Omar Khayyâm : la traduction anglaise de Fitzgerald

Jay Hambridge, À la tombe d'Omar Khayyâm, avant 1911.
Publié dans From Constantinople to the Home of Omar Khayyam d’Abraham Valentine Williams Jackson (1911).
Source : Wikimedia Commons.

Né à Neyshâbur, au nord-est de l'Iran, Omar Khayyâm (v. 1048-v. 1132) fut un brillant mathématicien et astronome, qui réforma le calendrier persan au XIe siècle. En Occident, il est surtout connu pour des quatrains (rubâi'yât) à la tonalité agnostique, hédoniste et pessimiste. Leur paternité est cependant controversée : certains attribuent la totalité du corpus au savant, d'autres une partie seulement, d'autres encore estiment que Khayyâm n'a écrit aucun de ses fameux quatrains. Quoi qu'il en soit, les quatrains "khayyâmiens" constituent une tradition poétique remarquable, bien qu'aujourd'hui, en Iran, des poètes comme Hâfez soient bien plus lus et appréciés. C'est surtout en Occident que Khayyâm est célèbre et célébré, et une traduction anglaise est à l'origine de cet engouement : celle que publia Edward Fitzgerald en 1859. Traduction ? Adaptation, plutôt, mais si belle et inspirée dans sa qualité poétique, qu'elle constitue un chef-d'oeuvre à part entière. Les poèmes ci-dessous reprennent l'intégralité de l'édition de 1859 : on pourra télécharger ici le texte en PDF, et lire aussi en ligne la quatrième édition.

Patrick Ringgenberg




Page d'un manuscrit enluminé des rubâi'yât d'Omar Khayyâm. Calligraphie et ornementation de William Morris, illustrations d'Edward Burne-Jones, années 1870.
Source : Wikimedia Commons.
 

 

I

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.

 

II

Dreaming when Dawn’s Left Hand was in the Sky

I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,

   "Awake my Little ones, and fill the Cup

Before Life’s Liquor in its Cup be dry."

 

III

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before

The Tavern shouted — "Open then the Door !

   You know how little while we have to stay.

And, once departed, may return no more."

 

IV

Now the New Year reviving old Desires,

The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,

   Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough

Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

 

V

Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,

And Jamshyd’s Sev’n-ring’d Cup where no one knows ;

   But still the Vine her ancient Ruby yields,

And still a Garden by the Water blows.

 

VI

And David’s Lips are lock’t ; but in divine

High -piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine ! Wine !

   RedWine ! " — The Nightingale cries to the Rose

That yellow Cheek of her’s t’ incar- nadine.

 

VII

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring

The Winter Garment of Repentance fling :

   The Bird of Time has but a little way

To fly — and Lo ! the Bird is on the Wing.

 

VIII

And look — a thousand Blossoms with the Day

Woke — and a thousand scatter’d into Clay :

   And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose

Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

 

IX

But come with old Khayyam and leave the Lot

Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot :

   Let Rustum lay about him as he will,

Or Hatim Tai cry Supper — heed them not.

 

X

With me along some Strip of Herbage strown

That just divides the desert from the sown,

   Where name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known,

And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.

 

XI

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou

   Beside me singing in the Wilderness —

And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

 

XII

"How sweet is mortal Sovranty" — think some :

Others — "How blest the Paradise to come ! "

Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest ;

Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum !

 

XIII

Look to the Rose that blows about us — "Lo,

Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow :

   At once the silken Tassel of my Purse

Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

 

XIV

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon

Turns Ashes — or it prospers ; and anon,

   Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face

Lighting a little Hour or two — is gone.

 

XV

And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,

And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,

   Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d

As, buried once. Men want dug up again.

 

XVI

Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai

Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,

   How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp

Abode his Hour or two, and went his way.

 

XVII

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep

The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank Deep ;

   And Bahram, that great Hunter — the Wild Ass

Stamps o’er his Head, and he lies fast asleep.

 

XVIII

I sometimes think that never blows so red

The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled ;

   That every Hyacinth the Garden wears

Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

 

XIX

And this delightful Herb whose tender Green

Fledges the River’s Lip on which we lean —

   Ah, lean upon it lightly I for who knows

From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen !

 

XX

Ah, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears

To-DAY of past Regrets, and future Fears —

   To-morrow? — Why, To-morrow I may be

Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.

 

XXI

Lo ! some we loved, the loveliest and the best

That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,

   Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,

And one by one crept silently to Rest.

 

XXII

And we, that now make merry in the Room

They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,

   Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth

Descend, ourselves to make a Couch — for whom ?

 

XXIII

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend.

Before we too into the Dust descend ;

   Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie.

Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and — sans End !

 

XXIV

Alike for those who for to-day prepare,

And those that after a To-morrow stare,

   A Muezzin from the tower of Darkness cries

"Fools ! your Reward is neither Here nor There ! "

 

XXV

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d

Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust

   Like foolish Prophets forth ; their Words to Scorn

Are scatter’d, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

 

XXVI

Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise

To talk ; one thing is certain, that Life flies ;

   One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies ;

The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

 

XXVII

Myself when young did eagerly frequent

Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument

   About it and about : but evermore

Came out by the same Door as in I went.

 

XXVIII

With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,

And with my own hand labour’d it to grow :

   And this was all the Harvest that

I reap’d — "I came like Water, and like Wind I go."

 

XXIX

Into this Universe, and why not knowing.

Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing :

   And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,

I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

 

XXX

What, without asking, hither hurried whence ?

And, without asking, whither hurried hence !

   Another and another Cup to drown

The Memory of this Impertinence !

 

XXXI

Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate

I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate.

   And many Knots unravel’d by the Road ;

But not the Knot of Human Death and Fate.

 

XXXII

There was a Door to which I found no Key :

There was a Veil past which I could not see :

   Some little Talk awhile of Me and Thee

There seem’d — and then no more of Thee and Me.

 

XXXIII

Then to the rolling Heav’n itself I cried,

Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide

   Her little children stumbling in the Dark?"

And — "A blind Understanding ! " Heav’n replied.

 

XXXIV

Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn

My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn :

   And Lip to Lip it murmur’d — "While you live

Drink ! — for once dead you never shall return."

 

XXXV

I think the Vessel, that with fugitive

Articulation answer’d, once did live,

   And merry-make ; and the cold Lip I kiss’d

How many kisses might it take — and give !

 

XXXVI

For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day,

I watch’d the Potter thumping his wet Clay :

   And with its all obliterated Tongue

It murmur’d — "Gently, Brother, gently, pray ! "

 

XXXVII

Ah, fill the Cup : — what boots it to repeat

How Time is slipping underneath our Feet :

   Unborn To-morrow and dead Yesterday,

Why fret about them if To-day be sweet !

 

XXXVIII

One Moment in Annihilation’s Waste,

One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste —

   The Stars are setting and the Caravan

Starts for the Dawn of Nothing — Oh, make haste !

 

XXXIX

How long, how long, in definite Pursuit

Of This and That endeavour and dispute ?

   Better be merry with the fruitful Grape

Than sadder after none, or bitter, Fruit.

 

XL

You know, my Friends, how long since in my House

For a new Marriage I did make Carouse :

   Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,

And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

 

XLI

For ‘Is" and "Is-not" though with Rule and Line,

And "Up-and-down" without, I could define,

   I yet in all I only cared to know,

Was never deep in anything but — Wine.

 

XLII

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,

Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape

   Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder ; and

He bid me taste of it ; and ‘twas — the Grape !

 

XLIII

The Grape that can with Logic absolute

The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute :

   The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice

Life’s leaden Metal into Gold transmute.

 

XLIV

The mighty Mahmud, the victorious Lord,

That all the misbelieving and black Horde

   Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul

Scatters and slays with his enchanted Sword.

 

XLV

But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me

The Quarrel of the Universe let be :

   And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht.

Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.

 

XLVI

For in and out, above, about, below,

’Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow show,

   Play’d in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,

Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.

 

XLVII

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press.

End in the Nothing all Things end in — Yes —

   Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what

Thou shalt be — Nothing — Thou shalt not be less.

 

XLVIII

While the Rose blows along the River Brink,

With old Khayyam the Ruby Vintage drink :

   And when the Angel with his darker Draught

Draws up to Thee — take that, and do not shrink.

 

XLIX

’Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days

Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays :

   Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays.

And one by one back in the Closet lays.

 

L

The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,

But Right or Left as strikes the Player goes ;

   And He that toss’d Thee down into the Field,

He knows about it all — He knows — HE knows !

 

LI

The Moving Finger writes ; and, having writ,

Moves on : nor all thy Piety nor Wit

   Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all Thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

 

LI

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,

Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,

   Lift not thy hands to It for help — for It

Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

 

LIII

With Earth’s first Clay They did the last Man’s knead,

And then of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed :

   Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote

What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

 

LIV

I tell Thee this — When, starting from the Goal,

Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal

   Of Heav’n Parwm and Mushtara they flung,

In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.

 

LV

The Vine had struck a Fibre ; which about

If clings my Being — let the Sufi flout ;

   Of my Base Metal may be filed a Key,

That shall unlock the Door he howls without,

 

LVI

And this I know : whether the one True Light,

Kindle to Love, or Wrath consume me quite,

   One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught

Better than in the Temple lost outright.

 

LVII

Oh, Thou, who did’st with Pitfall and with Gin

Beset the Road I was to wander in,

   Thou wilt not with Predestination round

Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?

 

LVIII

Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth did’st make.

And who with Eden did’st devise the Snake ;

   For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man

Is blackened, Man’s Forgiveness give — and take !

 

KUZA— NAMA

 

LIX

Listen again. One Evening at the Close

Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose,

   In that old Potter’s Shop I stood alone

With the clay Population round in Rows.

 

LX

And, strange to tell, among the Earthen Lot

Some could articulate, while others not
:

   And suddenly one more impatient cried —

"Who isthe Potter, pray, and who the Pot ?"

 

LXI

Then said another — "Surely not in vain

My substance from the common Earth was
ta’en,

   That He who subtly wrought me into Shape

Should stamp me back to common Earth again."

 

LXII

Another said — "Why, ne’er a peevish Boy,

Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy ;

   Shall He that madethe Vessel in pure Love

And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy ! "

 

LXIII

None answer’d this ; but after Silence spake

A Vessel of a more ungainly Make :

   "They sneer at me for leaning all awry ;

What ! did the Hand then of the Potter shake ? "

 

LXIV

Said one — "Folks of a surly Tapster tell,

And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell ;

   They talk of some strict Testing of us— Pish !

He’s a Good Fellow, and ’twill all be well."

 

LXV

Then said another with a long drawn Sigh,

"My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry :

   But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,

Methinks I might recover by-and-bye ! "

 

LXVI

So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,

One spied the little Crescent all were seeking :

   And then they jogg’d each other, "Brother, Brother !

Hark to the Porter’s Shoulder-knot a-creaking ! "

 

LXVII

Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,

And wash my Body whence the Life has died.

   And in a Windingsheet of Vineleaf wrapt.

So bury me by some sweet Gardenside.

 

LXVIII

That ev’n my buried Ashes such a Snare

Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air,

   As not a True Believer passing by

But shall be overtaken unaware.

 

LXIX

Indeed the Idols I have loved so long

Have done my Credit in Men’s Eye much wrong :

   Have drown’d my Honour in a shallow Cup,

And sold my Reputation for a Song.

 

LXX

Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before

I swore — but was I sober when I swore ?

   And then, and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand

My thread-bare Penitence a-pieces tore.

 

LXXI

And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel,

And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour — well,

   I often wonder what the Vintners buy

One half so precious as the Goods they sell.

 

LXXII

Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose !

That Youth’s sweet-scented Manu-script should close !

   The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,

Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows !

 

LXXIII

Ah Love ! could thou and I with Fate conspire

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

   Would not we shatter it to bits — and then

Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire.

 

LXXIV

Ah, Moon of my Delight who know’st no wane,

The moon of Heav’n is rising once again :

   How oft hereafter rising shall she look

Through this same Garden after me — in vain !

 

LXXV

And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass

Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on the Grass,

   And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot

Where I made one — turn down an empty Glass !

 

TAMAM SHUD.




Le tombeau moderne d'Omar Khayyâm, à Neyshâbur, construit en 1934.
Source : Sonia Sevilla / Wikimedia Commons.