This evening, I witnessed a friend’s daughter memorizing a poem for her German class. As I sat there and watched her close her eyes, then peek one eye at the text and stumble across the sentences, I had a flashback to my younger years. J. was complaining that the text was old-fashioned and made no sense and she only needed to have it memorized for tomorrow and then she was ‘allowed’ to forget it.
I majored in languages and literature at university; German, Russian, and Spanish to be exact. In my 2nd year Spanish class, we had to memorize poems. I was given a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Tonight, as J. sat there memorizing, I thought back to my poem and could actually recall the first two lines. I came home and looked them up on the internet (thank goodness for the internet!). To my non-surprise, the title and remaining words of the poem appeared on my screen within a mouse click.
The poem is called El Remordimiento or Remorse. It’s funny that this is the one poem that I should remember some 24 years later. I remember back then thinking that it was such a dramatic and tragic poem. Now, being a grown-up, I can relate. What a shame it would be not to take every opportunity in life to be happy. Even small things are worth being happy about. I hope my son grows up to be the happiest he can be in whatever he chooses to do.
On that note, I thought I would share the poem here. Happy reading!
Jorge Luis Borges
He cometido el peor de los pecados
que un hombre puede cometer. No he sido feliz.
Que los glaciares del olvido me arrastren
y me pierdan, despiadados.
Mis padres me engendraron para el juego
arriesgado y hermoso de la vida,
para la tierra, el agua, el aire, el fuego.
Los defraudé. No fui feliz.
Cumplida no fue su joven voluntad.
Mi mente se aplicó a las simétricas porfías
del arte, que entreteje naderías.
Me legaron valor. No fui valiente.
No me abandona. Siempre está a mi lado
La sombra de haber sido un desdichado.
Jorge Luis Borges
I have committed the worst of sins
one can commit. I have not been happy.
May the glaciers of oblivion
take and engulf me, mercilessly.
My parents bore me for the risky
and the beautiful game of life,
for earth, water, air and fire.
I failed them, I was not happy.
Their youthful hope for me unfulfilled.
I applied my mind to the symmetric
arguments of art, its web of trivia.
They bequeathed me bravery. I was not brave.
It never leaves me. Always at my side,
That shadow of a melancholy man.