In this year’s Summer issue of American Art, there are two essays on Elihu Vedder’s Rubáiyát.
Sylvia Yount shows how the fifty-four drawings that Vedder made for the deluxe edition of Edward FitzGerald’s translation —as well as the related paintings and decorative designs inspired by them—reveal Vedder’s deep engagement with the late nineteenth-century Anglo-American Aesthetic movement as both an artistic and a commercial enterprise, aimed at a wide range of viewers and consumers.
Akela Reason explores Vedder’s preoccupation with the mystery of death, a subject he returned to again and again. Death comes in many forms in Vedder’s art—from “all-devouring” sphinxes presiding over desert wastes to the fratricidal conflict of the Old Testament, and devastating medieval plagues.
Love and Death in Elihu Vedder’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (pp. 119-125)
American Art, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 2015.
Two new titles have been published recently:
Rubá’iyát of Hakim ‘Umar Khayyám. Selected quatrains of Khayyám. Translated into simple English with spiritual interpretation. Edited and translated by Bahman Solati. Boca Raton, Universal-publishers, 2015. 109 pp. ISBN: 978-1-62734-033-5.
In this edition 60 quatrains are literally translated and presented with a spiritual explanation and with the Persian text of the quatrains. The introduction (20 pages) highlights the most important facts, features and history of Khayyám’s rubáiyat. Solati published a number of studies on Hafez, as well as on the impact of Sufism on post-Islamic Persian literature.
The 108 quatrains of Omar Khayyam. Persian – English – Chinese. [Selection and translation] Sen Du. Litfire Publishing, 2015. 148 pp. ISBN: 978-1-942296-75-1.
This is a somewhat remarkble edition, as it not only presents the quatrains in English, Persian and Chinese, the verses are also classified by subject matter in ten sections. Each quatrain has a title and for each one a rhyme pattern is given for the Persian text. These patterns are collated in a table at the end of the book. The Introduction and the Notes are partially in English and Chinese, whereas the Notes are composed from ‘copy-pasted’ fragments from various older editions and studies, which results in a somewhat cluttered impression. To fully enjoy this edition the reader needs to understand the Chinese language.
Bodleian Library issued a reprint of the edition of the Rubáiyát that was illustrated by René Bull (1872-1942). Bull started his career studying engineering in Paris where he soon switched to the art of illustrating. When he settled in London in 1892 he started to draw for newspapers and magazines, and from 1898 till 1900 he worked as a photographer in India, Sudan and South Africa, where he covered several campains. Bull also illustrated “The Arabian Nights”, “The Russian Ballet” and “Andersen’s Fairy Tales”.
There is an introduction by Susan Scollay. The original twenty-nine coloured illustrations are reproduced, though in another sequence, as well as the drawings and decorations, here printed in brown colours. The text is printed with varying decorative borders above and below.
Though this new edition is less exuberant than the original by Hodder & Stoughton, 1913, it has a certain air of luxury because of the dark blue cloth binding with an imprint in gold, and the heavy 135 gsm Tatami Ivory that it is printed on.
Earlier issues of Bull’s edition were done by the Golden Medal Library (London, New York, 1927), Grammercy Books (New York, 1992) and Smithmark Publishers (New York, 1995).
“The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. With illustrations by René Bull.” Oxford, Bodleian Library, 2014. ISBN 9781851244171. Available from the Bodleian Library Bookshop, at £ 30.00.
Michael Skau, emeritus professor with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, recently published an article in the Journal of Popular Culture titled: “Jack Kerouac’s Rubáiyát: The Influence of Omar Khayyám” (vol. 48, No. 3, 2015).
Almost all of the Kerouac studies have ignored the influence of FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát in his life and work. The Rubáiyát provides significant similarities to Kerouac’s dualistic viewpoint: “the extremes of innocent indulgence of the beautiful variety of life and bitter, or even perverse, acceptance of the desolation of mortal existence”. The author, expert in ‘Beat poetry’ (Corso, Ferlinghetti, Burroughs, Ginsberg) points to numerous allusions to and echoes from Khayyám’s poetry, not only in On the road but in his other novels, essays and letters as well.
In a letter to Stella Sampas, his third wife, he writes: “When I’m an old man I’ll at least have my jug of wine and a loaf of bread too”. Another example of how Kerouac looks upon life is his lament on this world “which made us, but only imperfectly, that is to say unsuited to its every barb and to most of its insuitable commandments […] I never asked to be made, and so unsuited born”. To the reader this almost immediately brings to mind the book of pots . Skau’s conclusion:
For Kerouac and FitzGerald, the intertwining of delight and sadness, of happiness and dreariness, cannot be denied. Both writers find that the approach toward life is one of bright melancholy, a mournful smile, a reminder that the rose is both flower and thorns. They cannot deny the twin poles of human experience, a “triste Plaisir” that continues to resonate with their readers.
Skau’s nice and very well readable article is an almost inescapable invitation to get back On the Road again for a new experience.
Jaarboek 7. 25 jaar Genootschap is now published, as always by Avalon Pers, Woubrugge. The book contains a number of shorter articles in which the members of the Club look back onto their membership. Jos Biegstraaten, president from 1990 till 2014, presents a short history of the Society. Hans de Bruijn ponders on the eternal and unanswered questions surrounding the origins of the rubáiyát. Jos Coumans explains how and why he started to collect the editions of the rubáiyát. For Marco Goud the exploration of life and work of the Dutch poet P.C. Boutens leads to confrontations with Khayyám’s influence on Boutens’ work he cannot evade. Rokus de Groot first encountered Khayyám’s poetry in the leather workshop of Stavros Melissinos in Athens, who presented him with a signed copy of his ‘Persian Rubáiyát’. Johan ter Haar is fascinated by the diversity of interpretations of Khayyám’s poetry that range from pure mysticism to sheer nihilism, and Remi Hauman looks at the rubáiyát as a collective, national oeuvre by various Persian ghostwriters, with international dimensions. For Dirk Meursing the Society was a useful and joyful resource while working on his own translation, and Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, now president, remembers how in his youth in Tehran he was fascinated by the secrets and mysteries that Khayyám’s verses seemed to conjure. Jos Biegstraaten finally describes how Khayyám influenced the work of the Dutch graphic artist Siep van den Berg.
The book is illuminated with a number of colour illustrations by various artists. It was printed in various states, in soft and hardbound copies, and was issued on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Dutch Omar Khayyám Society. Copies are available from Avalon Pers, Woubrugge, at € 45,00.
A short video clip was made of the exhibition at the Sufi Masters of Love conference, held June 13th, 2015. (See the previous post on this topic). On display was a selection of sufi oriented translations of and commentaries on the Rubáiyát, together with a number of FitzGerald’s versions of his translation.
Sufi Masters of Love exhibition from Jos Coumans on Vimeo.
At the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Dutch Omar Khayyám Society, May 30, 2015 the club members were kindly requested to pose before the camera.
From left to right: Jos Coumans, Hans de Bruijn, Marco Goud, Dirk Meursing, Jos Biegstraaten, Gabrielle van den Berg, Johan ter Haar, Jan Keijser, Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, Rokus de Groot, Remi Hauman.
A new issue of the Jaarboek / Year book was presented, which is proudly shown here by Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, president of the Society.
The ‘Nederlands Omar Khayyám Genootschap’, or Dutch Omar Khayyám Society, was founded in 1990 by four enthusiasts to share their love and interest in Omar. Initiated by Jos Biegstraaten, the Society was set up to gather, discuss, share and distribute knowledge and relevant information on all sorts of Khayyám related facts, findings and opinions.
Soon after that the first Yearbook was published, in 1992, and others followed, with an irregular interval of about four years. The latest issue is a special on the occasion of the 25th anniversary, containing short essays in which the members reflect on their membership and their relation to Omar Khayyám.
Over the years members have been in contact with Omarians from all over the world. A special occasion for meetings and discussions was the congress held in July 2009 in Leiden and Cambridge, and musical festivities in Amsterdam, in which the Society played an active role. Another event that attracted attention was an exhibition in Museum Meermanno, in 2009, highlighting the most important editions of FitzGerald’s translation representing developments in book publishing, typography and illustration.
The 25th anniversary will be celebrated Saturday, May 30, in Leiden, with a small congress for members and guests and a dinner. The program lists a reading on Omar Khayyám and Kavafis, by Michiel Leezenberg, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam.
The Rosicrucian Foundation in The Netherlands will organize a symposium on the poetry and lyrics of Hafiz, Rumi and Khayyám. The meeting is part of a series to investigate the great oriental movements of wisdom and philosophy.
The delicate Persian lyrics still exert a specific attraction to us. Persian poetry, music and wisdom spread over the continents from China to the West when our ancestors still went at each other with prongs and forks.
Some of the subjects that will be discussed are stories and music about Layla and Majnun, about Rumi, Shamsuddin of Tabriz, Mirabai, but also Krishna and Jesus. There will also be a small exhibition on Khayyám’s Rubáiyát, showing a number of mystical and sufi interpretations of his verses.
For more information (in Dutch) see: Soefi-meesters van de Liefde: Rumi en Hafez.
The event will take place on June 13, 2016 in Bilthoven, The Netherlands.
One of the early illustrators of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was Gilbert James (1865-1941). His work can be found in numerous editions and reprints of The Rubáiyat, and a number of his illustrations have been issued as post cards as well. Although this indicates that his work was rather popular in his days, very little is known about the artist himself.
In a recently published document however, Bob Forrest reports the findings of his research into the artist and his work, particularly his Rubáiyát illustrations. They appeared for the first time in a magazine ‘The Sketch’ (1896) and in book form in 1898, published by Smithers (1898) as Fourteen Drawings illustrating Edward FitzGerald’s Translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
This highly important document is available on Bob Forrest’s website: http://bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Gilbert_James/Gilbert_James.htm