Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Poetry Week Two, Day Four/Five: Jorge Luis Borges

Okay, so we missed yesterday, but we're closing out the week with a stunner, and probably one of the most appropriate caps to our theme of poetry on poetry. Today's piece is by inimitable Argentinian poet and writer, Jorge Luis Borges. The poem can be found in the collection, To a Nightingale, edited by Edward Hirsch, which tracks the presence of the sonorous bird in the work of some of the world's greatest poets, from Sappho to, well, Borges.

To The Nightingale

Out of what secret English summer evening
or night on the incalculable Rhine,
lost among all the nights of my long night,
could it have come to my unknowing ear,
your song, encrusted with mythology,
nightingale of Virgil and the Persians?
Perhaps I never heard you, but my life
is bound up with your life, inseparably.
The symbol for you is the wandering spirit
in a book of enigmas. The poet, El Marino,
nicknamed you the "siren of the forest";
you sing throughout the night of Juliet
and through the intricate pages of the Latin
and from his pinewoods, Heine, that other
nightingale of Germany and Judea,
called you mockingbird, firebird, bird of mourning.
Keats heard your song for everyone, forever.
There is not one among the shimmering names
people have given you across the earth
that does not seek to match your own music,
nightingale of the dark. The Muslim dreamed you
in the delirium of ecstasy,
his breast pierced by the thorn of the sung rose
you redden with your blood. Assiduously
in the black evening I contrive this poem,
nightingale of the sands and all the seas,
that in exultation, memory, and fable,
you burn with love and die in liquid song.

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