Poems, Enigmas and Ironies
Jorge Luis Borges the Argentine writer was born August 24, 1899. This year, on the occasion of his 112th birthday, there were celebrations in Buenos Aires and Google honored the writer with their custom homepage logo. (A screen shot of logo is posted on the Huffington Post.)
Wikipedia summarizes his productive life; in 1955 Borges became director of the Argentine National Library:
The National Library of the Argentine Republic (Biblioteca Nacional de la República Argentina) is the largest library in Argentina and one of the most important in the Americas. It is located in the barrio of Recoleta in Buenos Aires.
By 1955, however, Borges had lost his eyesight; he was blind. The irony of his blindness as a writer and library director did not escape him:
Nadie rebaje a lágrima o reproche
esta declaración de la maestría
de Dios, que con magnífica ironía
me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.
No one should read self-pity or reproach
Into this statement of the majesty
Of God; who with such splendid irony,
Granted me books and blindness at one touch.
As a birthday tribute, I offer his poem Oedipus and the Enigma (Edipo y el enigma):
Four-footed at dawn, in the daytime tall,
and wandering three-legged down the hollow
reaches of evening: thus did the sphinx,
the eternal one, regard his restless fellow,
mankind; and at evening came a man
who, terror-struck discovered as in a mirror
his own destiny, and felt a chill of terror.
We are Oedipus and everlastingly
we are the long tripartite beast; we are
all that we were and will be, nothing less
It would destroy us to look steadily
at our full being. Mercifully God grants us
the ticking of the clock, forgetfulness.
–A. S. T. [translator]
This excellent translation is by poet Alan S. Trueblood.
Modern literature benefited greatly from the works of Jorge Luis Borges—R. I. P.
Day 69: Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Poems, Alexander Coleman (ed.) (1999).