Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The Rubaiyat was practically unknown in the West until the publication of an English translation by Edward FitzGerald in 1859. Three subsequent editions were published during FitzGerald’s life (1868, 1872, 1879), and a fifth edition was included in The Letters and Literary Remains of Edward Fitzgerald, edited by W. A. Wright (1889).

Numerous editions have appeared since. FitzGerald’s work has been called a “poetic transfusion” rather than a translation. He rearranged the quatrains to produce a sequence of thought not evident in Khayyam’s work, and there is even doubt as to Omar’s authorship of some of the verses. Other translations into English have been made by E. H. Whinfield, who followed the original much more closely than FitzGerald; by Justin Huntley McCarthy, whose version, though in prose, has all the qualities that are generally termed poetic; by Edward Heron Allen, whose translation is also in prose, closely following the original; by John Leslie Garner; by John Payne; and by Jesse E. Cadell.

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