Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Jan Pfischner McNeil
Omar Khayyam
Jan Pfischner McNeil
[For tenor, piano, prepared piano, and percussion]

Published in ASUCJMS I (1973) 31-38.

Into this universe, and why not knowing,
nor whence, like water, willy-nilly flowing;
and out of it, as wind along the waste,
I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing. [XXIX]

and those who husbanded the golden grain,
and those who flung it to the winds like rain,
alike to no such aureate earth are turn’d
as, buried once, men want dug up again. [XV]

with them the seed of wisdom did I sow,
and with my own hand labour’d it to grow;
and this was all the harvest that I reap’d –
I came like water, and like wind I go. [XXVIII]

the worldly hope men set their hearts upon
turns ashes – or it prospers; and anon,
like snow upon the desert’s dusty face
lighting a little hour or two – is gone. [XIV]

aureate earth,
golden earth;

ephemeral light,
ephemeral life!