Sunday, September 02, 2007

Frustrations of foreign poetry

I am hesitant to post this, because the translation is uncredited and I can't find out who did it. Also because I'd like to post the original (Spanish, I assume), but can't find that either. Maybe some more Googling will turn it up, but I lack the energy at the moment.

So, for now, just the English version....

Update: My blog-friend OMG has kindly provided the Spanish version for us in a comment below.

History of the Night

Throughout the course of generations
men constructed the night.
At first she was blindness;
thorns raking bare feet,
fear of wolves.
We shall never know who forged the word
for the interval of shadow
dividing the two twilights;
we shall never know in what age it came to mean
the starry hours.
Others created the myth:
they made her the mother of the unruffled Fates
that spin our destiny;
they sacrificed black ewes to her, and the cock
who crows his own death.
The Chaldeans assigned to her twelve houses.
She took shape from Latin hexameters
and the terror of Pascal.
Now we feel her to be inexhaustible
like an ancient wine
and no-one can gaze on her without vertigo
and time has charged her with eternity.

And to think that she wouldn't exist
but for those fragile instruments, the eyes.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)


omg said...

I haven't read Borges in a while. I have some of his short stories here, but no poetry to help you out. Sorry.
Well, after some searching I found it on someone else's blog. Is it wrong to post it here? Will the ghost of Borges track us down? It sounds like something Borges could make happen.

A lo largo de sus generaciones
los hombres erigieron la noche.
En el principio era ceguera y sueño
y espinas que laceran el pie desnudo
y temor de los lobos.
Nunca sabremos quién forjó la palabra
para el intervalo de la sombra
que divide los dos crepúsculos;
nunca sabremos en qué siglo fue cifra
del espacio de las estrellas.
Otros engendraron el mito.
La hicieron madre de las Parcas tranquilas
que tejen el destino
y le sacrificaban ovejas negras
y el gallo que perseguía su fin.
Doce casas le dieron los caldeos;
infinitos mundos, el Pórtico.
Hexámetros latinos la modelaron
y el terror de Pascal.
Luis de León vio en ella la patria
de su alma estremecida.
Ahora la sentimos inagotable
como un antiguo vino
y nadie puede contemplarla sin vértigo
y el tiempo la ha cargado de eternidad.

Y pensar que no existiría
sin esos tenues instrumentos, los ojos.

Jorge Luis Borges, Historia de la noche
p 201, vol. III - Obras Completas, Emécé

Froog said...

Thanks, OMG, that's mighty impressive of you.

I wonder why the reference to Fray Luis was excised from the translation here.

omg said...

Excellent question. I didn't even notice. I was too happy to have found the poem in Spanish at all. Perhaps one of them is a faulty version.

Then again, translation can be both a tricky and sneaky thing.