edward fitzgerald


Hark! Who goes there? Ah, ‘tis Death, our familiar foe,

Who comes, and takes, before we art yet ready to go.

How unerring thy compass; yet how blind thine eyes

To falling tears, and deaf thine ears to cries of woe.


Who dost thou want now? All. Yes, all, of course;

Ye speak without gaiety, still more without remorse.

Come in, sit down; I will not fight ye, for ‘tis futile,

So let us engage, for a time, in a kind of discourse.


Brother Death, I’ve lived my life with thee in mind,

Now there’s scant life before me, too much behind.

So much time I’ve wasted, in the final reck’ning,

But so much treasure ’twas my fortune also to find.


Let me tell you, Death, of a poem I not long ago read.

Say, do they have poetry in the land of the dead?

Ne’ermind, I could recite for thee the well-known lines

Of The Rubaiyat, before I am laid in my eternal dusty bed.


The poem, ‘tis about you, and your relentless ways,

And how such as I ought to make the most of the days,

‘Fore you come knocking, and we must answer your call

For no one is overlooked and no one with their life stays.


Live well, and for today, is the message of Omar Khayyam.

Drink wine! Be merry! Say, wouldst thou like a dram?

Let us drink to my ill-health and your latest success,

E’en though I despise thee and to hell I thee damn.


Are thou impatient, brother Death, for us to depart,

When regarding The Rubaiyat I have more to impart?

Edward Fitzgerald, ’twas who translated it, famously,

‘Though more composer, than translator, was his part.


Omar Khayyam’s lines were a basis for his own poetry,

The original was handled and used by Edward liberally.

Thus raising questions about the nature of translation

And of authorship. Say, does any of this interest thee?


How silent thou art; how blank thy features, thy face;

No colour in thy cheeks; of laughter-lines: no trace.

Yay, man may be mortal, but for his allotted years,

He can laugh and love, be chased and give chase.


So, who is favoured, you or I? Who to be pitied for his lot?

My loved ones thou hast taken, but in truth what have ye got?

So, take me now; come, let’s go, before the sun doth rise,

And my friends and family gather to mourn upon this spot.