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Thread: A Poem by Jorge Luis Borges

  1. #1
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    Default A Poem by Jorge Luis Borges

    Para una versión del I King

    El porvenir es tan irrevocable
    Como el rígido ayer. No hay una cosa
    Que no sea una letra silenciosa
    De la eternal escritura indescrifrable
    Cuyo libro es el tiempo. Quien se aleja
    De su casa ya ha vuelto. Nuestra vida
    Es la senda futura y recorrida.
    Nada nos dice adiós. Nada nos deja.
    No te rindas. La ergástula es oscura,
    La firme trama es de incesante hierro,
    Pero en algún recodo de tu encierro
    Puede haber un descuido, una hendidura,
    El camino es fatal como la flecha
    Pero en las grietas está Dios, que acecha.


    For a Version of I Ching

    The imminent is as immutable
    As rigid yesterday. There is no matter
    That rates more than a single, silent letter
    In the eternal and inscrutable
    Writing whose book in time. He who believes
    He’s left his home already has come back.
    Life is a future and well-traveled track.
    Nothing dismisses us. Nothing leaves.
    Do not give up. The prison is bereft
    Of light, its fabric is incessant iron,
    But in some corner of your mean environs
    You might discover a mistake, a cleft.
    The road is fatal as an arrow’s flight
    But God is watching in the narrowest light.

    -- Jorge Luis Borges (trans. by Eric McHenry)

    Jorge Luis Borges. Selected Poems. Edited by Alexander Coleman. New York: Viking, 1999. Pages 382-383.

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  3. #2
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    Default

    Mind you, my translation for this forum, three years ago, was much more literal than Mr. Eric McHenry's but in retrospect it wasn't as bad as I thought...

    Ah, translations... Mr. McHenry took quite a bit of literary leeway. His translation is poetry piled upon poetry.

    L

  4. #3
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    Heck, this hails back to something I shared here back in 2003. This morning, I slightly revised my translation of this poem by Borges:

    For a version of the I Ching

    The future is as irrevocable
    as the inflexible yore.
    There's not a thing that is not a silent letter
    of the eternal undecipherable script
    whose book is time. That who withdraws
    from home has already returned. Our life is the future and wandered path.
    Austerity has woven the skein.
    Do not fear. The prison is dark,
    the firm weave of unending iron,
    but at some turn in your confinement
    there could be a light, a small opening.
    The path is as fatal as an arrow.
    But in its cracks, there's God stalking.

    Jorge Luis Borges


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  6. #4
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    I agree, sparhawk, I prefer your translation. Very beautiful poem, except I personally don't quite like the notion of God interspersed in it. I don't think it's quite appropriate to the I Ching. Also, Borges was agnostic, so I'm surprised about his choice of that word.
    Please, I don't mean to offend anyone's religious beliefs. I'm a buddhist, taoist, existentialist soul, so it's my humble opinion.

  7. #5

    Default version with Borges poem

    I would like to know which version of the I Ching contains this poem. That was the version I bought once in Buenos Aires but I lost the precious book and I want to get it again
    thanks

  8. #6

    Default Borges translation

    Besides,

    Thanks for your translation, sparhauk, McHenry ruined the beauty and changed the meaning quite a bit

  9. #7

    Default

    I really like your translation sparhawk but I also like how McHenry has turned the first line into "The imminent is as immutable", I really like the sound of it.
    Borges has been in inspiration to many writers that followed and he still is a source of inspiration for contemporary artists, his work is timeless.
    One of my favorite Borges poems is Shinto (and "Gods" are mentioned again in this one!)

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