Saturday, June 10, 2006

Borges' Cat


El gato blanco y célibe se mira
en la lúcida luna del espejo
y no puede saber que esa blancura
y esos ojos de oro que no ha visto
nunca en la casa son su propia imagen.
¿Quién le dirá que el otro que lo observa
es apenas un sueño del espejo?
Me digo que esos gatos armoniosos
el de cristal y el de caliente sangre,
son simulacros que concede el tiempo
un arquetipo eterno. Así lo afirma,
sombra también, Plotino en las Ennéadas.
¿De qué Adán anterior al paraíso,
de qué divinidad indescifrable
somos los hombres un espejo roto?

and now the Babel Fish translation:


The white and celibate cat watches itself
in the gracious moon of the mirror
and that whiteness cannot know that
and those gold eyes that have not seen
in the house they are never his own image.
Who will say that the other to him that observes it
it is as soon as a dream of the mirror?
I say that those harmonious cats
the one of crystal and the one of hot blood,
they are maneuverses that the time grants
an eternal archetype. Thus it affirms it,
shade also, Plotino in the Ennéadas.
Of what Adam previous to the paradise,
of what indecipherable divinity
we are the men a broken mirror?

and now the Alan S. Trueblood translation from Selected Poems:


The celibate white cat surveys himself
in the mirror's clear-eyed glass,
not suspecting that the whiteness facing him
and those gold eyes that he's not seen before
in ramblings through the house are his own likeness.
Who is to tell him that the cat observing him
is only the mirror's way of dreaming?
I remind myself that these concordant cats —
the one of glass, the one with warm blood coursing —
are both mere simulacra granted time
by a timeless archtype. In the Enneads
Plotinus, himself a shade, has said as much.
Of what Adam predating paradise,
of what inscrutable divinity
are all of us a broken mirror-image?

I sort of like the surprising leaps the Bable Fish translation takes. In fact, I think I prefer it. The images are much more mysterious and engaging, to my reading. And I don't mind at all that the Babel Fish poem is not syntactically correct.

PS: Beppo, of course, was Borges' own big white cat.


Sam of the ten thousand things said...

I agree with you Peter. I prefer Bable Fish as well. The language is more relaxed and, most importantly, more real. said...

Hi. I was looking around to see if I found an English translation of this poem, and found these two. I know that this is a 2006 post, however I'll contribute my own translation.


The white and celibate cat looks at himself
In the lucid moon that is the mirror
And he cannot know that that whiteness
And those eyes of gold he’s never seen
Around the house are his own image.
Who’ll tell him that the other one, who looks at him
Is just a dream of the mirror?
I tell myself that these harmonious cats
The crystal one, and the warm-blooded one,
Are mocks granted by time,
An eternal archetype. So it says
Plotinus, also a shadow, in the Enneads.
For what Adam before paradise,
For what indecipherable divinity
Are we, men, a broken mirror?

(note: Beppo, to Borges, was "himself", not "itself". Also added commas).

Peter said...

Thanks Pablo

I like the variations in your translation.