[6] And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine

by Omar Khayyam

English version by Edward FitzGerald
Original Language Persian/Farsi

And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine
High piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine!
     "Red Wine!" -- the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.

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

<<Previous Poem | More Poems by Omar Khayyam | Next Poem >>


/ Photo by LutherHarkon /


View All Poems by Omar Khayyam

Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

"David's Lips are lock't" -- saying nothing, except singing the praises of wine. I've spoken several times before of wine as a metaphor for bliss and the 'celestial drink' of divine communion...

The relationship of the nightingale to the rose is important in Middle Eastern love poetry, and it becomes elevated to sacred levels of meaning in the poetry of the Sufis.

The rose, with its wine-like scent and deep red color, is sometimes thought of as a more tangible embodiment of wine. More broadly, it is a symbol of the Beloved, of God. The rose unfolds in a gentle circling that invites one to yield inward. It is a symbol of lovers and of union. The rose resonates strongly with the gently awakened heart.

The rose grows from a bush of thorns yet reveals a delicate inner beauty and shares an intimate, sweet wine-like fragrance, symbolic of how the soul emerges from the tribulations of worldly difficulty and, in so doing, recognizes her innate beauty.

The nightingale, like a lover, sings its heartbreaking songs in the cool of the evening, in love with the beauty of the rose. In sacred poetry, then, the rose is God and the nightingale is the spiritual seeker who calls out in the night, like the devout in midnight prayers or zikr.

Reread that last phrase again: "the Nightingale cries to the Rose / That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine." The most obvious way to read this is that nightingale with her yellow cheek calls out to the "incarnadine" red of the rose. But a possible alternate reading is that the yellow cheek is transformed, somehow taking on the "incarnadine" (blood-red, life-filled) color of the rose. Read this way, the more passionately the lover yearns for the Beloved, aches for the Beloved, calls out to the Beloved, the more the lover takes on the nature of the Beloved. In divine communion, we don't merely touch the Eternal, we discover it emerging from within.



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)
More Books >>





6] And David's Lips