Mar 4, 2010

Rubai and Rubáiyát

The Rubai is an Urdu-Persian poetic form. Each rubai stanza is supposed to be a quatrain, in which lines 1, 2 and 4 all rhyme. Therefore the rhyme sounds as AABA. Traditionally in Persia each rubai was regarded as a poem in its own right. When you have a collection of them, they’re known as a rubaiyat.

An "Interlocking Rubáiyát" is a series of rubai where the subsequent stanza rhymes its 1st, 2nd, and 4th lines with the sound at the end of the 3rd line in the stanza before it. In this form, the 3rd line of the final stanza is also rhymed with the 3 rhymed lines in the first stanza.

A rubaiyat, whether it’s interlocking or not, can have an unlimited number of stanzas.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is the most famous example of Rubai form. It is actually a meditation on the meaning of life that concludes that we should eat, drink and be merry. Omar Khayyam lived in twelfth-century Persia, under Islamic law. The ideas in his Rubaiyat as well as his enthusiasm for wine were considered heretical. Therefore his Rubaiyat was circulated anonymously, and probably memorized a lot more often than written down.

There is a great deal of controversy about whether Omar Khayyam actually wrote all the rubaiyat attributed to him. He was a famous man in other fields as well - as an astronomer/astrologer, mathematician and philosopher - and the rubaiyat only became common knowledge after his death, when they could do him no harm.

For my example, I chose to do an interlocking Rubaiyat

Day Breaking

The stars begin to disappear,
They know the sun will soon be here.
A glowing line splits sea and sky,
The dark is just a thin veneer.

I bid the night a sweet good bye.
It slips away with just a sigh.
A breath of wind soon stirs the air
And swirls away as though it’s shy.

I sit alone and wonder where
The night goes when it is not there.
I watch until it disappears
As though it did not have a care.

I don’t know why I have these fears,
That haunt me when the sun appears -
I know I’ll see the night again -
This dance has danced for many years.

Of old the sun has been my bane
This rising orb that seems so plain.
I cannot stay, I disappear,
Returning once it’s set again.


The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

Your rubaiyat is very good my dear. I love the bit 'The dark is just a thin veneer.' and I'm grateful to you for introducing me to Omar.

C R Ward said...

You're too kind, Simone. I have the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, but I haven't red it yet. ;-)