“Moon of my Delight” is the Poet’sBeloved, she being constant, unlike the Moon of Heaven, which waxes and wanesas the month goes by. The meaning of the last two lines is that there will comea time when the Moon of Heaven looks down upon the Poet’s Garden, but will nolonger find him there, because he will be dead (see the next verse.) Incidentally,it is an easily missed fact that the rising Moon in this verse, at the end ofthe poem, pairs with the rising Sun in verse 1 at the beginning, the whole poemthus effectively following the course of Omar’s musings through a symbolic day,from Sunrise to Moonrise. Did FitzGerald intend this from the beginning, or didhe only notice it later? It is a fact that FitzGerald only pointed out the Sunrise to Moonrise progression in a letter written to his publisher Bernard Quaritch in1872, fully thirteen years after the appearance of the first edition. Talkingof Omar, he wrote:
This, of course, is saying thatany salvation that Khayyam might have achieved through the religiousobservances, completed when he was in the mood, are negated by his pleasuresand his love of wine – not quite the loss of honour and reputation thatFitzGerald gives him! On the other hand, in the translation by Avery andHeath-Stubbs, listed in to the main essay, thefirst two lines of verse 117 read:
Paul Laurence Dunbar used vivid, descriptive and symbolic language to portray images in his poetry of the senseless prejudices and racism that African Americans faced in America....
A figure dressed as a deceased individual appears in the midst of the masque; Prince Prospero chases him to the scarlet room where he dies followed by everyone else.
But getting back to Sultan Mahmud,he seems to have become, in Persian poetry, a useful symbol of the transienceand ultimate futility of earthly power: see, for example, the rather strangeaccount of Mahmud’s eyes in Cowell’s article on The Rose Garden of Sadiin .
One work of Herron-Allen's of which I wasn't aware until I was well into putting together this verse by verse commentary, was his book The Second Edition of Edward FitzGerald's Rubaiyat of Umar Khayyam (1908; 1912.) Though there is inevitably some overlap - references to Hafiz, Anacreon and Tennyson, for example - surprisingly there is not a great deal! Heron-Allen quotes extensively from J.P. Muirhead's translation of Vaux de Vire (1875) and from James Thomson's Essays, Dialogues and Thoughts of Giacomo Leopardi (1905), for example, neither of which I have used at all. What I did discover via Heron-Allen was Herbert A. Giles' Gems of Chinese Literature (1884), which turned out to contain far more Omarian material than Heron-Allen himself used. Rather than insert this material bit by bit into the following verse by verse notes, however, I have opted to put it all together in , to which readers are referred.
It's Monday morning, and you slink into your American Studies class with a conscience so guilty, you begin to think the words "I didn't read the book" are tattooed on your forehead. Your classmates are gleefully exchanging anecdotes about their weekends as they pull out their glossy copies of The Scarlet Letter.
The lessons to be learned fromcontrasting “Slave and Sultan” find another example in a verse of OmarKhayyam’s, not used by FitzGerald, but used to great effect by E.H. Whinfield(listed in note ) as verse 473 of histranslation of 1883
Incidentally, if some of thesesymbolic interpretations of flowers sound a little far fetched, we shouldremind ourselves that most of us today remember very little of theflower-symbolism used and readily understood by our Victorian forebears.(Thered rose as a symbol of love is probably the most famous survival.) There werenumerous books on the subject, one of the most famous today being a little bookentitled The Language of Flowers. First published in 1884, it is stillfamous today mainly because it was illustrated by Kate Greenaway. Leafingthrough a copy, if you’ll pardon the pun, reveals that actually some of thesymbolism is still preserved in flower and plant names – the forget-me-not as asymbol of true love and the weeping willow as a symbol of mourning, forexample. Other symbols are preserved via classical mythology (eg the narcissusas a symbol of egotism) or via the symbolic conventions of Christian art (egthe white lily as a symbol of purity – it is regularly used in connection withthe Virgin Mary.) But other symbolism well known in the past is now veryobscure – the bluebell as a symbol of constancy, for example, or the peony as asymbol of shame. As for the flower known as Queen’s Rocket, presenting one ofthese to a young lady would apparently convey the message, “You are the Queenof Coquettes”, this presumably working by nothing more than rhyming slang!Incidentally, the Greenaway book is currently satisfying a renewal of interest in such things in paperback form.
Yep. It's the second one. Nathaniel Hawthorne set the story of poor, persecuted Hester Prynne and her lover in the early , where his ancestors played a role in the persecution of women, as well as in the prosecution of women in the . In The Scarlet Letter's preface, Hawthorne actually alludes to this history, taking blame for the actions of these ancestors and hoping that any curse brought about by their cruelty will be removed.
Rather earlier than Ausonius, the Greek poet Philostratus, the second of that name, who lived in the third century AD, wrote a series of love poems, several of which use the transience of the rose to similar symbolic effect. The thing about Philostratus, though, is that his poems are addressed both to women and boys, so that in that respect, some would say, he is not unlike Omar. Here is an extract from one of his letters "To a Woman":
Passion, wild emotion, and forbidden love: Or is it Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850 and set over a century earlier, amid those with their funny hats and buckles?