Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  698. From Omar Khayyám

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Edward Fitzgerald. 1809–1883

698. From Omar Khayyám


A BOOK of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou 
  Beside me singing in the Wilderness— 
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow! 
Some for the Glories of This World; and some         5
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,  10
  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 
  Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d  15
As, buried once, Men want dug up again. 

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.  20
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  25
The Rose as where some buried Cæsar 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—  30
  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 Regrets and Future Fears: 
  To-morrow!—Why, To-morrow I may be  35
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.  40
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,  45
Before we too into the Dust descend; 
  Dust unto Dust, and under Dust to lie, 
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and—sans End! 

Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died,  50
  And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf, 
By some not unfrequented Garden-side…. 
Yon rising Moon that looks for us again— 
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane; 
  How oft hereafter rising look or us  55
Through this same Garden—and for one in vain! 
And when like her O Sákí, you shall pass 
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!  60