Interpreting Borges

For this translation of Borges, I decided to start with the fact that the original poem (Un Ciego) is a classical Shakespearian sonnet.  The decision to respect the form of the original poem when translating leads to a new poem that, while preserving the essential themes and sense of the original, adds and subtracts details for the sake of the form.  I call this kind of translating  “interpreting” to emphasize that a poem arises from the process that is both the original poem and a new poem in and of itself.

 

The Blind Man
by
Jorge Luis Borges
(interpreted by Guy Conner)

I try imagining my face
Reflected in that mirror there.
Would I see an old man with a trace
Of weary rage, or perhaps despair?
Slowly does my hand explore
My features – not so old in fact.
The vision comes to me once more
Of you as I knew you in our youth.
I agree with Milton when he says
That blindness is a state of mind.
Vision deals with surfaces,
I see images of a deeper kind.
But still, if I could see my face,
I’d know myself and knowing, know my place.

A little taste of Borges

For a change of pace, how about a little Borges?

The Nightmare
Jorge Luis Borges
(trans. Guy Conner)

I dream of an ancient king,
His crown of iron, his look of death,
There are no faces like that nowadays,
You sense his firm blade will obey him, loyal, like a dog

I do not from where he comes – Northumbria or Norway;
I only know that he comes to us from the North,
Close cut red whiskers everywhere;
Never have I seen the like;
Such empty eyes.

From what strange looking-glass,
From what wild sea-faring adventure,
Has this man, this gray and grizzled man,
Burst forth to oppress me with his bitterness?

I know that was a dream, and I treat it as a dream.
Day becomes Night;
I don’t know where it has been.