Omar Khayyam was a Persian polymath, philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet. He also wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, and Islamic theology.
Born in Nishapur in North Eastern Iran, at a young age he moved to Samarkand and obtained his education there. Afterwards he moved to Bukhara and became established as one of the major mathematicians and astronomers of the medieval period. He is the author of one of the most important treatises on algebra written before modern times, the Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra, which includes a geometric method for solving cubic equations by intersecting a hyperbola with a circle. He contributed to a calendar reform.
He is believed to have written about a thousand four-line verses or rubaiyat (quatrains). In the English-speaking world, he was introduced through the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám which are poetic, rather than literal, translations by Edward FitzGerald (1809–1883). Other English translations of parts of the rubáiyát (rubáiyát meaning "quatrains") exist, but FitzGerald's are the most well known.
Rubāʿī is a poetry style. It is used to describe a Persian quatrain, or its derivative form in English and other languages. The plural form of the word, rubāʿiyāt (رباعیات), often anglicised rubaiyat, is used to describe a collection of such quatrains. In other words Rubai is a form of 4 lines poetry and to the extent that Rubaiyat is often used as a short name for this particular collection of 4 lines poetry.
The verse form AABA as used in English verse is known as the Rubaiyat Quatrain due to its use by Edward FitzGerald in his famous 1859 translation, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Algernon Charles Swinburne, one of the first admirers of FitzGerald's translation of Khayyam's medieval Persian verses, was the first to imitate the stanza form, which subsequently became popular and was used widely, as in the case of Robert Frost's 1922 poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening".
Fitzgerald's translation became so popular by the turn of the century that hundreds of American humorists wrote parodies using the form and, to varying degrees, the content of his stanzas, including The Rubaiyat of Ohow Dryyam, The Rubaiyat of A Persian Kitten, The Rubaiyat of Omar Cayenne and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Jr.