Ruba'i

"Rubāʿī" (رباعی) is Arabic for "quatrain", and is used to describe a Persian quatrain, or its derivative English form. The plural form of the word, "rubāʿiyāt" (رباعیات - sometimes anglicised "rubaiyat"), is used to describe a collection of such quatrains. [ [http://www.iranchamber.com/literature/articles/history_literature.php A Brief History of Persian Literature] , by the Iran Chamber Society]

There are a number of possible rhyme schemes to the rubaiyat form, e.g. AABA, AAAA. ["Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics", Princeton University Press, 1974, p.611] . In Persian verse, a ruba'i is visually only two lines long, its rhyme falling at the middle and end of the lines.

Ruba'i in English

The verse form AABA as used in English verse is known as the Rubaiyat Quatrain due to its use by Edward FitzGerald in his famous 1859 translation, "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". Algernon Charles Swinburne, one of the first admirers of FitzGerald's translation of Khayyam's medieval Persian verses, was the first to imitate the stanza form, which subsequently became popular and was used widely, as in the case of Robert Frost's 1922 poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening".

Fitzgerald’s translation became so popular by the turn of the century that hundreds of American humorists wrote parodies using the form and, to varying degrees, the content of his stanzas, including The Rubaiyat of Ohow Dryyam, The Rubaiyat of A Persian Kitten, The Rubaiyat of Omar Cayenne and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Jr..

In extended sequences of rubaiyat stanzas, the convention is sometimes extended so that the unrhymed line of the current stanza becomes the rhyme for the following stanza. The structure can be made cyclical by linking the unrhymed line of the final stanza back to the first stanza: ZZAZ. These more stringent systems were not, however, used by FitzGerald in his "Rubaiyat".

Etymology

The word "rubā'ī" is derived from the same Arabic root as "arba'a" (أربعة), meaning "four". [JM Cowan, (editor). "The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic", Spoken Language Services, 1976, ISBN 0-87950-001-8, p.323]

References


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