“… and then I sought a green plant or something there to bring home as a souvenir. There were some plants growing among the bricks but they were so poor and inappropriate. So I looked around the tomb surrounding inside the garden; fortunately, I discovered a row of red flowers. There were no flower in the season and the leaves were even brown and withered. However, I finally discovered a few green plants; three complete bushes which I pick some cuttings of them.”
He sent them back to Britain where they were planted at Kev Garden and later on the translator of Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, Edward FitzGerald’s tomb. The plant which was a pink color rose flower with pleasant odor was spread throughout the world. Today, it is known as the “Omar Khayyam’s Rose Flower.”
It was only the still expressive beauty in Khayyam’s poems that motivated William Simpson, a British painter, to come to Neyshabur, a city near Mashhad, to paint a memorial painting of the poet’s tomb.
Yes, Loved One, when the Laughing Spring is blowing,
With Thee beside me and the Cup o’erflowing,
I pass the day upon this Waving Meadow,
And dream the while, no thought on Heaven bestowing.
(One of the Khayyam’s ear candy Rubaiyat)
Not Just a Poet
Omar Khayyam is one of the internationally well-known Iranian poets – maybe the most famous one. But it should be indicated that Khayyam was not only a poem, but also a philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. Here are some interesting points about him:
- He was the first person who showed that the cubic equation may have more than one correct answer or no answer at all.
- He was the first person who determined the binomial expansion coefficients; later Isaac Newton also obtained the same result through his researches. This is today known as Khayyam and Newton’s binomial. It is worth to indicate that writing this coefficients in good order forms Khayyam and Pascal’s triangle.
- He calculated the Jalali Calendar with exact 33 years of rotation.
- He calculated earth’s orbit around the sun up to 16 decimal places.
- Khayyam considered himself as an Avicenna’s student. According to Beyhaghi (another respected Iranian thinker), Khayyam was reading Avicenna’s the Book of Healing before resting in peace.
- One of the Moon’s holes is named Khayyam.
- There is an asteroid named Omar Khayyam.
- Martin Luther King pointed to him in his speeches and Abraham Lincoln read his poems before going to bed.
- After translating his works by FitzGerald, Khayyam became a well-known poet in the West.
- Khayyam’s influence on western literature, especially on Mark Twain and T. S. Eliot is obvious.
Omar Khayyam in Myths
There are some myths created for Khayyam and his poems. In one the myths we read that Khayyam was drinking, but suddenly a strong wind began blowing and his wine spilt. So he composed:
Thou broke my wine ewer, the Lord
Thou closed the door of pleasure for me, the Lord
I drank but thou became drunk
Art thee drunk, my Lord!
When he composed this blasphemous poet, the God blackened his face! So, Khayyam regretted and composed another poem:
Who has done no sin, my Lord!
And how lived no sin doer, my Lord!
I do evil and thou reward badly
So what’s our difference, my Lord!
And when he expressed his regret this way, Khayyam’s face became white again. (It should be mentioned that I couldn’t find the FitzGerald’s translation of the above Rubaiyat, so I translated it myself.)
Of course there are other myths created for Khayyam, for example, Three School Friends and so on.
“Omar the Tentmaker”, Khayyam’s Influence
Omar Khayyam, as an everblooming Iranian figure, has a copious influence on various genres of art and literature. I am going to briefly illustrate his influence on literature, cinema, music, and television in the following lines:
There are novels such as Omar, the Tentmaker: A Romance of Old Persian by Nathan Haskell Dole and Omar the Tentmaker of Naishapur by John Smith Clarke. They were written after FitzGerald rendered Khayyam’s name as “Omar the Tentmaker.” I can also mention a play named Omar the Tentmaker by Richard Walton Tully.
There is a film named Omar Khayyam. Furthermore, text from and parts of quatrains of Rubaiyat appeared in different films such as A Lover’s Oath, Duel in the Sun, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, and so on.
Some of the quatrains of FitzGerald’s translation of Rubaiyat became songs by different composers and singers such as Granville Bantock, Alan Hovhaness, Umm Kulthum, Dorothy Ashby, and so on.
Khayyam influence on television and other arts are also obvious.
Khayyam’s Songs is a book, written in Persian by Sadegh Hedayat, a famous Iranian novelist and story writer. He classified Khayyam’s Rubaiyat into different categories as follow:
- Creation Mystery
- The Pain of Life
- Writings from Eternity
- Cycle Rotation
- Rotating Particles
- Let Whatever Comes, Come
- It Is Nothing
- Discover Now
Some Iran experts believe that Khayyam’s Rubaiyat are written against hypocrite ascetics. Abdol Reza Modarres Zade, the vice chancellor of International Association of Persian Language and Literature Promotion says that Khayyam depicted the unreliability and transience of life. The pungent language of Khayyam in Rubaiyat is a sharp whip on hypocrite ascetics.
Omar Khayyam’s Life
Emam Ghiyath Al-Din-e Abu Al-Fath-e Omar Benn-e Ebrahim-e Khayyam-e Neyshaburi (that’s a really long name, isn’t it? But it was common in Old Persian period) is one of the great Iranian philosopher, mathematician, and poets. He lived in the fifth and sixth century AH. He was named Khayyam (tentmaker) because in fact his father was a tentmaker.
Omar Khayyam was one the greatest scientists of his period. Early in his life, he began learning the philosophy and sciences of the period and soon became a well-known figure in philosophy, astronomy, and mathematic.
He had an excellent skill in physician as well; it is narrated that he cured the smallpox disease of Sanjar Sultan when he was a kid.
Khayyam wrote his poems in Persian and Arabic and possessed valuable books in different sciences. He enjoyed his fame during his life and people praised him by epithets such as Emam, Philosopher, and Hojjat Al-Haq.
He lived under the kingdom of Seljuk dynasty; they governed a wide land from Khorasan to Kerman, Rey, Azerbaijan, Rome, Iraq, Yemen, and Fars.
Khayyam is mostly known as a poet, but indeed he is a philosopher and mathematician as well. He studied Avicenna’s works and translated one of his famous speeches concerning oneness of God into Persian.
It is narrated that he travelled to Samarqand, Balkh, Herat, and Isfahan. He perspicuously expressed his philosophical point of views and talked about religious beliefs. Khayyam had great achievements in different sciences as well as poetry.