Desirous of acquainting you with some cleverly-done parodies of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as rendered by Edward Fitzgerald, and for some reason, all by American wits.
I had begun with the “The Rubaiyyat of Ohow Dryyam”, a heartfelt plaint of a seasoned and regular tippler when Prohibition was imposed in America – and in the wisdom they often display, the manufacture, sale and transport of alcohol was banned and not its consumption! Go figure that out. Well, our Ohow Dryyam laid his moving tale before us – and if you haven’t figured what his name means, nothing can be done for you.
Now, I move to the Rubaiyyat as seen from the viewpoint of a Persian Cat. This innovative version was the work of Oliver Herford, and came out in 1904. I wish I could have also displayed the illustrations that accompanied the transformed quatrains but maybe sometime else…. Meanwhile, you enjoy these.
Wake! For the Golden Cat has put to flight
The Mouse of Darkness with his Paw of Light:
Which means, in Plain and simple every-day
Unoriental Speech—The Dawn is bright.
They say the Early Bird the Worm shall taste.
Then rise, O Kitten! Wherefore, sleeping, waste
The fruits of Virtue? Quick! the Early Bird
Will soon be on the flutter—O make haste!
The Early Bird has gone, and with him ta’en
The Early Worm—Alas! the Moral’s plain,
O Senseless Worm! Thus, thus we are repaid
For Early Rising—I shall doze again.
The Mouse makes merry ‘mid the Larder Shelves,
The Bird for Dinner in the Garden delves.
I often wonder what the creatures eat
One half so toothsome as they are Themselves.
And that Inverted Bowl of Skyblue Delf
That helpless lies upon the Pantry Shelf—
Lift not your eyes to It for help, for It
Is quite as empty as you are yourself.
The Ball no question makes of Ayes or Noes,
But right or left, as strikes the Kitten, goes;
Yet why, altho’ I toss it far Afield,
It still returneth—Goodness only knows!
A Secret Presence that my likeness feigns,
And yet, quicksilver-like, eludes my pains—
In vain I look for Him behind the glass;
He is not there, and yet He still remains.
What out of airy Nothing to invoke
A senseless Something to resist the stroke
Of unpermitted Paw—upon the pain
Of Everlasting Penalties—if broke.
I sometimes think the Pussy-Willows grey
Are Angel Kittens who have lost their way,
And every Bulrush on the river bank
A Cat-Tail from some lovely Cat astray.
Sometimes I think perchance that Allah may,
When he created Cats, have thrown away
The Tails He marred in making, and they grew
To Cat-Tails and to Pussy-Willows grey.
And lately, when I was not feeling fit,
Bereft alike of Piety and Wit,
There came in Angel Shape and offered me
A fragrant Plant and bid me taste of it.
‘Twas that reviving Herb, that Spicy Weed,
The Cat-Nip. Tho’s ‘tis good in time of need,
Ah, feed upon it lightly, for who knows
To what unlovely antics it may lead.
Strange—is it not?—that of the numbers who
Before me passed this Door of Darkness thro’,
Not one returns thro’ it again, altho’
Ofttimes I’ve waited for an hour or two.
‘Tis but a Tent where takes his one Night’s Rest
A Rodent to the Realms of Death address’d
When Cook, arising, looks for him and then—
Baits, and prepares it for another Guest.
They say the Lion and the Lizard Keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep.
The Lion is my cousin; I don’t know
Who Jamshyd is—nor shall it break my sleep.