Mirrors :: J. L. Borges

I, who felt the horrors of mirrors
Not only in front of the impenetrable crystal
Where there ends and begins, uninhabitable,
An impossible space of reflections,

But of gazing even on water that mimics
The other blue in its depth of sky,
That at times gleams back the illusory flight
Of the inverted bird, or that ripples,

And in front of the silent surface
Of subtle ebony whose polish shows
Like a repeating dream the white
Of something marble or something rose,

Today at the tip of so many and perplexing
Wandering years under the varying moon,
I ask myself what whim of fate
Made me so fearful of a glancing mirror.

Mirrors in metal, and the masked
Mirror of mahogany that in its mist
Of a red twilight hazes
The face that is gazed on as it gazes,

I see them as infinite, elemental
Executors of an ancient pact,
To multiply the world like the act
Of begetting. Sleepless. Bringing doom.

They prolong this hollow, unstable world
In their dizzying spider’s-web;
Sometimes in the afternoon they are blurred
By the breath of a man who is not dead.

The crystal spies on us. If within the four
Walls of a bedroom a mirror stares,
I’m no longer alone. There is someone there.
In the dawn reflections mutely stage a show.

Everything happens and nothing is recorded
In these rooms of the looking glass,
Where, magicked into rabbis, we
Now read the books from right to left.

Claudius, king of an afternoon, a dreaming king,
Did not feel it a dream until that day
When an actor shewed the world his crime
In a tableau, silently in mime.

It is a strange dream, and to have mirrors
Where the commonplace, worn-out repertory
Of every day may include the illusory
Profound globe that reflections scheme.

God (I keep thinking) has taken pains
To design that ungraspable architecture
Reared by every dawn from the gleam
Of a mirror, by darkness from a dream.

God has created nighttime, which he arms
With dreams, and mirrors, to make clear
To man he is a reflection and a mere
Vanity. Therefore these alarms.

[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Harold Morland]

6 thoughts on “Mirrors :: J. L. Borges

  1. Pingback: Mirrors « …like a mirror. Grasps nothing. Reflects but does not hold.

  2. It loses most of its beauty when is translated to english,
    it is almost a crime to translate a poem written in a romance language, to something as deficient in terms or possibilities as english language is…The poem in its original language, which is also mine, is simply sublime.

    • “…something as deficient in terms or possibilities as english language is…”

      Yet English is far vaster and more complex a language than Spanish, and rooted in the same Latin from which Spanish springs.

      Borges himself often preferred translations of his work to his own originals, quipping that “the original is unfaithful to the translation.”

      I do not doubt, though, that in the case of poetry something is invariably lost in translation.

  3. Demonstrate me that English is vaster and more complex than Español, and my name will stop being Miriam.
    it is rooted in the same Latin bases certainly, but English has other elements that make it far from latin in most of the cases. And certainly I don´t think English is vaster and more complex, Independently from the fact that you are blinded by your love to English when you say such a thing. But the reality is that Borges never disregarded Español and most of his works are in that language precisely because it was the perfect language for him to express his creativity.
    He even tells you in the poem to the German language ¨Mi destino es la lengua castellana¨.and I consider people have the obligation to learn and understand Español if they attempt to read Borges with justice, as he learned German to read Schopenhauer, you people learn Español to read Borges.

  4. Pingback: Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Ghost Stories: Finding a Finder part 2

  5. Pingback: Mirrors :: J. L. Borges | Label It This

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