Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám "I Myself Am Heaven And Hell"

Edward FitzGerald

"I Myself Am Heaven And Hell"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám reflects the Epicurean philosophy of both the Persian poet, Omar Khayyám, and his English translator, Edward FitzGerald. Much of the poem is concerned with the brevity of life and man's attempt to live life to the fullest during a short existence. To the poet, life is an eternal present, with both the past and future beyond consideration. The poet struggles with Logic and decides that for him the answer is Wine. He extols wine and says that the "Grape . . . can with Logic absolute/ The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute." The only certain thing, the poet says, is that "This Life flies. . . ." The poet then says that no one has returned from the "door of Darkness" to give counsel to man. Following his own course of action, the poet learns that his own soul is both Heaven and Hell, Heaven being "the Vision of fulfilled Desire," and Hell "the Shadow from a Soul on fire/ Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,/ So late emerged from, shall so soon expire." The poet, with no precedent to be guided by, describes the only conclusion he can reach:

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell;
And by and by my Soul returned to me,
And answered, "I Myself am Heav'n and Hell"–