12 April 2013

April is NPM: Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentinian writer, librarian, lecturer, translator, and all-around cool dude who wrote some killer short stories - my favorite is "The Library of Babel" but "The Aleph" runs a close second - essays, and poems.  Borges derived much of his amazing imagery from his imagination - he had begun to lose his sight in his thirties and was likely totally blind by fifty.

Borges's Sonnets have all sorts of subjects, including Saxon poetry (he lectured on Anglo-Saxon poetry).  I am rather partial to "To a Saxon Poet" (the English translation follows the original 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?
Esas 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.

(The snowscape of Northumbria has known
And forgotten the footprints left by you.
Innumerable are the days the sun
Has set, gray brother, in between us two.

Slow in slow shadow you would work your lines
Out into metaphors of swords at sea
And of the dread that dwelt among the pines
And of the lonely thing that time could be.

Where shall I seek your features and your name?
Such things as these antique oblivion can
Never divulge. I'll never know what came
Of you when you on earth were yet a man.
You walked the ways of exile. You were strong;
Now you are nothing but your iron song. )

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