ʿUmar Khayyām, Rubāʿīyāt (Quatrains)

FitzGerald transcribed Cowell’s copy of the Bodleian manuscript into a notebook, remarking that although the Calcutta text contained more quatrains, it was of inferior quality. His interests were not, however, scholarly. Rather than attempt a literal translation of the Persian text, he improvised on it, altering quatrains, blending others, adding quatrains of his own and then reordering them to create a narrative progress from morning to night. ‘But at all Cost, a Thing must live’, he wrote, ‘with a transfusion of one’s own worse Life if one can’t retain the Original’s better. Better a live Sparrow than a stuffed Eagle.’