Mar 13 2013

Omar Khayyam – And David’s Lips are lock’t

Published by at 8:23 am under Poetry

[6] And David’s Lips are lock’t; but in divine
by Omar Khayyam

English version by Edward FitzGerald

And David’s Lips are lock’t; but in divine
High piping Pehlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!
      “Red Wine!” — the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.

— from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Omar Khayyam / Translated by Edward FitzGerald

/ Photo by LutherHarkon /

“David’s Lips are lock’t” — saying nothing, except singing the praises of wine. I’ve spoken several times before of wine as a metaphor for bliss and the ‘celestial drink’ of divine communion…

The relationship of the nightingale to the rose is important in Middle Eastern love poetry, and it becomes elevated to sacred levels of meaning in the poetry of the Sufis.

The rose, with its wine-like scent and deep red color, is sometimes thought of as a more tangible embodiment of wine. More broadly, it is a symbol of the Beloved, of God. The rose unfolds in a gentle circling that invites one to yield inward. It is a symbol of lovers and of union. The rose resonates strongly with the gently awakened heart.

The rose grows from a bush of thorns yet reveals a delicate inner beauty and shares an intimate, sweet wine-like fragrance, symbolic of how the soul emerges from the tribulations of worldly difficulty and, in so doing, recognizes her innate beauty.

The nightingale, like a lover, sings its heartbreaking songs in the cool of the evening, in love with the beauty of the rose. In sacred poetry, then, the rose is God and the nightingale is the spiritual seeker who calls out in the night, like the devout in midnight prayers or zikr.

Reread that last phrase again: “the Nightingale cries to the Rose / That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.” The most obvious way to read this is that nightingale with her yellow cheek calls out to the “incarnadine” red of the rose. But a possible alternate reading is that the yellow cheek is transformed, somehow taking on the “incarnadine” (blood-red, life-filled) color of the rose. Read this way, the more passionately the lover yearns for the Beloved, aches for the Beloved, calls out to the Beloved, the more the lover takes on the nature of the Beloved. In divine communion, we don’t merely touch the Eternal, we discover it emerging from within.

Omar Khayyam, Omar Khayyam poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Omar Khayyam

Iran/Persia (11th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Omar Khayyam was best known in his time as a mathematician and astronomer. His theorems are still studied by mathematicians today. His poetry really only became widely read when Edward FitzGerald collected several quatrains (rubaiyat) attributed to Khayyam and translated them into English as the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

The common view in the West of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is that it is a collection of sensual love poems. Although some scholars debate this question, many people assert that Omar Khayyam was a Sufi, as well as a poet and mathematician, and that his Rubaiyat can only be truly understood using the language of mystical metaphor.

More poetry by Omar Khayyam

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Omar Khayyam – And David’s Lips are lock’t”

  1. bharation 13 Mar 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Maybe the rose colour gets deepened through the yearning of the thirsty soul?

    My yearning creates a god without. The god without then comes and resides within.
    I make the wine, slowly it matures, and when the time is ripe, all get ‘musth’ (drunk in the divine).

  2. simonbaghon 13 Mar 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Omar Khayyam wraps the bitter reality in the dreamy truth that we all wish to have access to, and tries to laugh at those who compete to possess more nymphs or any other more facilities in the life that is supposed to live after this life, he also tells to enjoy the life as the God’s gift, and make sure that the one that gifts something he is fully satisfied when the gift is made use perfectly

  3. Pegon 14 Mar 2013 at 7:18 am

    Well, I learned several new things today. Thank you Ivan. This is a short one but not an easy read.

  4. ebrahimon 14 Mar 2013 at 8:42 am

    Thin flames arose. The blast from the opened window caught them and
    turned them into roaring fans of fire.

    Through them Zubran crept; stretched himself out beside the body of the
    dancer; twisted, and gathered her in his arms.

    “A clean death,” he whispered. “At the last…like all men…I return to
    the…gods of my fathers. A clean death! Take me–O Fire Immortal!”

    A flame shot up beside him. It hovered, then bent.

    The tip of the flame broadened.

    It became a cup of fire filled with wine of flames!

    Into that cup the Persian dipped his lips; he drank of its wine of fire;
    he breathed its incense.

    His head fell back, unmarred; the dead face smiling. His head dropped
    upon Narada’s breasts.

    The flames made a canopy over them; the flames tented them.
    ‘the ship of Ishtar… a merrit’

  5. Sobhana Bardhanon 16 Mar 2013 at 11:28 am

    Yes, I agree Omar Khayyam’s poem is difficult to understand, but it’s the “Red Wine!”–Beloved Rose that haunts me, mere mortal, more

    Oh Rose, with your immrtal–sacred and vibrant–beauty quench my thirst of yearning please

  6. rena navonon 08 May 2013 at 11:29 am

    The gently opening heart that the rose suggests is a meaningful image and seems to me to urge men and women to be patient in love. You cannot rush the rose in its growth nor push your beloved to unfold before her season. Nature has its own schedule and we are caught in its limitations even while we are drawn to its beauty.
    Mustn’t one even take the thorn seriously too? Life teaches us how often disappointment accompanies or follows inspired feelings. A love affair holds risks and the little sharp reminders upon the flower’s stem are perhaps as instructive as they are painful. Slow down, they might be telling us. Back up a bit before going forward so fast and suffering the waste of hasty surrender. Take your time and your reward might be the very fruit that comes with human trust and heavenly patience. Like Peg above, I learned a few things today and will be more tolerant of bruises inflicted unwittingly that I haven’t formerly taken into account.

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