Context: In his translation–more correctly paraphrase and adaptation–of the eleventh-century Persian poem, FitzGerald emphasises the facile Epicureanism that is the poem's theme. Endlessly the same ideas are reiterated: since life is short, since we do not know whence we come or whither we are going, we should enjoy each moment as best we can. The present is all we can be sure of; the past is gone, the future is unknowable. In this passage the poet has just asked what have we to do with the great heroes of Persian history, such as Rustrum; we should concern ourselves only with the present which is all that we can know. And how better to spend this fleeting present than with
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and ThouBeside me singing in the Wilderness–Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!