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.