Thursday, September 24, 2009


Cambridge - St.John's College
St. John's College in Cambridge

Those who pursue the scientific way
In a different language display
Their ignorance and the way they pray.
They too one day shall be dust and clay.

-- Omar Khayyam --


Ruth said...

His were the days when philosophers and scientists were one and the same. Their foresight and freedom of mind to imagine the world differently than was commonly believed is inspiring. The quote has my head spinning. The shift from the scientific way, to another language, to prayer and existentialism in four lines is quite something. But there is a sense in it that resonates.

And now I have just said very little in more lines than Khayyam.

rauf said...

you walk through a fish market, you see the fish but don't get the stink.
you walk through a garden, enjoy the vibrant colours of the flowers but don't get the fragrance.
Sometimes you get the fragrance but the flowers are in black & white.
This exactly is the problem with translations Claudia, specially Faarsi Urdu and Chinese mandrin. these are very delicate languages.

Actully its a pretty silly Rubayee.
Omar Khyyaam nearly had his head chopped off. Kept his calculations and theories to himself. Same with Coopernicus, Galileo had the courage to make his findings public.

Peter said...

... and I in my ignorance didn't know about Rubaiyat and Omar Khayam. Now I know a little! Thanks!

Wonderful light and atmosphere from Cambridge!

Claudia said...

Ruth, I've come to believe that science is as much a religion as any dogmatic framework based on faith. Certainty is an impossibility.

rauf, you are absolutely right about the near impossibility of a worthy translation from certain languages into a completely different languange. I tried to find the best and more widely used translation to English of this quatrain and even thought of copy-pasting the original Arabic but decided against it. I'm reading a new and, in my opinion, wonderful translation of the "Arabian Nights" which renders the work in a much more natural and appealing fashion than the translation that was widely published in the 1970's. Translation is an art form and to translate poetry you have to be a poet and be a "native to both worlds".

I actualy like this particular quatrain of the Rubaiyat because philosophically speaking I believe that in spite of all our supposed evolution, science and scientific "knowledge" are just as much dogmatic structures based on faith as any other religion is.

Omar Khayyam was a fascinating character. He was controversial, as most visionaries are, and remains so even to this day.

I think that the Wikipedia article on him is actually quite good.

Peter, you don't know what you are missing!

rauf said...

what you have posted is a Rubayee Claudia, Rubaiyat is a collection, its plural of Rubayee.

i am angry with myself Claudia, Faarsi was banging my doors and breaking in during my childhood and i ran after English. My teachers who loved me, used to come to my house to complain to my mom. All i had to do was spare some time, sit with them and learn faarsi. But any one taking me away from Cricket was my enemy. What a fool i was. Urdu was a compulsary subject i had to study.

Here he is telling us what we already know Claudia, every one is aware of it. Even in his time. He came up with heliocentric theory long before Coopernicus did. But he was afraid to go against Khurr-aan and challange the system.
Four hundred years later Galileo told the pope to go take a hike.

Anonymous said...

Your photo makes me wonder what those halls and columns would have to say if they could speak.

Trulyfool said...

Being satisfied with clay and dust

reducing man to water and earth crust

acts smugly and defiant in a thrust

denying what our souls find must

(sorry, I'm 'winging' OK). I really like your blog -- check mine. I think there's some commonality?