The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

22 May, 2014 890 Other literatures

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In 1859 the poet Edward FitzGerald published a long poem based on the verses of the 11th-century Persian scholar Omar Khayyam. Not a single copy was sold in the first few months after the work’s publication, but after it came to the notice of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood it became enormously influential. Although only loosely based on the original, the Rubaiyat made Khayyam the best-known Eastern poet in the English-speaking world. FitzGerald’s version is itself one of the most admired works of Victorian literature, praised and imitated by many later writers.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Charles Melville 2 episodes
    Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge
  • Daniel Karlin 3 episodes
    Winterstoke Professor of English Literature at the University of Bristol
  • Kirstie Blair No other episodes
    Professor of English Studies at the University of Stirling

Reading list

  • Victorian Afterlives: The Shaping of Influence in Nineteenth-Century Literature
    Robert Douglas-Fairhurst (Oxford University Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
    Edward FitzGerald (Daniel Karlin ed.) (Oxford University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
    Edward FitzGerald (Dick Davis ed.) (Penguin Classics, 1989) Google Books →
  • Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A Critical Edition
    Edward FitzGerald (Christopher Decker ed.) ( 1997) Google Books →
  • Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
    Edward FitzGerald (Tony Briggs ed.) (Phoenix, 2009) Google Books →
  • A Book of Verse: The Biography of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
    Garry Garrard (History Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Poetry of Indifference: From the Romantics to the Rubaiyat
    Erik Gray (University of Massachusetts Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • With Friends Possessed: A Life of Edward FitzGerald
    Robert Bernard Martin (Faber & Faber, 1985) Google Books →
  • Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A Famous Poem and its Influence
    William H. Martin and Sandra Mason (Anthem, 2011) Google Books →
  • The Art of Omar Khayyam: Illustrating FitzGerald's Rubaiyat
    William H. Martin and Sandra Mason (I.B. Tauris, 2007) Google Books →
  • Allegories of One's Own Mind: Melancholy in Victorian Poetry
    David G. Riede (Ohio State University Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • The Great 'Umar Khayyam: A Global Reception of the Rubaiyat
    A. A. Seyed-Gohrab (ed.) (Leiden University Press, 2012)
  • The Life of Edward FitzGerald: Translator of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
    Alfred McKinley Terhune (Greenwood-Heinemann Publishing, 1980) Google Books →
  • The Letters of Edward FitzGerald
    Alfred McKinley Terhune and Annabelle Burdick Terhune (eds.) (Princeton University Press, 1980)

Related episodes

Programme ID: b043xpkd

Episode page:

Auto-category: 891.5511 (Persian poetry)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. Quote, awake for morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight and lo the hunter of the east has caught the sultan's turret in a noose of light.