The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur


FitzGerald rendered Omar's name as "Omar the Tentmaker", and this name resonated in English-speaking popular culture for a while. Thus, Nathan Haskell Dole published a novel called Omar, the Tentmaker: A Romance of Old Persia in 1898. Omar the Tentmaker of Naishapur is a historical novel by John Smith Clarke, published in 1910. "Omar the Tentmaker" is a 1914 play in an oriental setting by Richard Walton Tully, adapted as a silent film in 1922. US General Omar Bradley was given the nickname "Omar the Tent-Maker" in World War II,[42] and the name has been recorded as a slang expression for "penis".[43] FitzGerald's translations also reintroduced Khayyam to Iranians, "who had long ignored the Neishapouri poet".[44]


  • The title of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novel Some Buried Caesar comes from one of the Tentmaker's quatrains (FitzGerald's XVIII), for example.
  • Eugene O'Neill's drama Ah, Wilderness! derives its title from the first quoted quatrain above.
  • Agatha Christie used The Moving Finger as a story title, as did Stephen King. See also And Having Writ….
  • Lan Wright used Dawn's Left Hand as the title of a science fiction story serialized in New Worlds Science Fiction (January–March 1963).
  • The title of Allen Drury's science fiction novel The Throne of Saturn comes from a quatrain which appears as the book's epigraph.

Equally noteworthy are these works likewise influenced:

  • The satirist and short story writer Hector Hugh Munro took his pen name of 'Saki' from Edward FitzGerald's translation of the Rubaiyat.
  • The American author O. Henry humorously referred to a book by "Homer KM" with the character "Ruby Ott" in his short story "The Handbook of Hymen.[45] " O. Henry also quoted a quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in "The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball".
  • Oliver Herford released a parody of the Rubaiyat called "The Rubaiyat of a Persian Kitten" in 1904, which is notable for its charming illustrations of the kitten in question on his philosophical adventures.[46]
  • The artist/illustrator Edmund Dulac produced some much-beloved illustrations[47] for the Rubaiyat, 1909.
  • The play The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) by Seán O'Casey contains a reference to the Rubaiyat as the character Donal Davoren quotes "grasp this sorry scheme of things entire, and mould life nearer to the heart's desire".
  • The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges discusses The Rubaiyat and its history in an essay, "The Enigma of Edward FitzGerald" ("El enigma de Edward FitzGerald") in his book "Other Inquisitions" ("Otras Inquisiciones", 1952). He also references it in some of his poems, including "Rubaiyat" in "The Praise of the Shadow" ("Elogio de la Sombra", 1969), and "Chess" ("Ajedrez") in "The Maker" ("El Hacedor", 1960). Borges' father Jorge Guillermo Borges was the author of a Spanish translation of the FitzGerald version of The Rubaiyat.
  • Science fiction author Paul Marlowe's story "Resurrection and Life" featured a character who could only communicate using lines from the Rubaiyat.
  • Science fiction author Isaac Asimov quotes The Moving Finger in his time-travel novel The End of Eternity when a character discusses whether history could be changed.
  • Charles Schultz wrote a strip in which Lucy reads the Jug of Wine passage, and Linus asks "No blanket?".
  • Wendy Cope's poem "Strugnell's Rubiyat" is a close parody of the FitzGerald translation, relocated to modern day Tulse Hill.
  • One of the title pages of Principia Discordia (1965), a co-author of which went by the pen-name Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, features its own spin on the quatrain most quoted above:
A jug of wine,
A leg of lamb
And thou!
Beside me,
Whistling in
the darkness.[48]
  • The Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf based his novel Samarkand (1988) on the life of Omar Khayyam, and the creation of the Rubaiyat. It details the Assassin sect as well, and includes a fictional telling of how the (non-existent) original manuscript came to be on the RMS Titanic.
  • In the opening chapter of his book God is Not Great (2007), Christopher Hitchens quotes from Richard Le Gallienne's translation of Khayyam's famous quatrain:
And do you think that unto such as you
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew
God gave the secret, and denied it me?
Well, well—what matters it? Believe that, too!
  • The title of Daphne du Maurier's memoir Myself when Young is a quote from quatrain 27 of Fitzgerald's translation:
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same Door as in I went.


  • Filmmaker D.W. Griffith planned a film based on the poems as a follow-up to Intolerance in 1916. It was to star Miriam Cooper, but when she left the Griffith company the plans were dropped;[49] he would ultimately film Broken Blossoms instead.
  • Part of the quatrain beginning "The Moving Finger writes ... " was quoted in Algiers, the 1938 movie starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr.
  • A canto was quoted and used as an underlying theme of the 1945 screen adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray: "I sent my soul through the invisible, some letters of that after-life to spell, and by and by my soul did return, and answered, 'I myself am Heaven and Hell.'"
  • The Rubaiyat was quoted in the 1946 King Vidor Western film Duel in the Sun, which starred Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones: "Oh threats of hell and hopes of paradise! One thing at least is certain: This life flies. One thing is certain and the rest is Lies; The Flower that once is blown for ever dies."
  • The 1951 film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, starring James Mason and Ava Gardner, opens with an illuminated manuscript of the quatrain beginning "The moving finger writes...".
  • In the film The Music Man (based on the 1957 musical), town librarian Marian Paroo draws down the wrath of the mayor's wife for encouraging the woman's daughter to read a book of "dirty Persian poetry". Summarizing what she calls the "Ruby Hat of Omar Kayayayayay...I am appalled!!", the mayor's wife paraphrases FitzGerald's Quatrain XII from his 5th edition: "People lying out in the woods eating sandwiches, and drinking directly out of jugs with innocent young girls."
  • The film Omar Khayyam, also known as The Loves Of Omar Khayyam, was released in 1957 by Paramount Pictures and includes excerpts from the Rubaiyat.
  • In Back to the Future the character Lorraine Baines, played by Lea Thompson, is holding a copy of the book in 1955 at the high school when her son Marty McFly is trying to introduce her to his father.
  • The Rubaiyat was quoted in the film 12 Monkeys (1995) around 11 minutes in.
  • In Adrian Lyne's Unfaithful a copy of the text in French is quoted in English: "Drink wine, this is life eternal //This, all that youth will give to you//It is the season for wine, roses//And drunken friends//Be happy for this moment//This moment is your life." The book is a gift given flirtatiously to Diane Lane's character by Olivier Martinez who plays rare book dealer Paul Martel in the film.


  • The British composer Granville Bantock produced a choral setting of FitzGerald's translation 1906–1909.
  • Using FitzGerald's translation, the Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness set a dozen of the quatrains to music. This work, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Op. 308, calls for narrator, orchestra, and solo accordion.
  • The Rubaiyat have also influenced Arabic music. In 1950 the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum recorded a song entitled "Rubaiyat Al-Khayyam".
  • The Comedian Harmonists in "Wochenend und Sonnenschein".
  • Woody Guthrie recorded an excerpt of the Rubaiyat set to music that was released on Hard Travelin' (The Asch Recordings Vol. 3).
  • The Human Instinct's album Pins In It (1971) opens with a track called "Pinzinet", the lyrics of which are based on the Rubaiyat.
  • Elektra Records released a compilation album named Rubáiyát in 1990 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Elektra Records record label.
  • Coldcut produced an album with a song called "Rubaiyat" on their album Let us Play! (1997). This song contains what appears to be some words from the English translation.[50]
  • Jazz-soul harpist Dorothy Ashby's 1970 album The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby quotes from several of the poem's verses.
  • The famed "skull and roses" poster for a Grateful Dead show at the Avalon Ballroom done by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse was adapted from Edmund J. Sullivan's illustrations for The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.[51]
  • The work influenced the 2004 concept album The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam by the Italian group Milagro acustico.[52]
  • The song "Beautiful Feeling" by Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, on 2004 album Ways and Means, includes the lyrics "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thee, lying on a blanket underneath that big old spreading tree." This song was used as the theme song in the 2004 Australian television drama, Fireflies.
  • The 1953 Robert Wright-George Forrest musical Kismet, adapted from a play by Edward Knoblock, contains a non-singing character, Omar (it is implied that he is the poet himself), who recites some of the couplets in the Fitzgerald translation.
  • The record label Ruby Yacht gets its namesake, in part, from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
  • milo's album budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies features a couple of references to the Rubaiyat.


  • In one 6-episode story arc of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Bullwinkle finds the "Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam" in the town of Frostbite Falls (on the shores of Veronica Lake). This pun is deemed so bad, the characters groan, and narrator William Conrad quips, "Well, you don't come up with an awful thing like that, and not hit the front page!"
  • In the American television drama, Have Gun - Will Travel, the sixth episode of the sixth season is titled "The Bird of Time". The last lines are the main character, Paladin, quoting from Quatrain VII, "The Bird of Time has but a little way To flutter—and the Bird is on the Wing."
  • A copy of the Rubaiyat plays a role in an episode of the TV series New Amsterdam and is shown to be the inspiration for the name of one of the lead character's children, Omar York.
  • In the Australian 2014 television drama, Anzac Girls, Lieutenant Harry Moffitt reads from the Rubaiyat to his sweetheart, nurse Sister Alice Ross-King.
  • In "The Moving Finger" episode of 'I Dream of Jeannie' Jeannie tries out to be a movie star and her screen test is her reciting the Rubaiyat

Other media

  • In Cyberflix's PC game Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, the object is to save three important items, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, one of Adolf Hitler's paintings, and a notebook that proves German officials were attempting to gain geo-political advantage by instigating communist revolution. Two passages from the book are also included in the game as clues to progress the narrative.
  • Some versions of the computer game Colossal Cave Adventure feature a ruby-covered yacht called "Omar Khayyam" (a pun – the "ruby yacht" of Omar Khayyam).


  • In Australia, a copy of FitzGerald's translation and its closing words, Tamam Shud ("Ended") were major components of the unsolved Tamam Shud case.
  • The Supreme Court of the Philippines, through a unanimous opinion written in 2005 by Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, quoted "The Moving Finger" when it ruled that the widow of defeated presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. could not substitute her late husband in his pending election protest against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, thus leading to the dismissal of the protest.
  • There was a real jewel-encrusted copy of the book on the Titanic. It had been crafted in 1911 by the firm of Sangorski & Sutcliffe in London. It was won at a Sotheby's auction in London on 29 March 1912 for £405 (a bit over $2,000 in 1912) to Gabriel Weis, an American, and was being shipped to New York. The book remains lost at the bottom of the Atlantic to this day.

Anniversary events

2009 marked the 150th anniversary of Fitzgerald's translation, and the 200th anniversary of Fitzgerald's birth. Events marking these anniversaries included:

  • The Smithsonian's traveling exhibition Elihu Vedder's Drawings for the Rubaiyat at the Phoenix Art Museum, 15 November 2008 – 8 February 2009
  • The exhibition Edward Fitzgerald & The Rubaiyat from the collection of Nicholas B. Scheetz at the Grolier Club, 22 January – 13 March 2009.
  • The exhibition Omar Khayyám. Een boek in de woestijn. 150 jaar in Engelse vertaling at the Museum Meermanno, The Hague, 31 January – 5 April 2009
  • The exhibition The Persian Sensation: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the West at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin, 3 February – 2 August 2009
  • An exhibition at the Cleveland Public Library Special Collections, opening 15 February 2009
  • The joint conference, Omar Khayyam, Edward FitzGerald and The Rubaiyat, held at Cambridge University and Leiden University, 6–10 July 2009
  • The Folio Society published a limited edition (1,000 copies) of the Rubáiyát to mark the 150th anniversary.[53]

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