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Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)

28 Jul 03 - 10:15 PM (#992376)
Subject: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)
From: pxp

The Rubaiyat (excerpt)
Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston (1945)
Hard Travelin' - The Asch Recordings, Vol. 3

Don't give your money, not one penny spend
To learn the secret of your life, my friend
One little hair divides the false and true
And all that little hair, it starts and ends

One hair, I guess, divides the false and true (the false and true)
Find this one hair no matter what you do (what you do)
This hair will lead you to the drinking room
And to the wives of your great landlord too (it was)

I rolled in pain down on that sawdust floor (the drinkin' floor)
I prayed to heaven to open its golden door
I groaned and yelled: How long must I here roll? (here)
You must roll here till you are you no more (you no more)

I wasted lots of hours in the hot pursuit
Of this and that argument and dispute
Better to kiss the lip with laughin' grapes
Than eating sad or proud or bitter fruit

I'm glad I went off on my big carouse
And took my second wife into my house
Divorced old dried-up reason out of my bed
Took this daughter of the vine to spouse

What is and is not proof I rule in line (I rule in line)
And up and down by logic I define
I guess you thought I was a deep wise man
I never went deep in any thing but wine

My drinkin' door eased open late last late (last night late)
I saw a lady with an angel shape (pretty girl)
She handed me a glass of wisdom juice
I drank it down and found the juice was grape

This grapy juice can prove a billion things
Can make our racial haters dance in rings
Can make our set out to fightin' priests and princes
Sing simple songs, and tease my kings and queens (queens and kings both)

If God roiled my good wine, then would he dare (he wouldn't dare)
To make my viny grape a trap an' a snare
I drink my wine and I bless your sweet red mouth
If wine's a curse, well then, who set it there?

[If other ears want to have a go at this: The Rubaiyat]

29 Jul 03 - 05:56 PM (#992851)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)
From: McGrath of Harlow

Amazing. That sound link wouldn't work, but I hope I canm get to hear rit some time. Some kind of Talking Blues?

29 Jul 03 - 06:48 PM (#992897)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)

Sound link fine now.Nothing wrong with your transcription. Many thanks for this one.

08 Aug 03 - 09:28 AM (#998934)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)
From: Jim Dixon

I'm truly astonished to learn of this song's existence.

Now, who wrote the text? What source did they use? Comparing it to Edward Fitzgerald's famous poem, there are obvious similarities, but...

Here are verses 50 and 51 from Fitzgerald's second edition, courtesy of

Would you that spangle of Existence spend
About THE SECRET—quick about it, Friend!
A Hair, they say, divides the False and True—
And upon what, prithee, does Life depend?

A Hair, they say, divides the False and True;
Yes; and a single Alif were the clue—
Could you but find it—to the Treasure-house,
And peradventure to THE MASTER too;

This bears more study, but alas, I don't have time right now.

08 Aug 03 - 12:58 PM (#999008)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)
From: Uncle_DaveO

"Who wrote the text"???   I presume Woodie Guthrie.

"What source did they use"???   I would guess he used the Fitzgerald version because it was and is by far the most widely available version. I say "version" because Fitzgerald went substantially beyond merely translating, and his poem is better described as a poem with two poets, or perhaps a poem "based on" Omar.

Dave Oesterreich

19 Aug 03 - 12:03 AM (#1004413)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)
From: pxp

The booklet accompanying the CD has this:

Woody Guthrie, vocal/guitar/harmonica;
Cisco Houston, vocal harmony

(Words and music by Woody Guthrie; previously unissued; recording date and matrix not known; Smithsonian Acetate 3678, take 1; 16" acetate on glass disc)

Woody was an avid reader; he consumed books, and wrote his response to the text in the margins. In the late 1930s, he read the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the quatrains written by the 11th-century Persian poet; when translated by Edward Fitzgerald and published in 1859, this collection had a lasting influence on English poetry. Woody's copy of a later edition with his notes in the margins of each page is now owned by a private collector, and reflects how Woody thought and philosophized about each word he read. According to Moe Asch, when Woody and Cisco spent time studying the Sacco and Vanzetti episode, Woody came up with "the idea to do the Rubaiyat in the terms of the 1940s."

This cut is one of many different ones in the Folkways collection, but until a copy of his script is found, Woody's Rubaiyat will remain fragmented.

19 Aug 03 - 06:25 PM (#1004885)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)
From: McGrath of Harlow

The sound file worked this time. Good fun.

I loved the dry talking blues type comments - for example

"I saw a lady with an angel shape... pretty girl"

Here is a site with a few other versions as well as Fitzgerald's.

How's this for a bit of a modern one by one Richard Brodie?:

In silent Morn, the Lawn still wet with Dew,
The friendly Owner of the Pub said: "Drink!
Ah, come! A lusty Bacchic Vial quaff,
Ere ye despair, and in the Grave ye sink."

Oh Rooster! when it crowed we Men who drink
Turned to the Pub: "Oh welcome! No Delay!
Old Throats crave Oceans of Nepenthe sweet -
A Vodka on the House? thy Treat today!"

19 Aug 03 - 06:31 PM (#1004889)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)
From: GUEST,So

I bet tey whill listen to ya

24 Aug 03 - 02:53 PM (#1007397)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Rubaiyat (Woody Guthrie)
From: Jim Dixon

McGrath: Thanks for that link. I have bookmarked it and intend to study it later.

After a bit of sleuthing, I figured out that Richard Brodie probably owns the site, although he doesn't explicitly say so. At first I though it belonged to some unknown person who just wanted to impartially compare several translations, one of which was by Brodie.

Anyway, Brodie's version isn't a translation; it's a stanza-by-stanza anagram of Fitzgerald's work!

By the way, Robert Graves and Omar Ali-Shah also collaborated on a translation from Khayyam's original verses. I believe Ali-Shah wrote a literal translation in English, and Graves, who couldn't read Persian, used that as his source for a poetic translation.

Graves also wrote the introduction to Idries Shah's book "The Sufis," which I highly recommend. Idries and Omar were brothers. I believe Graves and the Shahs regarded Khayyam as a Sufi teacher, and were mainly interested in interpreting his work as a mystical allegory.

According to this interpretation, then, the landlord would be a Sufi teacher or master, the drinker would be the student or disciple, the wine would be various Sufi meditation or attention-focusing techniques, and drunkenness might be--according to whether it is good or bad--either the intended state of spiritual enlightenment, or a temporary state on the way to enlightenment, or the unfortunate result of misusing those techniques. Of course, there might be other valid interpretations.

It's not clear to me whether Guthrie understood the poem this way, or, for that matter, whether Fitzgerald did.