Jorge Luis Borges: “The Art of Poetry”

The Art of Poetry

Look at the river made of time and water,
and remember that time is itself a river.
Know that we are lost, just like that river,
and that faces slip away, just like that water.

Feel how waking is another kind of sleep,
another kind of dream, and that the death
our flesh is frightened of is the very same death
we die every night when we go to sleep.

See in each day and in each year a symbol
of all the days of man, of all of his years.
Turn the indignities of all of these years
into music, into voices, into a symbol.

See death as sleep, and see in the sunset
a sad sort of gold.  Such is poetry,
poor and immortal.  Such is poetry,
that returns like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes in the evening there is a face
staring back at us from the depths of the mirror.
Art ought to be something like that mirror
revealing to us our own proper face.

They say that Ulysses, tired of wonders,
wept tears of love to behold Ithaca,
green and humble. Art is Ithaca,
green eternity, not a place of wonders.

And art is also an unending river.
It comes and goes, a mirror of the same
shifting Heraclitus, who was himself the same
and yet somehow another, an unending river.

Jorge Luis Borges

Translated from Spanish by Paul Weinfield, © 2015
Photo by Francesca Woodman

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