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  • Ruzbeh Babaee

Omar Khayyam

Born: 18 May 1048

Died: 4 December 1131

Nationality: Iranian (Persian)

Omar Khayyam is a ruba’i, quatrain, Persian poet and one of the most influential philosophers of the Middle age. He was born in 18 May 1048 in Nishapur, a flourishing city in the province of Khorasan in Iran (Persia), and died on 4 December 1131. He is known not only as a great poet and philosopher, but also as an outstanding astronomer and mathematician.

His most famous work Rubaiyat has become a powerful symbol for argument and communication between the East and the West since its first translation by Edward FitzGerald who translated Khayyam’s quatrains under the title 'Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam' in 1859. Through his Rubaiyat, FitzGerald represents a philosophy of “seizing the day”: by the considering of individual experience, lamentation, and metaphorical presentations of a world in which human being lacks meaningful will. The exoticism of the Rubaiyat and its introduction of determinism caught the Pre-Raphaelites’ imaginations and their admiration was enough to make the poem popular. It was also interesting to the Victorian readers, who found humanism as a result of the Renaissance, to find out that the wise figure from Persia also expressed the same notion centuries before. Furthermore, the Rubaiyat gives the reader the chance to think about the West relationship in general with the East and in particular with Iran since its first translation in the Victorian era. Khayyam challenged fundamentalism and advocated a type of humanism in his poetry. A central theme of Khayyam’s quatrain revolves around the position of mankind in creation, his relationship with the Creator, and the mystery of death and the hereafter. The Rubaiyat advocates an exotic utopian East of freethinking, spiritualism and living in now. It is inevitable that people, recognizing the various corruptions and inequities current in their society, should attempt to create a better system for people living together. Omar Khayyam uttered the attitude splendidly in The Rubaiyat:

"Ah, Love, could you and I with Him conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would we not shatter it to bits — and then Remold it nearer to the Heart's Desire!"

Khayyam represents a nostalgic yearning for a kind of life which he imagines is free from the stresses of a commercial civilization.

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