Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
III. Oblivion
‘Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring’
By Edward Fitzgerald (1809–1883)
 
From ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam’

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,        5
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.
 
Morning 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 Jamshýd and Kaikobád away….
 
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
  Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face,        15
Lighting a little hour or two—was gone.
 
Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
  How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp
Abode his destin’d Hour, and went his way.        20
 
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshýd gloried and drank deep:
  And Bahrám, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass
Stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep….
 
For some we loved, the loveliest and the best        25
That from his Vintage rolling Time has prest,
  Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.
 
And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,        30
  Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend, ourselves to make a Couch—for whom?
 
I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
  That every Hyacinth the Garden wears        35
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head….
 
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!…        40
 
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….
 
Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn        45
I lean’d, the secret well of Life to learn:
  And Lip to Lip it murmur’d—‘While you live,
Drink!—for, once dead, you never shall return.’…
 
As then the Tulip for her wonted sup
Of Heavenly Vintage lifts her chalice up,        50
  Do you, twin offspring of the soil, till Heav’n
To Earth invert you like an empty Cup….
 
And if the Cup you drink, the Lip you press,
End in what All begins and ends in—Yes;
  Imagine then you are what heretofore        55
You were—hereafter you shall not be less.
 
So when at last the Angel of the drink
Of Darkness finds you by the river-brink,
  And, proffering his Cup, invites your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff it—do not shrink.        60
 
And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, should lose, or know the type no more;
  The Eternal Sákí from that Bowl has pour’d
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour.
 
When You and I behind the Veil are past,        65
Oh but the long long while the World shall last,
  Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As much as Ocean of a pebble-cast.
 
One Moment in Annihilation’s waste,
One moment, of the Well of Life to taste—        70
  The Stars are setting, and the Caravan
Draws to the Dawn of Nothing—Oh make haste!…
 
Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain,—This Life flies;
  One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;        75
The Flower that once is blown for ever dies.
 
Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass’d the door of Darkness through
  Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too….        80
 
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
  Is’t not a Shame—is’t not a Shame for him
So long in this Clay suburb to abide!
 
But that is but a Tent wherein may rest        85
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
  The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrásh
Strikes, and prepares it for another guest….
 
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit        90
  Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it….
 
Yesterday This Day’s Madness did prepare;
To-morrow’s Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
  Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:        95
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where….
 
Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And ev’n with Paradise devise the Snake:
  For all the Sin the Face of wretched Man
Is black with—Man’s Forgiveness give—and take!…        100
 
But see! The rising Moon of Heav’n again
Looks for us, Sweet-heart, through the quivering Plane:
  How oft hereafter rising will she look
Among those leaves—for one of us in vain!
 
And when Yourself with silver Foot shall pass        105
Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on the Grass,
  And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made One—turn down an empty Glass!
 
 
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