Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Lost Fragment of Omar Khayyam ??

Most of my readers  will of course be aware, that the literary sensation of the nineteenth century, on both sides of the Atlantic, was the justly celebrated poem, the

~  Ruba`iyyât  of Omar Khayyâm ~

as more or less creditably translated from the medieval Persian, by one Edw. Fitzgerald, Esq.,  otherwise mostly unknown to fame.
What, therefore, was my excitement, when the following incident  supervened.

My nephew, the Very Reverend Wilfrid Gaspilton, currently serving on the Eastern Front (in some chaplain-like capacity, one supposes), has sent us a Flash message, which it has proved  within our capabilities  to decrypt.

The Right Reverend W. Gaspilton

He avers -- not explicitly on his oath, yet the word of a clergyman  counts for something, after all -- that he has this from the lips of a dying Saqi, who had been distributing tins of water in the trenches, before the inevitable obus hit,  and who had received it from the hands of a one-eyed Qalandar, who had it from a Qadi, who had obtained it (who knows how -- some dinars  may well have changed hands) from a Philologian, who had translated it

~ from the Original Persian ~

The fragment consists of but a single quatrain.   Previously unpublished in any language, the World of Doctor Justice  offers it up humbly to you now:

A Mouse that prayed  for Allah’s aid
   Blasphemed  when no such aid befell;
A Cat, who feasted on that mouse,
   Thought Allah managed vastly well.

-- O. Khayyam (??) [1048-1131, according to the calendar of infidels]

The old tent-maker

Is this stupendous verse indeed from the hand of the master -- the son of the tent-maker -- idol of Victorian drawing-rooms?   It certainly sounds like his work.  And, , whatever the alleged shortcomings of Mr. Khayyam in point of doctrine  elsewhere in his poem (as regards indulgence in the blushful, along with certain other irregularities), this bit at least, is obviously  theologically impeccable.

However -- to a degree that the public possibly does not appreciate, we here at the W. of D. J. (Headquarters:  Geneva;  largest employer of philologers in the Old World) are ever vigilant to protect an unsuspecting populace  from any taint, any hint, of literary fraud.   We are, after all, the most widely trusted news source in the known world, not excluding The Onion.  It is purely owing to such Fleiss, that we have been permitted, confidently to present  to a trusting public  such undoubtedly authentic finds as the

and the

Therefore, we ourselves  EMPHATICALLY DO NOT // DO NOT,
vouch for the validity of this fragment, --  not until we have seen, with our own eyes, and upon the original papyrus,

=>  the original Persian <=

and have had the opportunity to submit it to the critical gaze of Dr C. Miller, a Persianist of note.

Till then, its authenticity or otherwise, must remain the sport of speculators.


[Postscript, 14 Feb 2014]  Since publishing this sensational discovery,  I have been bombarded with demands from the international media (Iceland’s being particularly importunate, for some reason) for the whereabouts of said reverend nephew.   To this  we are constrained to reply:

“Military considerations forbid any disclosures  which might throw unnecessary light  on my nephew’s movements.”

And for all you television networks that have been screaming for onscreen interviews -- Please, desist, our health does not permit such public appearances.

[Update, Saturday 17 May 2014]  This just in -- It's National Celebrate Omar Khayyam Day!  Hooray!  Everybody take the rest of the day off!

My turban's bigger than yours ...

[Update 15 August 2014]  A very nice article, comparing the poets Khayyam and al-Rumi, just appeared here:

[Update 3 Sept 2014]  This just in:

Statue of Omar Khayyam to be set up in Manhattan

Created by the Iranian sculptor Hossein Fakhimi, the two-meter tall statue was sent from Tehran to New York.
The decision to set up the statue as a Persian symbol was made by Manhattan municipal officials during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to New York in September 2013.

Ahlan wa-sahlan, ya ikhwan!  We heartily welcome this!


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