Parodies of Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam #3: Of Omar Jr, a tobacco aficionado

I was introducing you all to a series of brilliant parodies by some American wits of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as rendered into English by Edward Fitzgerald. Beginning with The Rubaiyat of Ohow Dryyam, a brillaint litany of complaints by a dedicated drinker in Prohibition-era America and then the Rubaiyat from the viewpoint of a Cat (Persian…I may add), I come to a third… of course after the stuff that cheers, and cats, a third favourite of a man of refinement and discernment would definitely be the thing you… well I will leave it to the poet to explain it better to you. But before that, one more thing needs to be said….

As the person I am indebted to for introducing me to this and the other works says: “THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM, JR. is an absolute hoot. While it is a complete farce, Wallace Irwin managed to keep a literary straight-face while creating it. His introduction explains that this is a recently discovered rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam’s never-mentioned son…Omar Junior…who emigrated from Persia to Borneo! Wallace goes on to explain how Omar Junior tried to restore the families honor, which was damaged by his Dad’s obsession with wine, by instead focusing on tobacco and kissing in his (Jrs.’) rubaiyat. You must read the intro to appreciate the entire piece, and don’t overlook the hilarious deadpan ending notes. What a serious amount of work went into this funny parody!”

The work purports to be : Translated from the Original Bornese into English Verse by Wallace Irwin, author of “The Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum”. (How wonderful!)

Well as says the man I cannot thank enough for bringing these priceless versions to our notice, you cannot skip the introduction, so here is it:


Since the publication of Edward Fitzgerald’s classic translation of the Rubaiyat in 1851 – or rather since its general popularity several years later – poets minor and major have been rendering the sincerest form of flattery to the genius of the Irishman who brought Persia into the best regulated families. Unfortunately there was only one Omar and there were scores of imitators who, in order to make the Astronomer go round, were obliged to draw him out to the thinness of Balzac’s Magic Skin. While all this was going on, the present Editor was forced to conclude that the burning literary need was not for more translators, but for more Omars to translate; and what was his surprise to note that the work of a later and superior Omar Khayyam was lying undiscovered in the wilds of Borneo! Here, indeed, was a sensation in the world of letters – a revelation as thrilling as the disinterment of Ossian’s forgotten songs – the discovery of an unsubmerged Atlantis. While some stout Cortez more worthy than the Editor might have stood on this new Darien and gazed over the sleeping demesne of Omar Khayyam, Jr., he had, so to speak, the advantage of being first on the ground, and to him fell the duty, nolens volens, of lifting the rare philosophy out of the Erebus that had so long cloaked it in obscurity.

It is still a matter of surprise to the Editor that the discovery of these Rubaiyat should have been left to this late date, when in sentiment and philosophy they have points of superiority over the quatrains of the first Omar of Naishapur. The genius of the East has, indeed, ever been slow to reveal itself in the West. It took a Crusade to bring to our knowledge anything of the schoner Geist of the Orient; and it was not until the day of Matthew Arnold that the Epic of Persia (“Sohrab and Rustam: being a fragment of the Persian epic) was brought into the proper realm of English poesy. What wonder, then, that not until the first Omaric madness had passed away were the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Jr., lifted into the light after an infinity of sudor et labor spent in excavating under the 9,000 irregular verbs, 80 declensions, and 41 exceptions to every rule which go to make the ancient Mango-Bornese dialect in which the poem was originally written, foremost among the dead languages!

To be continued…..


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