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Friday, August 24, 2012

Celebrating Borges' Birthday

 I have to thank Maria Popova today for her 113th birthday remembrance of Jorge Louis Borges "Borges on Love and Loss" in The Atlantic and also in her blog post at Brain Pickings.**  I had intended to discuss the poem she published today in his honor, but stumbled into the middle of controversy:  Is the poem "You Learn" by Jorge Louis Borges or is it "After a While" by Veronica A. Shoffstall?

My online research would have it both ways: Shoffstall published it in 1971; his dates are not clear.  One online version lists Shoffstall as translator.  One blog gives Borge's Spanish version with this reference "texts recovered, 1919-1929. by Jorge Luis Borges, Sara Luisa del Carril.  Published by Barcelona: Emece, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003"--but I have not verified this.  I found no evidence of the existence of any publication on-line, and the question is not important enough to me to take on the footwork of going to the libraries and publishing houses that might have the answer.  I agree with two commentators that the poem doesn't have the rich allusions, images, and surrealism that are customary in Borges' style. Yet, I know he had a life beyond his writing that was more practical than surreal.

Hmm.  I am bemused by my lazy refusal of the detective role in this case.  I love research that finds sources of streams.  Along with other PhDs, I was trained as a "history detective" before the television show existed.  I am bemused, also, by being bemused!  It is a much more pleasant experience than my normal shame at doing less than possible, and more pleasant too than the perfectionism of actually doing it.  HA!  I have fallen right into Borges' "what if" world in which time is not reliable and change and changelessness co-exist.  He recognizes issues like perfectionism, and his characters could easily get caught in a loop of impassible passion.  

I see that I am celebrating Borges without the poem in question, an irony that I suspect Borges would like.  I will end by including a poem that is definitely one of the masters. 

by Jorge Luis Borges
To gaze at a river made of time and water
And remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness--such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there's a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing. 
 


Note: I borrowed this poem from "Famous Poets and Poems."  If you wish to quote it in any way, please refer to my source.  I have no copyright for this poem.  I just enjoy it.  And I thank Maria Popova for her reminder of this birthday and for her commitment to creativity.

** I removed the links to Maria's article because it has been removed.  You may find Brain Pickings here.