Borges: Limits (From Spanish)

By Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Of all those boulevards that sink in sunset
There’s one (I know not which) I've made my way        
Across for the last time, indifferent 
And without realizing it, in sway

To One who predesigns almighty norms,
A rigorous and secret scale to gauge
The dreams and shadows, formulas and forms
Which weave and unweave this our life and age.

If to all things there is a terminus,
A last time and oblivion, who will tell
Any of us whom in this house we have 
Unwittingly already bid farewell?

Now through the dawn-greyed window night withdraws
And there amid the stack of books that shed
A craze of shadows on the hazy table,
There shall be one I'll have to leave unread.

Out in the south stands more than one worn gate
There with its cactus and cemented urns
Whose entry is forbidden to my feet
As in a lithograph. Nothing returns:

You’ve bolted shut a certain door forever;
A mirror waits in vain, expecting you;
The crossroads seem to lie unbarred before you
But four-faced Janus watches what you do.

Among your many memories is one
Which has been lost to you forevermore;
They will not see you by that fountain nor
Beneath the yellow moon, or the white sun.

Your voice shall never come to what the Persian
Said in his tongue of roses, wine and birds,
When under dusk before the light is scattered
You wish to say some unforgettable words.

The ceaseless Rhône? My European lake?
That yesterday I hunch upon today
Will be erased as Carthage by the Romans
Whose salt and fire it could not hold at bay.

At dawn I think I hear a multitude
Receding out of earshot, out of mind:
Those who have loved me and forgotten me.
Borges and Space and Time leave me behind.

Audio of me reciting this poem in Spanish

The Original:

Jorge Luis Borges

De estas calles que ahondan el poniente,
una habrá (no sé cuál) que he recorrido
ya por última vez, indiferente
y sin adivinarlo, sometido

a Quién prefija omnipotentes normas
y una secreta y rígida medida
a las sombras, los sueños y las formas
que destejen y tejen esta vida.

Si para todo hay término y hay tasa
y última vez y nunca más y olvido
¿quién nos dirá de quién, en esta casa,
sin saberlo nos hemos despedido?

Tras el cristal ya gris la noche cesa
y del alto de libros que una trunca
sombra dilata por la vaga mesa,
alguno habrá que no leeremos nunca.

Hay en el Sur más de un portón gastado
con sus jarrones de mampostería
y tunas, que a mi paso está vedado
como si fuera una litografía.

Para siempre cerraste alguna puerta
y hay un espejo que te aguarda en vano;
la encrucijada te parece abierta
y la vigila, cuadrifronte, Jano.

Hay, entre todas tus memorias, una
que se ha perdido irreparablemente;
no te verán bajar a aquella fuente
ni el blanco sol ni la amarilla luna.

No volverá tu voz a lo que el persa
dijo en su lengua de aves y de rosas,
cuando el ocaso, ante la luz dispersa,
quieras decir inolvidables cosas.

¿Y el incesante Ródano y el lago,
todo ese ayer sobre el cual hoy me inclino?
Tan perdido estará como Cartago
que con fuego y con sal borró el latino.

Creo en el alba oír un atareado
rumor de multitudes que se alejan;
son los que me han querido y olvidado;
espacio y tiempo y Borges ya me dejan.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this translation, I've recommended it to several of my friends.
    I admire the deft way you solved the problem of translating the rhyme "rosas" / "cosas" by inverting the phrase "aves y de rosas" to give "birds" at the end of the line. I doubt that Borges could have objected to your addition of wine to the Persian's language - he was probably alluding to Rumi or Omar Khayyam after all.


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