،ماییم و می و مطرب و این کنج خراب
،جان و دل و جام و جامه در رهن شراب
،فارغ ز امید رحمت و بیم عذاب
.آزاد ز خاک و باد و از آتش و آب
I'm now with Wine, Singing, in this Ruined Cottage,
With Life, Heart, Cup, Dress as the Wine's Mortgage—
Free of Hope for Mercy and Fear of Hell's Torments,
And Free of all the Four Elements' Spoilage.
Khayyam , circa 11th century A.D.
most widely read poet of the world, Omar Khayyam was born in the eleventh century near Nishapur in Khorasan,
a northeastern province of Iran, and died there in the first quarter of the twelfth century. He
was the son of Ibrahim from whom he inherited his surname Khayyammeaning
tentmaker. He was a contemporary of Sultan Jalaleddin Malikshah
Saljuki and his famous vizier Nizam-ul-Mulk. In 1074, Khayyam
was commissioned by Malikshah to revise and correct the Islamic calendarfor
which he became widely known during his lifetime. Besides being a well-known
astronomer, Khayyam was also known as an accomplished mathematician and philosopher.
Paradoxically, however, Khayyam was not as widely known for his poetry during
his lifetime. Only after his death did his rubaiyat begin circulating publicly.
Over the centuries, many quatrains have been attributed to him, estimates ranging
from a mere handful to three hundred, or even more than a thousand. The actual number
of genuine rubaiyat of Khayyam still remains disputed to this day.
been called a mystic, sufi, hedonist, skeptic, utopian, scientist, philosopher,
freethinker, materialist, and much more, being uniquely criticized and praised
by voices in both religious orthodoxy and mysticism. He was not persuaded by
the conventional narratives of the religious orthodoxy, nor did he identify
himself with any particular mystical school. However, he was also not satisfied
with the assumed certitude of the sciences and philosophical discourses of the
past or his time. Khayyams quatrains speak of an independent spirit searching
for rational answers to the paradoxes of existence. Khayyams poetry suggest
its authors inclinations toward a mixture of mysticism on one hand and
this-worldly utopianism on the other, but identifying with neither of the crowds.
He demonstrates a skeptical attitude toward the claims of both religious and
secular dogma. He may have been in religious, scientific, and philosophical
currents of his time; but he was not of them.
the quatrains in the original, one is often struck by the creative skill with
which Khayyam employs his keen sense of spatiotemporality to construct his skeptical
and paradoxical interpretations of the relationship between himself and the
universe as a whole. The spatiotemporal dialectics of the self, here-and-now,
and universal world-history as a whole informs the paradigmatic structure of
the symbolic imagery built into Khayyams poetry. A close reading of the
rubaiyat makes it apparent how Khayyams astronomical and philosophical
pursuits found their way into the fabric of his poetry. The adoption of the
surname Khayyam or tentmaker may have been a genealogical
coincidence, but the imagery of a simple and detached nomadic abode in a transient
earthly life perhaps provided Khayyam with a motif for the poetic reconstruction
of his lifes story.
poetry often journeys through various forms of spatiotemporality mediating his
here-and-now selves and the world-historical universe. One can find such spatiotemporal
symbolism woven into every quatrainic patch of his poetry's tent. Khayyams
call for drinking wine, a central theme of his work, can be better understood
not in literal terms but in terms of an invitation to immortality through seeking
universal self-knowledge particularly in the intoxicating moments of meditation
at dawn. One may even suggest that for him, wine symbolizes the sum of the droplets
of his own quatrains, perhaps created in those early morning hours when mind is clearest and least distrubed. He wants
us to experience in reading his quatrains what he experienced composing them.
Only those who mix with their bodies the elements of wisdom, emotion, and sensuality
contained in the wine droplets of his words can begin to understand the secrets
of why and how Khayyam became immortal through the spatiotemporal dialectics
of his poetry. After all, Khayyam is very self-conscious of the purpose of his
poetry when he writes:
چون مرده شوم خاك مرا گم سازيد
احوال مرا عبرت مردم سازيد
خاك تن من به باده آغشته كنيد
وز كالبدم خشت سر خم سازيد
When I Die, Scatter my Dust
And Teach others my Life's Play.
Mix my Body's Dust with Wine, and then
a Wine Barrels Cap from my Clay.
invites us to scatter away his rubaiyat as the dust particles of his lifes
story. He asks us to take every sip in the drunken state of our meditative states
so he can be resurrected in the blood vintage of our organism, becoming an inseparable
part of our mind as the cap stone of the wine barrel of universal self-knowledge
that must be our body. This is how Khayyam sought to immortalize himself.
It would be
wrong to extrapolate the meaning of Khayyams views on life in general
from the message contained in each of his quatrains in isolation, for each quatrain
plays only a part in the drama of Khayyams poetry as a whole. The spatiotemporal
poetics of part and whole in Khayyams rubaiyat involve a synthesis of
his multifaceted astronomical and philosophical wanderings in the universe and
his everyday selves in search of rational answers to the mysteries of life,
death, and immortality.
and his audience of the inevitability of our physical death has for Khayyam
a paradigmatic significance in dehabituating and detaching humanity from the
transient bonds of greed, fame, wealth, and power, directing our attention to
the paradox of our journeys in cosmic space and time.
And he finds his ultimate
answer to the paradox of immortality in the everlasting flow of the crystal
clear okcir* of his meditative lifethe creative wine droplets of his
*Elixir, in Persian
"eksir," from Arabic "al-iksir," improvised here as okcir.