hazy memories

According to Google, today is the 971st anniversary of the birth of Omar Khayyam, Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet. It seems slightly strange to me that we would know the exact date of birth of someone born nearly 1000 years ago, and I wonder how eastern and western calendar differences and the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar affect things.

But even if there were good reason to doubt the accuracy of the date, I have no objections to celebrating Khayaam; I may not be able to read the original, but I’ve loved Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat since I first came across it.
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not by bread alone

If of thy worldly goods thou art bereft
and of the store two loaves alone are left,
sell one and with the dole
buy hyacinths to feed the soul.

blue hyacinths

I seem to have known that verse all my life, and always associated it with the phrase “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Of course the latter is from the Bible; the verse, it seems, is by Rumi. Presumably the original wasn’t written in English, which would account for the variations I found when I went looking to see where it came from.
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Khayyam, again, and disappearing words

apple blossom
"...under the apple bough"
Yesterday’s post reminded me of a glosa – posted below – but then led me on in leaps and bounds to thinking about vocabulary. Specifically, about the word ‘bough’: when, and how, did I learn it?

It’s not exactly the sort of word that crops up in childhood conversation, so I’m pretty sure I must have read it. Which could either have been in a story or in a poem. Or, I suppose, at Christmas, when we “deck[ed] the halls with boughs of holly”. Perhaps that’s the most likely, as would explain how I learned to pronounce it, too.

The word ‘bough’ probably crops up in plenty of older stories and poems, but how much new writing contains such words?
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the root of the problem

yellow tulip

As I mentioned in seeing for yourself, I’m dipping into the works of Saki each time I take a coffee break.

This morning I chanced on the story Reginald’s Rubaiyat, which begins:
Continue reading “the root of the problem”


Just a couple of hours to the east of us, in Madrid, the trees are already blossoming:


In fact, the blossoms are already shedding petals, which reminds me of Omar Khayyam:

And look a thousand Blossoms with the day
Woke – and a thousand scatter’d into clay

Continue reading “ephemera”

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