[4] Now the New Year reviving old Desires

by Omar Khayyam

English version by Edward FitzGerald
Original Language Persian/Farsi

Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
     Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

-- from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Omar Khayyam / Translated by Edward FitzGerald

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/ Photo by Hamed Masoumi /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This verse is a recognition of the turning of the wheel of life and what we choose to do with each renewal.

He starts off with, "Now the New Year reviving old Desires." Why does the New Year revive old desires? The new year is a rebirth of the seasons, signaling a new cycle in our lives. If we don't apply conscious willpower, however, we instinctively follow the patterns we set in the previous year. So, with the new year, we are reborn, but so too are our old habits and old desires.

But "The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires." We always have a choice: We can give in to those old, often limiting patterns, getting caught up in the frantic activity and mental ruts of satisfying those old desires; or we can choose to let go of those compulsions and impulses and, instead, turn inward in contemplation, in meditation, in prayer. We can step out of the hustle and bustle of the hungry mind and retire to peaceful solitude.

Solitude, here, is not necessarily isolation or separation from others. For the mystic, true solitude is oneness, unity, wholeness -- whether or not other people are around. In this solitude, we encounter the living presence of the Divine, which Omar Khayyam evokes with the sacred figures of Moses and Jesus.

The "Bough" mentioned is the Tree of Life, which we find growing within us. Here we discover the guiding "White Hand of Moses." Moses represents awareness of the Divine Law and, although we have turned inward, we are being freed from the captivity of the limited awareness and false identity that had been held in place by those old mental patterns. The journey inward is a journey outward, the true exodus.

The closing line "and Jesus from the Ground suspires" is especially powerful. This breath, this suspiring is significant. In Muslim mystical traditions Jesus is often associated with the breath, healing, life-giving breath. To Muslims, Jesus embodies the breath of life, the breath of God. So, even though Jesus is in the ground, buried in the tomb (or born in the cave), or simply buried within ourselves -- we discover that he breathes! After feeling dead, no matter how we have stumbled or struggled, we discover new life buried secretly within us, we discover the Divine is breathing life into us. And we are that breath!



Recommended Books: Omar Khayyam

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained The Sufism of the Rubaiyat or the Secret of the Great Paradox Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Spiritual Interpretation The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Illustrated Edition)
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4] Now the New Year