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>Writing Ruba’i

> Of late I’ve been reading and practising writing “rubaiyat” (plural), an adapted form of the classical Persian quatrain, each derivative quatrain or four-lined verse called a “ruba’i”. In Persian I’m told, the ruba’i is only 2 lines long…

The most famous example of the adapted rubaiyat form in English is Edward FitzGerald’s 1859 translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Another very popular form of this Persian quatrain is found in Robert Frost’s 1922 poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening“. We’ve all read it, haven’t we? Still one of my favorite poems.
Now each ruba’i that I’ve written below are only evolving ones, because I’m constantly changing them and re-working them. It is not as easy as it seems, but definitely fun, especially when the rhyme scheme has to contain a pithy idea. Here I use the AABA rhyme scheme:

Brutus Sings A Ruba’i

From behind O Caesar, when I saw your trusting head
I imagined homeless folks, kids hungry in bed
Democracy raped, chasms deep all around
That noble moment let my hand, remorseless, strike you dead.

Shakuntala Sings A Ruba’i

If a ring were everything, a face, an identity
I should call my luck all but serendipity!
Thus I too have learnt to take a passing fancy
At faces like talismans. There’re too many, O king, in your city!

(I don’t like putting footnotes, so I’ll let readers find out on their own about Shakuntala’s story and the reference here…)

Mobocracy – a Ruba’i

This is where you took home millions
And nurtured your unworthy scions
Those that hardly cared for a ballot to come clean

Or reach out to lambs eaten by lions!

(Persian literature in translation has engaged me ever since I was a child. For more information we can go to A Brief History of Persian Literature, by the Iran Chamber Society. Feel free to add more ruba’i on the Comments section or on your respective blogs. Will be fun!)

11 comments on “>Writing Ruba’i

  1. >I’ve always loved the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – and I’m pleased to see that the form is still alive. Well done!

  2. Rhett
    November 8, 2008

    >Quite enjoyed this. Nice beginning. Its a tough rhyming scheme I have to say. I will try it out someday. If a ring were everything, a face, an identityI should call my luck all but serendipity!This immediately reminded me of:tere vaade par jeeye ham toh ye jaan jhuuth jaanaKay khushi se marr na jaate, gar aitbaar hota. — Ghalib, Yeh na thee hamari qismatIf you note then both couplets have the same structure. So also the entire play is of the word, ‘if’ in both, though its not physically there in the latter couplet. Try out writing ghazal sometime. Its really cool in urdu. English its very tough. Eng is a difficult lang, if not the language, for these high quality rhyming schemes that have so much colour to them, I think.

  3. fleuve-souterrain
    November 8, 2008

    >There’s someone called Rinkly Rimes who visited my blog and it seems accidentally I deleted or did something stupid to his/her comment. Rinkly, please, if you visit again, do write a comment. I apologize for this mishap.

  4. Rinkly Rimes
    November 9, 2008

    >Don’t worry! I found you. And, on visiting your blog again I found Omar! I was nuts about the Rubaiyat when I was a teenager. I thought it was so exotic. Mine wasn’t a learned study you understand, I just loved the words, even though they were in English. I want people to ‘turn down an empty glass’ when I go. I’m publishing a ‘thing’ starting with ‘Myself when young’ very soon. Keep watch!

  5. tanuj solanki
    November 9, 2008

    >Very nice…your attempt made me realize it is really tough…keep writing a lot more of these… and keep sharing too!

  6. fleuve-souterrain
    November 9, 2008

    >Johnyour words of encouragement make me feel happy at the fact that I chose to work at this craft. Thanks for the visit. Love your chronicles!RhettYou have pointed out a wonderful parallel although me-self and Ghalib would be too much to digest. Having said that, I’m a fan of Ghalib and can see how my humble ruba’i triggered this thought of yours. Listen, never ventured to write Ghazals (in English), but if YOU do, please share some with me.BTW, Agha Shahid Ali popularized ghazals in English. Read some of his work to see how he works on the rhyme scheme. I may try it myself some day, now that you’ve put the idea into my head!Rinkly Rimes,ah, am I not happy to see you again! Can’t say how much I enjoyed your “tadpole” poem. Only if I had that sort of humour in my work, it would sparkle better. But am glad you think my rubaiyat are worth reading. I am working at it, will get better. I’ll visit your blog again soon.Poet-man Tanuj!keep coming, writing your reactions. Am so happy for you to be featured on the Crisis Chronicles.

  7. Rhett
    November 10, 2008

    >Like I said, English is a touch language to write a ghazal in. Urdu is the best if you can just about manage to pile up a few words successively with the same rhyme. Never tried writing in hindi/urdu? You missed something!!

  8. fleuve-souterrain
    November 10, 2008

    >Kush dearI’m not a native speaker of Hindi so naturally the question of writing in Hindi never arose as a need or fancy. And can’t read or write in the Urdu script although much of this beautiful tongue is absolutely comprehensible to me.Now, be surprised. I HAVE written a little in Hindi, but it is all unpublished work and don’t think i want to do it again! See, my mother tongues (me a bilingual) are Assamese and Bengali and I have written loads in those languages. So nothing missed really!Having said all of the above, English is NOT a foreign language for me. I speak it as my first language, think and analyze in it. And so it’s pretty natural that I write in English now. :-)Agha Shahid ali, I mentioned? Let’s read him and see how he wrote the ghazalas in English. Certainly the beauty of Urdu is lost, but something nice is created.

  9. Rhett
    November 11, 2008

    >You have written in Bengali! Wow!! That must-a been something.I have read the ghazal by Ali on the wikipedia page of Ghazal. Yes, the beauty of Urdu is lost, but yeah, something new is created… Different languages speak with different tongues!!

  10. Abhinav
    November 24, 2008

    >I love all of them but the Shakuntala ruba’i especially! Maybe because I know the references well…

  11. mumble
    June 6, 2014

    The two-lines-long version is the four-lines-long version written with the first two lines of the four-line version written as the first line of the two-line version, with a larger-than-usual space in between, and ditto the third and fourth line of the four-line version written as the second line of the two-line version.

    Arabic script allows stretching out, so all four elements can be made equal length by careful calligraphy, making a pleasing rectangular array on the page. This can be rendered satisfactorily into HTML as two lines each with two cells each, with text centered and with with the cells having left and right margins.

    The big space in the two-line version signifies an obligatory cæsura, as do the line-breaks in both versions.

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2008 by in Nabina, omar khayyam, poem, poetry, quatrain, ruba'i, rubaiyat.
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