Offers the drowsy world a toast "To Win',
The Sun spills early gold on city roofs --
Day's regal Host, replenishing his jug
'Rise too, you good-for-nothing tavern lad!
Refill our empty bowls with today's measure
Before the measure of our lives be filled!'
'Here stand we in the Vinter's Row my Saki'
'Is this an hour for prayer? Silence, my Saki!'
'Defy old custom, Saki; drink your fill!'
Favour my bowl of crystal, pour red wine!
This moment filched from the grey corpse of night
We long may sigh for, never repossess
Live hearts awake and hanker for wide plains
Where every bough is blanched by Moses-hand
And every breeze perfumed by Jesus-breath
With cheeks of roses newly bathed in dew;
The nightingale, in Pahlevi, prescribes
For every sallower cheek: 'Wine, wine and wine!'
From wine in bowl or goblet to abstain;
But this is rose-time--Lord, why should I blush
So soon of my repentance to repent?
The cup fills -- should we care whether with bitter
Or sweet? Drink on! Know that long after us
The Moon must keep her long-determined course
A world of blossom; petals fall to dust --
Jamsheds and Khusros by the hundred thousand
Lie tumbled by a similar stroke of time
Kobad the Glorious or Imperial Tus.
Friend, never bow your neck even to Rustum
Nor proffer thanks even to Hatim Tai.
A haunch of mutton and a gourd of wine
Set for us two alone on the wide plain,
No sultan's bounty could evoke such joy.
A bare subsistence, half a loaf, not more --
Supplied us two alone in the free desert:
What Sultan could we envy on his throne?
I answer that grape-nectar has no price --
So laugh at long-term credit, stick to coin,
Though distant drums beguile your greedy ear
And laughter. Laughingly my petals blow
Across the world; the ribbons of my purse
Snap and its load of coin flies everywhere
Command our tavern-lad to fetch you drink.
Fool, your dry corpse will be no treasure trove
For proud posterity to disinter!
Perfectly trimmed for you from east to west;
Yet know yourself a snowdrift on the sand
Heaped for two days or three, then thawed and gone
Stable of Day-with-Night, a piebald steed;
Former pavilion of a hundred Jamsheds;
A hundred Bahrams' one-time hall of state
The vixen whelps there and the lion nods.
Bahram, who hunted none but onagers,
Lies tumbled in a pitfall called the grave
Is sure to mark a king's last resting-place,
While scented violets, rising fro black soil,
Record the burial of some lovely girl
Start up from creatures of angelic kind.
Tread softly on such evidence of beauty:
Red lips and rosy cheeks fast slumbering
Live always in this paradisal Now --
Fated however soon to house, instead,
With others gone these seven thousand years:
Innocent victims of Death's furtive stroke.
All had been honest drinkers, but all failed,
Two rounds before the last, to drain their bowls
Pass your whole life in gratitude and joy.
Had humankind been freed from womb and tomb,
When would your turn have come to live and love?
No absurd grief to overcast your days.
Never renounce love-songs, or lawns, or kisses
Until your clay lies mixed with elder clay.
Some teeter between certitude and doubt.
Suddenly out of hiding leaps the Guide
With: 'Fools, the Way is neither that nor this.'
Drowse in their dusty bed of pride, my Saki.
Drink yet again and hear the truth at last:
'Whatever words they spoke were wind, my Saki.'
Mounted the soaring Burak of their thoughts.
Study your essence: like the Firmament,
Your head will turn and turn, vertiginously.
Growing content, in time, with what he taught;
How does the story end? What happened to us?
We came like water and like wind were gone.
Of mystery, upward and upward flying,
No sage stood there to greet me with the truth;
So back I dived by the same narrow door.
Nor foraged past the frontier set for thought.
All intellect be sure, proves nugatory
However hard we either teach or learn.
And learned nothing from life but wonder at it;
Reluctantly we leave, still uninformed
Why in the world we came, or went, or were.
Fate hounds me most unwillingly away.
Rise, wrap a cloth about your loins, my Saki,
And swill away the misery of this world.
Or to become? What might I have become?
What better fortune could I then have chanced on
Than not to come, become, or even be?
I have unveiled all astral mysteries:
Breaking the barriers of deceit and fraud,
Leaping all obstacles but Fate's design.
The eternal Cypher proves too hard to break.
Behind God's Curtain voices babble of us
But when it parts, where then shall we two be?
And asked how might I sue for green old age.
Pressing its lips to mine it muttered darkly:
'Drink up! Once gone, you shall return no more!'
Like me -- who had pursued a dream, like me.
This handle at its neck was once an arm
Entwined about some neck he loved too well
Pounding relentlessly his batch of clay.
My inner ear could hear it sigh and groan:
'Brother, I once was like you. Treat me gently!'
I pondered, watching how the Master made
Handles and covers for his jugs and pitchers
From clay -- from hands of kings, from beggars' feet.
Continuously they tried new skills on clay;
Yet some, devoid of vision, never noted
The ancestral dust on every turning wheel
Spills on the ground may quench the fires of grief
In some sore heart. All praise to Him who offers
Such medicine to relieve its melancholy!
And if the moon-faced one has time to spare
Drink gloriously deep, for brutal Time
Will strike you down with never a warning yell.
By permutations, foul succeeding fair;
Possess your bowl, play with your loved one's curls;
Soon the whole scene must vanish past recourse.
Or bedded with your heart's delight, rejoice!
Your end is no more than the whole world's end.
Fancy yourself no longer there; then smile.
Resent no anguish still prepared for you,
Dwell lightly on your entrance and your exit --
Drink, never cast your essence to the winds.
Offers one bowl for all mankind to drink.
When your turn comes, refrain from tears, be merry,
Lift high the bowl, then drain ti to its lees!
And become naked spirit, soaring far
Across God's Empyrean, you will blush
That you lay cramped so long in body's gaol.
Your soul, a Sultan; and your camp, all Time.
The groom called Fate maps out tomorrow's march
And strikes the tent when, Sultan-like, you move
Tautens its golden guy-ropes against entry,
A deathless Saki draws Khayaams in thousands
Like wine-bubbles out of Creation's bowl.
Persisting without name or note of us.
Before we came, it never grudged our absence;
When we have gone, how can it feel regret?
Come, seize one moment passing joyfully.
Why mourn for friends and their tomorrow, Saki?
Pour out more wine: the night is passing too.
Why should you load your heart with nameless cares?
Let projects fade away; disport yourself
In the brief hour when life detains you here.
Another breath parts certitude from doubt.
Yet cherish breath, never make light of it --
Is not such breath the harvest of our being?
I long for wisdom, to be taught and learn.'
I breathed the letter A. My heart replied:
'A is enough to occupy this house.'
Varies from animal form to vegetable.
Destroy the form, you destroy nothingness --
For what she seems survives her not-yet-being
Existence here runs as quicksilver runs.
Rise up, for wakefulness is what sleep treasures
And fires of youth like water drain away.
A person sometimes, but sometimes a place,
Showing this costly spectacle to no one --
You, the sole audience and the actor too.
Death could inform me of God's hidden secrets.
Since I know nothing of myself today,
What can I know of tomorrow, after death?
In arguments on being or not being;
Go, ignoramus, choose your vintage well --
From dust like theirs grow none but unripe grapes
In hours of joy wine will not play us false.
Knowledge and practice lie beyond our scope
But wine solves all enigmas that obtrude.
With pipes of wine for its replenishment,
Annulling former ties to Faith and Reason
By marriage with this daughter of the Vine.
Of being and not-being, who has plumbed
The abyss of shame, how can I greet as valid
Any condition short of drunkenness?
God knows this is the one thing I am not.
I am even less: in such a nest of sorrows
I cannot tell you even who I am.
A fellow toper met me with a flask.
Cried I: 'Old man, have you no awe of God?'
'Come', he said, 'God is bountiful! Come, drink!'
Your memories of the two-and-seventy sects
And praise wine's alchemy that still can banish
With one red draught more than a thousand spites.
How much I drink can seem of small concern
To God, who knows well that I drink. Abstention
From drink would make God's knowledge ignorance.
And earn Hell fire on God's Last Judgment Day.'
Nevertheless my blaze of drunkenness
Outshines both worlds: your Now and your Hereafter.
And valleys: I have strayed this way and that
Yet never found a traveller who could boast
That he had ever trod the same road twice.
Though moulding candles from these predicates
Have never lighted one to mark the way
By night; but told their fables and slept on.
For Pen and Tablet, also Heaven and Hell;
But prudently my Teacher warned me: 'Pen
And Tablet, Heaven and Hell, lie in yourself.'
My precious tears carved out the Jihun's bed;
Hell is the furnace for my suffering soul;
Paradise, my one moment of release.
Is, so to speak, God's magic shadow-show:
With sun for lamp, the world as a wide screen
For countless lie-rehearsing silhouettes.
We are mere puppets of our Master, toys
On the Table of Existence, one by one
Flung back in the toy box of Non-existence
Running whichever way it drives you, numbed
Of sense, though He who set you on your course,
He knows, He knows, He knows.
Heedless of God or Evil, pen, write on!
By the first day all futures were decided;
Which gives our griefs and pains irrelevancy.
Sorrow and Joy are man's predestined lot.
Live in no awe of planets. Planets are
One thousand times more impotent than we.
Why are you so distressed by grief and labour?
Yield to your destiny, conform, conform!
Tomorrow too is framed by destiny.
Exempt from yesterday's inept desires.
Rejoice that by no effort of your own
Tomorrow also is mapped out for you.
He word by word spelt out my lesson, love,
And seized my heart and from a fragment cut
Keys to the storehouse of Reality.
When Jupiter first blazed, the Pleiads too,
My fate was published from God's Judgement seat.
How can I err? I act as it is written.
Have far more substance than a mumbled prayer
To you, my Last and First, my soul's Creator
Empowered either to sear or succor me.
Incontrovertibly my life was ordered:
Without His order I abstain from crime.
Why should I burn, then, on His Judgement Day?
Yet He commands us to abstain from sin.
Thus irresistibility confounds us
With prohibition:--'Lean, but never fall!'
Forewarned a hundred wonders for me; yet --
Could I be worse or better than I am
Who was, even before He fashioned me?
To entrap me, should I walk without due care.
Utter extremes acknowledge Your vast sway.
You order all things -- yet You call me rebel?
If clouds darken my heart, where is Your light?
Heaven rewards my practice of obedience;
Rewards well-earned are good -- but what of grace?
Who succor all flesh in its hour of need,
Grant me repentance, grant me mercy too --
You who forgive all, You who punish all.
Guarding this tattered robe we call the Sky,
Say, am I sinful? Are you not my Master?
Who sins when You alone created me?
In Potters Row, not all of which were mute,
And one cried loudly: 'Friends, where is the Potter,
Where is the salesman, where the customer?'
That tempts a toper to a hundred kisses;
And yet the Potter moulds this fragile clay
Only to fall and shatter on the ground
Hat all besotted murderers of bowls --
Bowls deftly moulded for the love of whom?
Then dashed to pieces, as a curse on whom?
Delinquient when He treats us with disorder?
We ask: 'Why break the best of us?' and murmur:
'Is the pot guilty if it stands awry?'
Handled, they say, by a short-tempered Judge,
Yet never fear: good has the final word --
Nothing of Evil can proceed from Good.
When all I am scatters to the four winds,
Let them remold me as a jug, that then
I may revive, well soused in glorious drink.
Cutting my root of hope, sweet friends, assemble
And from my clave contrive a single jug
To thrive again, well soused in glorious drink.
Salute the month of joy and lutes and singing.
When wineskins for the shoulder cry aloud:
'Here come the porters, one after another!'
Read it into the grave with drinking songs.
On Judgement Day, if you have need of me,
Delve in the soil beneath our tavern door.
A pasty-coloured cheek to ruby red.
When I fall dead, I say, wash me in wine
And use the vine's own slats for coffin-wood.
Will scent the air where I lie underground;
A toper treading past my grave will pause
To sniff, and find himself ignobly drunk.
I swore my soul was free and given to God.
Alas for purity once more besmirched --
For a vow broken by one sip of wine!
Reject it I will not, while I yet breathe,
Wondering often what the vintners buy
Equal in value with the wine they sell.
The green of Spring makes way for wintry snow.
The cheerful bird of Youth flutters away --
I hardly noticed how it came or went.
For sleep; if only this long road would end!
If only from some inner core of earth
We might spring up once more to bud and blossom!
Would I not wipe away these faulty Heavens
And build from nothing a true Paradise
Where all souls could achieve their hearts' desire?
Content yourself, my mortal Moon, with bowls
Emptied by moonlight -- one fine night the Moon
May search the world for us, but find us gone!
Never forget us, once your sweetest friends.
Before you greet the jug, Khayyam adjures you:
When his turn comes, turn down his empty bowl.
Has tumbled in Grief's clutches. He lies burning;
The shears of Death have closed up on his guys
And Hope the Broker sells him for a song.
Sentenced to fuel the eternal fires of Hell,
How long will you still plead for Omar's pardon,
Nudging his mercy from the Merciful?
Though dust of sin lies clotted on my brow,
Yet will I not despair of mercy. When
Did Omar argue that the One was Two?
Where prostrate Kings did reverence at the gate --
A ring-dove perches on its battlements;
'Where, where?' it coos, 'where, where?'