(1815-1892 / the USA)

Omar Khayyam

READING in Omar till the thoughts that burned
Upon his pages seemed to be inurned
Within me in a silent fire, my pen
By instinct to his flowing metre turned.
Vine-crowned free-thinker of thy Persian clime —
Brave bard whose daring thought and mystic rhyme
Through English filter trickles down to us
Out of the lost springs of an olden time —
Baffled by life's enigmas, like the crowd
Who strove before and since to see the cloud
Lift from the mountain pinnacles of faith —
We honor still the doubts thou hast avowed,
And fain would round the hail-truth of thy dream;
And fain let in — if so we might — a beam
Of purer light through windows of the soul,
Dividing things that are from things that seem.
True, true, brave poet, in thy cloud involved,
The riddle of the world stood all unsolved;
And we who boast our broader views still grope
Too oft like thee, though centuries have revolved.
Yet this we know. Thy symbol of the jar
Suits not our western manhood, left to mar
Or make, in part, the clay 't is moulded of:
And the soul's freedom is its fateful star.
Not like thy ball thrown from the player's hand
Inert and passive on a yielding strand;
Or if a ball, the rock whence it rebounds
Proves that e'en this some license may command.
But though thy mind, which measured Jove and Mars,
Lay fettered from the Unseen by bolts and bars
Of circumstance, one truth thy spirit saw,
The mystery spanning life and earth and stars.
Dervish and threatening dogma were thy foes.
The question though unanswered still arose;
And through the revel and the wine-cups still
The honest thought,
'Who knows, but One — who knows?'
And as I read again each fervent line
That smiles through sighs, and drips with fragrant wine;
And Vedder's thoughtful muse has graced the verse
With added jewels from the artist's mine —
I read a larger meaning in the sage,
A modern comment on a far-off age;
And take the truth, and leave the error out
That casts its light stain on the Asian page.

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