Edward FitzGerald Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Although Edward FitzGerald’s reputation as a poet rests on the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, he was a gifted writer in other forms. In 1851, FitzGerald published a philosophical dialogue called Euphranor: A Dialogue on Youth, and in 1852, he produced a collection of aphorisms titled Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances. FitzGerald’s Six Dramas of Calderón in 1853 began his series of free translations of drama, which included his Agamemnon of 1865, Oedipus Rex in 1880-1881, and Oedipus at Colonus in 1880-1881.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Edward FitzGerald’s essential achievement is unique in the history of English literature. His Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is nominally a translation, but out of hundreds of separate short poems by a relatively minor Persian poet of the twelfth century (Omar Khayyám), FitzGerald fashioned a beautifully unified poem in English. It is written with such power of expression, splendor of diction, and perfection of poetic music that it has long been recognized not only as an essentially original contribution to English poetry but also as one of the greatest poems in the language. FitzGerald’s contemporary Charles Eliot Norton expressed the view that the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám had all the merits of a great original poem and that it was unique among translations for its value as English poetry. This view has come to be universal, and the distinguished scholar Cecil Y. Lang wrote in 1968 that FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was “surely the most popular poem in the English language.”


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Alexander, Doris. Creating Literature Out of Life: The Making of Four Masterpieces. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996. This excellent book contains a fascinating account of how FitzGerald created the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Emphasizes the psychological crises in FitzGerald’s life that created the energies necessary to turn a “translation” into a work of original genius.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Edward FitzGerald’s the “Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.” Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004. Presents an introduction to FitzGerald’s infamous study and chapters that consider the “fin de siècle cult” of FitzGerald’s work, comparisons with poets such as Tennyson, “forgetting” Fitzgerald’s study, and more. Bibliography, index.

FitzGerald, Edward. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: A Critical Edition. Edited by Christopher Decker. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997. Decker provides a scholarly critique of Omar Khayyám’s life, FitzGerald’s translations of the Rubáiyát, and the merits of the various editions of this famous set of poems. Decker’s book is a useful tool for serious students looking for the definitive edition of FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

France, Peter, ed. The Oxford Guide to Literature in English...

(The entire section is 498 words.)