Love Songs of Jorge Luis Borges

Translated from the Spanish
by Evelyn Hooven
(December 2018)

Melencolia, Albrecht Dürer, 1514




Here the detailed largesse with which Borges tends to address the world applies solely to the beloved. Yet with so defined a given, an all-in-all, vitality is sustained and tension still prevails. Remarkable!


The Enamored One


Moons, ivory, instruments, roses,

lanterns, delineations by Dürer,

nine real numbers and the changeable zero,

I must imagine that such things exist.

I must imagine that in the past were

Persepolis and Rome and that a subtle

sand mediated the fate of those parapets

that the iron centuries dismantled.

I should imagine the pyres and armour

of the epics and the mighty seas

that bite the pillars of earth itself.

I could fabricate others. They’re a lie.

Only you are. You, my twist of fate

and my destined one, boundary-less and pure.

El Enamorado

Lunas, marfiles, instrumentos, rosas,

Lámparas y la línea de Durero,

las nueve cifras y el cambiante cero,

debo fingir que existen esas cosas.

Debo fingir que en el pasado fueron

Persépolis y Roma y que una arena

sutil midió la suerte de la almena

que los siglos de hierro deshicieron.

Debo fingir las armas y la pira

de la epopeya y los pesados mares

que roen de la tierra los pilares.

Debo fingir que hay otros.  Es mentira.

Sólo tú eres. Tú, mi desventura

y mi ventura, inagotable y pura.




1964 (I)


Now the world is not magical. It has taken you.

Now you will not share candid moonlight

or languid gardens. Now there isn’t one

moon that may not be a mirror of the past,

crystal of solitude, solar agonies.

Farewell to mutual hands and bodies

that love surrounds. Today I have only

faithful memory and deserts of days.

Nothing may be lost (one vainly repeats)

but what one doesn’t have and has not had

ever; but to learn the art of forgetting

it is not enough to be valiant.

A symbol, a rose, tears you apart

and they can kill you, the strings of one guitar.

1964  (I)

Ya no es mágico el mundo. Te han dejado.

Ya no compartirás la clara luna

ni los lentos jardines. Ya no hay una

luna que no sea espejo del pasado,

cristal de soledad, sol de agonías.

Adiós las mutuas manos y las seines

que acercaba el amor.  Hoy sólo tienes

la fiel memoria y los desiertos días.

Nadie pierde (repites vanamente)

sino lo que no tiene y no ha tenido

nunca, pero no basta ser valiente

para aprender el arte del olvido.

Un símbolo, una rosa, te desgarra

Y te puede matar una guitarra.



Evelyn Hooven graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received her M.A. from Yale University, where she also studied at The Yale School of Drama. A member of the Dramatists’ Guild, she has had presentations of her verse dramas at several theatrical venues, including The Maxwell Anderson Playwrights Series in Greenwich, CT (after a state-wide competition) and The Poet’s Theatre in Cambridge, MA (result of a national competition). Her poems and translations from the French have appeared in ART TIMES, Chelsea, The Literary Review, THE SHOp: A Magazine of Poetry (in Ireland), The Tribeca Poetry Review, Vallum (in Montreal), and other journals, and her literary criticism in Oxford University’s Essays in Criticism.

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