Borges: Christ on the Cross (From Spanish)

I think this may be the best poem in the Spanish language about Christ's crucifixion (and there are a lot of Spanish poems on that topic. Few interesting.) 
Borges here portrays Jesus as a simple human being, shorn of the Christian God-made-Flesh that he will be turned into. This enables Borges to do two things:  
(1) By mentioning the future acts committed in his name amid a handful of otherwise terrestrial woes, Borges implies that it would wound this human Jesus greatly were he aware of what ideas and ideologies he would be resurrected as following his death as a person. In a sense he is to be forever on the cross, the nails of historic Christendom ever skewering him in effigy. Jesus is therefore lucky he doesn't know what will become of him as Christ. And if Jesus were divine, and did survive death, then Christian history would be above all else a source of torment for Him as he watched from his non-corporeal vantage point. But now I digress. 
(2) Thus fully humanized as a man and nothing but, he can be a metaphor with which Borges can reveal, or at least intimate, his own suffering in the final lines without arrogance or aggrandizement. After all, Borges is here not comparing himself to a god, but to another human being like himself. Paradoxically this effectuates a kind of textual reverse-kenosis. In ceasing to be God, being truly empty of any godhood, Jesus fulfills the premise of truly becoming Man, the flesh that dwells among us, in a way relatable to the equally human Borges. In this light, we can furthermore see the post mortem deification as what, in the logic of the poem, it would have to be: dehumanization in the fullest sense.

Christ on the Cross
Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Christ on the cross. The two feet touch the earth.
The three beams made of wood are the same height. 
Christ is not in the middle. He's the third.
The black beard hangs down heavy over his chest.
His face is not the face from the engravings.
It's harsh and Jewish. I do not see him
And will keep questing for him till the final
Day of my steps falling upon this earth.
The broken man is suffering and silent. 
The cutting crown of thorns is hurting him. 
He's unreached by the jeering of the mob
Which has so often seen his agonies.
His or another's. It is the same thing. 
Christ on the cross. Confusedly he thinks
About the kingdom that perhaps awaits him,
About the woman that was never his.
It's not for him to see Theology,
The indecipherable Trinity,
The Gnostics, the cathedrals, Occam's razor,
The purple, the mitre, the liturgy,
Guthrum's conversion by the sword of Alfred,
The Inquisition hallowed, blood of martyrs,
Crusade atrocities, young Joan of Arc
Afire, the Vatican that blesses armies.
He knows he is no god and is a man
That dies with day. To him it is no matter.
What matters is the nails' hard piercing iron.
He's not a Roman. Not a Greek. He moans. 
He has left us some splendid metaphors 
And a doctrine of pardon with the power 
To cancel out the past. (This is a dictum
Written down by an Irishman in gaol.)
The soul seeks for the end, frenetically.
It has grown dark a bit. Now he is dead.
A fly walks up across the flesh in quiet.
What good does it all do me that that man
Has suffered so, when I am suffering now? 

The Original:

Cristo En La Cruz
Jorge Luis Borges

Cristo en la cruz. Los pies tocan la tierra.
Los tres maderos son de igual altura.
Cristo no está en el medio. Es el tercero.
La negra barba pende sobre el pecho.
El rostro no es el rostro de las láminas.
Es áspero y judío. No lo veo
y seguiré buscándolo hasta el día
último de mis pasos por la tierra.
El hombre quebrantado sufre y calla.
La corona de espinas lo lastima.
No lo alcanza la befa de la plebe
que ha visto su agonía tantas veces.
La suya o la de otro. Da lo mismo.
Cristo en la cruz. Desordenadamente
piensa en el reino que tal vez lo espera,
piensa en una mujer que no fue suya.
No le está dado ver la teología,
la indescifrable Trinidad, los gnósticos,
las catedrales, la navaja de Occam,
la púrpura, la mitra, la liturgia,
la conversión de Guthrum por la espada,
la inquisición, la sangre de los mártires,
las atroces Cruzadas, Juana de Arco,
el Vaticano que bendice ejércitos.
Sabe que no es un dios y que es un hombre
que muere con el día. No le importa.
Le importa el duro hierro con los clavos.
No es un romano. No es un griego. Gime.
Nos ha dejado espléndidas metáforas
y una doctrina del perdón que puede
anular el pasado. (Esa sentencia
la escribió un irlandés en una cárcel.)
El alma busca el fin, apresurada.
Ha oscurecido un poco. Ya se ha muerto.
Anda una mosca por la carne quieta.
¿De qué puede servirme que aquel hombre
haya sufrido, si yo sufro ahora?

No comments:

Post a Comment