Let none think that I by tear or reproach make light
Of this manifesting the mastery
Of God, who with excelling irony
Gives me at once both books and night.
In this city of books he made these eyes
The sightless rulers who can only read,
In libraries of dreams, the pointless
Paragraphs each new dawn offers
To awakened care. In vain the day
Squanders on them its infinite books,
As difficult as the difficult scripts
That perished in Alexandria.
An old Greek story tells how some king died
Of hunger and thirst, though proffered springs and fruits;
My bearing lost, I trudge from side to side
Of this lofty, long blind library.
The walls present, but uselessly,
Encyclopedia, atlas, Orient
And the West, all centuries, dynasties,
Symbols, cosmos and cosmogonies.
Slow in my darkness, I explore
The hollow gloom with my hesitant stick,
I, that used to figure Paradise
In such a library’s guise.
Something that surely cannot be called
Mere chance must rule these things;
Some other man has met this doom
On other days of many books and the dark.
As I walk through the slow galleries
I grow to feel with a kind of holy dread
That I am that other, I am the dead,
And the steps I make are also his.
Which of us two is writing now these lines
About a plural I and a single gloom?
What does it matter what word is my name
If the curse is indivisibly the same?
Groussac or Borges, I gaze at this beloved
World that grows more shapeless, and its light
Dies down into a pale, uncertain ash
Resembling sleep and the oblivion of night.
[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Harold Morland]