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A Poem by Jorge Luis Borges

lindsay

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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.
 

sparhawk

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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... :D

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

L
 

sparhawk

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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

 

dharmamom

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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.
 

chocha

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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
 

chocha

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Borges translation

Besides,

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

libur

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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!)
 

EdgarFGirtainIV

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I prefer the McHenry translation. For one, it impressively maintains the rhyme scheme of the original Spanish with simple, direct English, maintaining the poem's basic appeal. But better still, I find his translation also elicits a richer emotional reaction than the original, for example in the line: "The prison is bereft of light, its fabric is incessant iron...". Here the word fabric implies something soft, which he follows with the sharp juxtaposition "incessant iron". It's a beautiful image. It also plays into the larger meaning of the poem, the drama between illusory free will and the inevitability of death. No denying that McHenry is a master translator.
 

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