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After Babylon.

After Babylon

(Omar Khayyam * at Nishapur)
A rubdiyat

   The Shi'ite court is rigid, no thought free
   from scrutiny, but Omar studies astronomy,
   mathematics *, safe subjects for a sage
   the old mullahs suspect--apostasy

   in his blood. He cannot let them prove it.
   When his Caliph dies, he thinks it prudent
   to make the Mecca hadj with believers
   before retiring to his rose-splendid

   walled garden in an obscure provincial
   town. He sets a gourmet's lavish table
   with fruit and cheese, the best red wine. He pours
   the first taste on the ground. Some old fable

   demands it, but more, Omar says it gives
   the thirsty dust of some old drunk who lived
   ages past a taste he longs for. Omar
   claims he listens to the fugitive

   tale, kisses the cup's cold lip. "This life flies,"
   Omar in his garden does not disguise
   his predilections for the here and now
   "One thing is certain and the rest is Lies."

   While faithful Saki brings the cheering cup,
   old scientists tell jokes, repeat gossip
   and laugh that they have seized, at least, this day.
   The Moving Finger writes and then gives up.

   His friends listen to his verses, commit
   them to heart--they're dangerous--can't be writ
   for the grim guards of true religion would,
   if they knew his thoughts, kill the heretic.

   And yet old rouge, old poet Omar,
   your humor and your acid satire
   delight us still, teach our grim times.
   I hope you're watching on angelic sonar.

* Famous in mathematical history, Omar's equation is [x.sup.3] + [a.sup.3] x = b.
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Author:Struthers, Ann
Publication:the new renaissance
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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