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Thread: Borges the poet

  1. #1
    Better call Saul Anymodal's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    Buenos Aires

    Arrow Borges the poet

    I read Borges for the first time when I was 10. Even though Borges has been my favorite writer since I was around 13 I didn't like him as a poet. I thought he had a very classical style, it bored me. During highschool a girlfriend of mine borrowed me El oro de los tigres (The gold of the tigers). I liked it. Then my literature professor made us read his poetry. So in time I learned to enjoy it.

    His best poetry books are El hacedor (The maker), El otro, el mismo (The self, the other), La moneda de hierro (The iron coin), and Los conjurados (The conspirators, I think). Then, not as good but good anyway: El oro de los tigres, and Elogio de la sombra (The eulogy of the shadow)

    Unlike his prose his poems are difficult to translate because he works a lot with the rythms and the rymes. If you can, try to read them in spanish too. There is a book of selected poems of Borges by Penguin Modern Classics.
    Unfortunately I had a lot of problems finding good translations in the internet (I don't have the book).

    Here are some of his poems. I planned to post more poems than these, but I didn't find good translations. Maybe later I will... Among those poems that aren't here I recommend a lot 'Ajedrez' ('Chess') and "El Golem", if you read spanish.

    Christ on the cross

    Christ on the cross. His feet touch the earth.
    The three beams are the same height.
    Christ is not in the middle. He’s the third one.
    His black beard hangs over his chest.
    His face is not the face of engravings.
    He is harsh and Jewish. I don’t see him
    and will go on seeking him until the last
    day of my steps on the earth.
    The broken man suffers and is quiet.
    The crown of thorns cuts him.
    He is not reached by jeers of the mob
    which has seen his agony so many times.
    His or another’s. It’s all the same.
    Christ on the cross. Confusedly
    he thinks of the realm that maybe awaits him,
    thinks of a woman who is not his.
    It’s not given to him to see the theology,
    the indecipherable Trinity, the Gnostics,
    the cathedrals, Occam’s knife,
    the purple, the miter, the liturgy,
    the conversion of Guthrum by the sword,
    the Inquisition, the blood of the martyrs,
    the atrocious Crusades, Joan of Arc,
    the Vatican that blesses armies.
    He knows that he is not a god and is a man
    who dies with the day. It doesn’t bother him.
    What bothers him is the hard iron of the nails.
    He’s not a Roman. He’s not a Greek. He moans.
    He has left us splendid metaphors
    and a doctrine of pardon that can
    annul the past. (That sentence
    an Irishman wrote in a jail.)
    the soul seeks its end, hurriedly.
    It’s darkened a bit. Now he is dead.
    A fly walks quietly across the flesh.
    What good does it do me that that man
    has suffered, when I suffer now?

    Translated by Willis Barnstone

    The original in spanish
    Cristo en la cruz

    Cristo en la cruz. Los pies tocan la tierra.
    Los tres maderos son de igual altura.
    Cristo no está en el medio. Es el tercero.
    La negra barba pende sobre el pecho.
    El rostro no es el rostro de las láminas.
    Es áspero y judío. No lo veo
    y seguiré buscándolo hasta el día
    último de mis pasos por la tierra.
    El hombre quebrantado sufre y calla.
    La corona de espinas lo lastima.
    No lo alcanza la befa de la plebe
    que ha visto su agonía tantas veces.
    La suya o la de otro. Da lo mismo.
    Cristo en la cruz. Desordenadamente
    piensa en el reino que tal vez lo espera,
    piensa en una mujer que no fue suya.
    No le está dado ver la teología,
    la indescifrable Trinidad, los gnósticos,
    las catedrales, la navaja de Occam,
    la púrpura, la mitra, la liturgia,
    la conversión de Guthrum por la espada,
    la inquisición, la sangre de los mártires,
    las atroces Cruzadas, Juana de Arco,
    el Vaticano que bendice ejércitos.
    Sabe que no es un dios y que es un hombre
    que muere con el día. No le importa.
    Le importa el duro hierro con los clavos.
    No es un romano. No es un griego. Gime.
    Nos ha dejado espléndidas metáforas
    y una doctrina del perdón que puede
    anular el pasado. (Esa sentencia
    la escribió un irlandés en una cárcel.)
    El alma busca el fin, apresurada.
    Ha oscurecido un poco. Ya se ha muerto.
    Anda una mosca por la carne quieta.
    ¿De qué puede servirme que aquel hombre
    haya sufrido, si yo sufro ahora?

    A Wolf

    Grey and furtive in the final twilight,
    he lopes by, leaving his spoor along the bank
    of this nameless river that has quenched the thirst
    of his throat, these waters that repeat no stars.
    Tonight, the wolf is a shade who runs alone
    and searches for his mate and feels cold.
    He is the last wolf in all of England.
    Odin and Thor know him. In a commanding
    house of stone a king has made up his mind
    to put an end to wolves. The powerful
    blade of your death has already been forged.
    Saxon wolf, your seed has come to nothing.
    To be cruel isn't enough. You are the last.
    A thousand years will pass and an old man
    will dream of you in America. What use
    can that future dream possibly be to you?
    Tonight the men who followed through the woods
    the spoor you left are closing in on you,
    grey and furtive in the final twilight.

    Translated by Robert Mezey

    The original in spanish
    Un lobo

    Furtivo y gris en la penumbra última,
    va dejando sus rastros en la margen
    de este río sin nombre que ha saciado
    la sed de su garganta y cuyas aguas
    no repiten estrellas. Esta noche,
    el lobo es una sombra que está sola
    y que busca a la hembra y siente frío.
    Es el último lobo de Inglaterra.
    Odín y Thor lo saben. En su alta
    casa de piedra un rey ha decidido
    acabar con los lobos. Ya forjado
    ha sido el fuerte hierro de tu muerte.
    Lobo sajón, has engendrado en vano.
    No basta ser cruel. Eres el último.
    Mil años pasarán y un hombre viejo
    te soñará en América. De nada
    puede servirte ese futuro sueño.
    Hoy te cercan los hombres que siguieron
    por la selva los rastros que dejaste,
    furtivo y gris en la penumbra última.


    One thing does not exist: Oblivion.
    God saves the metal and the dross, his key
    Ciphers in his prophetic memory
    The moons to come, and moons of evenings gone.

    All there: reflections in the looking-glass
    -Between the two huge twilights of the day-
    That your face has gone leaving where you pass,
    And those it will go leaving on your way.

    And everything is part of that diverse
    Crystal of memory, the universe;
    Unending are the mazes it engenders

    Of doors that seal themselves as you walk through;
    Only from sunset’s farther side shall you
    Behold at last the Archetypes and Splendors.

    Translated by A.Z. Foreman

    The original in spanish

    Sólo una cosa no hay. Es el olvido.
    Dios, que salva el metal, salva la escoria
    Y cifra en Su profética memoria
    Las lunas que serán y las que han sido.

    Ya todo está. Los miles de reflejos
    Que entre los dos crepúsculos del día
    Tu rostro fue dejando en los espejos
    Y los que irá dejando todavía.

    Y todo es una parte del diverso
    Cristal de esa memoria, el universo;
    No tienen fin sus arduos corredores

    Y las puertas se cierran a tu paso;
    Sólo del otro lado del ocaso
    Verás los Arquetipos y Esplendores.

    A Poem of Gifts

    Nobody should think that I, by tear or reproach, make light
    Of the mastery of God who,
    With excellent 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 bearings lost, I trudge from side to side
    Of this lofty, long blind library.
    The walls present, but uselessly,
    Encyclopaedia, 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 the guise of a library.

    The original in spanish
    El poema de los dones

    Nadie rebaje a lágrima o reproche
    esta declaración de la maestría
    de Dios, que con magnífica ironía
    me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.

    De esta ciudad de libros hizo dueños
    a unos ojos sin luz, que sólo pueden
    leer en las bibliotecas de los sueños
    los insensatos párrafos que ceden

    las albas a su afán. En vano el día
    les prodiga sus libros infinitos,
    arduos como los arduos manuscritos
    que perecieron en Alejandría.

    De hambre y de sed (narra una historia griega)
    muere un rey entre fuentes y jardines;
    yo fatigo sin rumbo los confines
    de esta alta y honda biblioteca ciega.

    Enciclopedias, atlas, el Oriente
    y el Occidente, siglos, dinastías,
    símbolos, cosmos y cosmogonías
    brindan los muros, pero inútilmente.

    Lento en mi sombra, la penumbra hueca
    exploro con el báculo indeciso,
    yo, que me figuraba el Paraíso
    bajo la especie de una biblioteca.

    Algo, que ciertamente no se nombra
    con la palabra azar, rige estas cosas;
    otro ya recibió en otras borrosas
    tardes los muchos libros y la sombra.

    Al errar por las lentas galerías
    suelo sentir con vago horror sagrado
    que soy el otro, el muerto, que habrá dado
    los mismos pasos en los mismos días.

    ¿Cuál de los dos escribe este poema
    de un yo plural y de una sola sombra?
    ¿Qué importa la palabra que me nombra
    si es indiviso y uno el anatema?

    Groussac o Borges, miro este querido
    mundo que se deforma y que se apaga
    en una pálida ceniza vaga
    que se parece al sueño y al olvido.

    To a Saxon Poet

    The snowfalls of Northumbria have known
    And have forgotten the imprint of your feet,
    And numberless are the suns that now have set
    Between your time and mine, my ghostly kinsman.

    Slow in the growing shadows, you would fashion
    Metaphors of swords on the great seas
    And of the horror lurking in the pine trees
    And of the loneliness the days brought in.
    Where can your features and your name be found?

    These are things buried in oblivion.
    Now I shall never know how it must have been
    For you as a living man who walked his ground
    Exiled, you wandered through your lonely ways,
    Now you live only in your iron lays.

    First published in "Mainistir Mhuigheo", Mayo Abbey Parish Magazine '95

    The original in spanish
    A un poeta sajón

    La nieve de Nortumbria ha conocido
    y ha olvidado la huella de tus pasos
    y son innumerables los ocasos
    que entre nosotros, gris hermano, han sido.
    Lento en la lenta sombra labrarías
    metáforas de espadas en los mares
    y del horror que mora en los pinares
    y de la soledad que traen los días
    ¿Dónde buscar tus rasgos y tu nombre?
    Ésas son cosas que el antiguo olvido
    guarda. Nunca sabré cómo habrás sido
    cuando sobre la tierra fuiste un hombre.
    Seguiste los caminos del destierro;
    ahora sólo eres tu cantar de hierro.[/spoiler]
    Last edited by Anymodal; 09-02-2012 at 10:53 PM.
    There is shadow under this red rock,
    (Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
    And I will show you something different from either
    Your shadow at morning striding behind you
    Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
    I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

    The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot

  2. #2
    I have the Penguin book you speak of. I enjoy his poetry quite a bit but I agree that the translations on some raise questions. I have to read the original Spanish with a dictionary and Google Translate handy but I think the translators ( there are several in the Penguin collection) are trying to balance meter/rhyme/word, which I am sure they do with skill, whereas I would rather have it translated literally and then read in Spanish for the rhythm.

  3. #3
    A 40 Bag To Freedom E.A Rumfield's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    In my mind I guess.
    He's very good. I think you would like Ceasar Vallejo.
    Her hair was like a flowing cascade and her breasts were real awesome also.
    My ***** Better Have My Money by Fly Guy
    My ***** better have my money.
    Through rain, sleet, or snow,
    my ho better have my money.
    Not half, not some, but all my cash.
    Because if she don't, I'll put my foot dead in her ***.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    He pretended to be a Freemason but he was actually an Atheist. Little by little Macedonio Fernandez influenced him beyond what he ever was. I like El Otro, El Mismo, for a fair treatment and mockery of objectivity when it comes to the spirit.

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