Lifelong labour of love
Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat (quatrains) of the philosopher-scientist-mystic Omar Khayyam is one of the most-quoted lyrical poems in English.
Until the end of his life, Fitzgerald kept working on the Rubaiyat, adding to or reducing the number of quatrains, and changing their order and phrasing.
Four versions were published in his lifetime. The first in 1859 had 75 quatrains; the second in 1868 had 110. The third and fourth editions appeared in 1872 and 1879, each with 101 quatrains.
On his death on June 14, 1883, his friend William Wright found in a tin box a printed copy of the fourth edition in which Fitzgerald had marked more changes. In 1889, the fifth and final edition was published with the changes incorporated.