Sunday, December 5, 2021

Jorge Luis Borges, "A Poem about Gifts"

May no one slight, with tears or a reproach,
This declaration of God’s mastery,
That, with sublime irony,
Gave me at once books and the night.

He vested those lightless eyes
With guardianship of the city of books,
Even though they can read
But senseless passages in the library of dreams,

Where sunrises give way to zeal. The day
Lavishes them in vain with infinite books,
Toilsome like the manuscripts
That perished in Alexandria.

Of hunger and of thirst (or so goes the Greek legend)
A king once died amidst fountains and gardens;
Aimless and unrelenting I tire the confines
Of this blind vault of a slender library.

Encyclopedias, atlases, the East
And West, centuries, dynasties,
Symbols, the cosmos and cosmogonies,
Afford us the walls, albeit uselessly.

Slow by my shadow, I explore the
Hollow penumbra with a tottering crosier,
I, who imagined Paradise
Under the figment of a library.

Something unnamed, certainly not
Random fate, governs all this;
Somebody else has already received in hazy
Evenings the many books, and their shadow.

As I rove through the slow galleries,
I happen to feel with sacred horror that
I am the other, the dead one, who must have
Ambled his days past, in a similar vein.

Who between the two writes this poem of
A plural me albeit of just one shadow?
Who cares about the word convoking me
If the anathema is one and indivisible?

Groussac or Borges, I behold this dear
World both distorting and dying down
Into a pale, vague ash, all too
Similar to both slumber and oblivion.