In Search of Omar Khayyam
by Dashti, Ali
pub. by Columbia University Press, NY, 1971 isbn 0-231-03188-2 LCCN - 77-168669 - - 276 p. - portrait, Introduction (16 pages) by L.Pl Elsell-Sutton, the translator from Persian to English
- Note on Transliteration
- Preface to the Persian Second Edition by Ali Dashti
- Appendix I. Biographical Notes = 12 page listing of various people and organizations and a short sketch on each from Abbasaids and Avicenna to Soltan Valad son or Rumi and Azmakhshari
- Appendix II. Glossary of technical terms 5 page listing from Allahu Akbar and Arafat to Sufiam and Zoroastrianism
- Bibliography - Index
This is a thorough examination of the poetical works, and mind of Omar Khayyam (sometimes spelled Omar Kayam in USA). Omar Khayyam (Ghiyashoddin Abolfath Omar b. Ebrahim Khayyami) was born in Nishapur in Northeast part of Persia in 1048 he died in 1122 (or perhaps in 1131) depending on which expert you believe.
During his life he was chiefly known as a mathematician, particularly in algebra. He was also known for his knowledge as a natural philosopher, knowing much about astronomy and nature. His book on Algebra - L Algevre d Omar Alkhayyami - was translated into French by F. Woepke in 1851.
Short two-couplet (four line) poems are called roga'i (quatrains). The plural is roba'iyat. Thus the body of quatrains written by Omar Khayyam are often known as the robayat (rubiat) of Omar Khayyam.
Dashti first separates Khayyam's writings from many writings purported to be his. Over the centuries the number of quatrains has multiplied to be several times what are probably what are really his. Dashti uses style and content to come to his best guess at the "real" ones.
One quatrain which is very revealing of Omar Khayam's mind which is reproduced many times in this book is
Our elements were merged at His command
Why then did He disperse them once again?
For if the blend was good, why break it up?
If it was bad, whose was the fault but His ?
Khayyam seems obsessed with the futility of life. One is born (the potter makes us out of clay) and one dies (the potter smashes the pot he made.)
Then if life is futile why not enjoy it while we have life, with wine (considered sinful by his religion) and the company of women.
Several of the quatrains remind one that the dust one encounters might have once been a famous king or other personage of high estate. Which lead one to understand the equality of all people in the long run. The fact of death equals us all.
Some of the religious thinkers/writers who lived after Kayyam took serious issue with his philosophy, and these same religious writers have been counter attacked in more modern times.
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