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Issue 20, Poesía | February 2017

     

Hourglass: a translation of Jorge Luis Borges’ “El reloj de arena”

It fits that time is measured with the stark
Shadow a column in summer
Casts or with the water of that river
In which Heraclitus saw our madness,

Since time and destiny
Resemble each other: the imponderable
Daytime shadow and the irrevocable course
Of the water that follows its way.

It fits, but the time in the deserts
Found another substance, smooth and heavy,
Which seemed to have been imagined
To measure the ages of the dead.

So merges the allegorical instrument
Of the engravings in dictionaries,
An object the gray antiquarians
Will banish to the dusty underworld

Of a lone chessman, of a sword,
Limp, of a clouded telescope,
Of sandalwood worn away by opium,
Of dust, of chance, and of nothingness.

Who has not hesitated before the stern
And solemn hourglass that accompanies,
In the right hand of god, the scythe,
And whose lines Dürer repeated?

Through an open apex, the inverted cone
Lets the wary sand fall,
Gradual gold that loosens and fills
The concave crystal of its universe.

There is a pleasure in observing the secret
Sand that slides and descends
And, at the point of the fall, recurs
With a persistence that is all too human.

The sand of every cycle is the same,
And infinite is the history of sand.
So too, under your bliss or your pain,
An invulnerable eternity engulfs.

The fall never ends
I bleed dry, not the crystal. The rite
Of draining the sand is infinite
And with the sand goes our life.

In the minutes of the sand I believe
To feel cosmic time: the history
That memory traps in its mirrors
Or magic Lethe has dissolved.

The pillar of smoke and the pillar of fire,
Carthage and Rome and their constricting war,
Simon Magnus, the seven feet of land
That the Saxon king offers to the Norwegian king,

It drags and loses all, this tireless
Subtle thread of endless sand.
I do not have to save myself, but a chance

Of time, that fleeting element.
Carthage and Rome and their constricting war,
Simon Magnus, the seven feet of land
That the Saxon king offers to the Norwegian king,

It drags and loses all, this tireless
Subtle thread of endless sand.
I do not have to save myself, but a chance
Of time, that fleeting element.
Hourglass: a translation of Jorge Luis Borges’ “El reloj de arena”