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Let No Man


Jorge Luis Borges

Let no one reduce to tears or reproach
This statement of the mastery of God,
Who, with magnificent irony, gave
Me at once both books and night

Of this city of books He pronounced rulers
These lightless eyes, who can only
Peruse in libraries of dreams
The insensible paragraphs that yield

With every new dawn. Vainly does the day
Lavish on them its infinite books,
Arduous as the arduous manuscripts
Which at Alexandria did perish.

Of hunger and thirst (a Greek story tells us)
Dies a king amidst fountains and gardens;
I aimlessly weary at the confines
Of this tall and deep blind library.

Encyclopedias, atlases, the East
And the West, centuries, dynasties
Symbols, cosmos and cosmogonies
Do walls proffer, but pointlessly.

Slow in my shadow, I the hollow shade
Explore with my indecisive cane;
To think I had imagined Paradise
In the form of such a library.

Something, certainly not termed
Fate, rules on such things;
Another had received in blurry
Afternoons both books and shadow.

Wandering through these slow corridors
I often feel with a vague and sacred dread
That I am another, the dead one, who must
Have trodden the same steps at the same time.

Which of the two is now writing this poem
Of a plural I and of a single shadow?
How important is the word that names me
If the anathema is one and indivisible?

Groussac or Borges, I see this darling
World deform and extinguish
To a pale, uncertain ash
Resembling sleep and oblivion

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