John is a fascinating, well read and well travelled man who lived in South Africa for many years. His passions include opera and horses and in his long life he has dabbled in acting and written both poetry and prose.
We talked about many things, but in particular his lifelong affection for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as translated by Edward FitzGerald in 1859 from the verse attributed to an historical Persian writer.
A controversial book Telegraph article (or check out other online sources) whatever your views on this work or it’s origins, FitzGerald’s real feel for the flow of verse shines through.
There have been many versions, but John is familiar with and I have copy of the 1909 edition illustrated by Toulouse artist Edmund Dulac.
Richly evocative of the period (one of my favourites eras, art, design and decor wise) My copy came to me in a state of disintegration with many pages and some of the colour plates missing.
Naturally this illustration right perfectly encapsulates my idea of the perfect terrace!
Due to the level of disintegration of my Dulac copy , I may frame the plates I do have with a clear conscience (John agrees!) A path that also chimes with the carpe diem philosophy underpinning the poem.
Perhaps John relates to the character evident in the narrator of these verses.Here was a man who lived his whole life seizing the day. He may not always have done the “right thing” by other’s standards but he has certainly lived a life where the appreciation of music, literature, food, drink and nature is key.
John has several editions of this work and, even now, can quote whole tranches of it in his own clear and respectful style. Apparently he used to read it to his wife and keeps a tiny copy edition with a written dedication from her on his bedside table.
That’s love. That’s life.