By Sathya Narayana

The rubaiyat (pronounced “roo-bái-yát”) is a Persian form of several quatrains. Its name is derived from the Arabic plural of the word for “quatrain,” rubá’íyah. This, in turn, comes from the Arabic word rubá, meaning “four.” Rubai (the singular form) is a quatrain or a set of two couplets. The Rubai form is more than a thousand years old. Rubaiyat was created by a non-Arab poet by the name Abul Hassan Rodeki. But the rubaiyat form was later taken to glorified heights by Omar Khayyam (1048-1133), a great Persian poet, astronomer, philosopher, and mathematician. Khayyam, lovelorn, became an addict to wine and, inspired by his blossoming delirious muse of memories of his estranged lover, he composed a number of beautiful rubaiyat, filled with love, pain, philosophy, and the panacean benefits of wine. His rubaiyat were translated into a number of languages, including English. Here is an example of Khayyam’s rubaiyat well-translated by the 19th century English poet Edward Fitzgerald (a close friend of the celebrated poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson):


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.

But helpless pieces in the game He plays,
Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days,
He hither and thither moves, and checks… and slays,
Then one by one, back in the Closet lays.

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted— “Open then the Door!
You know how little time we have to stay,
And once departed, may return no more.”

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou,
Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
And oh, Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out of the same Door as in I went.


Rubaiyat in English

The English adaptation of rubaiyat is equally beautiful and well suited to modern thought, imagery, and muse. A rubai is, though intended to stand alone, usually a suite of rubai (rubaiyat) composed and arranged in a standard rhyming order. In a single rubai, the rhyme scheme of aaba is used with enjambment (the continuing of a sentence or thought) between the 3rd and 4th lines. The usual meter used is iambic pentameter. Here is an example of a rubaiyat by famous American poet Robert Frost in iambic tetrameter with a deviation of rhyme order in the last stanza (dddd):


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Modern poets also composed rubaiyat in iambic pentameter.  The above two poems are also examples of interlocking rubaiyats, which are rubaiyats where the subsequent stanza rhymes its 1st, 2nd, and 4th lines with the sound at the end of the 3rd line in the stanza (rubá’íyah) before it.

Note that the rubaiyat is allowed an unlimited number of stanzas, so extend the pattern as needed: For example, the contemporary poet Bernard M. Jackson preferred to only use three quatrains. The rhyming order for a three -stanza rubaiyat, in theory, is aaba bbcb ccdc. This standard pattern cracks in the concluding stanza, since the third line always assumes the same rhyme ending as that of the third line of the previous stanza and the “d” sound here has no following stanza with which to rhyme. A solution to this crack, which is employed in the interlocking rubaiyat and by Jackson below, is to return the third line of the final stanza to the primary rhyme of the first stanza, creating a beautiful and contemplative circular structure. For example, the rhyme scheme in Jackson’s three-stanza rubaiyat below is as follows: aaba bbcb ccac:


To a Lasting Dream

(soft and hard stresses added, with apostrophes and quotation marks respectively, demonstrating the iambic pentameter that was used)

 ‘           ”     ‘            ”            ‘               ”          ‘           ”     ‘       ”
Down/ flee/ting /years /Time’s/ shades/ have/ swif/tly/ flown
Though seasoned joys we never have outgrown;
Besides some rippled brook now let us lie,
To muse upon fond moments we have known.

Sweet fragrance of rare bloom still draws a sigh,
So, too, those woodland haunts we lingered by.
Each summer traces paths of former ways
With welcome spell of dreams that never die.

Thus sipped from fate with gladness, all our days,
There’s nothing may love’s memories erase;
Eternal are the visitors Time has shown,
As life slips through each measures passing phase.


Here is another example of a 4-stanza Rubaiyat composed by me.



The dark muddy puddles on road, by rain
can’t bring, I thought, the times bygone again.
My latest home in town’s posh colony
has well buried my past travails and pain.

The days I whined and ran with agony;
the days I starved and craved for small money;
no more exist in memory. I laid
a lid on that dramatic irony.

For great windfall I gained of late, I bade
good bye to mates, for me, who cried and prayed.
Forgot the days I drank rice-soup in grange
with friends and pools in which we splashed and played.

Better were days of need than these deranged
in binge, in spite of piled fancy mélange.
My food tastes sour; and bitter my Champagne.
I got riches; from me but sleep estranged.


Post your own rubaiyat in the comments section below!


Once an advocate, Sathya Narayana joined the Government of India as Inspector of Salt in 1984 and got two service promotions. In May 2014, he took voluntary retirement as Superintendent of Salt.

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15 Responses

  1. Dusty Grein

    Thank you for this exploration of a great classical form. I enjoy crafting Rubaiyats, and usually create mine as a crown, by interlocking the first stanza’s primary rhyme into the lone line of the final stanza. Here is one of mine, dedicated to a dear friend.

    I’m Free!

    Adrift upon a cold turbulent sea
    The waves tossed me about violently
    Until I learned how to endure the ride
    No longer will life’s storms discourage me

    I used to be a victim of the tide,
    of cruelty, of circumstance, of pride;
    quite often I would hide my face and cry
    Ashamed of who I was down deep inside.

    Then one dark day, a prayer I thought I’d try
    A voice told me “Stand up and say goodbye
    to fear and hate and anger. You should know
    that you were born with wings, so learn to fly.”

    The tide still surges and the wind may blow
    But now I stand defiantly and throw
    My head back and proclaim aloud “I’m free!”
    As fearlessly I face the vast unknown.


  2. Rahima Espat

    Midnight Storm

    Morbid gloomy night in the middle of fall,
    Sitting on the window waiting on your call.
    The skies are kicking and punching;
    Throwing a tantrum against the wall.

    My heart breaks with your absence,
    But there is more to you than just your presence.
    I now lay on your side of the bed,
    Searching, tracing the last bits of your essence.

    It’s all now coming to an end,
    And it’s up to the solid grounds to comprehend.
    Rain is always needed in order to grow,
    Love is a plant and must ascend.

    The coast is clear inviting morning to appear;
    Chirping birds and colors coming from the rear.
    A ray of sunshine enhancing a rainbow in the dark;
    Soon we will be together, maybe just another year.

    -Inactive Volcano

  3. Donn McAfee

    I live alone in a very small cabin, but have an expansive view. When I first moved here I looked to the east and was dumbfounded by what I saw, which inspired the following.

    Muse Juniper

    Stately she stands atop a hill.
    I saw her and my heart stood still.
    Four years I’ve watched her; how I’ve grown.
    Still vivid is that first big thrill.

    Three miles away and all alone,
    I glass her daily from my home.
    She seems to sense; she turns with glee,
    She’s always there, she’ll never roam.

    It might seem like insanity,
    Having relations with a tree.
    It’s not just fantasy of flight;
    It’s something that I really see.

    Her face is wide her eyes are bright,
    Most times her hair is just a fright.
    Cold winter, spring, hot summer, fall;
    The wind blows through her day and night.

    I can’t explain the reasons all
    Why every day her siren calls;
    I’m not just crazy when I say
    My heart would break if she would fall.

    Her younger days have blown away
    But she can dance and swoop and sway.
    She never fails to grin and schmooze.
    We’ll be together, one fine day.

    Her spirit and her energy
    Is what I feel, incredibly.
    I love my Juniper, my muse.
    I love Juniper. She loves me.

    Donn McAfee

  4. Grantham Holt

    I stand, most foolish of most foolish men
    Proclaiming immortality, but then
    Reach for Eternity
    With incompetent and faltering pen.

  5. Lee Armstrong


    He knew he had the ante
    To get inside that panty
    So he took her to a flop
    Outside of Cincinnati

    They had a turn at the table
    It started out unstable
    Did they even have the drop?
    Aces written in a fable

    Well the river did deliver
    In her smile and with that shiver
    Came a message from the top
    Trust the gamble and the Giver.

  6. Mohammad Fazal

    Hi, could you please provide me references that Abul Hassan Rodeki created Rubai/Rubaiyat (and later on Omar Khayyam started writing the form an dtook it to glorified height). Where would I get the Abul Hassan Rodeki’s information about Rubai? I sent out an email to, but haven’t heard anything yet. This is all for a research I am conducting. Many thanks.

  7. Syeda Ummul Fazal

    ‘This April Isn’t Same Anymore… ‘

    This April isn’t same my dear; one dire dream
    Some lost emotions, desires ashen, ne’er gleam
    Hope; over and gone, solace turned in monochrome
    Life’s song, macabre; broken hearts scream

    Longing for the halcyon, every dark night, I roam
    Vale of memories, scenic; past echoing shalom
    Stargazing, blooming lovers, stellar romance
    Words swirled, unbridled, poetry found its home

    Serendipity, a season, two hearts, one glance
    Moonlight, two souls; moonwalk, moon dance
    Blooming emotions limned heavenly stories
    Destiny smirked; cupid’s arrow met a mischance

    Idyllic moments, nothing but blue memories
    Heart and mind; purely two golden treasuries
    Shadows out and loud, I hear whispers galore
    Mind maunders into the maze of reveries

    Promises once, now embers; breathe no more
    Swollen eyes await calm days and nights of yore
    Rhythmic rain, touches my heart to the core
    Spring but alas! this April isn’t same anymore.


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