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Published in the 1-15 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Book Review
Omar Khayyam: a giant among pygmies 

By AG Khan

The Milli Gazette Online

Title: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
English Rendering: Edward Fitzgerald
Illustration: Edward Dulac
Foreword & Persian verse Arrangement: Dr. Aleem Ashraf Khan 
Transliterated by: Tanzim Raza Qureshi
Publishers: Islamic Wonders Bureau, Kucha Chellan, Daryaganj, New Delhi
Year of publication: 2004 
Price: 550

The English rendering of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat by Edward Fitzgerald made Swinburne comment: ‘This daring genius gave Omar Khayyam a place forever among the greatest English poets’. And, the Western world considers his translation as a precious treasures of English literature. The empire has yet to find a philosopher-poet-mathematician-astronomer among its own scholars a person of such stature. Those who claim that Fitzgerald made Omar Khayyam immortal demonstrate their ignorance. On the contrary, it is Khayyam’s work that has made Fitzgerald renowned.

The present volume brings ninety verses of the poet and their English rendering in an extremely attractive format. Beautifully printed on expensive art paper along with the Persian text as well as its transliteration in English make it a rare book. In addition, there are twelve beautifully painted illustrations by Edmund Dulac. The artist, to a great extent, has been able to go deep into the soul of the text and captures not only the mood and philosophy of the verses but also portrays the pictorial exuberance left unsaid by the poet. We have to recognize the fact pre-Raphaelite poets of English literature were interested in drawing the pictorial essence of the poem as well in adding to the musical effect to their poems. Thus this book is a bonanza for art lovers — lovers of poetry, painting as well as of music. Needless to say, this makes it an artifact that one can present to a connoisseur of good taste.

Let us see how the questions been presented: 

Dai Koozah gari bedeedam andar bazaar

Bar paraah-i-gilee lugad hamee zad bisyaar

Wan gil barzabaan-i-haal baaoomeeguft

Man hamchoo to boodaham mara neekudaar. (right page) 

[For I remember stopping by the way

To watch a potter thumping his wet clay:

And with its all-obliterated Tongue

It murmured, Gently, brother, gently, pray!] (left page)

Qaumi mutafakkirand dar mahazab-o-deen 

Jamee mutayyirnad dar shakk-o-yaqeen 

Naagah bar aaward munaadi zakameen 

Ke Ai bikhabaraan-i-aal na aan ast-o-no in

[Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare, And those after some TOMORROW store, A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries, "Fools! Your Reward is neither here nor there".] (See photography) 

It has to be remembered that Fitzgerald did not attempt a word-to-word literal translation. He drew the essence of the verse and gave it his own rendering taking the permissible liberty required in such case. The painter too has understood the nuances of the poem, philosophy, Muslim culture and traditions and therefore might have added/ altered/ heightened certain facts. Experts of Persian poetry, English language, painters might raise their eyebrows at certain places or on same particular expressions but for a non pedantic lover of these arts the book is a precious gem. 

In his foreword Dr Aleem Ashraf Khan traces the biographical sketch of Omar Khayyam. He draws our attention to the controversy about the next exact numbers of Rubaiyat. This collection of ninety quatrains along with twelve illustrations is a real Islamic wonder.

Tanzim Raza Qureshi of Islamic Wonders Bureau deserves appreciation for risking such non-profitable adventure. However this book revives the heydays of Islamic glory. «

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