his death they gained widespread currency and respect in the Persian speaking world.
In 1859 Edward Fitzgerald translated, or paraphrased, 101 of these quatrains, and published them as the wildly successful The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, in effect creating a new work of English literature. The fifty poems in this book are an attempt to recover Omar Khayyam from the layerings of Fitzgerald, to be faithful to the original Persian and the symbolic Sufi meanings inherent in his texts.
Far from being a poet of dissolution and forgetfulness, Khayyam calls us to wakefulness, to living in the present, appreciating both the beauty and the transitory nature of our world. These are spiritual poems: relating to, yearning for and arguing with a very real Divine Power. Poems, then, of longing and rebellion.