Dear friends of the Persian garden,
Shiva Sarram and Andrew Pearson share this lovely quatrain by Omar Khayyam (1048 –1131) which celebrates abandoning oneself in the present. In these times, we must celebrate ephemeral joys whenever we find them.
One element of the verse eludes translation: خوش. This word خوش ends each line and lies at the heart of the quatrain. There is no single word in English that has the same meaning - good, kind, pleasant, sweet, charming, fair, happy. None of these really get at the meaning of خوش and the feeling of this poem. You can see below the struggles of two other translators to capture Khayyam's perfect verse. In translation, we lose some of the beauty that resonates within.
The breath of Spring is sweet unto the Rose,
The lov'd one's face in the dark garden grows;
Speak not of Yesterday, - I know it not, -
To-day is all thy wooing lover knows.
Edward Heron-Allen/Arthur B. Talbot
How beautiful the spring dew on the rose’s cheek
How beautiful on the grass the face which illuminates the heart
Of yesterday, now past, whatever you say is displeasing
Be happy, do not speak of yesterday, for today is so pleasant.
This is why we continue to read these poems to our children and grandchildren, our friends and families. As long as we continue to share these poems, our words won't be lost in translation.