"Moroccan Potter," by Leopold Carl MüllerHow to Write a Rubaiyat (with Examples) The Society November 2, 2016 For Educators, Poetry, Poetry Forms 9 Comments 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. Affluence 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. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 9 Responses Dusty Grein November 2, 2016 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. –dustygrein Reply Mahathi November 3, 2016 Your rubaiyat is beautiful Sir. Thanks for the comments. Reply Verna December 10, 2016 I love this rubaiyat. Clear, simple and lyric. Reply shakil ahmed March 11, 2018 your poem touches my heart so profoundly. Reply Elizabeth Boquet November 3, 2016 Thank you for this. Will share will my poetry group with great pleasure! Reply Mahathi November 3, 2016 Thank you so much Madam Reply John Kolyav January 18, 2017 Thanks a lot dear Sathya Narayana for the valuable information with excellent examples. Reply Rahima Espat October 16, 2018 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 Reply Donn McAfee January 10, 2019 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. 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