Sunday, May 18, 2014

Arthur Foote - Four Character Pieces after the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

Image via El Wik
The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

-  Omar Khayyám, Rubáiyát

You are familiar with the Rubáiyát, probably the most popular literary work of the Sufi mystics of old.  Dating to around 1100 A.D. - the same time as the great troubador epics of the West - Omar Khayyám's poetry has entered the English language's great store of popular expression.

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou

Edward Fitzgerald's translations are without doubt the most famous in the Mother Tongue, dating to the second half of the 19th Century.  They caused a sensation, and influenced many other writers including Eugene O'Neill, Agatha Christie, and H. P. Lovecraft (!).

It also captured the imagination of Arthur Foote, perhaps the first American composer who wasn't trained in Europe. Indeed, Foote was a Harvard man, one of the "Boston Six" group of composers. He is entirely unknown today, which is a crying shame because his music has a lush, late romantic style reminiscent of Mahler.  Today's gem was written in 1900, and is offered in celebration of Khayyám's birthday on this day in 1048 A.D.


libertyman said...

Impressive, and I had never heard of the guy.

Old NFO said...

You're right, I've never heard of him either, but those were interesting! THanks!

Kansas Scout said...

Trouble is...Fitzgerald's translation was filled with his own insertions. The real text is substantially different. There are better more accurate translations available now.

Borepatch said...

Kansas Scout, very true. However, the Fitzgerald is what everyone knows. And *everyone* knows it, for better or worse.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's like going to NPR, without the liberal propagandistic undertones!


Borepatch said...


I must confess that I grew up listening to NPR