The Afterlife of Edward FitzGerald’s Poem: A Comparative Study of FitzGerald's Rubáiyát and Housman’s A Shropshire Lad

Document Type : Original Article


Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran



The present paper seeks to address and examine Edward FitzGerald’s globally-known poem afterlife, The Rubáiyát. Translation can serve as a force for literary renewal and innovation. For many years translation was regarded as a marginal area within comparative studies, now it is acknowledged that translation has played a vital role in literary history and great periods of literary innovation tend to be preceded by periods of intense translation activity. The significance of FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát lies in how the poem was read when it appeared and in the precise historical moment when it was published. The impact of FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát was such that on the one hand it served as a model for a new generation of poets struggling to make the skepticism and pessimism a proper subject for poetry, while on the other hand it established a benchmark for future translators because it set the parameters in the minds of English-language readers of what Persian poetry could do. The present chapter tries to show that FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát had a role in forming pre-modern English poetry, notably Housman’s poetry, in terms of form and content. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad and FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát have undeniable similarities.


Aminrazavi, M. The Wine of Wisdom: the Life, Poetry and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2005.
Baldick, C. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Bassnett, S. Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.
Bloom, H. ed. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
Childrey, F. W. A Critical Study of the Seven Major Victorian Pessimistic Poets. (Thesis), University of Richmond, 1969.
Damrosch, D. What Is World Literature? New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Davis, D. (Ed.) Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. London: Penguin Press, 1989.
Housman, L. (Ed.) The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and Other Writings by Edward Fitzgerald. London: Collins Clear-Type Press, 1959.
Ousby, I. Wordsworth Companion to Literature in English. London: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1998.
Perrine, L. and T. R. Arp. Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. 5th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1998.
Sumral, P. God’s Word for You. Indiana: Barbour Publishing, Inc, 2010.
Saulters, A. P., & W, David. “Last Poems, by A. E. Housman.” (2013) 15 June 2015 <>. [Retrieved 23 December 2018]
Terhune, A. M. The Life of Edward FitzGerald, Translator of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1947.
Venuti, L. The Translation Studies Reader. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2012.
Yohannan, J. D. “The Persian Poetry Fad in England, 1770-1825.” Comparative Literature,  Vol. 4. 1952, pp. 137-160.
Zare-Behtash, E. FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát: A Victorian Invention. Thesis, Australian National University, 1994.