‘Twas writ at first, whatever was to be,
By pen, unheeding bliss or misery,
Yea, writ upon the tablet once for all,
To murmur or resist is vanity.
There is a mystery I know full well,
Which to all, good and bad, I can not tell;
My words are dark, but I can not unfold
The secrets of the station where I dwell.
Slaves of vain wisdom and philosophy,
Who toil at Being and Nonentity,
Parching your brains till they are like dry grapes,
Be wise in time, and drink grapejuice like me!
Small gains to learning on this earth accrue,
They pluck life’s fruitage, learning who eschew;
Take pattern by the fools who learning shun,
And then perchance shall fortune smile on you.
Youth is the time to pay court to the vine,
To quaff the cup, with revelers to recline;
A flood of water once laid waste the earth,
Hence learn to lay you waste with floods of wine.
O heart! this world is but a fleeting show,
Why should its empty griefs distress thee so?
Bow down, and bear thy fate, the eternal pen
Will not unwrite its roll for thee, I trow!
To wise and worthy men your life devote,
But from the worthless keep your walk remote;
Dare to take poison from a sage’s hand,
But from a fool refuse an antidote.
Though wine is banned, yet drink, forever drink!
By day and night, with strains of music drink!
Where’er thou lightest on a cup of wine,
Spill just one drop, and take the rest and drink!
Although the creeds number some seventy-three,
I hold with none but that of loving Thee;
What matter faith, unfaith, obedience, sin?
Thou’rt all we need, the rest is vanity.
Am I a wine-bibber? What if I am?
Gueber or infidel? Suppose I am?
Each sect miscalls me, but I heed them not,
I am my own, and, what I am, I am.
All my life long from drink I have not ceased.
And drink I will to-night on Sadr’s feast:
And throw my arms about the wine-jar’s neck,
And kiss its lip, and clasp it to my breast!
I know what is, and what is not, I know
The lore of things above, and things below;
But all this lore will cheerfully renounce,
If one a higher grade than drink can show.
The more I die to self, I live the more,
The more abase myself, the higher soar;
And, strange! the more I drink of Being’s wine,
More sane I grow and sober than before.
I studied with the masters long ago,
And long ago did master all they know;
Here now the end and issue of it all,
From earth I came, and like the wind I go!
Some look for truth in creeds, and forms, and rules;
Some grope for doubts or dogmas in the schools;
But from behind the veil a voice proclaims,
“Your road lies neither here nor there, O fools. ”
Nor you nor I can read the eternal decree,
To that enigma we can find no key;
They talk of you and me behind the veil,
But, if that veil be lifted, where are we?
We come and go, but for the gain, where is it?
And spin life’s woof, but for the warp, where is it?
And many a righteous man has burned to dust
In heaven’s blue rondure, but their smoke, where is it?
Suppose the world goes well with you, what then?
When life’s last page is read and turned, what then?
Suppose you live a hundred years of bliss,
Yea, and a hundred years besides, what then?
O unenlightened race of humankind,
Ye are a nothing, built on empty wind!
Yea, a mere nothing, hovering in the abyss,
A void before you, and a void behind!
They that have passed away, and gone before,
Sleep in delusion’s dust for evermore;
Go, boy, and fetch some wine, this is the truth,
Their dogmas were but air, and wind their lore!
Reason not of the five, nor of the four,
Be their dark problems one, or many score;
We are but earth—Go, minstrel, bring the lute!
We are but air—Bring wine; I ask no more!
You know all secrets of this earthly sphere,
Why then remain a prey to empty fear?
You can not bend things to your will, but yet
Cheer up for the few moments you are here!
Never in this false world on friends rely,
(I give this counsel confidentially);
Put up with pain, and seek no antidote;
Endure your grief, and ask no sympathy!
Cupbearer, come! from thy full-throated ewer
Pour blood-red wine, the world’s despite to cure!
Where can I find another friend like wine,
So genuine, so solacing, so pure?
O wine, most limpid, pure, and crystalline,
Would I could drench this silly frame of mine
With thee, that passers-by might think ’twas thou,
And cry, “Whence comest thou, fair master wine?”
Wherever you can get two maunds of wine,
Set to, and drink it like a libertine;
Whoso acts thus will set his spirit free
From saintly airs like yours, and grief like mine.
They call you wicked, if to fame you’re known,
And an intriguer, if you live alone;
Trust me, though you were Khizr or Elias,
‘Tis best to know none, and of none be known.
I never would have come, had I been asked,
I would as lief not go, if I were asked,
And, to be short, I would annihilate
All coming, being, going, were I asked!
*The stanzas above are taken from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat.