Quatrain 4

دارنده چو ترکیب طبایع آراست

باز از چه سبب فکندش اندر کم و کاست

گر نیک نیامد این بنا عیب کراست

ور نیک آمد خرابی از بهر چراست 

Dashti 19, p. 247

daarande cho tarkib-e tabaaye‘ aaraast
baaz az che sabab fakandash andar kam o kaast
gar nik nayaamad in banaa eyb keraast
var nik aamad kharaabi az bahr-e  cheraast

For the scansion and audio of this quatrain click here


When the Creator constructed Nature
why stop short of making perfect creatures?
Should the design be flawed, who’s to blame?
But if good, why break it?  Who's to explain?

When the elements were combined in creation
Why did the Maker endow them with transcience?
If it did not work out well, fault is whose?
And if it turned out well, why destroy it?

Michael Hillmann, Iranian Culture, 45 

 دارنده چو ترکیب طبایع آراست

 از بهر چه او فکندش اندر کم و کاست؟

گر نیک آمد شکستن از بهر چه بود؟

ور نیک نیامد این صوَر عیب کراست؟

Hedaayat 11 (& Whinfield 126);      
Forughi, 31 (Kasra), with second mesraa‘ reading:      

ازبهر چه افکندش اندر کم و کاست     

daarande cho tarkib-e tabaaye‘  aaraast

az bahr-e che u fakandash andar kam o kaast

gar nik aamad shekastan az bahr-e che bud

var nik nayaamad in sovar eyb keraast

(Hedaayat & Whinfield; Forughi 2nd line variation:
az bahr-e che afkandash andar kam o kaast

Since mortal compositions are cast by Hand Divine,
Why then the flaws that throw them out of line?
If formed sublime, why must He shatter them?
If not, to whom would we the fault assign?

Saidi, quatrain 35, 'slightly modified' by Aminrazavi, p. 51

And FitzGerald's improvisation, 4th edition, Stanza LXXXVI:

After a momentary silence spake
Some vessel of a more ungainly Make:
"They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"

Translation & Discussion of the quatrain:
I have taken what follows in this paragraph, with modifications, from Mehdi Aminrazavi's The Wine of Wisdom, second chapter. Writing in the last quarter of the 12th century, fifty or so years after Khayyaam's death, Fakhroddin Razi speaks about Omar Khayyaam and quotes this quatrain. It was likely the first quatrain attributed to Omar Khayyaam which Khayyaam actually wrote in Persian (see Elwell-Sutton, 36 and Aminrazavi, 51 -- full citation in Bibliography). In chapter 2 of The Wine of Wisdom (passim), Aminrazavi discusses the issue of theodicy (God's "ways") central to the quatrain -- how a perfect God creates imperfect creatures. To show the sort of person Khayyaam was thought to be, Aminrazavi gives biographical testimony from contemporaries and biographers who wrote after Khayyaam had died. Khayyaam is judged faithful and he is referred to as misled or perplexed. There is no question of his stance on Islam, his piety, as Aminrazavi cites evidence for this from his mathematical and philosophical writings and from the way others respected him, referring to him, for example, as hujjat al-haqq ("source and authority of truth"). The problem is not that his biographers viewed him, say, as both pious and defiant but as one or the other. Aminrazavi states (pp. 57-58) that this ambiguity in Khayyaam reflects the character, the way of a 'complex figure who acknowledges that to exist is to suffer, to question, to doubt, and to wonder, and yet he acknowledges the religious dimension of humans by being a practicing Muslim.'

The Calcutta version and Hedaayat's (quatrain 11), are similar at least in sentiment but depart from Dashti's text by "reversing" lines 3 and 4 -- think of the 3rd line of the Persian in Dashti (the 3rd in my translation) coming last. I like the quatrain as Dashti has it. The third line startles, but the fourth sums up, outpunches the previous line by the message that the destruction of life cannot be explained in the speaker's view. I have printed both Dashti's and Hedaayat's text. Without a critical edition, and in the absence of discussion about these two "texts," we can't be sure which, if either, is original.

1. The creator/keeper/possessor/'divine hand' when he/it got ready the composition of natures (when the Creator constructed Nature) 2. Why did he throw it away/ invalidate it (nature) by shortcomings -- why did he stop short of perfection? I found this line difficult; it is possible that اندر (andar) is part of the verb, i.e., it is a compound verb: why did He throw shortcomings, destruction, "deconstruction", into it, that is, into Nature (ش -). But Avery & Heath-Stubbs translate: 'For what reason does He cast it into diminution and decay?' And Elwell-Sutton: 'Why then did He disperse them once again?' (quatrain 19, p. 190, In Search of Omar Khayyam). Both Avery & Heath-Stubbs and Sutton treat andar as a preposition  3. If the structure should not come out well, who is at fault/to whom is (ke-raa-st) the fault? 4. If it comes out well, "on account of why"/just why is there wrecking?

Questions about the quatrain: Is Khayyaam thinking, trying to make sense of why, in a mathematically ordered universe or given mathematical certainties, should uncertainties exist by the hand of the Supreme Mathematician? I think so.