Comments on Quatrain 1 et al.

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Dashti groups Quatrain 1 along with 6 other quatrains in his final selection of 75 quatrains which he attributes to Khayyaam, under the title, جهان هستی ؟/The World of Existence?  Saadeq Hedaayat groups this quatrain (10) with nine others under the category, راز آفرينش/The Mystery of Creation. Ahmad Saidi also includes this quatrain under "The Mystery of Creation." Visitors will discover, however, that many of the quatrains do not fit into a simple category.  Complexity attests to the brilliance of these attributed-to-Khayyaam quatrains.

There are two further comments I wish to make about this quatrain.  First, it appears that Edward FitzGerald did not make use of it, and the third line in my layout (or the 1st mesraa‘ of the second bayt), speaks to what I feel is often an urgency, even despair, which is often found in these quatrains:  "No one fairly and squarely address what is the only important issue in this debate..."  The speaker likely believes that no one can solve the riddle, but the despair as I see it comes from the failure of an attempt to untangle the mystery.  This rhetorical question in the final line of the quatrain is a statement of despair.   Elwell-Sutton translated the last two lines less forcefully:  "Will no one ever tell us truthfully/Whence we have come, and whither do we go?"

This quatrain (Quatrain 1) is one of the first 16 of the 36 "key" quatrains which Ali Dashti selects because he believes the 36 were likely written by Khayyaam. The first 16 of the 36 are attributed to Khayyaam in sources nearer in time to Khayyaam's life, and they reflect for Dashti views consonant with this astronomer and mathematician. Language and conventions expressed in these quatrains are appropriate as well, but in the end, for Dasthi and others who claim authenticity in the quatrains they attribute to Khayyaam, the choice depends on the preference of the selector.

Here is an opinion about "authenticity" in general and a useful guide to the problem of the proliferation of quatrains attributed to Khayyaam:

        Therefore I suggest that we focus on the "Khayyamian school of thought" rather than Khayyam the person, thereby making the question of who was the real Khayyam as well as the authenticity of his poems somewhat irrelevant to the message of this school of thought attributed to Khayyam...The fact that there are hundreds of quatrains which have been attributed to Khayyam throughout the centuries, in my view, is not a liability but an asset. (The Wine of Wisdom: The Life, Poetry and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam, Mehdi Aminrazavi, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 2005, 14, 16).َ

Mehdi Aminrazavi (p. 16 of his Wine of Wisdom) has, however, accepted as authentic the 178 quatrains in the work of Mohammad 'Ali Forughi and Qaasem Ghani.   Parichehr Kasra bases her translation and commentary on Forughi-Ghani's 178 quatrains and has printed all 178 of them. Saadeq Hedaayat ascribes 143 quatrains (he considers 35 of them doubtful) to Khayyaam. Hedaayat's "choices" are favored by Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs in their translation: The Ruba'iyyat of Omar Khayyam, Penguin, 1981, where ( p.30) Peter Avery states that Hedaayat's selections are 'the more convincing to anybody concerned with literature rather than with whether or not Khayyam composed all or some of the poems' (here 'more convincing' in this respect than the selections of Forughi and Qaasem Ghani).