Americans love to poke fun at overly serious stuff. A parody is a spoof or a nonsensical imitation…a form of humor that some of our forepersons were especially good at.
A Persian poem caused a number of wonderful parodies by Americans. It was the Rubaiyat (which means ‘a collection of quatrains’, which are four line verses) by Omar Khayyam.
Omar wrote the poem many centuries ago, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that Edward Fitzgerald translated it. For some reason, it became crazily popular. Maybe its exotic tone, flowery phrases, praise of wine and acceptance of life’s futilities were to blame.
Talented humorists couldn’t resist producing parodies of the Rubaiyat. The parodies ranged from silly to enchanting to extraordinarily clever. We are including four examples here.
THE RUBAIYAT OF BRIDGE is a fine example of how clever Carolyn Wells was. It is especially funny and impressive if you compare her quatrains to the actual Rubaiyat quatrains, and see how she adapted them to the card game of Bridge. We have included the parodied Khayyam quatrains for your amusement.
THE RUBAIYAT OF OHOW DRYYAM is a brilliant and funny commentary on prohibition. Note the supposed author’s name, pronounced, ‘Oh, how dry I am’. Each quatrain parodies a specific verse from the original Rubaiyat.
THE RUBAIYAT OF A PERSIAN KITTEN is an absolute delight, with wonderful illustrations. It tells the story of a mischievous kitten while parodying the original Rubaiyat verses.
THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR CAYENNE was a mighty impressive accomplishment. The author, Gelett Burgess, parodied pretty much the entire original Rubaiyat, quatrain by quatrain…but his version is a peppery (Cayenne, get it?) condemnation of the writing/publishing business, a subject he was obviously very familiar with.
THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM, JR. is an absolute hoot. While it is a complete farce, Wallace Irwin managed to keep a literary straight-face while creating it. His introduction explains that this is a recently discovered rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam’s never-mentioned son…Omar Junior…who emigrated from Persia to Borneo! Wallace goes on to explain how Omar Junior tried to restore the families honor, which was damaged by his Dad’s obsession with wine, by instead focusing on tobacco and kissing in his (Jrs.’) rubaiyat. You must read the intro to appreciate the entire piece, and don’t overlook the hilarious deadpan ending notes. What a serious amount of work went into this funny parody!
It’s great to be American. Always has been. Enjoy!