Monday, July 13, 2020

Jorge Luis Borges, "Poem Written in a Copy of Beowulf"

At various times I have asked myself what reasons
moved me to study, while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.

Used up by the years, my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history.

Then I tell myself: it must be that the soul
has some secret, sufficient way of knowing
that it is immortal, that its vast, encompassing
circle can take in all, can accomplish all.

Beyond my anxiety, beyond this writing,
the universe waits, inexhaustible, inviting.

–translated by Alastair Reid


Anonymous said...

Jorge Luis Borges
Nasceu a 24 Agosto 1899
(Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Morreu em 14 Junho 1986
(Genebra, Suíça)
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo Buenos Aires, 24 de agosto de 1899 — Genebra, 14 de junho de 1986 foi um escritor, poeta, tradutor, crítico literário e ensaísta argentino.
42 7 3
A veces me pregunto qué razones
me mueven a estudiar sin esperanza
de precisión, mientras mi noche avanza
la lengua de los ásperos sajones.
Gastada por los años la memoria
deja caer la en vano repetida
palabra y es así como mi vida
teje y desteje su cansada historia.
Será (me digo entonces) que de un modo
secreto y suficiente el alma sabe
que es inmortal y que su vasto y grave
círculo abarca todo y puede todo.
Más allá de este afán y de este verso
me aguarda inagotable el universo.

Anonymous said...

I dont like thar translation... its the rough language of the anglosaxons

Anonymous said...

Sry... Of the rough anglosaxons"

David said...

Such a lovely statement of the miseries and compulsions of academic study. Almost astonishing in its insight.

I also appreciate the posting of the original. After two years in Spain spent, now, almost thirty years ago, my Spanish is pretty terrible. But with the translation as a crib I can almost sense the power of the original.

G. Verloren said...

Grappling with the seeming impossibility of keeping all relevant information about something you love in your own head resonates with me, but I find the ultimate response self deluding.

The "soul" makes it all better? That's a rather old and tired sort of self deception, isn't it? We fear death, so we imagine a magical life after death where we will never die again. We fear the indifference of the universe, so we tell ourselves the universe exists for our sake and that everything happens for A Very Good Reason, even when faced with the most senseless and random of tragedies (the Lord works in mysterious ways, supposedly!). We fear forgetting the things we love as we grow old and our minds inevitably fail, so we tell ourselves that there is some secret hidden magical part of ourselves that will still "remember", even if we ourselves no longer can.

To quote Carl Sagan, "Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable".

We all will some day die and cease to exist - and that's okay. As we age, our memories fail us, but even if they didn't, many things are too complex to ever fully understand and master - and we should make peace with that and accept it graciously. Love what you love, learn and even relearn what fascinates you, live your life as pleases you, but realize that nothing lasts. Make the best of what you have in the time you have it. Do not dread endings, or cling to the past or what "should" be.

The "hard truth" is really not so bad, once you stop letting it rule over you with fear and self deception. The world is meaningless, but also beautiful. Death is absurd, but life can be incredible. You do not find meaning outside yourself, you make and choose your own. There is no grand plan, no end goal, no predetermined path. We live in a sandbox, passing the time in arbitrary ways, playing "games". And that's 100% okay.