Persian Love
sixty-nine stanzas by Omar Khayyam
adapted, altered
and otherwise rearranged
for musical accompaniment

by Len Bracken
POB 5585 Arlington, VA 22205



Ah! My beard swept the floor of the tavern last night. I bid farewell to good and bad, and if they fall in my street like two bullets, you'll find me - if you're looking for me - sleeping like a drunk.


I fell asleep and a sage spoke to me: "The rose of happiness has never blossomed for anyone while he sleeps. Why give yourself up to the brother of death? Drink wine, you have centuries to sleep."


Every bed of tulips was nourished with the blood of kings. Every lily that springs from the earth was once a beauty spot on a lover's cheek.


To drink wine and embrace beauty is better than the hypocrisy of believers. If lovers and drunks were sent to hell, no-one would believe in heaven.


Beloved dervish, with your body wrapped in that arabesque veil... rather than sacrifice your body to that veil, throw the weight of poverty on your shoulders and drums will beat royal marches in your heart.


Imitate the libertines as much as you can. Blow up the foundations of prayer and abstinence, and listen to the words of Omar Khayyam: "Get high and fly through the sky."


I've been beyond being and non-being. I've been inside everything - high and low. It would bring shame to my knowledge of the world if I found something higher than drunkenness.


Today the season of youth blossomed for me. I want the wine that brings all pleasure. Don't blame me... wine enchants me. It's bitter because it tastes like my life.


For us now, all that remains of happiness is the name. No old friend lasts as long as the youngest wine. Raise your cup because today, it's the only thing that can save us.


I drink wine and everyone tells me: "Don't drink wine, it's the enemy of religion." When I found out that wine was the enemy of religion, I said: "By God, let me drink its blood - it's an act of piety."


Who cares if life ends here or there? Once the cup is full, who cares if it's been bitter or sweet. Drink wine, for after we pass the moon will pass from old to new, and from new to old again and again.


No-one knows the secrets of darkness. No-one has stepped out of the shadows. Oh, Woman! What sinister mouth did you kiss to give birth to helpless fools like us?


Drink wine.. it's what remains of the harvest of youth - the season of roses and wine and drunken friends. Be happy for a moment, that moment's your life.


Be prudent - fortune is uncertain and the wine of destiny is always bitter. If fate puts sweet morsels in your mouth, don't swallow them; they're laced with poison.


Wine is a liquid ruby and the cup a mine. No that's not it. The cup is the body and the wine its soul. No, no, the crystal cup laughing with wine is a tear hiding the blood of a broken heart.


We've come back to our habitual debauch. Full of desire, I put my lips to the cup to ask how long I'll live. She glued her lips to mine and said: "Drink wine, you'll never come back to this world."


We all get wiped out on the path of love. Destiny drinks our last dreg. Waitress with the soft face, don't be so lazy. Give me wine because I'm becoming dust.


Like water in a stream, or wind across the desert, another day of your life passes. One sorrow never comes to mind - that of two days: the day to come, and the day that passed.


Be happy, Khayyam, if you're drunk. If you're with a tulip-cheeked lover, be happy. As the end of everything is nothing, dream that you're nothing..., but while you're still something, be happy.


Mysteries should only be unveiled by vile minds, and impenetrable secrets by fools. Think about your actions compared to others - for now you should hide your hopes from all of humanity.


Don't waste your time on sorrows, be festive. In the face of injustice, be the example of justice. Since the end of this world is nothingness, imagine you don't exist and be free.


Every morning, dew covers the tulips. Violets lower their heads in the garden. In truth, nothing moves me like the bud of a rose that seems to be gathering up her skirt.


This heavenly vault that inspires so much wonder is a magic lantern. The sun is the lamp and the world its shade. And we're the images that live in it.


I have to get up and find some wine. It makes my cheeks scandalously red. And if reason continues to torment me, I'll throw wine in its face... to make it go to sleep.


You with the cheeks modeled on wild roses. You with the face cast from the idols of China. Yesterday your loving look changed the king of Babylon into a fool.


Those who are slaves of the intellect and vain subtleties die amid quarrels on being and non-being. Go on, choose the juice of the grape, because idiots, having eaten dry raisins, turn into grapes.


No-one can pass behind the curtain of secrets; no-one knows what's under the surface. There's no asylum except in the heart of the earth. Drink wine, these illusions are endless.


My arrival adds nothing to the heavens. And my departure doesn't diminish their beauty or glory. No-one has told me the reason for this arrival and departure of mine. No-one...


When they attack you in the night, ask them to bring you rose-colored wine. Poor fool, you're not a treasure that's dug up after it's been buried.


In Spring, on the banks of a stream or on the fringes of a green field with a few friends and nymphs... bring along the bottle for those who drink the morning draft, for those who are free from the mosque, temple and church...


I only dreamed of the heavens as a resting place, and I cried so much I could hardly see them. Hell is only a spark compared to what my soul just went through, and I won't believe in heaven until I taste an instant of peace.


Drink wine because you'll sleep for a long time under this earth... without friends, comrades, women. Grow old never telling this secret to anyone: withered flowers never blossom again.


What I want is a drop of ruby wine and a book of poems..., and a half a loaf of bread to sustain my life. And if I'm sitting with you, even in a desolate desert, I'd be happier than in the kingdom of a sultan.


Spill a little red wine, the color of budding tulips. Pour the pure blood from the throat of the bottle because, apart from this cup, I don' exist - it's the only pure-hearted friend I have.


If I was free to come, I wouldn't have come. If I could control my steps, where would I go? Wouldn't it be better in this world of dust if there were no coming or going...


Since nothing assures us of tomorrow, change your love-sick heart into a happy one. In the light of the astral moon, drink wine... We could look for it tomorrow and never see it again.


Don't make too many friends... and only let your guard down for brief moments. He whose arm seems like a support, check him out and be careful.


Woe to the heart that beats without passion, that isn't charmed by love, the joy of the heart... Everyday you spend without love? It's not worth the sun that shines for you, or the moon that consoles you.


To speak clearly and without parables, we're pieces in the game played by fate. It's amused with our moves on the chessboard of being, and then we return, one-by-one, into the box of nothingness.


Get up and get me some wine. It this the time for hollow words? Today, your little mouth satisfies all my desires. Give me rose-colored wine, the color of your cheeks.


Everything that will be, was written. The tireless pen writes without worrying about good or bad. The first day it decided what will be, and our pain and efforts are in vain.


Drink wine, it's eternal life. It's what remains in you of youthful delights. It burns like fire, turning sorrows into the fountain of youth. Drink!


I want my epitaph to read like this: Friends, once you're reunited, think tenderly of me. When you drink the generous wine together, and it's my turn, empty your cup to the bottom.


Drink wine, one day your body will be dust. And of that dust will be made cups and jars. Don't worry about heaven and hell - why would a sage worry about such things?


In defense of wine, recall that everything depends on who drinks it, its quality and on the company. Once these conditions are favorable, you might ask: "Who drinks wine, if not a sage?"


Khayyam, working in the tents of wisdom, fell into the fire of sadness and was consumed at once. The scissors of destiny cut the cord of his tent and the salesman of hope sold it for a song.


In a thousand places along my path you set traps. You say: "I'll catch you if you step in one of these." There's not an atom in this world that escapes your power. You ordain everything, and you call me a rebel!


If this spirit called pure wine is the cure for a devastated heart, then bring me two or three cups. Why, I ask, is this great drink called the accursed share?


For those who know the mysteries of this world, happiness and sadness are identical. Since both good and bad come to an end, who cares if everything is pain or bliss?


How long will I throw stones to the sea? I'm disgusted with the idolaters of the temple. Who knows for sure if Khayyam will dwell in hell? And who has ever gone to hell? And who again, has ever come back from heaven?


If a nymph came to me in Spring with a goblet full of wine on the fringe of a green field, and even if this seems strange to everyone, a dog would be better than me if I invoked the name of heaven.


Good and bad are part of human nature just as happiness and sadness are in our destiny. Don't accuse heaven of this, because heaven is a thousand times more helpless than you.


I could care less if I was made for heaven or hell. But a little to eat, a little wine and my lover on a green field - that's cash for me. Keep the heaven you give so much credit - keep it for yourself


Today, tomorrow is beyond you, and your anxiety over it is useless. If your heart isn't momentarily deranged, you don't even worry about the present. Do you know what the rest of your days are worth?


The intelligence that walks the path of bliss talks to me a hundred times a day: "You're not like the grass that once picked, grows again."


Limit your desires for the things of the world and live at ease. Detach yourself from the good and bad around you. Lift a cup to your lover's lips, for soon these days will pass.


It's said that the garden of Eden enchants the nymph. I say that only the juice of the grape is delightful. Keep your cash and forgo credit because the sound of the drum, my brother, is only delightful from afar.


The heavenly bodies bewilder sages. Take care or you'll lose the thread of wisdom, for even the wise lose their minds.


The caravan of life passes mysteriously. Climb aboard for the joy of the ride. And you with the bottle, why worry about the future of your friends? Pour the wine... the night is passing...


Bring me that ruby wine in a crystal glass... that confidant and friend of every free man. Since you know that this world of dust is only a passing breeze, bring on the wine.


Like me, this bottle has been a painful lover, avidly tilted toward some sweet face. The handle you see on its neck is the hand that was once wrapped around the neck of a lover.


Everyone who waters the plant of love never wastes a day of their lives. And that's if they submit to the will of God, or if they desire physical pleasure and raise the glass.


Who hasn't seen truth grow and ripen on its slippery footing? I'll tell you who. Those inclined toward science who think that today is like yesterday and tomorrow, and just like the very first day.


It's a fine day - the breeze is warm and pure. Rain has washed the cheeks of the rose, and the nightingale calls to her: "I'm drunk on your perfume."


Once a cup is made for wine, a drinker won't let it break. For whose love, after all, were the ornaments sculpted? And whose hate broke so many heads?


The breeze of Spring brightens the cheeks of the rose, just as the shadows of the garden soften the faces of lovers. No talk of yesterday moves me. Be happy today; don't mention yesterday.


Know this my friend - you and your soul will be separated. You'll pass behind the curtain of non-existence. Be happy... you don't know where you're from. Drink wine... you don't know where you'll go.


One cup of wine is worth a hundred hearts and religions. One draft of wine is worth the kingdom of China. Except for ruby wine, there's nothing bitter that's worth a thousand sweet souls.


Here we are, drunken minstrels in this ruined tavern that frees us from the hope of mercy and the fear of punishment. Our souls, hearts and cups are filled with the wine that frees us from earth, wind, fire and water.

© 1996 Len Bracken. All rights reserved