Charles Eliot Norton (review date October 1869)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Norton, Charles Eliot. “Nicolas's Quatrains de Khèyam.North American Review 109, no. 225 (October 1869): 565-84.

[In the following review, Norton compares the second edition of FitzGerald's Rubáiyát with J. B. Nicolas's version, finding that though the two versions agree in their literal meaning, Nicolas interprets the original poem as laden with spiritual metaphor, while FitzGerald interprets it primarily at face value, as sensual and hedonistic. Norton commends FitzGerald's version, particularly for bringing freshness to the poem through his liberal translation style, and assesses Nicolas's more exact translation as “dry.”]


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Hugh Walker (essay date 1910)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Walker, Hugh. “The Turn of the Century: New Influences.” In The Literature of the Victorian Era, pp. 444-526. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910.

[In the following excerpt, Walker praises FitzGerald's Rubáiyát for capturing the essence of the original better than any other (more faithful) translation of it.]

There is no man in recent literature more difficult to ‘place’ than Edward FitzGerald. His position is unique. Professedly only a translator, he was in reality an original poet as well, ranking, in respect of power, after only a very few of his contemporaries. “An eccentric man of genius,” it was his whim or his peculiarity to...

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John W. Draper (essay date October 1963)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Draper, John W. “FitzGerald's Persian Local Color.” Philological Papers 14 (October 1963): 26-56.

[In the following essay, Draper suggests that FitzGerald added numerous details of local color to the Rubáiyát because he was restyling the poem into an eclogue. Draper analyzes these additions, and maintains that they adhere to Persian scenery and customs.]

For his English version of the Rubáiyát of ‘Umar Khayyám (d.1124?), FitzGerald used two late and widely differing manuscripts: the Bodleian (1460-61) with 158 quatrains, and the Calcutta, an undated and ill-written Indian text, with 516. The more authentic Cambridge manuscript (1207)...

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John D. Yohannan (essay date spring 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Yohannan, John D. “The Fin de Siècle Cult of FitzGerald's ‘Rubaiyat’ of Omar Khayyam.” Review of National Literatures 2, no. 1 (spring 1971): 74-91.

[In the following essay, Yohannan suggests that the immense fin de siècle popularity of the Rubáiyát was due to its existential angst, which corresponded with the diminishment of religious faith in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and also due to its accessibility, as a brief and “middlebrow” poem.]

A translated Persian poem, which was Edward FitzGerald's consolation against a melancholy life, became—even in his own lifetime—a literary fad in both England and America....

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Iran B. Hassani Jewett (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Jewett, Iran B. Hassani. “The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.” In Edward FitzGerald, pp. 73-111. London: George Prior Publishers, 1977.

[In the following excerpt, Jewett compares FitzGerald's Rubáiyát to its source, maintaining that the original contains greater variance in theme and mood, and more humor, while FitzGerald's version contains more vivid imagery, as well as more action and movement.]


FitzGerald's Rubáiyát—the “Epicurean Eclogue” as FitzGerald once described it—follows a pattern that is lacking in the original. By their very genre, Omar...

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Daniel Schenker (essay date spring 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Schenker, Daniel. “Fugitive Articulation: An Introduction to The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.Victorian Poetry 19, no. 1 (spring 1981): 49-64.

[In the following essay, Schenker discusses the Rubáiyát's metaphorical devices and its garden setting, suggesting that its readers found it an appealing escape into an exotic and amoral, but still somewhat secure, world. Schenker suggests that the poem became overly familiar and popular and that this resulted in a decline in scholarly interest in and analysis of the work.]

Over a half century ago Ezra Pound remarked that FitzGerald's re-creation of Omar Khayyám was one of the finest works...

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Vinnie-Marie D'Ambrosio (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: D'Ambrosio, Vinnie-Marie. “The Possession” and “Parodying Omar at Harvard.” In Eliot Possessed, pp. 3-7, 89-128. New York: New York University Press, 1989.

[In the following excerpts from two chapters in Eliot Possessed, D'Ambrosio maintains that FitzGerald's Rubáiyát profoundly influenced T. S. Eliot's works, particularly “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”]


Because the reputation of the Rubáiyát has lain at its nadir for some fifty years, the poem's impact on Eliot, or on anyone, has not seemed to be a probable subject for serious consideration.1 Its effect,...

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Tracia Leacock-Seghatolislami (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Leacock-Seghatolislami, Tracia. “The Tale of the Inimitable Rubaiyat.” In Edward FitzGerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, edited by Harold Bloom, pp. 195-207. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.

[In the following essay, originally published in 2000, Leacock-Seghatolislami outlines the positive and negative effects of FitzGerald's liberal translation of Khayyám's Rubáiyát.]

It is difficult to decide where to start with the Edward FitzGerald-Omar Khayyam debate, because so much has been written, it deserves its own library. Of course, most of the debate has been focused on decrying FitzGerald's liberal rendering of Khayyam. This essay...

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Erik Gray (essay date autumn 2001)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gray, Erik. “Forgetting FitzGerald's Rubáiyát.Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 41, no. 4 (autumn 2001): 765-83.

[In the following essay, Gray studies the ephemeral qualities of the Rubáiyát, suggesting that in both its structure and content, it is an exhortation to forgetting, and is well remembered partly because, paradoxically, its various editions obscure it.]

Edward FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám constantly advises the reader to forget—preferably with the help of a drink: “Ah, my Belovéd, fill the Cup that clears / To-day of past Regret and future Fears.” And again—“Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden...

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