Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Extracts from the Rubáiyát
By Edward Fitzgerald (1809–1883)
(See full text.)

COME, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
  The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter—and the Bird is on the Wing.
Whether at Naishápúr or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
  The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.
Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?        10
  And this first Summer month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobád away.
Well, let it take them! What have we to do
With Kaikobád the Great, or Kaikhosrú?
  Let Zál and Rustum bluster as they will,        15
Or Hátim call to Supper—heed not you.
With me along the strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
  Where name of Slave and Sultán is forgot—
And Peace to Mahmúd on his golden Throne!        20
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
  Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Some for the Glories of This World;
and some
Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come;
  Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!
Look to the blowing Rose about us—“Lo,
Laughing,” she says, “into the world I blow,
  At once the silken tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw.”
And those who husbanded the Golden grain,
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain,        35
  Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
  Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face,        40
Lighting a little hour or two—is gone.
Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
  How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp
Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.        45
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
  And Bahrám, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass
Stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.
I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
  That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.
And this reviving Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean—        55
  Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!
Ah, my Belovèd, fill the Cup that clears
TO-DAY of past Regret and Future Fears:
  To-morrow!—Why, To-morrow I may be        60
Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n thousand Years.
For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,
  Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.        65
And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,
  Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend—ourselves to make a Couch—for whom?
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
  Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and—sans End!
*        *        *        *        *
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument        75
  About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.
With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
  And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d—        80
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”
Into this Universe, and Why not knowing
Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
  And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.
*        *        *        *        *
We are no other than a moving row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
  Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show;
But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
  Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;        95
  And He that toss’d you down into the Field,
He knows about it all—HE knows—HE knows!
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
  Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,        100
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
*        *        *        *        *
Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And ev’n with Paradise devise the Snake:
  For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken’d—Man’s Forgiveness give—and take!
*        *        *        *        *
Yet Ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth’s sweet-scented manuscript should close!
  The Nightingale that in the branches sang,
Ah whence, and whither flown again, who knows!
Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield
One glimpse—if dimly, yet indeed, reveal’d,
  To which the fainting Traveller might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!
Would but some wingèd Angel ere too late
Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate,        115
  And make the stern Recorder otherwise
Enregister, or quite obliterate!
Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
  Would not we shatter it to bits—and then        120
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

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