Pots and puns

Edward FitzGerald’s translation of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat includes several verses making an analogy between clay pots and humans, and between the Potter and God.

In a note, FitzGerald adds:

This Relation of Pot and Potter to Man and his Maker figures far and wide in the Literature of the World, from the time of the Hebrew Prophets to the present; when it may finally take the name of “Pot theism,” by which Mr. Carlyle ridiculed Sterling’s “Pantheism.”

The reference is to an exchange between Thomas Carlyle and John Sterling:

Sterling is reported to have responded to something that Carlyle had said with, “Why, that’s Pantheism,” to which Carlyle is reported to have replied: “Let it be Pot-theism, so long as it’s true.”

But FitzGerald is taking Carlyle’s pun to a new level by connecting it to the God-as-Potter metaphor. Nicely done, FitzGerald!

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