13 December 2007

Translating Borges

This should be directed to a new blog, but I already have too many, so it stays here. It's an English translation of the poem Las causas ("The Causes"), by Jorge Luis Borges, who is one of the very few writers whose poetry I can read all the time, and (I believe) the only poet to have earned his own space in my library. Let it serve as a break between the latest politics-burdened posts and the ones to come, and maybe as incitement for one more person to start reading Borges.

The poem is almost completely composed of literary/historical references, both external and internal to Borges' own work. If you don't know what something means, just note it down and check it out later.

The translation is entirely mine, though it was based on one I found in the net, which I believe to be also a self-made translation, in this case by someone whose first language is English (there's a telling mistake in the next-to-last line).

The Causes
by Jorge Luis Borges

The sunsets and generations.
The days and none was the first.
The coolness of water in Adam's
throat. Orderly Paradise.
The eye deciphering the dark.
The love of wolves at dawn.
The word. The hexameter. The mirror.
The Tower of Babel and pride.
The moon that Chaldeans gazed at.
The innumerable sands of the Ganges.
Chuang-Tzu and the butterfly that dreams him.
The golden apples on the islands.
The steps in the wandering labyrinth.
Penelope's infinite tapestry.
The Stoics' circular time.
The coin in the dead man's mouth.
The weight of the sword on the scale.
Each drop of water in the clepsydra.
The eagles, the auspicious days, the legions.
Caesar on the morning of Pharsalia.
The shadow of the crosses over the earth.
The chess and algebra of the Persian.
The footprints of long migrations.
The conquest of kingdoms by the sword.
The relentless compass. The open sea.
The clock's echo in memory.
The king beheaded by the ax.
The incalculable dust which was armies.
The nightingale's voice in Denmark.
The calligrapher's meticulous line.
The face of the suicidal one in the mirror.
The gambler's card. Greedy gold.
The shapes of a cloud in the desert.
Every arabesque in the kaleidoscope.
Each regret and each tear.
All those things were necessary
so that our hands would meet.

1 comment:

  1. At last a good translation of this great poem! The mistranslated version that you mention has been published by Penguin in the UK, can you believe it?
    Well done!


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