While Dawn, Day's herald straddling the whole sky
Offers the drowsy world a toast "To Win',
The Sun spills early gold on city roofs --
Day's regal Host, replenishing his jug

Then shouts ring out among us at the tavern:
'Rise too, you good-for-nothing tavern lad!
Refill our empty bowls with today's measure
Before the measure of our lives be filled!'

'Loud crows the cock for his dawn drink, my Saki!'
'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!'

Rarest of lads, rising to greet the dawn;
Favour my bowl of crystal, pour red wine!
This moment filched from the grey corpse of night
We long may sigh for, never repossess

Now that our world finds riches within reach,
Live hearts awake and hanker for wide plains
Where every bough is blanched by Moses-hand
And every breeze perfumed by Jesus-breath

A glorious morning, neither hot nor dank,
With cheeks of roses newly bathed in dew;
The nightingale, in Pahlevi, prescribes
For every sallower cheek: 'Wine, wine and wine!'

Most guiltily each morning I determine
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?

Life passes. What is Balkh? what is Baghdad?
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

Rest in the rose's shade, though winds have burst
A world of blossom; petals fall to dust --
Jamsheds and Khusros by the hundred thousand
Lie tumbled by a similar stroke of time

One ample draught outdoes the fame of Kawus,
Kobad the Glorious or Imperial Tus.
Friend, never bow your neck even to Rustum
Nor proffer thanks even to Hatim Tai.

Should our day's portion be one mancel loaf,
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 gourd of red wine and a sheaf of poems --
A bare subsistence, half a loaf, not more --
Supplied us two alone in the free desert:
What Sultan could we envy on his throne?

They say that Eden is bejeweled with houris;
I answer that grape-nectar has no price --
So laugh at long-term credit, stick to coin,
Though distant drums beguile your greedy ear

The Rose cried: 'I am generous of largesse
And laughter. Laughingly my petals blow
Across the world; the ribbons of my purse
Snap and its load of coin flies everywhere

Before Fate springs her ambush for your life,
Command our tavern-lad to fetch you drink.
Fool, your dry corpse will be no treasure trove
For proud posterity to disinter!

Think of this world as modeled at your whim,
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

This ruined caravanserai, called Earth --
Stable of Day-with-Night, a piebald steed;
Former pavilion of a hundred Jamsheds;
A hundred Bahrams' one-time hall of state

A Palace gorged in by gigantic Bahram --
The vixen whelps there and the lion nods.
Bahram, who hunted none but onagers,
Lies tumbled in a pitfall called the grave

Each rose or tulip bed that you encounter
Is sure to mark a king's last resting-place,
While scented violets, rising fro black soil,
Record the burial of some lovely girl

Green cresses, also, masking a stream's bank
Start up from creatures of angelic kind.
Tread softly on such evidence of beauty:
Red lips and rosy cheeks fast slumbering

Never anticipate tomorrow's sorrow;
Live always in this paradisal Now --
Fated however soon to house, instead,
With others gone these seven thousand years:

My tavern comrades vanish one by one,
Innocent victims of Death's furtive stroke.
All had been honest drinkers, but all failed,
Two rounds before the last, to drain their bowls

Rise up, why mourn this transient world of men?
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?

Allow no shadow of regret to cloud you,
No absurd grief to overcast your days.
Never renounce love-songs, or lawns, or kisses
Until your clay lies mixed with elder clay.

Some ponder long on doctrine and belief,
Some teeter between certitude and doubt.
Suddenly out of hiding leaps the Guide
With: 'Fools, the Way is neither that nor this.'

Most of them, gone before we go, my Saki,
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.'

Yet those who proved most perfect of our kind
Mounted the soaring Burak of their thoughts.
Study your essence: like the Firmament,
Your head will turn and turn, vertiginously.

In childhood once we crouched before our teacher,
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.

When falcon-like I darted from my world
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.

Man's brain has never solved the eternal Why
Nor foraged past the frontier set for thought.
All intellect be sure, proves nugatory
However hard we either teach or learn.

In agitation I was brought to birth
And learned nothing from life but wonder at it;
Reluctantly we leave, still uninformed
Why in the world we came, or went, or were.

My presence here has been no choice of mine;
Fate hounds me most unwillingly away.
Rise, wrap a cloth about your loins, my Saki,
And swill away the misery of this world.

Were the choice mine to come, should I have come?
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?

Earth's Perigee to Saturn's apogee --
I have unveiled all astral mysteries:
Breaking the barriers of deceit and fraud,
Leaping all obstacles but Fate's design.

Not you, not I, can learn the inmost secret:
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?

Greedily to the bowl my lips I pressed
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!'

This jug was, ages past, a doleful lover
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

Yesterday in the market stood a potter
Pounding relentlessly his batch of clay.
My inner ear could hear it sigh and groan:
'Brother, I once was like you. Treat me gently!'

In the potter's workroom, shadowed by the wheel,
I pondered, watching how the Master made
Handles and covers for his jugs and pitchers
From clay -- from hands of kings, from beggars' feet.

I wandered further down the Potters' Row.
Continuously they tried new skills on clay;
Yet some, devoid of vision, never noted
The ancestral dust on every turning wheel

Each drop of wine that Saki negligently
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!

Raise the bowl high, like tulip-cups at Nauroz,
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.

Avoid all greed and envy, unperturbed
By permutations, foul succeeding fair;
Possess your bowl, play with your loved one's curls;
Soon the whole scene must vanish past recourse.

Khayaam, should you be drunk with love, rejoice!
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.

Oppose all resurrections of your past,
Resent no anguish still prepared for you,
Dwell lightly on your entrance and your exit --
Drink, never cast your essence to the winds.

This vast, unmeasured, universal vault
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!

Dear love, when you are free to slough your skin
And become naked spirit, soaring far
Across God's Empyrean, you will blush
That you lay cramped so long in body's gaol.

Khayaam, your mortal carcase is a tent;
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

Khayaam, though this blue-stained royal pavilion,
Tautens its golden guy-ropes against entry,
A deathless Saki draws Khayaams in thousands
Like wine-bubbles out of Creation's bowl.

This world must long survive our poor departure,
Persisting without name or note of us.
Before we came, it never grudged our absence;
When we have gone, how can it feel regret?

The caravan of life passes in strangeness.
Come, seize one moment passing joyfully.
Why mourn for friends and their tomorrow, Saki?
Pour out more wine: the night is passing too.

Dear lad, steeped as you are in Mysteries,
Why should you load your heart with nameless cares?
Let projects fade away; disport yourself
In the brief hour when life detains you here.

One breath parts infidelity from faith;
Another breath parts certitude from doubt.
Yet cherish breath, never make light of it --
Is not such breath the harvest of our being?

My heart complained: 'I long for inspiration,
I long for wisdom, to be taught and learn.'
I breathed the letter A. My heart replied:
'A is enough to occupy this house.'

The Moon, by her own nature skilled in change,
Varies from animal form to vegetable.
Destroy the form, you destroy nothingness --
For what she seems survives her not-yet-being

Bring wine to allay the fever of my heart;
Existence here runs as quicksilver runs.
Rise up, for wakefulness is what sleep treasures
And fires of youth like water drain away.

Hidden you live, inscrutable as ever --
A person sometimes, but sometimes a place,
Showing this costly spectacle to no one --
You, the sole audience and the actor too.

Could my heart know, in life, life's hidden secrets,
Death could inform me of God's hidden secrets.
Since I know nothing of myself today,
What can I know of tomorrow, after death?

Those dupes of intellect and logic die
In arguments on being or not being;
Go, ignoramus, choose your vintage well --
From dust like theirs grow none but unripe grapes

Eternity eternally discussed!
In hours of joy wine will not play us false.
Knowledge and practice lie beyond our scope
But wine solves all enigmas that obtrude.

I shall possess myself of a great goblet
With pipes of wine for its replenishment,
Annulling former ties to Faith and Reason
By marriage with this daughter of the Vine.

As one familiar with all exoterics,
Of being and not-being, who has plumbed
The abyss of shame, how can I greet as valid
Any condition short of drunkenness?

Misguided foes call me philosopher --
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.

In drink this evening, as I passed the tavern,
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!'

Banish your crowding griefs with wine, disperse
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.

I drink wine as my fellow-topers drink.
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.

They say: 'Be sober, lest you die of drink
And earn Hell fire on God's Last Judgment Day.'
Nevertheless my blaze of drunkenness
Outshines both worlds: your Now and your Hereafter.

My wandering feet have led me through far plains
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.

Exemplars of the cultured and genteel
Though moulding candles from these predicates
Have never lighted one to mark the way
By night; but told their fables and slept on.

Already at Creation I stretched out
For Pen and Tablet, also Heaven and Hell;
But prudently my Teacher warned me: 'Pen
And Tablet, Heaven and Hell, lie in yourself.'

My broken body serves the Sky for girdle,
My precious tears carved out the Jihun's bed;
Hell is the furnace for my suffering soul;
Paradise, my one moment of release.

This vault, underneath which we live bemused
Is, so to speak, God's magic shadow-show:
With sun for lamp, the world as a wide screen
For countless lie-rehearsing silhouettes.

Let me speak out, unallegorically:
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

Poor ball, struck by Fate's heavy polo-mallet,
Running whichever way it drives you, numbed
Of sense, though He who set you on your course,
He knows, He knows, He knows.

What we shall be is written, and we are so.
Heedless of God or Evil, pen, write on!
By the first day all futures were decided;
Which gives our griefs and pains irrelevancy.

Evil and Good dispute the heart's possession;
Sorrow and Joy are man's predestined lot.
Live in no awe of planets. Planets are
One thousand times more impotent than we.

Truth is hyperbole, my heart of hearts.
Why are you so distressed by grief and labour?
Yield to your destiny, conform, conform!
Tomorrow too is framed by destiny.

Yesterday they determined your today.
Exempt from yesterday's inept desires.
Rejoice that by no effort of your own
Tomorrow also is mapped out for you.

But while the Eternal One created me
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 first the Sky's wild horses won their saddles,
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.

Mysteries broached with joy in tavern talk
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.

When, bending low, God moulded me from clay,
Incontrovertibly my life was ordered:
Without His order I abstain from crime.
Why should I burn, then, on His Judgement Day?

That sin is irresistible, He knows;
Yet He commands us to abstain from sin.
Thus irresistibility confounds us
With prohibition:--'Lean, but never fall!'

The clay from which this human frame was moulded
Forewarned a hundred wonders for me; yet --
Could I be worse or better than I am
Who was, even before He fashioned me?

On every path I take, Your snares are spread
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 sinfully I drudge, where is Your mercy?
If clouds darken my heart, where is Your light?
Heaven rewards my practice of obedience;
Rewards well-earned are good -- but what of grace?

You, always cognizant of every secret;
Who succor all flesh in its hour of need,
Grant me repentance, grant me mercy too --
You who forgive all, You who punish all.

Ordaining every cause for life or death,
Guarding this tattered robe we call the Sky,
Say, am I sinful? Are you not my Master?
Who sins when You alone created me?

I saw at least two thousand pots, last night
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?'

There is one bowl praised by the wide wise world
That tempts a toper to a hundred kisses;
And yet the Potter moulds this fragile clay
Only to fall and shatter on the ground

The elements that constitute a bowl
Hat all besotted murderers of bowls --
Bowls deftly moulded for the love of whom?
Then dashed to pieces, as a curse on whom?

Our Guardian chose our natures. Is He then
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?'

Though Judgement Day should prove a grand ordeal
Handled, they say, by a short-tempered Judge,
Yet never fear: good has the final word --
Nothing of Evil can proceed from Good.

When this existence finds an end at last,
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.

When Destiny, I say, has trod me down
Cutting my root of hope, sweet friends, assemble
And from my clave contrive a single jug
To thrive again, well soused in glorious drink.

Shawal is with us, Ramazan has passed.
Salute the month of joy and lutes and singing.
When wineskins for the shoulder cry aloud:
'Here come the porters, one after another!'

Should I fall dead, wash my poor corpse in wine;
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.

Take heed to pamper me with bowls that change
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.

So lovingly I drink, the wine's bouquet
Will scent the air where I lie underground;
A toper treading past my grave will pause
To sniff, and find himself ignobly drunk.

Once, years ago, inclined to prayer and fasting
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!

Though drink has rotted my high reputation,
Reject it I will not, while I yet breathe,
Wondering often what the vintners buy
Equal in value with the wine they sell.

Ah me, the book of early glory closes,
The green of Spring makes way for wintry snow.
The cheerful bird of Youth flutters away --
I hardly noticed how it came or went.

If only I could find some tranquil spot
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!

If only I controlled God's Universe,
Would I not wipe away these faulty Heavens
And build from nothing a true Paradise
Where all souls could achieve their hearts' desire?

Since no voice here can promise you tomorrow,
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!

Sweet friends, in joy assembled here together,
Never forget us, once your sweetest friends.
Before you greet the jug, Khayyam adjures you:
When his turn comes, turn down his empty bowl.

Khayaam, who stitched the hides for Wisdom's tent
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.

Fools, with damnation as your destiny,
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 pearls in praise of God I never strung,
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?

The palace with huge walls soaring to Heaven,
Where prostrate Kings did reverence at the gate --
A ring-dove perches on its battlements;
'Where, where?' it coos, 'where, where?'