Omar Khayyam 18

If you are looking for love,
try to attract every heart.
On the path of the Presence,
try to entice every seeker.
A hundred holy shrines made
of water and clay
are not worth a single heart.
Why make pilgrimage
to a shrine
when you can attract a heart?

Trans. Juan Cole
From Whinfield 18

5 Responses

  1. I am somehow puzzled why you translated Kaaba (کعبه) to shrine(s). The use of the word Kaaba makes a huge difference in this quatrain.

    • Hi, F.R. Sorry, but no one over here knows what a Kaaba is. I’m translating for a lay American audience, and they can well comprehend the idea that a human heart is more important than a shrine to which you make pilgrimage. The more Orientalist, literal translations have already been done. This is my reading of Khayyam in a 21st century Lounge diction, which I think suits him.

  2. Thanks Mr. Cole. I totally agree with you about the word Kaaba but allow me to insist. I think all Americans know the word “Mecca” instead. Even if they don’t know the difference of views between the followers of طریقت and شریعت they are aware of the meaning of Mecca as the holiest place/shrine of Islam. Therefore I think: “Mecca made of water and clay/is not worth a single heart” would be more meaningful.

    Despite this, I appreciate your writings and your beautiful translations.


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