Quatrain 8, at Naishapur or Babylon



Sweet or bitter runs the cup

Sweet or bitter runs the cup, as we stop to take a sip. From the lips the wine of life oozes drop by drop, and all about the leaves of life fall one by one, until my friend we’re done.

Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
Whether the Cup, sweet or bitter runs,
The Wine of Life oozes drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life fall one by one.

French translation

Si à Naishapur ou en Babylone,
Si la coupe douces ou amères court
Le vin de la vie goutte à goutte grimpe
Les feuilles de vie un par un tombent

German translation

Ob bei Naishapur oder Babylon
Ob der Cup süß oder bitter läuft,
Der Wein des Lebens Tropfen für Tropfen sickert,
Die Blätter des Lebens fallen Stück für Stück

Spanish translation

Ya sea en el Naishapur o Babilonia,
Si la copa dulce o amargo está
El vino de la vida gota a gota rezuma
Las hojas de vida uno por uno cayendo

Explanation of Quatrain 8

Babylon is a well known Biblical reference to the Tower of Babylon requiring no explanation. Naishapur is its Persian equivalent, a rich city on the Silk Road to China, repeatedly destroyed by invasion and earthquake. It is uncoincidentally, the birthplace and burial place of Omar Khayyam.

I made a few changes to Fitzgerald wording, changing the verb tense in the line 2 to the singular form, and in the last two lines of the quatrain, not keeping the helping verb “keep”.

In the French, German, and Spanish versions the translation of “whether” can be questioned. The rhyme is mostly lost, replaced with alliteration.


Life as a cup of wine

Our days may be sweet or bitter, they pass one by one, and so too, humankind dies one by one.


approach to Naishapur, from the book, painting by I. R. Herbert

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