Omar Khayyam is better known for his love poems than his philosophy. His vision of lovers picnicking is in Rubáiyát “XI” in the collection of his poetry titled The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, most often read in Edward Fitzgerald translation:

A Book of Verses underneath a Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread-and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Often illustrated, Arthur Szyk’s “Quatrain XI” makes this lover’s affair, highlighting the wine and bread on a white picnic in front of the lovers reclining against a tree on a grassy embankment. The scene is paradisiacal and sexually symbolic. A stag, peacocks, squirrel, and wild birds suggest masculinity and physical, sensual love. Paradoxically, Szyk’s version of the lovers is peculiarly sterile; the lovers do not touch and are fully clothed. The man prefers a book to the breathing woman beside him.

Featured Image: Arthur Szyk. “Quatrain XI” (1940)

See Khayyam, Omar. “The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.” Edited by Edward Fitzgerald. London: Bernard Quarich, 1859.