A Book of Verse beneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness - Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow! The lines quoted above are among the most familiar poetry in the English language. They come from the collection known as the "Rubaiyat" of Omar Khayyam. Khayyam was a brilliant, controversial eleventh century Persian mathematician and astronomer. How has his verse come to be so beloved in the west? "A Book of Verse" tells the engrossing and entertaining story of how a book of poetry has provided delight and fascination for centuries. It brings to life the evocative world of early Islamic Persia and the literary and artistic scene in England in the second half of the nineteenth century. From the sceptical and heretical author and the complex, irritating but endearing translator came a work that still expresses powerfully the urge to seize the day and live in the here and now, rather than some lost past or unattainable future. It has inspired artists such as Burne-Jones, Brangwyn, Dulac and Rickets and musicians such as Granville Bantock and Liza Lehmann and still provides an unmatchable source of access to 'Eastern Promise'.
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