Friday, December 23, 2011

Poem of the week: "Remorse" by Borges

It's time for another edition of Poem of the Week. I have been reading some more poems by Borges, and have realized two things:

1. The man writes about very somber, depressing stuff
2. He's a damn fine poet
Here's "Remorse":


I have committed the worst sin of all
That a man can commit. I have not been
Happy. Let the glaciers of oblivion
Drag me and mercilessly let me fall.
My parents bred and bore me for a higher
Faith in the human game of nights and days;
For earth, for air, for water, and for fire.
I let them down. I wasn’t happy. My ways
Have not fulfilled their youthful hope. I gave
My mind to the symmetric stubbornness
Of art, and all its webs of pettiness.
They willed me bravery. I wasn’t brave.
It never leaves my side, since I began:
This shadow of having been a brooding man.

I was curious why Borges, a man adored, imitated and worshiped by legions for his talents, would consider himself a disappointment. His choice of words - "wed of pettiness" and "I wasn't brave" - reflects a profound unease with his chosen role as a man of letters. This poem is not just some forty-something guy looking back and making a baleful list of things undone, words unsaid. It's someone thinking his whole life has been a grand exercise in futility. I dug around the bowels of the internet some more, and found this quote in his biography: "As most of my people had been soldiers and I knew I would never be, I felt ashamed, quite early, to be a bookish kind of person and not a man of action." Very unsettling. And sad.

No comments:

Post a Comment