“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.”
Omar Khayyám d.1123
Standing by this poet’s tomb in the northeastern Iranian town of Nishapur on our last evening, I thought of this poem that I vaguely remembered from a reading in my youth. And I thought how different in mood today’s land of Iran is from when the Persian poet lived here a thousand years ago. Bread there still is, but sipping openly from a flask of wine is no longer possible in the Iran of today. In his poetry Khayyám celebrated worldly pleasures and didn’t believe in sacrificing what could be had then for the dubious promises of the hereafter.