- May 18 is dedicated to the commemoration of Omar Khayyam
in the Iranian solar calendar; the calendar which Khayyam has invented
himself. To the Western world which has always been enchanted by the magnificence
and glory of oriental culture, Omar Khayyam is a venerable and honored
figure who brings to mind the delicacy and gracefulness of ancient Persian
civilization. The Iranian polymath, astronomer, philosopher and poet is
internationally known for his insightful rubaiyyat (quatrains) which the
influential British poet Edward FitzGerland translated from Persian into
English 150 years ago.
- Omar Khayyam constitutes an inseparable part of Iran's
impressive history of literature and science. He is associated with the
development of the most accurate solar calendar of the world, namely the
Jalali calendar, which, according to the astronomers and mathematicians
is far more exact and precise than the Gregorian calendar. It's said that
the solar calendar which Omar Khayyam devised shows an error in the calculation
of days and months only once in each 10,000 years.
- Khayyam was born in 1048 in the Neyshapur city of the
Greater Iran. The literary potency of Khayyam was so significant that made
him the best composer of quatrains among the Persian poets; however, he
is also known for his contributions to astronomy and one of his most major
breakthroughs was the reformation of Persian calendar under the Seljuk
King Sultan Jalal al-Din Malekshah Saljuqi after whom the Persian solar
calendar was named. Khayyam was a prominent figure of mathematics, literature,
philosophy and astronomy in his age. Some of the orientalist historians
believe that Khayyam was the student of Avicenna, the distinguished Persian
physician, theologian and paleontologist of the 10th century. In one of
his poems, Khayyam introduces himself as a follower of Avicenna's ideological
path; however, this studentship seems to be a mystical and spiritual affinity
rather than a direct mentor student relationship.
- The quatrains of Khayyam which have given him an international
prominence are a collection of poems with philosophical essence and ontological
nature in which Khayyam reveals his skeptical standpoints regarding the
modality of material world and the existence of human being. It's widely
believed that Khayyam had a pessimistic, cynical viewpoint regarding the
material world as he typically tried to direct criticism against the hypocritical,
insincere man and portray his crave for a utopian world which is practically
impossible to realize:
- Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare; To-morrow's
Silence, Triumph, or Despair: Drink! for you know not whence you came,
nor why: Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
- Contextually, Khayyam's quatrains can be divided into
five main categories: 1- the mysteries of universe 2- the inevitabilities
of life such as destiny and the disloyalty of the world 3- questions 4-
the modality of social life 5- the cheerful moments of life
- There are several translations of Khayyam's quatrains
available in various languages including English, German, Dutch, French,
Italian, Danish and Arabic. Edward FitzGeraldn's translation is considered
to be the most authentic and complete version of Khahyam's quatrains in
English; however, the versions of Edward Henry Whinfield, John Leslie Garner
and John Leslie Garner are the other acceptable and widely-read translations
- The quatrains of Khayyam are available in more than 25
languages. One of the most remarkable translations of Khayyam's poetry
into languages other than English belongs to Friedrich Martin von Bodenstedt.
He was a 19th century German author who published a consistent Deutsch
translation comprised of 395 quatrains in 1881. He was a tutor in the family
of Russian aristocrat and priest Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin and had
the opportunity to learn Persian by the virtue of Russia's proximity to
the Greater Iran. The success of Bodenstedt's translation of Rubayiat in
German can be compared to that of FitzGerald in English.
- The other notable translation belongs to the prolific
Swedish writer Eric Axel Hermelin who competently translated the quatrains
into Swedish. Hermelin who passed away in 1944 is known for his contribution
to the translation of Persian poetry into Swedish. He translated several
works by the distinguished Iranian poets including Attar, Rumi and Nezami
and paved the ground for the translation of other masterpieces of Persian
literature into European languages, including, among others, Swedish.
- Despite being literarily less momentous and significant
than Ferdowsi's 60,000-couplet poetic opus "Shahnameh" which
revived the Persian language in the crucial epoch of Arabs' conquest of
Persia, Rubayiat has received enormous attention in different countries
and the international community has glorified Khayyam and exalted his artistic
- Tunisia has constructed a set of hotels named after Khayyam.
One of the lunar craters has been named in honor of Omar Khayyam. The Omar
Khayyam crater is located at 58.0N latitude and 102.1W longitude on the
surface of moon. The Outer Main-belt Asteroid 1980 RT2 is also named in
honor of Omar Khayyam. The Argentine Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla
leader named his son in honor of Khayyam and his work. Omar Pérez
López is a Cuban writer and poet.
- The American clergyman and activist Martin Luther King
Jr. quoted Khayyam in his speech Why I oppose war in Vietnam: "It
is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back
home. Come home America. Omar Khayyam is right 'The moving finger writes
and having writ, moves on."
- The late American novelist Kurt Vonnegut refers to Khayyam's
"moving finger writes" quatrain in his novel "Breakfast
of Champions" when the protagonist Dwayne Hoover reveals that he had
been forced to memorize it in high school.
- Anyway, Khayyam has been given so much international
attention that even the primary school students in the United States know
him well. He is only one out of hundreds of figures who constructed the
pedestals of Persian civilization. He was a pioneer in science and literature
and now reminds the world about the matchless and unparalleled civilization
of Iranian people; the people whom the U.S. President threatens with a
nuclear strike on the roofs of their homes.