The Noose of Light – first scenesThe Noose of Light – first scenes
This is the first part of a new, one act play I’ve been working on. It’s about the 19th century poet Edward Fitzgerald, who is famous (though not as famous now as he used to be) for his translation of the 11th century Persian poem The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
This is his beautiful first verse;
Awake! For morning in the bowl of night
Has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight:
And lo! The hunter of the east has caught
The Sultan’s turret in a noose of light.
I’ve been fascinated by the poem since I first read it (without understanding it) as a child. It is full of memorable lines, many of which came to be used as book titles and such like (The Moving Finger Writes… etc). Omar Khayyam was an astonishing person – poet, mathematician and polymath who died in 1066 – but the power of the poem we have in English is very much down to Edward Fitzgerald. It was highly controversial in its day – its ‘eastern-ness’ shocking to Victorian sensibilities.
When I was doing my MA at Essex University we had a field trip (literally, as it turned out) to Boulge in Suffolk, where the enormously rich Fitzgerald family had their house, now gone. Edward Fitzgerald is buried in his own little vault in the grounds, and next to it is a rose bush, grown from a cutting taken from a rose tree on the grave of Omar Khayyam in Iran. That was lovely, but the rest of Boulge is not, at least not in January. I was struck by the contrast between the exotic heat of the poem and the desert of flat black fields in Suffolk.
Edward Fitzgerald was an odd person, but rather endearing, I found, and I was very taken with the strangeness and comedy of his story, and the story of the poem. Too complex to summarise here – but I made a start at capturing it in this short play. I’d love to write more about the subject and turn it into a longer play.