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Exploraform: Rubaiyat (1 Viewer)


WF Veterans

The rubaiyat is a very old Persian form whose name derives from the Persian word rubái which translates to “quatrain.” The form is sometimes called the Omar Khyyám quatrain because the form was first popularized in English by Edward Fitzgerald in an 1859 translation and adaptation of the Persian astrologer-poet Omar Khyyám’s “The Rubiayat.” Miller Williams says, “this translation established the form as contemplative to the point of melancholy (71).

The form consists of four ten-syllable (traditionally iambic) lines which rhyme aaba and, occasionally, aaaa. Each quatrain in a Persian rubaiyat functions independently of the others. An interlocking rubaiyat occurs when the off-rhyme of one quatrain becomes the rhyme of the next.

Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is an example of an interlocking rubaiyat.

Robert Frost said:
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Works Cited

Hirsch, Edward. Poet's Glossary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014.

Williams, Miller. Patterns of Poetry. Louisiana State University Press. 1986.



WF Veterans
The town biddies in the film adaptation of the Music Man with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones were all in a swivet with Marian the Librarian for recommending the book 'The Rubaiyat' to the mayor's daughter...;)

On a more practical note, it seems like there are parallels to the Ghazal with the independent functions of the stanzas, as well as, similarities to the closing quatrain of a villanelle. The rhyme scheme on that being abaa instead of the aaba. The positioning of the B scheme line is a little different, but the use of two counterpoint rhymes is the same.

The interesting thing about this form it is rooted in the odd primes of 1 and 3 instead of the symmetrical, even basis of 2. In essence, its base unit is a tercet, not a couplet. Even the ten syllable pattern is an extrapolation of another odd prime. Five instead of the nice even four for the far more common eight syllable line counts. Triangles and hexagons instead of a square if you look at it from a geometric construct. 3/4 time, instead of 4/4 time from a musical aspect. There is a lilt

I may have to try this. It looks intriguing.
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WF Veterans
I just finished my first rubaiyat. Paprika and Fennec. It is a tricky form to work with but it really has a lovely bounce to it. The 3/4 lilt in a quatrain. It really makes you pay attention to the last word of the third line and the content of the upcoming stanza...Well worth the effort, though.

Darren White

co-owner and admin
Staff member
For me personally, the very best writer of humorous Rubaiyat, is still the Egyptian poet, journalist and more Salah Jahin (Jaheen). I am Egyptian myself. The origin of the word 'ruba'i' stems from the Arabic 'arba, which means 'four'. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to get Jahin's Rubaiyat in translation. I think that is a shame, because they are very funny and witty :)