Monday, 14 September 2009

Time to turn down an empty glass

Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is a pretty lousy translation – or so I’m told – of the original Farsi, but a pretty remarkable English language poem in its own right. Steeped in a sense of fatalism, mortality and the transience of life, it’s perhaps not surprising that young men close to death found it comforting to read some of its verses from time to time.

My father served in bombers in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and flew with a pocket-sized edition of the Rubaiyat in his uniform. I was delighted to inherit it and I take pleasure in reading a passage from it occasionally, just as I suppose he did. I particularly like the last quatrain:

And when thyself with shining foot shall pass
Among the guests star-scattered on the grass
And in thy joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one – turn down an empty glass.

Tomorrow, 15 September, is my father’s birthday. It’s a date I have no trouble remembering, although the anniversary of his death takes me by surprise each year. Tomorrow evening, I must try to remember to turn down an empty glass to him.

Of course, I’ll fill it first and then empty it. What kind of tribute would it be otherwise?

1 comment:

Awoogamuffin said...

I remember you quoting me those lines - there are certain poems you'd sometimes get a little teary reciting to me, and that was one of them.