Poem about Gifts :: J. L. Borges

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]

9 thoughts on “Poem about Gifts :: J. L. Borges

    • Hernan Navas, this poem was translated by Harold Morland for the book Dreamtigers. I have not “made” anything, merely transcribed. If you can provide a more poetic and inspiring translation, please post it in another comment at the bottom of this page. I would love to see it.

      • Dear Sineokov, I am Argentinian too, and though I won’t presume to say that this makes my word gold, it does give me some advantages. Borges had roughly the same age as my grandmothers, whose way of speaking I knew well, and there are some subtleties in Borges that I doubt would be caught by someone who grew up in a another time or country (I would dare say even another city). I have thought this especially when reading the story “la señora mayor” (the elderly lady). It does not mean at all that you wouldn’t enjoy and understand Borges perhaps even more than I do (after all, I’m just an amateur reader). All I mean is, don’t underestimate the importance of the nationality of a reader when it comes to understanding a connational writer.

  1. I am from Argentina. I’m studying to be an English translator, and I’m analyzing this translation. I’m comparing and contrasting this one to others. I thing that it’s a good version. “Poetry by definition is untranslatable” said Jakobson, so unfortunately there are many “losts” in the translation. The other version of the poem that I know is less inspiring than this onE! :)

  2. Pingback: Biography/ Autobiography – Borges, Buddhism and Cognitive Science

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