Edmund Dulac’s illustration from the 1909 edition of Fitzgerald’s The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

Edmund Dulac’s illustration from the 1909 edition of FitzGerald’s The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

Renowned in his own time for achievements in astronomy, Omar Khayyam wrote in the short, epigrammatic form of the ruba’i to entertain himself and his friends. In the 1850s, Edward Fitzgerald was given a copy of Khayyam’s ruba’iyat by a friend. A creative editor, Fitzgerald chose selectively among the poems and created a narrative of a day in the life of Khayyam, during which he pondered the challenges of the human condition. Fitzgerald’s The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam became a classic in the English-speaking world.