By: Omar Khayyám (1048-1131)
One of the earliest versions of Omar Khayyám's quatrains by an American translator is John Leslie Garner's collection, published in 1888. It contains 152 quatrains, which the translator calls "Strophes." The collection is divided into eleven books, introduced by quotations from Bourne's "Anacreon," Leconte de Lisle, Giordano Bruno, Goethe, Alfred de Musset, Paul Bourget, Marcus Antoninus, St. James, Sully-Prudhomme, Edmund Waller, and Escriva.
In his preface Garner says : "The collection might have been made much larger, but it was deemed inadvisable, as Omar's themes are not many, and the ever-recurring Wine, Rose, and Nightingale are somewhat cloying to Occidental senses." Garner further states: "The great questions of human life are of all times and of all ages, and although Omar never tired of struggling with them, he discovered nothing new, and at last, feeling that Death alone was certain, he resigned the task in despair...." Hence, Garner's version is pervaded by a gentle melancholy, and provides a striking contrast with the rubric splendour of Fitzgerald's famous rendering, and is therefore more consonant with current thinking about Persia's most celebrated classic poet.