The Borges :: J. L. Borges

I know little — or nothing — of my own forebears;
The Borges back in Portugal; vague folk
That in my flesh, obscurely, still evoke
Their customs, and their firmnesses and fears.
As slight as if they’d never lived in the sun
And free from any trafficking with art,
They form an indecipherable part
Of time, of earth, and of oblivion.
And better so. For now, their labors past,
They’re Portugal, they are that famous race
Who forced the shining ramparts of the East,
And launched on seas, and seas of sand as wide.
The king they are in mystic desert place,
Once lost; they’re one who swears he has not died.

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

Referring to the Death of Colonel Francisco Borges (1835-1874) :: J. L. Borges

I leave him on his horse, and in the gray
And twilit hour he fixed with death for a meeting;
Of all the hours that shaped his human day
May this last long, though bitter and defeating.
The whiteness of his horse and poncho over
The plain advances. Setting sights again
To the hollow rifles death lies under cover.
Francisco Borges sadly crosses the plain.
This that encircled him, the rifles’ rattle,
This that he saw, the pampa without bounds,
Had been his life, his sum of sights and sounds.
His every-dailiness is here and in the battle.
I leave him lofty in his epic universe
Almost as if not tolled for by my verse.

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

Referring to a Ghost of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Odd :: J. L. Borges

Nothing. Only Muraña’s knife.
Only in the gray afternoon the story cut short.
I don’t know why in the afternoons I’m companioned
By this assassin that I’ve never seen.
Palermo was further down. The yellow
Thick wall of the jail dominated
Suburb and mud flat. Through this savage
District went the sordid knife.
The knife. The face has been smudged out
And of that hired fellow whose austere
Craft was courage, nothing remained
But a ghost and a gleam of steel.
May time, that sullies marble statues,
Salvage this staunch name: Juan Muraña.

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

To an Old Poet :: J. L. Borges

You walk the Castile countryside
As if you hardly saw that it was there.
A tricky verse of John’s your only care,
You scarcely notice that the sun has died

In a yellow glow. The light diffuses, trembles,
And on the borders of the East there spreads
That moon of mockery which most resembles
The mirror of Wrath, a moon of scarlet-reds.

You raise your eyes and look. You seem to note
A something of your own that like a bud
Half-breaks then dies. You bend your pallid head

And sadly make your way — the moment fled —
And with it, unrecalled, what once you wrote:
And for his epitaph a moon of blood.

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

On the Effigy of a Captain in Cromwell’s Armies :: J. L. Borges

The battlements of Mars no longer yield
To him whom choiring angels now inspire;
And from another light (and age) entire
Those eyes look down that viewed the battlefield.
Your hand is on the metal of your sword.
And through the green shires war stalks on his way;
They wait beyond that gloom with England still,
Your mount, your march, your glory of the Lord.
Captain, your eager cares were all deceits,
Vain was your armor, vain the stubborn will
Of man, whose term is but a little day;
Time has the conquests, man has the defeats.
The steel that was to wound you fell to rust;
And you (as we shall be) are turned to dust.

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

The Rain :: J. L. Borges

The afternoon grows light because at last
Abruptly a minutely shredded rain
Is falling, or it fell. For once again
Rain is something happening in the past.

Whoever hears it fall has brought to mind
Time when by a sudden lucky chance
A flower called “rose” was open to his glance
And the curious color of the colored kind.

This rain that blinds the windows with its mists
Will gladden in suburbs no more to be found
The black grapes on a vine there overhead

In a certain patio that no longer exists.
And the drenched afternoon brings back the sound
How longed for, of my father’s voice, not dead.

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

Elvira de Alvear :: J. L. Borges

All things she possessed and slowly
All things left her. We have seen her
Armed with loveliness. The morning
And the strenuous midday showed her,
At her summit, the handsome kingdoms
Of the earth. The afternoon was clouding them.
The friendly stars (the infinite
And ubiquitous mesh of causes) granted her
That wealth which annuls all distance
Like the magic carpet, and which makes
Desire and possesssion one; and a skill in verse
That transforms our actual sorrows
Into a music, a hearsay, and a symbol;
And granted fervor, and into her blood the battle
Of Ituzaingo and the heaviness of laurels;
And the joy of losing herself in the wandering
River of time (river and labyrinth),
And in the slow tints of afternoons.
All things left her, all
But one. Her highborn courtliness
Accompanied her to the end of the journey,
Beyond the rapture and its eclipse,
In a way like an angel’s. Of Elvira
The first thing that I saw, such years ago,
Was her smile and also it was the last.

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