Omar Khayyam

About Omar Khayyam

 
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The universal name of Omar Khayyam is surely a unique phenonemon in
the history of literature, in the sense that his name would certainly never
have been known to any but a few specialists outside the country of his birth
had it not been for the quite outstanding popularity of the translation of his
poems by Edward Fitzgerald.

What makes the story all the more astonishing is the fact that Fitgerald’s
Ruba’iyat would itself in all likelihood have taken a humble place among
thehalf-forgotton products of minor Victorian literature, if not been totally
neglected, but for the chance interest taken in it by powerful critics of his day.

 

Discovery

The details of the “discovery” are well known, but always bear repeating.
In the words of his editor in Everyman’s Library, “His Omar Khayyam,
after being offered in vain to Fraser’s magazine, had been published in
Quaritch as a small quarto, without the author’s name. It gained no notice,
and most of the two hundred copies sold found their way into a remainder
box and were sold at a penny each…Rossetti and Swinburne were among
the early buyers, and Swinburne took a copy triumphantly to George Meredith,
and so the first discovery of its original value came about.

 

A second revised edition followed ten years l033-Earth-could-not-answer-nor-the-Seas-that-mourn-q75-829x1159ater. The first edition was
issued in 1859, the second in 1868, the third in 1872, the fourth in 1879,
the fifth (in Fitzgerald’s Collected Works) in 1889; twenty more edition
appeared before the close of the century; and the poem has maintained
its extraordinary vogue ever since, there can scarcely be a household in
Britain which has not at some time possessed a copy in some shape or
form. British soldiers have taken it with them into action in two world wars.

 

 

Khayyam