Jorge Luis Borges
ON SCIENTIFIC RIGOR
. . . In the Empire in question, the Cartographer's Art reached such a degree of Perfection
that the map of a single Province took up an entire City, and the map of the Empire
covered an entire Province. After a while these Outsized Maps were no longer sufficient,
and the Schools of Cartography created a Map of the Empire that was the size of the
Empire, matching it point by point. Later Generations, which were less Devoted to the
Study of Cartography, found this Map Irrelevant, and with more than a little Irreverence
left it exposed to the Inclemencies of the Sun and Winter. In the Western desert there are
scattered Ruins of the Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars. No other relics of the
Geographic Discipline can be found anywhere else in the Land.
Suarez Miranda, Voyages of Prudent Men, Fourth Book, chap. xlv, (Lerida, 1658)
Other people died, but all that happened in the past,
the season (everyone knows) most propitious for death.
Can it be that I, a subject of Yaqub Almansur,
shall die as the roses have died, and Aristotle?
from The Divan of Almoqtadir the el-Maghrebi (twelfth century)
There is a line by Verlaine that I will not remember again.
There is a street nearby that is off limits to my feet.
There is a mirror that has seen me for the last time.
There is a door I have closed until the end of the world.
Among the books in my library (I'm looking at them now) are some I will never open.
This summer I will be fifty years old.
Death is using me up, relentlessly.
from Inscriptions (Montevideo, 1923) by Julio Platero Haedo
THE POET PROCLAIMS HIS RENOWN
The span of heaven measures my glory.
Libraries in the East vie for my works.
Emirs seek me, to fill my mouth with gold.
The angels know my latest lyrics by heart.
The tools I work with are pain and humiliation.
Would that I had been born dead.
from The Divan of Abulcasim el Hadrami (twelfth century)
THE GENEROUS FRIEND
In the year 1102, Magnus Barfod attempted to conquer all the kingdoms of Ireland. It is said that he received the following greeting from Muirchertach, the king of Dublin, the night before he died:
May gold and storms serve your army well, Magnus Barfod.
May your battle tomorrow be successful, in the fields of my kingdom.
May your regal hands weave the sword's cloth, sowing terror.
May those who oppose your sword be food for the red swan.
May your many gods grant you your fill of glorymay they sate you with blood.
May you be victorious at down, o king who trods Ireland underfoot.
May none of your numerous days shine more brightly than the day of tomorrow.
Because this will be your last day, King Magnus, I swear it.
Because before its light is snuffed out, I will defeat you and snuff you out, Magnus
from Anhang zer Heimskringla (1893) by H. Gering
LE REGRET D'HERACLITE
I who have been so many men have never been the One in whose embrace Mathilde
Gaspar Camerarius, in Deliciae poetarum Borussiae VII, 16
Spanish; trans. Kenneth Krabbenhoft
Jorge Luis Borges, Spanish, trans. Kenneth Krabbenhoft, Selected Poems, ed. Alexander Coleman,
Viking Penguin, 1999..