Page:Quatrains of Omar Khayyam (tr. Whinfield, 1883).djvu/51

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INTRODUCTION.

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ligious and Epicurean quatrains were written in youth, and the Munáját in his riper years. But this hypothesis seems to be disproved by Sharastani's account of him, which is quite silent as to any such conversion or change of sentiment on his part and also by the fact that he describes himself from first to last as a "Dipsychus" in grain, a halter between two opinions, and an "Acrates," or backslider, in his practice.

If his poems be considered not in the abstract, but in the light of history, taking into account his mental pedigree and his intellectual surroundings, a more plausible explanation of his inconsistencies readily presents itself. In his youth, as we know, he sat at the feet of the Suni theologian Imam Muaffik, and he was then no doubt thoroughly indoctrinated with the great Semitic conception of the One God, or, to use the expressive term of Muhammadan theology, "the Only Real Agent" (Fa'il i Hakíkí). To minds dominated by the overwhelming sense of Almighty Power, everywhere present and working, there seems no room for Nature, or human will, or chance, or any other Ahriman whatsoever, to take the responsibility of all the evils in the world, the storms and the earthquakes, the Borgias and the Catilines. The "Only Real Agent" has to answer for all. In the most ancient document of Semitic religious speculation now extant, the Book of Job, we find expostulations of the boldest character addressed to the Deity for permitting a righteous man to be stricken with unmerited misfortunes, though the writer ultimately concludes in a spirit of pious agnosticism and resignation to the inscrutable dispensations of Providence. In the book of Ecclesiastes,