Tuesday 14 June 2011

Quote of the week - Lessons learned

For today's quote of the week I've taken one of my favourite stanzas from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

About 152 years ago, eight hundred years after it was written, Edward Fitzgerald, author and poet, published the first edition of his translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. In all he published five editions of his translations and with each edition the wording of some stanzas changed.

He must have been particularly happy with his translation of this stanza, as he never changed the words.

This is, for good reason, one of the most famous stanzas from this epic poem. The wisdom of the words and the wordcraft of the translation combine to make it profound and memorable.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

I was reminded of this while editing Bolter Baron. My female MC finds solace in the words of Omar Khayam at a troubled moment.

She imagines that some would interpret his words as acceptance of defeat, but that isn't the message.

It is about the future, not the past. If we wallow in the mire of how we arrived here then we focus on recrimination and redress. If we plan for the future with the secure knowledge of the lessons we have learned, we can make a better life. That's what he said with those beautiful, eloquent words.

Image, Edmund Dulac Art Images. If you like this image please take a look at his website here


  1. I had never heard of this- but I like it! Thanks for sharing

  2. It's beautiful. I'm going to think about it a while.

  3. This was a lovely interpretation--looking forward with the lessons learned to chart the way. Good source.

  4. Beautiful! And I agree with your assessment. Looking back is only good for understanding how we arrived at our present location. The future has yet to be written, after all. So much better to face it with clear eyes and a backpack full of experience.

  5. A beautiful passage, full of so much meaning. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  6. Forgot to say, I love your new header!

  7. Interesting. Great quote. I agree one shouldn't regret one's previous experiences but always move forward, never looking back and trying to rewrite history. :O)

  8. Yes i like your new header too. :O)

  9. I love that. It really doesn't matter how we arrive where we are, so long as we learn from it.

  10. Very powerful stanza. I wonder what the more literal translation would be?

  11. Summer; The poem is quite long, and most of the stanzas aren't as profound or inspiring as this one, but there's plenty of good poetry in it and it's worth a read.

    Theresa; I find inspiration in words like this. They're worthy of contemplation.

    Susan; Thank you. My character has had good reason to think this through, and she is a thoughtful person.

    Lisa; Such wisdom in so few words. It's quite something to come up with that, I think.

    Ellie; Thank you. I decided the old branding of the blog was too distant from its objective. It'll probably change again, but it's a start.

    Madeleine; That's an interesting thought about looking back and re-writing history. We'd all love to do that from time to time, even if it doesn't change anything.

    Pk Hrezo; I think that's right. We all make mistakes, and we all suffer from other's mistakes. It's how we deal with it in looking ahead that really matters.

    Sylvia; I guess it's open to interpretation, but for me the more literal translation would be to see it as a tragic statement of regret. I just think it would be a shame to see it that way.

  12. A beautiful passage, Tony. Omar Khayyám's
    poetry is something I want to read and have been trying to get my hands on. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I take it to mean "quit abusing the delete key!"

    Nice to see you back Tony, and thanks for sharing such a thought provoking passage. That's the thing with any writing; the reader interprets it in the most meaningful fashion to themselves.


  14. Excellent point with wonderful words.

    When I get stuck in the past--usually with anger--I stagnate and become bitter. It's when I'm able to move on with lessons learned that I progress.

  15. Rachna; Glad you enjoyed it. It's worth finding a copy to read even though it's not all as profound as this stanza

    Donna; Ha! Either that or the delete key doesn't work

    Medeia; I agree. It's all too easy to get caught up fretting about the past, even though it's gone and can't be changed. Accepting the lessons of the past and moving on isn't always easy, but is more likely to lead to happiness.