Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Inspiration for the mediocre from the never-mediocre Borges

Recently, I posted something about moving my goals from being one of the great writers of all-time to getting key ideas across in a meaningful way to a handful of people (it's at the beginning of that link). I guess that qualifies as lowered expectations. Somewhere at the back of my thinking in saying that was a wonderful miniature from Jorge Luis Borges I read a dozen years or so ago and just dug up again in recent days. The translation is mine, so if it's hosed, you know whom to blame.

Inferno, I, 32

     From the twilight of dawn to the twilight of evening, a leopard, in the final years of the twelfth century, looked at wooden planks, some iron bars, men and women who came and went, a wall, and, perhaps, a stone gutter full of dried leaves. He did not know--he could not know--that he longed for love and cruelty and the warm pleasure of tearing something apart and the wind carrying the scent of deer, but something in him was drowning and rebelling, and God spoke to him in a dream: You will live and die in this prison, in order that a man I know will look upon you a certain number of times and not forget you and will put your image and your symbol into a poem, a poem that has its precise place in the drama of the universe. You will suffer captivity, but you will have given a word to the poem. God, in the dream, illuminated the simplicity of the animal, and he understood the reasons and accepted this destiny, but when he awoke, all that remained in him was a dim resignation, a valiant ignorance, because the world is too complicated a machine for the simplicity of a beast.
    Years later, Dante would die in Ravenna, as unjustified and alone as any man. In a dream, God revealed to him the secret purpose of his life and his work; Dante, astonished, discovered at last who he was and what he was and blessed his sufferings. Tradition says that when he woke up, he felt that he had received and lost something infinite, something that he could not recover or even get an inkling of, because the world is too complicated a machine for the simplicity of men. 

No comments:

Post a Comment