Omar al Khayyam, Imam of Khorasan, and the greatest scholar of his time, was versed in all the learning of the Greeks. he was won't to exhort men to seek the One Author of all by purifying the bodily actions in order to the sanctification of the soul. He also used to recommend the study of Politics as laid down in Greek authors. The later Sufis have caught at the apparent sense of parts of his poems and accommodated them to their own canon, making them a subject of discussion in their assemblies and conventicles, but the esoteric sense consists in axioms of natural religion and principles of universal obligation. When the men of his time anathematized his doctrines, and drew forth his opinions from the concealment in which he had veiled them, he went in fear of his life, and placed some check on the sallies of his tongue and his pen. He made the pilgrimage [to Mecca], but it was from accident rather than piety, still betraying his unorthodox views. On his arrival at Baghdad the men who prosecuted the same ancient studies as he flocked to meet him, but he shut the door in their faces, as one who had renounced those studies and cultivated them no longer. On his return to his native city he made a practice of attending the morning and evening prayers and of disguising his private opinions, but for all that, they were no secret. In astronomy and in all philosophy he was without a rival, and his eminence in those sciences would have passed into a proverb had he only possessed self-control."
Edward Fitzgerald's often-quoted historical overview "Omar Khayyam the Astronomer-Poet of Persia" reads:
Omar Khayyam was born at Naishapur in Khorassan in the latter half of our Eleventh, and died within the First Quarter of our Twelfth Century. The slender Story of his Life is curiously twined about that of two other very considerable Figures in the Time and Country: on of whom tells the Story of all Three. This was Nizam ul Mulk, Vizyr to Alp Arslan the Son, and Malik Shah the Grandson, of Toghrul Beg the Tartar, who had wrested Persia from the feeble successor of Mahmud the Great, and founded that Seljukian Dynasty which finally roused Europe into the Crusades. This Nizam ul Mulk, in his Wasiyat -- or Testament -- which he wrote and left as a Memorial for future Statesmen -- relates the following, as quoted in the Calcutta Review, No. LIX., from Mirkhond's History of the Assassins.
"'One of the greatest of the wise men of Khorassan was the Imam Mowaffak of Naishapur, a man highly honoured and reverenced -- may God rejoice his soul; his illustrious years exceeded eighty-five, and it was the universal belief that every boy who read the Koran or studied the traditions in his presence, would assuredly attain to honour and happiness. For this cause did my father send me from Tus to Naishapur with Abd-us-samad, the doctor of law, that I might employ myself in study and learning under the guidance of that illustrious teacher. Towards me he ever turned an eye of favour and kindness, and as his pupil I felt for him extreme affection and devotion, so that I passed four years in his service. When I first came there, I found two other pupils of mine own age newly arrived, Hakim Omar Khayyam and the ill-fated Ben Sabbah. Both were endowed with sharpness of wit and the highest natural powers; and we three formed a close friendship together. When the Imam rose from his lectures, they used to join me, and we repeated to each other the lessons we had heard. Now Omar was a native of Haishapur, while Hasan Ben Sabbah's father was one Ali, a man of austere life and practice, but heretical in his creed and doctrine. One day Hasan said to me and to Khayyam, "It is a universal belief that the pupils of the Imam Mowaffak will attain to fortune. Now, even if we all do not attain thereto, without doubt one of us will; what, then shall be our mutual pledge and bond?" We answered, "Be it what you please." -- "Well," he said, "let us make a vow, that to whomsoever this fortune falls, he shall share it equally with the rest, and reserve no pre-eminence for himself." -- "Be it so," we both replied, and on those terms we mutually pledged our words. Years rolled on, and I went from Khorassan to Transoxiana, and wandered to Ghazni and Cabul; and when I returned I was invested with office, and rose to be administrator of affairs during the Sultanate of Sultan Alp Arslan.'
"He goes on to state that years passed by, and both his old school-friends found him out, and came and claimed a share in his good fortune, according to the school-day vow. The Vizier was generous and kept his word. Hasan demanded a place in the government, which the Sultan granted at the Vizier's request; but, discontented with a gradual rise, he plunged into the maze of intrigue of an Oriental Court, and failing in a base attempt to supplant his benefactor, he was disgraced and fell. After many mishaps and wanderings, Hasan became the head of the Persian sect of the Ismailians, -- a party of fanatics who had long murmured in obscurity, but rose to an evil eminence under the guidance of his strong and evil will. In A.D. 1090, he seized the castle of Alamut, in the provide of Rudbar, which lies in the mountainous tract south of the Caspian Sea, and it was from this mountain home he obtained that evil celebrity among the Crusaders as the OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAINS, and spread terror through the Mohammedan world; and it is yet disputed whether the word Assassin, which they have left in the language of modern Europe as their dark memorial, is derived from the hashish, or opiate of hemp-leaves (the Indian bhang), with which they maddened themselves to the sullen pitch of Oriental desperation, or from the name of the founder of the dynasty, whom we have seen in his quiet collegiate days, at Naishapur. One of the countless victims of the Assassin's dagger was Nizam ul Mulk himself, the old school-boy friend.
"Omar Khayyam also came to the Vizier to claim his share; but not to ask for title or office. 'The greatest boon you can confer on me,' he said, 'is to let me live in a corner under the shadow of your fortune, to spread wide the advantages of Science, and pray for your long life and prosperity.' The Vizier tells us that, when he found Omar was really sincere in his refusal, he pressed him no further, but granted him a yearly pension of 1200 mithkals of gold, from the treasury of Naishapur.
"At Naishapur thus lived and died Omar Khayyam, 'busied,' adds the Vizier, 'in winning knowledge of every kind, and especially in Astronomy, wherein he attained to a very high pre-eminence. Under the Sultanate of Malik Shah, he came to Merv, and obtained great praise for his proficiency in science, and the Sultan showered favours upon him.
"When Malik Shah determined to reform the calendar, Omar was one of the eight learned men employed to do it; the result was the Jalali era (so called from Jalal-ud-din, one of the king's names) -- 'a computation of time,' says Gibbon, 'which surpasses the Julian, and approaches the accuracy of the Gregorian style.' He is also the author of some astronomical tables, entitled Ziji-Malikshahi," and the French have lately republished and translated an Arabic Treatise of his on Algebra.
"His Takhallus or poetical name (Khayyam) signifies a Tentmaker, and he is said to have at one time exercised that trade, perhaps before Nizam ul Mulk's generosity raised him to independence. Many Persian poets similarly derive their names from their occupations; thus we have Attar, 'a druggist,' Assar, 'an oil presser,' etc. Omar himself alludes to his name in the following whimsical lines: --
'Khayyam, who stitched the tents of science
Has fallen in grief's furnace and been suddenly burned
The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life
And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing!'
"We have only one more anecdote to give of his LIfe, and that relates to the close; it is told in the anonymous preface which is sometimes prefixed to his poems; it has been printed in the Persian in the Appendix to Hyde's Veterum Persarum Religio, p. 499; and D'Herbelot alludes to it in his Bibliotheque, under Khiam:--
"'It is written in the chronicles of the ancients that this King of the Wise, Omar Khayyam, died at Naishapur in the year of the Hegira, 517 (A.D. 1123); in science he was unrivaled -- the very paragon of his age. Khwajah Nizami of Samarcand, who was one of his pupils, relates the following story: "I often used to hold conversations with my teacher, Omar Khayyam, in a garden; and one day he said to me, 'My tomb shall be in a spot where the north wind may scatter roses over it.' I wondered at the words he spake, but I knew that his were no idle words. Years after, when I chanced to revisit Naishapur, I went to his final resting-place, and lo! it was just outside a garden, and trees laden with fruit stretched their boughs over the garden wall, and dropped their flowers upon his tomb, so that the stone was hidden under them."'"
Thus far -- without fear of Trespass -- from the Calcutta Review. The writer of it, on reading in India this story of Omar's Grave, was reminded, he says, of Cicero's Account of finding Archimedes' Tomb at Syracuse, buried in grass and weeds. I think Thorwaldsen desired to have roses grow over him; a wish religiously fulfilled for him to the present day, I believe. However, to return to Omar.
Though the Sultan "shower'd Favours upon him," Omar's Epicurean Audacity of Thought and Speech caused him to be regarded askance in his own Time and Coutnry. He is said to have been especially hated and dreaded by the Sufis, whose Practice he ridiculed, and whose Faith amounts to little more than his own, when script of the Mysticism and formal recognition of Islamism under which Omar would not hide. Their Poets, including Hafix, who are (with the exception of Firdausi) the most considerable in Persia, borrowed largely, indeed, of Omar's material, but turning it to a mystical Use more convenient to Themselves and the People they addressed; a People quite as quick of Doubt as Belief; as keen of Bodily Sense as of Intellectual; and delighting in a cloudy composition of both, in which they could float luxuriously between Heaven and Earth, and this World and the Next, on the wings of a poetical expression, that might serve indifferently for either. Omar was too honest of Heart as well as Head for this. Having failed (however mistakenly) of finding any Providence but Destiny, and any World but This, he set about making the most of it; preferring rather to soothe the Soul through the Senses into Acquiescence with Things as he saw them, than to perplex it with vain disquietude after what they might be. It has been seen, however, that his Worldly Ambition was not exorbitant; and he very likely takes a humorous or perverse pleasure in exalting the gratification of Sense above that of the Intellect, in which he must have taken great delight, although it failed to answer th eQuestions in which he, in common with all men, was most vitally interested.
For whatever Reson, however, Omar, as before said, has never been popular in his own Country, and therefore has been but scantily transmitted abroad. The MSS. of his Poems, mutilated beyond the average Casualties of Oriental Transcription, are so rare in the East as scarce to have reached Westward at all, in spite of all the acquisitions of Arms and Science. There is no copy at the India House, none at the Biblotheque Nationale of Paris. We know of but one in England: No. 140 of the Ouseley MS. at the Bodleian, written at Shiraz, A.D. 1460. This contains but 158 Rubaiyat. One in the Asiatic Society's Library at Calcutta (of which we have a Copy), contains (and yet incomplete) 516, though swelled to that by all kinds of Repetition and Corruption. So Von Hammer speaks of His Copy as containing about 200, while Dr. Sprenger catalogues the Lucknow MSS. at double that number. The Scribes, too, of the Oxford and Calcutta MSS. seem to do their Work under a sort of Protest; each beginning with a Tetrastich (whether genuine or not), taken out of its alphabetical order; the Oxford with one of Apology; the Calcutta with one of Expostulation, supposed (says a Notice prefixed to the MS.) to have arisen from a Dream, in which Omar's mother asked about his future fate. It may be rendered thus: --
"Oh Thou who burn'st in Heart for those who burn
In Hell, whose fires thyself shall feed in turn;
How long be crying, 'Mercy on them, God!'
Why, who art Thou to teach, and He to learn?"
The Bodleian Quatrain pleads Pantheism by way of Justification.
"If I myself upon a looser Creed
Have loosely strung the Jewel of Good deed,
Let this one thing for my Atonement plead:
That One for Two I never did mis-read."
The Reviewer [Professor Cowell], to whom I owe the Particulars of Omar's Life, concludes his Review by comparing him with Lucretius, both as to natural Temper and Genius, and as acted upon by the Circumstances in which he lived. Both indeed were men to stubble, strong, and cultivated Intellect, fine Imagination, and Hearts passionate for Truth and Justice; who justly revolted from their Country's false Religion, and false, or foolish, Devotion to it; but who fell short of replacing what they subverted by such better Hope as others, with no better Revelation to guide them, had yet made a Law to themselves. Lucretius, indeed, with such material as Epicurus furnished, satisfied himself with the theory of a vast machine fortuitously constructed, and acting by a Law that implied no Legislator; and so composing himself into a Stoical rather than epicurean severity of Attitude, sat down to contemplate the mechanical Drama of the Universe which he was part Actor in; himself and all about him (as in his own sublime description of the Roman Theatre) discoloured with the lurid reflex of the Curtain supsended between the Spectator and the Sun. Omar, more desperate, or more careless of any so complicated System as resulted in nothing but hopeless Necessity, flung his own Genius and Learning with a bitter or humorous jest into the general Ruin which their insufficient glimpses only served to reveal; and, pretending sensual pleasure as the serious purpose of Life, only diverted himself with speculative problems of Deity, Destiny, matter and Spirit, Good and Evil, and other such questions, easier to start than to run down, and the pursuit of which becomes a very weary sport at last!
Monsieur J. B. Nicolas, the chief translator of the French embassy to Persia in 1867, translated several hundred quatrains from a French version into English. He also provided the following commentary on Omar Khayyam's history.
The history of Khayyam, bound to that of two persons who played a great role in the annals of the country, is, I believe, of sufficient interest to warrant my telling it here as it has been transmitted to us by the Persian historians.
Khayyam, born in a village situated near Nishapur, in Khorasan, went to complete his studies at the celebrated medresseh of that city, towards the end of the year 1042 of the Christian era. Accounts tell us that this college had acquired at that time the reputation of producing pupils of rare distinction, from among whom men of talent and remarkable skill often sprung up and rapidly attained to the highest positions in the empire.
Abdul-Kassem and Hassan-Sebbah, fellow-students with Khayyam, were the two comrades to whom he was especially attached, notwithstanding a divergence of character and opinion which would seem to indicate in him another choice. One day Khayyam asked his two friends, in a jesting manner, if a compact entered into among them, and based upon absolute necessity, for that one of the three whom Fortune most favored to come to the aid of the other two, heaping benefits upon them, would appear to them a childish thing. "No, no," answered they; "the idea is excellent and we will adopt it with all eagerness." Immediately the three friends clasped hands and vowed that when the time came they would be faithful to their agreement. This pact but stimulated the emulation of the three young people. They applied themselves to their studies with more ardor even than was demanded of them, since in accordance with the tradition of the college, the high places belong to those who merit them.
Khayyam, of a sweet and modest nature, was rather given to the contemplation of divine things than to the pleasures of worldly life. This tendency and the kind of study he cultivated made of him a Mystic poet, a philosopher at once skeptical and fatalistic, a Sufi -- in a word, what most Oriental poets are.
Abdul-Kassem, on the contrary, ambitious and positive in the full acceptation of the word, anxious to come into power, applied himself principally to the study of the history of his country, which presented to him numerous examples of celebrated men who, by their merit and courage, had come into the highest offices, and where, besides, he found excellent lessons in all branches of administration. He became an illustrious statesman. As for Hassan-Sebbah, as ambitious as his fellow-student Abdul-Kassem, but less skillful, and more violent than he in the application of means, artful and jealous of the superiority of his comrades, he followed somewhere nearly the same studies, holding ever to the purpose of serving himself by the ruin of all those who dared to oppose his advancement in the career he had chosen. He also became celebrated, as will be shown farther on in this preface, through the cruelties he committed and the blood he spilled.
Their studies ended, the three friends left college and separated to return to their own homes, where they remained a certain length of time without renown. Abdul-Kassem, however, was not long in making himself advantageously known at the Court of Alp-Arslan, the second king of the dynasty of the Seldjoukides, through divers writings on the subject of administration, and soon became the private secretary of that monarch, then under-secretary of State, and finally Prime Minister.
Alp-Arslan, in putting this skillful administrator at the head of affairs in his empire, conferred upon him the honorary title of Nizam-el-Moulk, "Regulator of the Empire," a title which, among the Persians, replaces the name of the person to whom it is granted. The historians of that time write in eulogy of this great man and, attributing to his virtues and his ability the success and prosperity of Alp-Arslan's reign, hold in profound admiration the discernment of that monarch, who knew how to attach to himself a minister endowed with so much skill in directing the affairs of his vast Principalities, which attained, under his administration, the highest degree of glory of which the Persian annals make mention.
It was towards that epoch, where Nizam-el-Moulk (for henceforth it is by this title that we shall designate him) had arrived at the apogee of his power, that his two friends came to recall to him the contract concluded amongst them. "What do you demand of me?" he said to them.
"I only ask," responded Khayyam, "that I may enjoy the revenues of my native village. I am a Sufi and not ambitious; if you accede to my request, I could, under my paternal roof, far from the inseparable fetters of the things of this world, cultivate poesy, which delights my soul, and peaceably contemplate the works of the Creator, which is acceptable to my mind."
"As for me," said Hassan-Sebbah, "I ask a place at Court."
The minister granted everything: the young poet returned to his village, of which he became chief, and Hassan-Sebbah took his place at Court, where, crafty courtier that he was, he was not long in getting into the good graces of the monarch. But, although he had already acquired the highest distinction possible, thanks to the effective aid of Nizam-el-Moulk, his envious and zealous mind could not accommodate itself to the kind of submission in which he found himself, face to face with his benefactor. He immediately went to work to overturn and supplant him.
To this end, he commenced to insinuate to Alp-Arslan that the royal finances were not in good state, the minister having neglected the collecting of taxes, and not having rendered an account upon this important subject for three years. The Prince gave ear to these treacherous criticisms, and immediately Nizam-el-Moulk was sent for to Court, where Alp-Arslan asked him, in presence of all the great dignitaries, called together for this purpose, for a complete account of uncollected taxes and a definite statement of all finances of State. Nizam-el-Moulk excused himself as best he could for the delay of which his Majesty complained, on the ground of certain circumstances beyond his control, and promised to occupy himself seriously with the question, with the aim of being able to present a complete accounting in six months' time. The Prince appeared satisfied and allowed the minister to retire. But he had scarcely passed the sill of the palace door when Hassan-Sebbah, approaching the King remarked that if anything were needed to prove the incapacity of the minister in a matter of this kind, it was to be found precisely in the extraordinary delay that he asked for putting the finances of the Empire in order.
This observation struck the Prince, who asked the courtier making it if he wished to take charge of this work, and if he would engage to have it finished in a shorter space of time. Upon the affirmative response of the artful Hassan, who only asked for forty days for the accomplishment of the task, an order was given to Nizam-el-Moulk to put the archives of the finances immediately at his disposition, the moustofis (writings of the Chief Justice) and all the details of the management. Hassan, delighted at finding himself so suddenly at the head of the most important branch of the administration, already considered the complete ruin of Nizam-el-Moulk as assured.
The latter, on his side, perceived, but a little too late, the imprudence he had been guilty of in placing in so high a position a man whom he ought to have known, and concerning whom he should have been on his guard. However, he did not despair of frustrating, scheme against scheme, the well-advanced projects of his ambitious antagonist. Knowing by experience how corrupttible the men of his time were, and recognizing, too, the proverbial greediness and weakness of character of the confidant of Hassan-Sebbah to whom the latter believed it possible to trust the work that he had undertaken upon the order of Alp-Arslan, he did not hesitate to furnish to one of his favorites, upon whose faithfulness he knew he could count, sums large enough to be irresistible in the carrying out of the plan which he had conceived.
The favorite of the minister, a safe man, accustomed to this kind of service, so skillfully used this money that he was not long in winning the good graces of Hassan's weak and interested confidant, and was thus able to furnish to his master all the information which he awaited with impatience, and of which he could make good use when the right moment was come. That moment was the expiration of the forty days which Hassan-Sebbah had demanded.
On the appointed day all was ready, and Hassan seemed to triumph; but Nizam-el-Moulk had on that very day when the voluminous record which his adversary had prepared was to be put before the King in official audience, given his favorite some final instructions which should throw Hassan into confusion. This faithful and adroit servitor went to find the confidant, whose confidence he had gained by means of gifts, and begged him to show him the wonderful statement which Nizam-el-Moulk had declared could not be finished in less than six months, and his master had had the skill to complete in forty days.
Hassan's confidant was occupied at this moment, and besides, suspected nothing; he turned over to his friend the defter on the carpet, he launched forth into pompous eulogy upon the skill of Hassan-Sebbah and of his worthy acolyte who had so actively participated in this eminent work. Some hours afterward Alp-Arslan received in grand audience his ministers and officers of the Empire, to assist at the solemn presentation of the financial accounting of Hassan-Sebbah.
Nizam-el-Moulk humbly kept himself in one corner of the audience hall, awaiting the result of his stratagem. Upon the signal of Alp-Arslan, Hassan-Sebbah deposited at the monarch's feet a fhrist, a little book (an index), by means of which the Prince could call, in the order of the provinces, for the leaflets contained in the defter, which Hassan-Sebbah took from the hands of his trusted helper. At the first call, Hassan sought in vain the desired leaflet. He was haunted by treachery and was troubled; the rumor that this incident provoked in the hall, the presence of the King who was irritated at finding such disorder in a compilation of this importance, added to Hassan's confusion, and he was immediately forced to retire, after a severe reprimand on the part of Alp-Arslan. Nizam-el-Moulk was avenged; he respectfully approached the King and made the observation to him that it was hardly to be expected that there would be much regularity in so serious a work, done in such haste by incapable people.
After this check, Hassan never again appeared at Court. History tells us that he went on a voyage to Syria, where he adopted the dogmas of the Ishmaelite sect, dogmas that he resolved to import into Persia, adding to them other novelties more in accordance with the opinions of the Sufis, then very numerous in the kingdom, with the aim of forming an army and becoming thus a terror to his enemies. He did, in fact, return to Persia, but concealed himself carefully, in order to escape the notice of Nizam-el-Moulk, whose sentiments towards him he suspected. He went back to his native city, Rhei, after having lived for some time at Ispahan, where, emboldened by the facility with which he made new recruits and aided by his neophytes, he formed no less a project than that of making the sovereign himself tremble on his throne. At Rhei he drew around him some malcontents, who did not hesitate to adopt the dogmas that he taught them, and who declared themselves ready to second him to his designs. He then resolved to go, with a limited number of his disciples, and fortify himself in the mountain of Alamout, near the city of Kazbin, where he commenced to make raids on the surrounding country, by means of which he provided for the needs of the moment and prepared an equipment for his little troop, which soon began to be formidable.
It was about this time that Alp-Arslan died, leaving his vast estates to his son, Malek-Chah, whom he strongly recommended to confide the administration to Nizam-el-Moulk, his faithful and pious minister. But this minister did not long enjoy these new favors. Malek-Chah, having had the weakness to lend his ear to the calumnious reports of his enemies, took away from him his turban and his inkstand, insignia of the high functions which he had so nobly fulfilled. This disgrace, facilitating a particular vengeance, caused the death of the great statesman. They found him one morning, stretched out under his tent in the royal camp, assassinated by a satellite of Hassan-Sebbah. Before he expired, according to the story of the chronicle, he had time to write a piece of verse to Malek-Chah, in which he recommended to his benevolence his twelve sons, to whom, he said, he bequeathed his old and loyal services.
Hassan-Sebbah did not the less continue his bloody excursions, respecting neither rank nor sex, cutting the throats of all that came under his hand, without pity. Malek-Chah, frightened, was obliged to send troops to put an end to these expeditions, which made trouble and confusion in the whole extent of the Empire. But Hassan's followers increased daily, and soon this chief saw himself strong enough to repulse the royal troops in a vigorous attack, and compel them to beat a retreat. After this success, Hassan put no limit to his exploits, and acquired such renown that nothing appeared to be able to resist him.
The death of Malek-Chah took place unexpectedly soon after that of Nizam-el-Moulk, and Hassan, hastening to profit by some experiments of the celebrated Sultan Sadjar, Malek-Chah's successor, there were incessant wars in the different branches of the House of Seldjoukides, wars which prolonged themselves until the death of Tougroul III., or from forty to forty-five years. Sultan Sandjar, rightly disturbed at the progress of Hassan's invasion, resolved to entirely destroy a band of brigands in his territory, whose depredations and murders had spread terror in all the provinces. To this end, he reorganized an army with which he marched in person against the aggressors; but, arrived at a certain distance from Mount Alamout, he saw one morning, upon waking, a dagger sunk in the earth near the bolster of his bed, whose blade pierced a note addressed to him, where he read, with fright, these words:
"O Sandjar! know that if I had not wished to respect your days, the hand which sunk this dagger in the earth could as well have sunk it in your heart."
It is said that the Sultan was so overcome by the reading of this note, which revealed to him the marvelous power of Hassan-Sebbah over his trusty followers, that he relinquished for the time being his plan of attack.
But let us return to Khayyam, who, remaining a stranger to all these alternatives of wars, intrigues and revolts with which this epoch was so filled, lived tranquilly in his native village, giving himself up to a passionate study of the philosophy of the Sufis. Surrounded by numerous friends he sought with them, in study and entertainment, that ecstatic contemplation which others believe that they find in uttering cries and screams until the voice is gone, as the crying dervishes do; or in the circular movements that are practiced with frenzy until vertigo ensues, as by the shrilling dervishes; or finally, in the atrocious tortures which the Hindoos inflict upon themselves, until they lose consciousness. The Persian historians state that Khayyam loved especially to converse and drink with his friends, in the moonlight on a terrace before his house, seated upon a carpet, surrounded by singers and musicians, with a cupbearer, who, cup in hand, presented it in turn to the joyous guests.
Adding to this discussion is an interesting and relatively recent summary taken from "The Original Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam, A New Translation With Critical Commentaries" by Robert Graves and Omar Ali-Shah:
I can add little of biographical interest to what is already known of Sheikh Omar Khayaam. All the world has read of Khayaam's life-long friendship with his benefactor Nizam ul Mulk, Wazir of Alp Arslan, and with Hassan ibn Sabbah, the Assassin Sheikh: how Omar repaid Nizam's generosity with remarkable mathematical research and a new Moslem calendar, but Hassan with a poisoned dagger.
Khayaam's fame has survived various unfounded charges of crime and perversity. I hold to our family tradition that his love was centered on Halima Begum, daughter of an official at Alp Arslan's court, whose hand was denied to him because she had been betrothed to another man in infancy. Omar brought no pressure to bear on her parents, as a lesser man might have done in his privileged circumstances, but honoured the bond and asked no more than the love that he drew from spiritual union with Halima. He is said never to have betrayed this love by any unguarded word or deed; yet his poems bear the unmistakable stamp of one whose Muse was for ever sacred to him. He lived, wrote and died still true to the traditional virtues of his noble house. Some may dispute the authenticity of his last prayer, but none can dispute that of his self-epitaph:
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?