Greedily to the bowl my lips I pressed
And asked how might I sue for green old age.
Pressing its lips to mine it muttered darkly:
“Drink up! Once gone, you shall return no more!”
This jug was, ages past, a doleful lover
Like me—who had pursued a dream, like me.
This handle at its neck was once an arm
Entwined about some neck he loved too well.
Yesterday in the market stood a potter
Pounding relentlessly his batch of clay.
My inner ear could hear it sigh and groan:
‘Brother, I once was like you. Treat me gently!”
In the potter’s workroom, shadowed by the wheel,
I pondered, watching how the Master made
Handles and covers for his jugs and pitchers
From clay—from hands of kings, from beggars’ feet.
I wandered further down the Potters’ Row.
Continuously they tried new skills on clay;
Yet some, devoid of vision, never noted
The ancestral dust on every turning wheel.
Each drop of wine that Saki negligently
Spills on the ground may quench the fires of grief
In some sore heart. All praise to Him who offers
Such medicine to relieve its melancholy!
Raise the bowl high, like tulip-cups at Nauroz,
And if the moon-faced one has time to spare
Drink gloriously deep, for brutal Time
Will strike you down with never a warning yell.
Translated by Robert Graves and Omar Ali-Shah.