...life can be translucent

Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: A Poem by Jorge Luis Borges

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 1970
    Upstate New York

    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.

  2. The Following User Says Thank You to lindsay For This Useful Post:

    oponopono (January 15th, 2013)

  3. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 1971
    Square Root of New Jersey


    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.


  4. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 1971
    Square Root of New Jersey


    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

  5. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to sparhawk For This Useful Post:

    answeredquestions (April 13th, 2012), hilary (August 24th, 2012), iams girl (May 22nd, 2012), rodaki (April 15th, 2012), Trojina (August 9th, 2012)

  6. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Here and now


    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

  8. #6

    Default Borges translation


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

  9. #7


    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!)

  10. #8


    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.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

PO BOX 255,
OX29 6WH,
United Kingdom

Phone/ Voicemail:
+44 (0)20 3287 3053 (UK)
+1 (561) 459-4758 (US).